Predestination vs Free Will
Table of Contents
One of the most classic and debated issues since the protestant reformation is the issues brought up between Calvinism and Arminianism. This debate is synonymous with the debate between predestination (Calvinism) vs. free will (Arminianism), or the opposing views that everything in the universe is either predetermined (predestined) to occur a certain way or everything occurs as a result of free will or choice.
The debate between Calvinists and Arminianists typically centralizes on salvation, as thought to be the most important issue between these opposing theologies. The arguments centralize on this issue to determine whether or not the salvation of an individual is already predetermined by God or that salvation is determined by the free will of man to choose to believe in God.
Calvinism is a major branch of Protestantism named after John Calvin of the 16th century. Shortly after the Reformation started by Martin Luther in the early 1500s, John Calvin, a French reformer, embraced and built upon the Protestant belief system, forming various theological beliefs that did not agree with some aspects of Lutheran theology of that time. Many Christian denominations trace their roots back to Calvinism, such as Presbyterians, Congregationalists, etc. Most Calvinists consider their theology the correct form of reform theology.
In modern times, Calvinism has become synonymous, in many groups, with the belief in pre-destination and its implications on soteriological beliefs. Even though that was not the only theological aspect that John Calvin originally expounded upon. Calvin view on predestination was originally summarized into the five points of Calvinism also known as TULIP or the doctrines of grace: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints.
This asserts that, as a consequence of the original fall of man, every person is enslaved to sin. Humanity is not, by nature, inclined to love or know God, but rather reject Him to serve themselves. Therefore, humanity is not able to know God or are they able to trust Him for their salvation.
This is interpreted from the fall of man in Genesis 3.6. The depravity of man is seen in Isaiah 64.6 – man’s righteousness is as filthy rags in Gods sight. Jer 17.9 – man’s heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Ps 51.5, Ps 58.3, Eph 2.1-5 – man is born spiritually dead in transgression and sin. John 3.19, 8.34, Rom 1.18, 3.10-11 – Man is held captive by his love for sin and cannot seek God because of his love for darkness and wills to live in sin. 1 Corin 1.18 – the mind of man is hostile to the things of God.
This asserts that God has chosen from eternity those whom He desired to bring to Himself, not based on the virtue, merit or faith in those people, rather based on His mercy alone.
This is interpreted from the scriptures seen in Eph 1.4-5 – He chose us before the foundation of the world, He predestined us according to His will. Rev 13.8 – all worship the Beast whose names where not written in the book of Life from the foundations of the world. Rom 9.10,16; 10.20, 1Corin 1.27-29; 2 Tim 1.9- God was found by those who did not ask or seek Him, the purpose of God election will continue, and is dependent not on man’s works but on God’s mercy, purpose and grace given before the age began.
This asserts that Jesus substitutionary atonement was finite and specific in what it accomplished. Only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus death. It was intended for believers only, not for all people.
This is interpreted from the various passages affirming a specific people for God whom Jesus died for in Isaiah 53.8, Matt 1.21, John 10.15, Eph 1.4 Rev 5.9. These are seen as the same ones Jesus is speaking about when He says He will lose none of them in John 6.37-40, this is taken to mean that Jesus death did not just create the possibility of salvation for the believer, but made them saved.
This asserts that Gods saving grace is applied to those whom He determined to save and overcomes their resistance to obeying the gospel and brings them to believing faith. This belief states that the Holy Spirit causes the elected sinner to cooperate, believe, repent and come freely and willingly to Christ.
This is interpreted from the scripture showing the Holy Spirit never fails to bring to salvation sinners called by Christ, as seen in John 6.37-40. We see in Titus 3.5 – we are saved by His mercy and renewal in the Holy Spirit, not by works. We find in John 1.12-13 that a man is born spiritually not by the will of man, but of God.
Another connection is made between understanding that the natural man is dead in transgression (as seen in Total Depravity) and Irresistible Grace, and that is that a man needs to be made spiritually alive or regenerated (John 3.3) before he can respond to God and the Gospel. We find in Eph 2.1-10 that believers become alive to God while they are still in their sins.
