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 Calvinism - free will

I did not write this article and do not know who did.
I am posting this for discussion and if you disagree with it do not kill me.

Calvinism’s first point speaks to the total depravity of man. Arminianism counters: although we are born as sinners, mankind is given “a divine spark” that enables us to respond positively to God. The Bible clearly teaches that mankind is not basically good, but rather in bondage to sin (Romans 6:6-20) and therefore we are all wretched sinners who truly don’t seek after God, making us worthy of death (Romans 3:10-12, 23 and Romans 6:23). There is no doubt that humans are fallen creatures, separated from God by our sin (Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis chapter 3, and Isaiah 59:2). But does this mean we are so depraved to the point of being unable to respond to God at all?

Calvin’s definition of total depravity was in regard to mankind’s relationship toward a Holy God and not to be considered the same on a human level. His view states that mankind is not totally evil, because we can temporarily do good on a human level, “that everything which is in man, from the intellect to the will, from the soul even to the flesh, is defiled and pervaded with this concupiscence; or, to express it more briefly, that the whole man is in himself nothing else than concupiscence” (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 8). Concupiscence means a bent desire toward the forbidden, most specifically in the area of lust.

Calvin’s definition was just another way of expressing “original sin” (Psalm 51:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Although, we do not inherit anyone's sin (Ezekiel 18:20), we do sin after being tempted and then carried away, enticed by our own lusts (James 1:13-15). The unwillingness of the humanist in mankind to acknowledge his crime of sin and its destructive consequences is why people most readily blame God for bad things when they happen. Only the one who accepts their responsibility for their sin under the conviction of the Holy Spirit has the hope of repenting to receive God’s gracious gift of forgiveness.

However, Calvin extended the Bible’s definition of our corrupt nature beyond the context, to say we have no ability to respond at all to God of our own free will. Romans 1:18-32 is often used as the proof text for Calvin’s claim of total depravity. Yet, neither this passage, nor any other passage in the Bible, ever actually defines a human inability to respond to God. Romans chapter one is speaking about human accountability through the knowledge of God through His creation, to point out that all humanity is without an excuse when God’s judgment comes. The idea that humans have no ability to freely choose means that God would have to force Himself upon us, which would bring His righteousness seriously into question, as it would be selective and deny our true free will. Also, human accountability and judgment of sin for those condemned to an eternity in Hell would add to the case for questioning God’s righteousness, if indeed we never really had a choice to decide our future, because we had been created without the ability to choose to respond.

The true fallen human condition of our not seeking after and being separated from God (Romans 3:10-12 and Isaiah 59:2) should not be confused with and our ability “to respond to God via free will choice”, as if they were one and the same. This is where Calvin erred in his thinking and it is further dispelled when we look at other verses that point this out.

“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil” (Job 1:1). “Then the LORD said to Noah, ‘Enter the ark, you and all your household; for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time’.” - Genesis 7:1.

Able chose to bring the proper offering before God and Cain did not (Genesis 4:2). Joshua chose to serve God and called upon Israel to do the same (Joshua 24:15). Unlike his son King Solomon, King David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Kings 11:4). Total depravity cannot be supported and is actually refuted by the whole of Scripture. This is why it is important to carefully study God’s authoritative word, allowing it to speak for itself, and be extremely cautious about being influenced by human opinions that often use partial Scripture to “tell us about what God meant”.

Calvin described the human response to “God’s irresistible grace” as a mystery, because he planted his thinking incorrectly in the foundational idea that humans are unable to respond to God. Calvin thought that a human response would mean that we could take credit, or partial glory, for the act of receiving God’s gift of grace. However, the following should dispel Calvinists confusion about this and demonstrate that there is no mystery involved because God’s word tells us precisely how it all works.

Most assuredly, God will receive all the glory for those who are saved, but it will be on account of the fact that we never really deserved to be offered such amazing grace to be forgiven by such a Holy Being in the first place. Choosing to receive (or respond to) His gift of grace is our choice and privilege, but never something we could realistically take any credit for. It would be like a murderer on death row, about to be executed, taking credit for an undeserved, last minute pardon from the Governor; it’s a logical absurdity. Just as the prisoner accepts the pardon, so do all the elect accept the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), which is entirely to God’s credit. For the elect are urged by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to ask for and receive Christ’s pardon for their sin. God seeks us out and God does all the “work” (the transforming miracle) of saving (or birthing – John 3:3) the soul (John 1:12-13) from death into a new spiritual creature of life (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Furthermore, it is to God’s glory, because God wrote both His Law (Romans 2:15) and eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11) on the human heart, implanting within us the necessary understanding to respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction. In other words, deep down we know right from wrong and that we will live forever. This dual fact of God’s implanted revelation makes all human beings fully accountable as well. Added understanding from God has been imparted as well,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged (a choice) the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures…” (Roman 1:18-32).

To God be all the glory, indeed, but not on the basis of some unscriptural concept of “the ‘total’ depravity of mankind”. Now, if this was what the Arminians meant by the vaguely defined term “a divine spark”, then they would have been correct. So, God seeks out the human race and attempts to draw us to Himself through the conviction of His Spirit, at which point we choose to either respond to or reject His calling.

