Why Ravi Zacharias rejects Calvinism


First of all let me be clear that the ministry of RZIM does not take an official stand on this debate. Like many apologists and theologians of his generation, Dr. Zacharias desires to be conciliatory with all brothers and sisters on both sides of this issue. However, his interpretation of the passages in question are clearly compatible with my non-Calvinistic perspective. Pay close attention to his free will theodicy (also posted below) and how he interprets Romans 9.  He sounds like a “Traditionalist” to me. You can listen to his article on the video, or scroll down to read it:

“The question you have raised has to do with an issue that theologians have been wrestling with for centuries. The Calvinistic and the Arminian position highlight their own views in attempting to answer this question. The passage you have referred to in Romans is taken out of Paul’s letter in which he is dealing with the privileged position that Israel has as being the mouthpiece to the nations of the world, and the passage in Peter, of course, is referring to the fact that God is not desiring that anyone should perish. If I may rephrase your question, you are wrestling with the dialectic of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. Let me try and give you a couple of illustrations before dealing with it theologically and in a mild philosophical manner.

The sovereignty and responsibility issue should really be seen as two opposite poles of the same position. Light, for example, is viewed from some vantage points as particles. From other vantage points it is viewed as waves. Scientists are aware that light could not be both particles and waves, so they have coined a term for it, a kind of a construct, and they call it a “photon.” All they have done is create a word and a category that accommodates both perspectives which are real. I think you should view the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man as a kind of a precious stone with two facets to it. When it catches the light from one direction, you see one color; when it catches the light from the other direction you see the other color. Our propensity in the Western world to put God into a box and to systematize everything sometimes violates a fundamental precept in philosophy. It is not possible for a finite person to infinitely understand the infinite. If a finite person can fully understand the infinite, the very category of infinity is destroyed. So my proposal to you is to see both of these perspectives and hold them in balance.

For example, the biblical writers held these in tension. When you look at Acts 2:23, Peter is addressing the people. After the crucifixion of Jesus, he says, “That which God hath ordained from before the foundation of the world, you with wicked hands have taken and crucified.” What is he talking about? “That which God hath foreordained (the sovereignty of God) you with wicked hands have taken and crucified (the responsibility of man).” Peter holds it in tension. The apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12 does the same thing. He says, “Work out your own salvation (the responsibility of man), for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (the sovereignty of God).” So Paul holds it in tension. Jesus also in Matthew 18:7 says, “Offenses must come, but woe unto him through whom they come”–the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man. So in an attempt to try to clearly highlight either of these two extremes, you will do violence to the other.

In your example of Romans 9, it is imperative that you understand the context. In Romans, chapters 9, 10 and 11, Paul is primarily writing to the Jewish church in order to get them to understand that the chosenness that God had given to them was a privilege with concomitant responsibilities. He goes on to show that their privileged position was given to them because someone had to be a mouthpiece to the world and God chose the least of all the nations. He did not choose the philosophers in Greece; He did not choose the imperial might of Rome; He did not choose the splendor of Babylon. He chose a tiny little nation with whom and through whom He was going to pronounce the oracles to the rest of the world. Now, with that great privilege came a proportionate responsibility. So that chosenness was one of instrumentality, and to whom much was given much was also required. In the same way, I believe this principle applies to preachers. Just because we are called upon to stand in front of people and proclaim, it does not necessarily mean we have a better deal going for us. The fact is that our lives must be proportionate to the privilege and responsibility.

The passage in Peter expresses God’s desire for all mankind. Of course, He is not willing that any should perish. Now, what you need to do is recognize that foreknowledge and foreordination are not the same thing. I may know, for example, that as I see my child about to lift something heavy that he is not going to be able to lift it, but there are times when I stand back and watch in an attempt to teach this individual the fact that there are some loads too heavy for a smaller body to handle. Now when you are looking at the sovereignty of God, it is undeniable that God is sovereign in history. He is even able to take the evil intents of people and turn them around to good benefits. But isn’t that true of all life? There are some things in life that are givens–you and I have no control over them, but we do have options as to how we are going to deal with those givens, and that is where our responsibility comes in.

When you think of the mystery of sovereignty and responsibility, the very incarnation of Christ carries this enigma. Here is the sovereign God dwelling in a finite body with all of its limitations. So in my initial answer to you, may I suggest that you look at these two points as opposite poles of a dialectic; we cannot take God and put Him in a box as absolutely free. Somewhere the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man meet. The picture I have in mind is not of overlapping circles, as if each circle represented one extreme of the pole, but of conjoining circles. At some spot the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man meet. To try to answer it and explain it away would require infinite knowledge. The challenge you and I face, therefore, in life is to see how we can responsibly operate within the parameters that are so clear–God is sovereign, and yet I have the freedom and reserve the right to say yes or to say no. You see, God has given to every man the fundamental privilege of trusting Him or refusing to trust Him. You know, the old illustration used to be the sign outside of Heaven saying “Whosoever will may come,” and once you enter in, you see the sign that says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.” A person who is truly born again recognizes that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because he could ever have come this way himself. It does not in any way mitigate or violate the choice that he made. The choice man makes is to trust God’s provision. Frankly, the tendency we may sometimes have is to complain that there is only one door to Heaven. Rather than complaining about it, we ought to thank God that there is at least one door by which we may enter.