Perseverance of the Saints
This asserts that God is sovereign and His will cannot be opposed by any other being, and those who He has elected will continue in faith until the end. If one falls away, it’s because they never truly believed unto faith, or they are believers that are not walking with God and will be chastened and eventually repent.
This interpretation from scripture comes from the passages that reveal the assurance of salvation, such as Eph 1.13-14 – when a hearer believes the message truth, he is sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, the guarantee of our inheritance. Phil 1.6 – He who began a good work in us is faithful to finish it, and God will never break a promise.
This interpretation shows once saved always saved, so therefore someone that isn’t walking with God will either be brought back eventually (Heb 12.6), maybe destroyed for the preservation of the soul (1 Corin 5.5), or wasn’t truly saved to begin with (1 John 2.19).
Arminianism theology began with the Dutch reformed theologist Jacobus Arminius of the University of Leiden in the 17th century. He formed his theology in a liberal reaction to the Calvinist doctrine of his day. In 1610 Dutch Arminianism was articulated in the Remonstrance, a theological statement signed by 45 ministers. The five points of Arminianism in the Remonstrance where:
This statement says that humanity is sinful but is still able to seek God. We are able to still freely choose God for salvation. The Holy Spirit aids people to respond to God’s will through grace.
This interpretation comes from the various calling of God and Crist throughout scripture, calling humanity to repent and turn from sin to God (Eze 33.11, Matt 4.17). Even though humanity is wicked and sinful, they are still capable, by the help of God’s grace, to be able to willing choose to seek after God, as we see in Romans 3.23 – All have fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through redemption that came by Christ.
This proposal states that election was conditional by the rational faith of a person. The election of God’s people is dependent upon the faith of a believer.
This interpretation comes from the scriptures that focus on election according to the foreknowledge of God as seen in 1 Peter 1.1-2. Romans 8.29-30 shows those who God foreknew, He predestined, showing that God knows beforehand who is going to be saved since He knows all things.
This statement proposes that atonement is adequate for all people, however is only effective for the person of faith.
This is interpreted from scripture as seen in John 2.2 – Jesus is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. 2 Peter 2.1 shows that even false teachers where bought by Jesus, however they will face punishment and destruction.
This statement proposes that grace is resistible; people have the free will to resist God’s grace.
This is interpreted from various Bible verses in which people resist God and the Holy Spirit as seen in Acts 7.51. We find that people can suppress the knowledge of God in Rom 1.18-32, and many are called by few chosen as seen in Matt 22.14. In Pr 1.24-32, Jer 7.13 and Matt 23.37-39 we see that God reaches out but people would not come or listen.
Resistible Sin/ Conditional Salvation
This statement proposes that sin is resistible; believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace.
This is interpreted from scripture verse that warn about those professing to be Christians but are not as seen in Matt 7.21 and Heb 6.6, and exhortations concerning the examination of our faith in 2 Peter 1.10 and 2 Corin 13.5.
Arminianism has been reformed multiple times and various strains of this theology have risen up over the years. Theologians agree and disagree with various points of this theology, creating new offshoots.
John Wesley was an 18th century Cleric, Theologian and Evangelist within the Church of England and a founder of the Methodist denomination. John Wesley grew up in an Arminian Anglican home, and reformed his own version of the theology known today as Old Wesleyanism. This theology stood on the following points:
1. Justification is imputed to a believer on account of Christ’s righteousness vs. historic Arminianism that asserted is was based on works.
2. Sanctification is to be pursued by the believer after repentance. Without sanctification, a believer may see his justification revoked and may become lost.
Following the holiness movement of the 1800 a new strain of Arminianism surfaced in America. Within a drastic change occurred from the original Wesleyanism. This theology employs the following points:
1. Sanctification is gradually infused into a believer’s life.
2. Once justified by faith, a believer may experience a second work of grace. This is a work of the Holy Spirit that will cause the believer to eradicate all remnants of original sin, enabling them to live without sin any longer.
3. Salvation can be lost therefore you must abide in a state of entire sanctification.
Both Calvinists and Arminianists use various other terms to define the doctrines presented by one another or interpretations presented within their own theology.