Apparently, Calvin had trouble fully understanding the wondrous character of God, and over-emphasized (or perhaps “over-protected”) God’s sovereignty to the point of missing the balancing influence of God’s righteousness. How could God be righteous and just, to create humans totally depraved, with no hope at all (no real choice in the matter), and then select out only a small minority of them (Matthew 7:13-14) to be saved, while condemning the rest to an unspeakable eternal torment in Hell? Although the elect would be very grateful, there would always be the nagging questions of why me, why so few, how is it right for me to be in heaven and my mother to be in Hell, for example, if no real human choice was involved? But much worse than all this, it would make God out to be untrue, because it would directly contradict the statement by the Apostle Peter, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Any attempt to twist the actual meaning of “all” in this verse, to be only “a reference to the elect”, fails because a sovereign God choosing for us would beg the question: then for whom does God need to be patient, if He is the only one making the decision? If it’s God who sovereignly chooses who is saved for Heaven, and who is going to Hell, and we have no real choice in the matter, then God would become a twisted, psychotic liar by Peter’s statement. Additionally, the very definition of repentance means to change one’s mind and turn away from evil. Why are we called upon to repent if we truly have no power to choose in the first place? It’s a logical contradiction that Calvinists have no scriptural answer to resolve. God does not arbitrarily consign some people to eternal damnation; it is their willful rejection of God’s salvation makes them responsible, which explains why God actually is patient toward humans and truly doesn’t wish for any to perish.

 2005/3/30 13:02
dann
Member



Joined: 2005/2/16
Posts: 239
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

 Re: Calvinism - free will

Quote:
The idea that humans have no ability to freely choose means that God would have to force Himself upon us ... as it would ... deny our true free will



The Calvinist says that when God hardened Pharoah's heart, He did so without compromising Pharoah's free will - that is, that even though God hardened Pharoah's heart, God did not do so in a way that manipulated or otherwise interferred with Pharoah's will. Pharoah freely chose to harden his own heart (and therefore it is Pharoah's sin and not God's) - but did so in exact accordance with God's predetermined will.

Dan
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_________________
Daniel van de Laar

 2005/3/30 13:39Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Quote:
The Calvinist says that when God hardened Pharoah's heart, He did so without compromising Pharoah's free will - that is, that even though God hardened Pharoah's heart, God did not do so in a way that manipulated or otherwise interferred with Pharoah's will. Pharoah freely chose to harden his own heart (and therefore it is Pharoah's sin and not God's) - but did so in exact accordance with God's predetermined will.

I don't think all Calvinists believe this the way you have said it, otherwise the debate would not have been so heated.


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Ron Bailey

 2005/3/30 17:11Profile
Corneliu
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Joined: 2004/1/6
Posts: 61


 Re: Calvinism - free will

I do not endorse armenianism, but I like the article. It describes the problem about the Calvinistic model of thinking: humans have no responsability prior to be saved, and that can lead to: no fault in humans.

I belive the Bible teaches responsability:
-"do not harden your heart"
-"endure to the end"
-"examine yourselfs to see if you are in the faith" (and if we do what can we do about? while a calvinist)
-"repent"
-"if you live according to the flesh, you shall die" (this is about the eternal life and death - and it does not look like once saved always saved from our perspective)

There are a lot more that could be said, but I see that the whole Bible points to responsability and retribution, from the first pages (Adam and Eve) to tha last(Rev 22:14 "Blessed are they that do His commandments... they may enter into the city" and v.19 "If anyone takes away from the Words... God will take away his part out of the Book of Life"


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Cornelius

 2005/3/30 19:08Profile
kirindor
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Joined: 2005/3/29
Posts: 13
Soon to be Upton, MA

 Re: Calvinism - free will

Hi All,

I will admit that I am an un-reconstructed Calvinist, with strong Puritan overtones, so this question of Free Will is one that I have thought on at length.

I recommend, for anyone willing to do the hard work, Jonathan Edwards book "Freedom of the Will." I know that it is hard reading. Also, his book "Original Sin" is excellent, and I supposed that you could use it defend the the "T" in "TULIP." Though, I have never really thought of it that way.

Jonathan Edwards arguments in "Freedom of the Will" are very powerful and difficult to overcome. I think that he proves his point quite effectively, and to my knowledge, I do not believe that any Arminian theologian has ever refuted his arguments.

In Christ,
adam@adamchristiansen.org
www.adamchristiansen.org


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Adam Christiansen

 2005/3/30 23:42Profile
Spitfire
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Joined: 2004/8/3
Posts: 633


 Re: Calvinism - free will

Quote:
The idea that humans have no ability to freely choose means that God would have to force Himself upon us, which would bring His righteousness seriously into question, as it would be selective and deny our true free will. Also, human accountability and judgment of sin for those condemned to an eternity in Hell would add to the case for questioning God’s righteousness, if indeed we never really had a choice to decide our future, because we had been created without the ability to choose to respond.