There have been Calvinists and Arminians, giants of the faith, on both sides of the fence. I believe what John Calvin says holds very true: “Where God has closed His holy mouth let us learn not to open ours.” My own perspective on this is that God’s assurance of sovereignty is given to the person who wonders whatever caused him to merit the salvation, and God’s challenge of free will is to the person who tends to blame God for having even brought him into this world and that he has nothing to do to control his destiny. When you look at the encounter between Pharaoh and Moses, you see the constant availability of data given to Pharaoh, and the hardening process is really not a predestined one. It is a description after the fact that God was going to reveal the face that this man’s heart was already hardened. Remember, God operates in the eternal now.

So to sum up once again, the chapters of Romans 9, 10 and 11 are Paul’s theological treatise to the Jews to alert them to the fact that this great privilege does not let them get away scot-free. They have an enormous and a proportionate responsibility. He goes on to alert other nations that, rather than complaining about it, they should be glad that a privilege was given to someone, and through that someone this message has come to them also. In fact, if you read Romans 1, 2 and 3, you will find out that the privilege that the Jew had, in many ways, for many of them, turned out to be a disadvantage. If you read Romans 5, you will find out that even though God called Abraham, it was the faith of Abraham that justified him. Once again you see the sovereignty and responsibility. Why don’t we leave this enigma within the divine mind and just be grateful for the privilege that we have heard His voice and we can turn and follow Him?

May I strongly recommend that you pick up the book written by J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. His introductory comments alone, dealing with the difference between a contradiction and a paradox, are well done. If God were absolutely sovereign, then it would be a contradiction to say that man is absolutely free. God is not absolutely sovereign to the point that He can call something that is not as if it actually were. For example, God cannot make squares into circles. That would be a contradiction. So absolute sovereignty is really not what is being talked about here. God, therefore, has chosen to give us the option and, within that framework, He cannot call us free while absolutely violating that freedom. Both poles exist–His sovereignty and our responsibility. We rest on the fact that God is just, that God is love, that God is good, and He woos us enough so that we may trust Him and yet gives us enough freedom so that we might know that this freedom cannot be transformed into coercion.”

-Ravi K. Zacharias/ 1987


For those who would like to hear more from Ravi on this topic just listen to his defense of free will here:


And here is another video of Ravi where a similar question was asked:

102 thoughts on “Why Ravi Zacharias rejects Calvinism

    1. There is one aspect that is lost, none can come, none would come; none can love and none would love, except the Father draws and except God loves we neither would nor could.

      1. “ALL” must be interpreted within the context of the word’s background in John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father DRAWS him to me AND I WILL RAISED HIM UP IN THE LAST DAY”… please don’t forget the promise that ALL DRAWN will be raised up in the last day. If you interpret that “ALL” in John 12:32 as referring to ALL HUMAN RACE then you must answer the question “Are all human beings be saved?” because you cannot separate the PROMISE of Christ with the word DRAW as first used by Christ himself. Either Christ is contradicting himself or you misinterpret what He says. Either you are a Universalist or Reformed. Thank you.

    2. Thank you for sharing, I have listened to Ravi for years and have utmost respect for him. My question to you is, what is your views on eschatology? I am asking because I am not a Calvinist, nor am I a dispensationalist , I am in fact amillennial. which seems to be nearly extinct except in the Calvinist circles. I am looking for fellowship and sound teaching and it is very difficult. Can you please direct me to teachers who believe like I do?

      1. Check out Pastor Robert Morris, he is a good friend of RaviZacharias, he pastors a church in Texas USA called Gateway, (gatewaypeople.com ) you can find a series in his old messages called “THE END” good sound teaching. Hope it will help.

  1. I admire Ravi Zacharias and recommend him to my friends with intellectual questions concerning faith. However, it sounds like he is trying to remain neutral on this issue. The fact that he frames his response in terms of Calvinism and Arminianism, makes me think he is not a Traditionalist. A Traditionalist recognizes that the Calvinist / Arminian debate is historical, but is also a false dichotomy. A traditionalist is neither. Ravi seems comfortable leaving the issue in a state of tension which allows him to continue the focus of his ministry without getting involved in the current soteriological debate. However, the fact that a brilliant philosophical theologian like Ravi Zacharias does not stand inside the Calvinist camp contradicts the oft heard claim that all the “really credible” theologians are Calvinists.