Pelagianism is the theological position that holds that original sin did not taint human nature and that humans by divine grace have free will to achieve human perfection. Pelagianism was taught by the 5th century monk Pelagius, who opposed the doctrines of divine grace presented by St. Augustine. He felt that Christians where becoming lazy and slack concerning moral standard due to the teaching of divine grace.
He set out to encourage people with the teaching that God created us free to choose good or evil and sin is a voluntary act committed by a person against God’s law. St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, opposed Pelagius’s teachings asserting that humans cannot attain righteousness by their own efforts and are completely dependent on God’s grace. Pelagius was condemned by two councils in Africa in 416 and excommunicated from the church.
Semi-Pelagianism teaches the universality of original sin and it’s corruption on humanity, opposed to Pelagianism. It states that without God’s grace the corruptive force cannot be overcome and is therefore necessary, also opposing Pelagianism teachings. However it teaches that the innate corruption of humanity was not so great that the initiative towards Christ was beyond human will. The surviving evidence of this teaching comes from between 430-530 a.d. in France by three well respected monks, St. John Cassian of the Monastery of Massilia, St. Vincent from the Abbey of Lerins and St. Faustus the Bishop of Riez.
From a compound Greek word ‘mono erg’ that means ‘to work alone.’ This is the theological view that God alone affects our salvation. This is the view or position that most Calvinists and reformed theologians take in their theology, demonstrated in their doctrines of grace. Monergists point to the scriptures that show that salvation is not by the will of man, but by the will of God (John 1.13, Rom 9.16, Eph 1.4-5,11)
From a compound Greek word ‘synergeia’ that means ‘to work together.’ This is the view that God works together with us in effectual salvation. This view is commonly associated with Arminianism; however some Calvinists incorporate this position in their view. If one takes the view that God’s election is based on God’s foreknowledge of who would believe on Him, they tend to be labeled as someone who takes a Synergist view.
Some Synergists take the view that God predestined all things and is sovereign however, knew from the beginning of creation what a person would choose if they had the ability or free will to do so, thereby predestine and calling believers unto salvation and performs it by His grace. Seen in Rom 8.29 where God predestines those who He foreknew. Synergist’s question how did God foreknow the elect or what about those did he foreknow? This leads to further questions, what is the work of God – to believe in Him who was sent (John 6.28-29). What is the will of the Father – that everyone who sees the Son and believes may have everlasting life (John 6.40.)
The theology of Molinism comes from the 16th century Jesuit Luis de Molina. It is a system that centers on the sovereignty of God and the libertarian free will of mankind. Molinism opposes most views on theological determinism which is the view that God decrees who will be saved or damned. Molinism affirms and focuses on a distinction in their theology called middle-knowledge, meaning that God omnisciently knows what His creation would do in any given circumstance and acts in accordance to how Hid creations free will operates. Molinists will point to various scriptures that show an’ if – then’ statement from God i.e. Matt 11.21-24, 1 Corin 2.8.
Bible Verse on Pre Destination
There are many Bible verses, themes and references to God’s foreknowledge and the predestination of events. The Bible explains that God knows everything and is sovereign over all creation.
The word in the New Testament for Foreknow is ‘Proginosko’, meaning to know, to foreknow, and to have knowledge of something beforehand.
The word in the New Testament for Predestined is ‘Proorizo’, meaning to establish boundries and limits. To predetermine, foreordain.
The word in the New Testament for Elect is ‘eklektos’, meaning to select by implication, favorite- chosen, elect. To pick out or choose.