Since you posted this purely for discussion, I would like to say something, particularly on this segment here. I'm speaking from my own personal experience having been someone who so strongly believed in "free will" that I would become angry when somebody tried to convince me of "total depravity". This is my point: the idea that God, our creator, doesn't have to answer to us for having created us in whatever way he chose, nor does he "owe" us anything, could he not do with all of us whatever he chooses? And who are we to define righteous? Whatever God does is righteous. He defines righteousness. How can the thing created say to it's creator, "you're not being fair"? I, personally, do believe in divine election, now. I know, since I've begun to submit to God in this way, it has completely changed my walk. God has become so enormous to me. I now have the fear of the Lord. Love, Dian.

 2005/3/31 6:31Profile
Compton
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Joined: 2005/2/24
Posts: 2732


 Re: Giving proper credit

Quote:
God, our creator, doesn't have to answer to us for having created us in whatever way he chose, nor does he "owe" us anything, could he not do with all of us whatever he chooses? And who are we to define righteous? Whatever God does is righteous. He defines righteousness. How can the thing created say to it's creator, "you're not being fair"?


Dian,

Confess...you got this idea from Romans 9:14-24 didn't you? Don't you know that it's wrong to plagiarize without crediting the source?;-) I think it's only proper that all the credit for this crazy idea be given to it's original author, Paul the Apostle.

Bless you,:-)

MC


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Mike Compton

 2005/4/1 0:40Profile
dann
Member



Joined: 2005/2/16
Posts: 239
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

 Re:

Quote:

philologos wrote:
Quote:
The Calvinist says that when God hardened Pharoah's heart, He did so without compromising Pharoah's free will - that is, that even though God hardened Pharoah's heart, God did not do so in a way that manipulated or otherwise interferred with Pharoah's will. Pharoah freely chose to harden his own heart (and therefore it is Pharoah's sin and not God's) - but did so in exact accordance with God's predetermined will.

I don't think all Calvinists believe this the way you have said it, otherwise the debate would not have been so heated.



I agree. Labels mean different things to different people.

I think people come to be "Calvinists" through two different routes - either they read the bible and come to the same conclusions as Calvin - such as I have, or they inherit Calvinism having learned it as a theological philosophy.

I would hazard to guess that the most disagreeable "Calvinists" are those who came to their persuasion through a study of theology rather than a study of scripture. It has been my sad experience to know a few. They rarely open the bible except to find proof texts for their pet theologies. We all know the sort.

I think it is that sort who have helped to give substance to that unfortunate caricature of the Calvinist as believing that God drags unwilling men into heaven while denying access to those who are honestly seeking God and trying to enter.

I for one, certainly believe that no one comes to the Father unless they are called.

One mistake that some make is to imagine that God looked into the future - saw who would believe - and then elected only those. Such a parody, makes God's decision subordinate to man's faith, which cannot rightly be called election.

Scripture teaches that faith itself is a gift, and that our salvation is all of grace. No one is interested in the things of God except that God quickens them.

John 6:63 "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.

I believe that - the flesh does not contribute to the salvation process. The flesh therefore certainly cannot instigate faith!

John explained it best:
John 6:44 "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

When I say I have free will I mean that I have the freedom to obey or deny my personal desires.

But I accept this reality - I do not have control over what my desires are going to be.

Every Christian understands this basic truth - that there is both the desire to obey God, and the desire to obey sin. We commit sin by obeying the sinful desires, we are obedient when we obey God's spiritual desires. But how many of us would dare to say that we pick and choose what our desires are going to be??

So, as a "Calvinist" I understand free will as being the freedom to respond or deny desires that I have no control over.

I cannot therefore generate a desire to follow God any more than I can make myself no longer covet. Yes, I can certainly -RESIST or SUPRESS- the desire - but the desire remains because I have no control over picking and choosing what I am going to desire.

That, in my opinion is the heart of the matter. The Calvinist either reasons this out with scripture, or instincitively understands through experience that freedom of will does not mean picking and choosing what we will desire or not - but how we respond to those desires. So that it is elementary and trivially accepted that God, and only God gives the believer the initial desire to come to Him - that is, that God draws the unbeliever by giving the believer the ability and desire to follow after Him. Only the elect desire God.

Those who are not elect, do not come to God, not because they don't have the option - they do - but because they have no desire to do so, and will never have the desire to do so. The option is fully available, and failure to pursue that option makes one perfectly culpable - yet for all that, Like Judas, they will not choose correctly.

Dan
/\/
\/\


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Daniel van de Laar

 2005/4/1 13:10Profile
markitats
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Joined: 2004/3/12
Posts: 92
Springdale AR

 Re:

As a Christian, I fully agree brother! Amen! Well put!


_________________
Mark

 2005/4/1 14:05Profile









 why and how God repented that He had made Saul king over Israel?

Please someone tell me why and how God repented that He had made Saul king over Israel?

If Saul was designed or made to rebel and lie like he did, God could NOT repent.


1 Sam 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.

 2005/4/2 6:45





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