    1. Well, calling Ravi a Traditionalist based on what he said in the 80s is like calling Augustine a Calvinist because of what he wrote in the fifth century 😉

      The point I was making is that he agrees with my (and other Traditionalists) reading of Romans 9-11 and 2 Peter 3:9. As I said in my video, the older generation (70s – 80s) didn’t typically tackle the nuances of this issue with much depth. Ravi did so with enough depth for us to clearly see he doesn’t agree with the Calvinistic interpretations of at least two hotly contested passages.

      1. Being conciliatory however does not crystallize the truth. As I listened to your reading of this article, I was struck with one thought; Ravi kept defaulting to the light of nature to explain his position. Which is what I think most if not all Arminians do. However, the super-position that God is the Sovereign of all things seen and unseen, and sovereign over all would seem to escape Ravi. There seems to be an incorrect thought process going on here in that God’s decrees and plans must fit our tender little psyches and not hurt too much when in fact it’s all about the glory of God and not the comfort of man.

        God chose those out from among those he didn’t choose, whether we like it or not. God used Babylon to punish the Jews, with the promise he would destroy Babylon, whether we like it or not. God gave the commandments and civil code to the Jews, with the foreknowledge that though they could give mental ascent to these laws, they could never fulfill them, whether we like it or not.

        In short, God does what He pleases, because it’s for His own Glory. God is totally free, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. We are crested for His good pleasure, to worship Him, to love Him, to obey Him. Anything less is nor the gospel, and to view God as anything less is to create a God who is subject to His creature, and subject to His creation.

      2. You sound like a full Calvinist. I believe Calvinism is Satanic in its entirety (not only unBiblical but contra-Biblical). The Calvinist clings to a humanistic definition of God’s sovereignty that denies God can be sovereign enough to create man with free will and still accomplish His will. The Calvinist God is weak, and thus must dictate and predetermine all things in advance. The Calvinist clings to a false (and weak) definition of God’s sovereignty that necessitates the denial of His Love.

      3. Actually from a few of Ravi’s quotes – I believe he does take a stand. But his statements – as all here see – are careful not to insult the side to which he disagrees.

        There are two statements I note in particular which I gleaned out of all three videos.

        1) There is not absolute sovereignty over your life.

        2) Here me carefully. If you are totally determined, then you are pre-wired to think the way you do. Your nature is that you are hard wired to come out to a single conclusion. What is input into the computer is what ultimately comes out. This is the bondage of total subjectivity.

        I am convinced Ravi does not believe in Determinism/Sovereignty as conceived within the Reformed tradition.

        And when you really closely monitor and scrutinize Calvinist language – what you eventually recognize is they themselves find their own doctrine’s determinism unpalatable. For you can observe in their language – they are constantly rocking back and forth between Determinism AS-IF TRUE and Determinism AS-IF NOT TRUE.

        Ex-Calvinist Daniel Gracely in his book “Calvinism a closer look” calls this Calvinism’s rocking horse – which he says Calvinists constantly do.

        Dr. Erich Fromm – Ph.D Social Psychologist – in his studies of Reformed writings called it a “doctrine of dread”.
        And titled his research “Escape from freedom” – and one can see the irony in his title.

    2. Or, perhaps, he sees beyond even the tension…. Further down into the center of the jewel versus out on the edge of the facet. … So thankful for guys like Ravi who think and love and share as they do.

    3. I don’t know that Ravi is a theologian. He is an able apologist, but I would not call him a theologian. But I’m not sure I would call Sproul a theologian either. You don’t read either of them at seminaries. Sproul used to teach at RTS, but I doubt he was teaching “Sproul.”

  2. Great response ! I still am trying to understand why a Calvinist would think it robs God of glory if a person exercises free will given by a sovereign God. I am 60 and around 7 years of age I believed in Jesus as my Savior. For about a year I have been trying to understand Calvanism. I look back over 50 plus years and do not recall a non- Calvinist claiming glory for their salvation. At our wedding 39 years ago we had as one of our songs ” To God be the Glory”. We also had a minister speak concerning marriage representing Christ and His Church, which brings up this point , I sovereignly ask the one I loved to marry me and sovereignly she answered “yes”. God freely loved first that we might freely love in return. He freely died for us that we might freely die for Him. We respond to Him! To God be the Glory!!

    1. Brent:

      So true. I get told my Calvinist friends that if we are not TULIP-ites then we will take the glory.

      First I tell them I have never seen anyone do that.

      Second I ask them what is the most vivid, oft-repeated OT example of the Cross: Exodus 12-13, Passover. It was so obvious that God did it all that you never see any of them saying “Nanny-nanny, we sure showed those Egyptians!”

      No one takes glory for what God alone can do. That is just a straw man.