But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. – Exodus 9.16
I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. – Exodus 33.19
Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. – Deut 10.15
“I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.” – 2 Chron 6.6
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. – Psalms 139.16
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. – Proverbs 16.4
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jer 1.5
The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble – Pr 16.4
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God – Eze 11.19-20
I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert. – Mal 1.2-3
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will neither of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1.12-13
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6.44
you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. – John 10.26
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. – John 15.16
For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. – Acts 4.27-28
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. – Acts 13.48
Romans Chapter 8-11 (Discussed in Detail below)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. – Romans 8.29-30
So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. – Romans 9.16
Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. – Romans 13.2
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, – Eph 1.4-5
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, – Ephesians 1.11
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. – Eph 3.20
4For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. – Jude 1.4
Bible Verses on Free Will or Human Choice
Throughout the Bible we find many verses, stories and themes that display mankind’s free will in God giving humanity a choice of either good or evil. There are various Bible verses that lay out the understanding of mankind’s free will, or ability to make their own choices. Based on the choice of a person, and what they have set in their heart to do or be, God will put into motion the set of events.
The word used in the Old Testament for free will is Nedabah (as in Deut 16.10) meaning voluntary, or offer freely.
The word used in the New Testament for free will is hekousios (as in Phil 1.14) meaning voluntary, willing or free will.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6.5
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” – Deut 30.19-20
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24.15
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16.7
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. – Proverbs 16.1
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Pr 16.9
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts – Proverbs 20.27
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55.6-7
I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve. – Jeremiah 17.10
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” – Ezekiel 18.30-32
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3.16
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” – John 8.24
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. – Mark 8.34
If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. – John 7.17
Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. – Romans 10.9-10
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10.13
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5.13
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5.16-17
Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2.4
And they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2.26
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. – Hebrews 11.6
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3.9
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. – Rev 3.20
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. – Rev 22.17
Calvinism vs. Arminianism
When studying these two different subjects, a discrepancy is believed to exist between the idea that both free will and predestinated fate can coincide at the same time; and that one line of ideology contradicts the other. The reasons would be as follows;
A. If all things are predestined by the will of God (or otherwise), how could anything have a separate will to influence anything in existence, since all things, including will itself, has already been pre-determined?
B. If an agent has the free will to act, how could anything about that agent be pre-determined, as only the choices that agent makes determines its outcome?
First it must be establish if these questions model what we find in scripture, and second are there alternative views besides these two statements? It would seem that the understanding comes back to asking the question, whose will or choice is determining the outcome of events?
As with any line of reasoning, a few points must be established theologically;
1. First it must be establish if these questions model what we find in scripture,
2. Second are there alternative views besides these two statements? It would seem that the understanding comes back to asking the question, whose will or choice is determining the outcome of events?
Calvinist Objections to Unlimited Atonement
There are a number of reasons why Calvinists reject the idea of Unlimited Atonement based on a logical understanding of scripture. Their arguments are as follows:
Calvinist Trinitarian Harmony –
Calvinists argue that the Father elects only certain people to be saved, and sends the Son to only save those people and the Holy Spirit only regenerates those same people. Calvinists argue that if the Son died for all people, this would disrupt the Trinitarian Harmony since the Fathers plan was only to save the elect.
Trinitarian Harmony Rebuttal- The logic of Calvinist Trinitarian Harmony is an argument build on human understanding based on the precepts of Calvinism. If scripture does not support the framework of the argument, then this argument isn’t accurate. The accuracy of the argument relies on the Calvinists presupposition that the Father only intended to save the elect, however what we see in scripture is God’s intention was to save all people-
1 John 2.2 – Jesus died for the sins of the whole world
1 Timothy 4.10 – Who is the Savior of all people, especially for those who believe.
2 Peter 2.1 – False prophets will deny the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
Failure of the Son Objection-
Calvinists argue that If the Son died for all people and all people are not saved, then the Son failed at his task.
Failure of the Son Rebuttal – The Calvinists argument is based on the idea that God tried to save everyone however since everyone does not get saved, God failed at His task. Instead it can be interpreted that God’s task did not fail, as His intention was to allow whoever will believe to be saved as seen in John 3.16.
Intercession of the Son –
Calvinists argue that the Son intercedes for those who are His, and since He does not intercede for everyone, therefore He did not die for everyone. We find throughout Hebrews that just as the High Priest interceded for Israel, Jesus intercedes for those who are His. Calvinists argue that for whoever Christ intercedes is the same for which He died.
