It is not uncommon for a Calvinist to tell me that they feel I am misrepresenting Calvinism because I speak of it as if it is “too deterministic.” For instance, Calvinistic apologist Matt Slick, in a recent online debate, told me that he did not believe in determinism only later to affirm the statement I read from monergism.com which states, “compatibilism is no less deterministic than hard determinism.” <link>
Dr. William Lane Craig regularly describes Calvinism as “universal divine causal determinism – God determines everything that happens in the world,” and he provides many solid arguments for doing so. One listener brought a similar critique to Dr. Craig:
Question: I believe you really mischaracterize Calvinism. What you are talking about sounds more like Hyper-Calvinism. Because Calvinism actually does affirm free will; I can read chapter 10 of the Westminster Confession of Faith where it actually explains how free will works within that system.
Dr. Craig’s answered by saying:
What I am rejecting is universal divine causal determinism. Now, if Reformed theology rejects compatibilism then I have got no quarrel with it. In fact, when I read much of the Westminster Confession, I resonate with it. The problem is that I don’t think that the Reformed theologian can give us a coherent interpretation of Scripture. As I said, the Reformed divines – in my first point – typically say that the reconciliation of these texts is just inscrutable. They can’t put them together; it is a mystery. <link>
What many younger (or lessor informed) Calvinists seem to miss is that compatibilism, the philosophical system adopted by most notable pastors/scholars leading in the resurgence of Calvinism today, is a form of determinism. It is the belief that God’s determinism of all things (sometimes referenced as “sovereignty” or “meticulous providence”) is compatible with “creaturely freedom” (defined as creatures acting in accordance with their predetermined natural desires). We have established this in previous articles.
Calvinists = If God knows everything then He must have determined it, therefore God determines moral evil. (contradicts the biblical teaching of God’s Holiness)
Open Theists = If God knows everything then He must have determined it, therefore God doesn’t know everything. (contradicts the biblical teaching of God’s Omniscience)
Traditionalists = God knows everything because He is the great “I AM” who exists at all places and at all times not because he necessarily determines it. His ways are higher than our ways, so our finite minds will never fully comprehend how an infinite God works within the temporal world but we NEVER should undermine the clear biblical teaching of God’s holiness or knowledge to appease our philosophical speculations.
A good Calvinistic brother and friend sent me this message in response:
You are the only anti-Calvinist blogger I have respect for. So I don’t say this in an attacking way. Your statement I don’t believe is representative of what most Calvinist believe (certainly not the ones I interact with). I’m sure you can find examples of people saying God determines everything, but many Calvinist would not.
It’s easy to attack the extremes of a position, but I find that folks that don’t take extreme positions on either side of the issue agree more than they disagree.
First, I must say it is so refreshing for a brother who claims to believe “doctrines of grace” to act with grace toward those with whom he disagrees. This is a sure fruit of the Spirit within this dear brother. I pray that this kind of cordiality will mark all of our discussions over such important matters.
Second, I’d prefer to be known as the “pro-Traditionalist blogger/podcaster” than an “anti” anything, but I won’t nit-pick too much.
Third, my arguments, like those of Dr. Craig, simply do not pertain to you if you deny “universal divine causal determinism” (i.e. compatibilism). I would warn you, however, that the group with which you associate called “Calvinism” is being led by and has been overrun with those who do (as established HERE and HERE).
Fourth, I would challenge you to study the Calvinistic compatibilists to better understand how they have come to their philosophical conclusions and why they maintain them so vigorously. You might also be interested to learn that they call you “inconsistent” and/or “uneducated” Calvinists behind your backs. I won’t tattle on any specific compatibilistic Calvinists who have said these kinds of comments to me over the years, but one need only do a bit of research to find this out for themselves.
Finally, have you confronted your compatiblistic friends over this issue? After all, if you are correct, they are the ones really misrepresenting your cause, not people like Dr. Craig or little ol’ me. We are the ones you should be standing along side in an effort to stop theistic determinism from spreading any further. Why don’t you join us?