Intercession of the Son Rebuttal – This argument is again based on misinterpretation of Calvinists, since Christ intercedes for those who are in Christ. Romans 8.34 Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Did Christ intercede for you before you came to Him, while you were a sinner, dead in trespasses and where children of wrath, separated from Christ (Eph 2.2-3, 12)? Heb 7.25 shows that Christ intercedes for those who draw near to God.
The John Owens Dilemma ‘God Only Saves Some’ –
John Owens a well-known Calvinist, described a dilemma in his book ‘The Death of Death and the Death of Christ’ he believed existed for those who accepted the belief that Jesus died for all men. In his book he took up three possibilities, Jesus either died for:
- 1. All the sins of all men
- 2. All the sins of some men
- 3. Some of the sin of all men
John Owens continued stating that is the last is true, that Jesus died for some of the sins of all men, then all men will have some sins to answer for, and all shall perish. If you pick the first option why are not all freed from the punishment of their sins? You will say because of their unbelief, they will not belief. But this unbelief is a sin is it not? If not why should they be punished for it? If it be that Christ underwent the punishment due it or not? If so then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died. If not He did not die for all their sins.
Option 2 is what Calvinists affirm, that Christ died and suffered for all the sin of the elect. This dilemma presented by John Owens is meant to show the reader that there are only two choices, universalism in which Jesus died for the sins of all mankind and therefore all will be saved, or you have to accept Calvinism in which Jesus only died for the sins of the elect.
John Owens Dilemma Rebuttal – Biblically we see scriptures teach that Christ died for the sins of the whole world. John Owens dilemma negates the clear Biblical teaching that we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2.4). This Calvinist argument assumes that is Jesus died for someone that His atonement is applied immediately and completely.
They take this to mean that if Christ died for the sins of the whole world, everyone would be universally saved. However the Bible teaches us that the requirement to receive grace is through faith. It is through faith that we are saved and therefore the argument is negated by the fact that salvation must be received by the believer. The act of believing by faith in necessary for salvation.
1 John 2.2 – Jesus died for the sins of the whole world
Double Jeopardy of Christ’s Death-
Calvinists argue that if Jesus died for the sins of all people than all sins have been paid for, there is no wrath left for them. Therefore, to punish the sinner in hell would be to punish sin twice, one upon Christ and twice upon the unbeliever. It doesn’t make sense that Jesus would be punished for all sin, than afterwards it would be paid again by someone in hell. The conclusion is that Christ didn’t die for everyone. There cannot be people in hell that Christ paid for.
Double Jeopardy Rebuttal – First, we can think of this argument in reverse, how could the elect ever be under wrath if they were always subject the God’s limited atonement. We see in Eph 2 that all where children of wrath until being made alive. Eph 2.12 shows us that all of God’s elect were separated from Christ without hope and without God in the world.
Double jeopardy already exists as God’s future elect are subject to the consequences of sin in the world and where subject to Gods wrath (v.3) until they were made alive all after Christ’s death and payment. Again we see it is the necessity of faith that brings salvation. All these verses show that the work of Christ does not apply until you believe, and that the argument is a fallacious line of reasoning.
1 John 2.2 Does Not Mean All –
Calvinists argue that when the Bible refers to all mankind or that Christ died for the world, it does not mean all of humanity. That the new testament writers did not have in mind all of humanity throughout all of time when they wrote these verses, instead it meant Jews and Gentiles.
Not All Men Rebuttal – throughout the letter of 1 John we find that John used the same word ‘world’ to refers to both the saved and unsaved (1 John 3.1,13, 4.3,5, 5.19).
Ordo Salutis or The Golden Chain
Calvinists argue that in Romans 8.28-30, that there is an order of salvation (Ordo Salutis) that cannot be broken. The term Golden Chain is coined by the Calvinist Palmer in the Five Points of Calvinism, page 32.
And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified. – Romans 8.30
From this Calvinists presuppose that this chain is the specific chain of how God saves someone. However we find a step before predestination in v.29, those whom He foreknew He predestined. So the order is as follows:
Foreknew -> Predestined -> Called -> Justified -> Glorified
The question from this may still be asked, how did God foreknow someone? What did God foreknow about them? It is at this point that free will may be introduced back into the argument that God knew someone would have faith therefore He foreknew them (The foundation of God stands sure having this seal, the Lord knows those who are His – 2 Tim 2.19). Other references to the order of salvation from predestination – 2 Tim 1.9.
Biblical Points to Consider
Examples of Gods Sovereign Will
Genesis 50.20 – What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good.
Exodus 10.1 – The Lord told Moses that He hardened the heart of Pharaoh for the purpose of showing signs before him.
1 Kings 19.18 – God saved for Himself a remnant of 7000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal.
Psalms 33 – God nullifies the counsel of nations and frustrates the plans of the people but no one can do that to Hm.
Psalms 135.6 – We find that God does all the He pleases
Proverbs 16.33 – Every random chance is from the Lord
Isaiah 10 – God Used Assyria to punish Israel for their disobedience, then afterward punished Assyria for their own ungodly ways.
Isaiah 41.21 – False gods can’t tell the future or for what purpose a thing has occurred but God can.
Daniel 4 – Nebuchadnezzar after returning to his senses praised God and said that God does all things according to His will and nothing can ward off His hand.
Acts 4.27 – God used the Jews, Herod and Pilate to act out His intentions and will in crucifying Christ.
God’s Creation Acts Contrary to His Will
Examining the Word of God we find multiple instances in which scripture confirms that God’s created being not only have a will of their own, but that their will is able to act in accord or contrary to His will.
There are many things God’s created beings do that He did not ordain them or will them to do. He distances Himself from sin and evil.
Gen 5.6 – The Lord regretted making man. He was grieved by their actions
Jeremiah 7.31 – To the people who were burning their children to Moloch, God said He did not command nor did these things even come into my mind.
Ecc 7.29 – God made man upright but they seek out many schemes.
God Offers His Creation to Choose to Follow Him
Deut 30.19 – God sets before His people life and death, therefore choose life!
Luke 13.24 – Jesus said strive to enter the narrow door.
Romans 2 – Paul explains there is no partiality in God, giving to those who work righteousness and unrighteousness.
God Gives Opportunity for Repentance
God is looking to give humanity the opportunity to repent based on their own will and ability.
Jeremiah 36.2-3 – God says perhaps once the house of Judah hears of the judgments He is bringing on them, they will turn from their sins.
Ezekiel 22. 30-31 – God sought for a person to intercede for the people, looking to give them an opportunity to save them.
Jeremiah 18 – The lesson of the divine potter sets up the opportunity for the people to make a decision. He will decree of disaster, and if the people repents He will not bring the disaster, however if He decrees blessing and they turn to evil, He will relent of the blessing and destroy the clay.
Romans 1.16 – The gospel is the power of God to salvation to all who believe
Acts 17.30 – God commands all men everywhere to repent.
Rev 22.17 – Whosoever wills, let him take the water of life
God Desires the Wicked to Repent
Eze 18.23 – God doesn’t desire the wicked to die, but rather turn and live
Eze 18.30.32 – God urges the house of Israel to repent.
Eze 33.11 – God says he does not desire the wicked should die, but live.
Micah 7.18 – God does not stay angry forever but delights t show mercy.
Jer 31.20 – God says I speak against him but my heart yearns for him.
God Expresses His desire for His Creation to Know Him
We find in scripture that God desires for all of His creation to know Him.
We have found that God himself expresses an ardent desire for the fulfillment of certain things which he has not decreed in his inscrutable counsel to come to pass. This means that there is a will to the realization of what he has not discretely willed, a pleasure towards that which he has not been pleased to decree. Which is indeed mysterious – Quote from Murray and Ned B. (Calvinists) The Free Offer of the Gospel [Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presb. & Ref., 1979], 26
Jer 3.19-20 – God says how I would set you among my sons, and I thought you would call me my father
Luke 13.34 – God longs to gather the unbelievers as a hen gathers her chicks.
Isaiah 48.17 – God said if only you would keep my commandments, your prosperity would be great.
Deut 5 – God says if only it would be their desire to know me it would go well with them.
Isaiah 65 – God says I was ready to be accepted by those who did not accept Me.
Luke 7.30 – But the Pharisees rejected Gods purpose for themselves.
Jesus Died for all Humanity
The Bible teaches that Jesus died for all people and is the Savior of the world. Calvinists argue that the terms, phrases and words are not explicitly stating ‘all’ in these verses but are directed to refer to the elect. These explanations are not accepted by all theologians.
John 3.16 – God sent His Son, so that whosoever should believe in Him shall be saved.
John 4.14, 42 – Jesus is the Savior of the world.
1 Tim 4.10 – Paul said God is the savior for all people
Tit 2.11 – Grace of God has appeared for salvation of all people
Heb 2.9 – By the grace of God Jesus must taste death for all people.
Romans 8-11 Discourse – Calvinist and Non-Calvinist Interpretations
The Calvinism v Arminianism perspectives on Romans chapters 8 – 11 need an extensive discourse of explanation since each side’s argument is so comprehensive. For Calvinists, this section of scripture becomes one of the primary hammers of their doctrine, explaining the various points and rebuttals that come against their theology. For the Arminianists, an in depth expository is needed to understand the exegesis of these texts from an Arminianists theology. Here we will examine the primary points brought up to confirm the Calvinist point of view and the Arminianists rebuttals.
Context of the Chapters
The Apostle Paul is explaining in this letter to the Church at Rome, chapters 8 through 11, the answer to the question why the gentiles are being allowed into His promise. Many of the gentile readers would not be nearly as concerned with the question as the Jewish readers would be. Jewish people of the first century would be heavily concerned with the determination that God would allow gentiles to be a part of His promise to Abraham, since they knew Jews were God’s chosen people, and if gentile wanted to be a part of God’s promise they had to convert to Judaism (before the time of Christ).
The context of this portion of Romans deals with various issue brought up such as salvation, election, promises of God, judiciary hardening of the heart and how God works (as seen in ch.9.4-5).
Jacob I Loved but Esau I Have Hated
In Verse 9.13 we see that Paul points to the fact that God said ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I have hated.’
The Calvinists argue beginning in verse 11 that before the twins had done anything good or evil, and in order that God’s election may stand, the older will serve the younger. God further tells us ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I have hated. This is to drive the point that receiving something from God does not depend on anything a person does; it only depends on God who calls so that His election or purpose might stand.
The Non-Calvinist will rebut with an explanation that this verse needs to be taken in context with the entire chapter. Paul is explaining that Gods word did not fail Israel (v.6) but that God’s word is being fulfilled through the children of promise as they are called (v.7). It is not because you were born a physical child of Abraham’s lineage (Jewish) that you are a child of promise, but it is because you believe by faith that you are made a child of promise (v.8).
The Bible tells us in v.11 that God ordained or chose the older (Esau) to serve the younger (Jacob) in order that God’s purpose in choosing Jacob may remain, but the Bible never tells us how or why God chose Jacob specifically. It says God’s choice is not by works of men but by Him that calls (v.12), emphasizing that it is God who acting in accordance to His plans, not in accordance to the works of man.
However the Bible never details why God ‘called’ Jacob specifically. It leaves the question open; did God choose Jacob because He knew that Jacob would have faith (Gen 32.9) and that Esau would not have the faith of his father’s (Gen 25.32)? We know that faith is not a work (Eph 2.8-9), but an active trusting in God.
Again we have to keep in mind verse 10-13 are speaking corporately about the nation of Jacob and Esau that comes from Malachi chapter 1. God’s choice was to choose the descendants of Jacob to be the children of the promise and to become the chosen nation of Israel, yet Esau’s descendant’s inheritance would be turned into a wasteland (Mal 1.2-4).
I Will Have Mercy or Harden Whom I Will
Moving on to verse 14, is the question that arises in people’s minds after reading the previous verses, if God is the one who is responsible for putting in motion all things, and chooses whom He will have compassion on, does that make Him unjust? Paul answers this with an absolute, not at all. Continuing to explain it with the statement from Exodus 33.19 – that God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy and will have compassion on whom He will have compassion.
That God’s choice does not depend on human efforts or desires (v.16), but on God’s mercy. That God rose up Pharaoh (v.17) for the purpose of displaying His power and Name in all the earth and will harden whoever He chooses. Then a final statement stating why God still finds fault with us, for who has resisted His will. With Paul’s remark, who are you to argue with God.
Calvinists will just expound upon what has already been stated and let the verses stand according to their own statements. V. 14 is taken and applied to salvation, and Calvinists conclusion that there is no free will choice that can be made to be saved, that salvation is only granted, given and received by God’s will.
Romans Chapter 9 verse 16 tells us that God’s promise is dependent upon His mercy, and in verse 18 God will have mercy on whom He desires, and will harden whom He desires. The Non-Calvinist asks the open question; why did He desire to have mercy on one and harden another? Is it because He foreknew who would or would not put their faith in Him (Rom 8.29)?
The Non-Calvinist presses the importance to understand the entire context of Pharaoh judiciary hardening (God’s judgment of hardening someone into a fixed position – Heb 3.17). Exodus 9.13-16 tells us that God had a choice of how to deal with Pharaoh. In verses 15-16 we see that God could have just killed Pharaoh and his people, but instead God chose to raise Pharaoh up and send plagues to him so the earth would know the name of God.
Pharaoh deserved punishment for dealing wickedly with God’s people. We should also consider the accounts in the Bible in which Pharaohs heart was hardened; God hardened his heart- Ex 4.21, 7.3, 9.12, 10.1,20, 27, 11.10, 14.4,8 ; Pharaoh hardened his own heart – Ex 8.15,32. Paul’s point was to show that Israel is not being hardened like Pharaoh in the Old Testament.
The Non-Calvinist explanation for verse 20 “Who are we to argue against God?” Goes on to the statement in Romans 9.20 which goes on the talk about the potter (God) and the clay (People). This is a reference to the potter in Jeremiah 18, where the clay is marred in the hand of the potter because of the stubbornness of their hearts (Jer 18.12).
The fact that God is sovereign over all creation wither you believe in free will or not can cause a person to take this type of argument against God, in other words asking God “why do you still find fault if you’re in charge?” Paul is showing us that we are all clay in the hands of the potter and He is able to do with us as He desires. However we find that God still holds us accountable for our own actions since we are responsible for the choices we make.
Finally the Non-Calvinist will point to the end of this chapter in verse 30, as Paul’s summary of all previous statements. Verse 30 end the chapter with an interesting statement that would indicate the qualified for someone to be a person of the promise as referred to in this chapter.
Paul says that the gentiles that were not following after righteousness attained it, but Israel following after the law of righteousness did not. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith. Paul end the chapter with the affirmation that only those who seek the promise by faith will attain it, it is on these God chooses to have mercy.
Beliefs of the Early Church
The early church leaders held diverse views on the topic of predestination. Different church leaders held viewpoints that where similar to those argued in either or both Calvinism and Arminianism today.
Justin Martyr of the 1st century a.d. argued in favor of mankind’s free will in his book, First Apology Ch. 43.
Clement of Rome from the 1st century is believed to have a predestination view of salvation.
Irenaeus from the 2nd century wrote against certain beliefs on absolute election predestination proposed by those he considered heretics. He believed all men had the free will to choose salvation.
Origen of Alexandria from the 3rd century believed predestination was based on God’s foreknowledge of every person’s merits or deeds.
Augustine of Hippo from the 4th century believed that God orders all things while allowing human free will, this is seen in his works ‘On Grace and Free Will,’ from 426 a.d.
The Council of Aries in the 5th century condemned the belief that some are condemned to death and others predestined to life.
The Council of Orange in the 5th century determined that some have been predestined to evil by divine power.
In the 9th century Gottschalk of Orbais taught that God predestines some people to hell as well as predestining some to heaven, a view known as double predestination.
In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas taught that God predestines the elect to the beatific vision based on His goodness alone without any consideration of the creation. However he also taught that people have free will in their choices, fully cause their own sin, and are solely responsible for it.
Saint Augustine’s On Grace and Free Will – https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1510.htm