      One more thing….even though God did it all at Passover…..did they not, in faith, have to spread blood on the door? Even though, like Noah, they had to act in faith, they (and we) readily agree that God is the provider and the only one who gets the glory.

  3. Dr. Flowers I am having difficulty finding the original source for this article. The only other place I can find is a Tumblr from 2015 and the gentleman there had no idea where he found it originally.

    Perhaps you could share the provenance of this article with us so we can independently verify where Ravi said this?

  4. Dear Dr. Flowers… This is really is not a rejection of Calvinism but rather an acceptance of the notion of an antimony which is the tension between the sovereignty of God and the Free Will of man, both taught within an inerrant scripture. These two seemingly contradictory notions seem to be enemies but are in fact merely inscrutable to the finite and fallen mind of man. As Spurgeon often concluded (hardly an Arminian), “enemies are often good friends.”

    1. Ravi’s reading of Romans 9-11 is clearly consistent with our “Traditionalist” interpretation (as opposed to that of Calvinism). That was my focus for the purpose of posting this article. The clips added below give further evidence of his rejection of the Calvinist’s typical answers.

      1. This is a question I have long pondered. I consider myself to be in support of TULIP as a tool for understanding God and man’s position before Him, predicated on the absolute sovereignty of His being the Being of beings; all other things are derivative of the First Cause without cause.

        When I describe the nature of God, I think of the four omnis necessitated for Him to be the Great I AM : omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence and what I call omnitemporal. Each of those qualities imply the others to create the idea of a Being who, either through action or passivity makes a choice in every movement of every particle in the macro world, the micro world and all points AND times in between. A Being with the unique power and position of all-time cannot avoid choosing in my opinion.

        Yet I know that I am responsible for and guilty of my sin of putting myself ahead of God’s goodness, trying to be and have good without God, an impossibility. I choose, from what I can see of myself. This is a logical contradiction to the necessity of the absolute sovereignty of God. What to do?

        To a large extent, I agree with Mr. Zacharius when he says,”The sovereignty and responsibility issue should really be seen as two opposite poles of the same position.” We run into similar conundrums in the Book of Job as he and his buddies try to sort out the why of what has happened to Job. When God makes His appearance, I find it fascinating that He does NOT answer the why question at all. Instead He makes it plain that none of the others have enough knowledge, that they cannot have the knowledge to even begin to understand the “Why”.

        We believe in a God who is infinite in all of His aspects, yet we try to reduce why questions down to a single direction or issue in how He deals with us. This is human, but it also absurd when we are dealing with an Entity with an infinite range of reasons for each circumstance of life as we see it.

        As such, I have come to the position of fully embracing the concept of absolute sovereignty and thus responsibility for everything that happens on the part of God intellectually, relishing the security in the fact that such a Being loves me. Yet I live and perceive my world in the context of my own “free will” and personal responsibility and relish the grace that has been lavished upon me by my Master and Father in spite of what I am. I am content in both positions as they express the Persons of God Himself.

      2. cdciii:

        Thanks for that post.

        You are comfortable knowing He loves you. Are you also comfortable proclaiming to all you meet that all of the heinous activities of mankind (from Hitler to child rape) are planned out ahead of time by the God who defines Himself in Scripture “God is love”?

        God is not loving….He is love. What part of love (“for His glory’) planned out these acts?

      3. u
        Charles Chrisman

        Today, 8:10 AM
        To FROMOVERHERE, who wrote a response to me,
        “You are comfortable knowing He loves you. Are you also comfortable proclaiming to all you meet that all of the heinous activities of mankind (from Hitler to child rape) are planned out ahead of time by the God who defines Himself in Scripture “God is love”?
        God is not loving….He is love. What part of love (“for His glory’) planned out these acts?”

        Actually, I am absolutely comfortable with saying that God did in fact ordain the fall of man and all related consequences thereof. I am equally comfortable will both man’s personal responsibility for sin and the fact that Love is the very person of the triune God. All of these ideas can be found in scripture.

        No, I don’t fully comprehend how that works out in terms of logical consistency, but then again, I do not have and cannot have the complete, infinite POV of God. I am not “TRUTH”, He is. The fact that being the infinite timeless One with all power logically places the origin of all the happens on Him. Either that, Or God is not the mighty One, the all knowing One that the Bible claims of Him. At the same time there is an element of human will that seems to make salvation conditional on the responsibility for and confession of sins. My experience of Him over the years has pushed me to try understanding Him to the best of my abilities and rationality, but my capacity is not great enough to fully comprehend all that He is. I know Him to be Good in that experience and where I see a conflict with that in the general perception of human vs. divine responsibilities, my prayer is, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

        The condition of God as the source of love is sufficient now for my own need to understand everything. In the meantime, I will state what I see in the Bible with the hope that He will correct or overrule my misunderstandings. I have not been called to save people. I have been called to speak God’s words, whatever they may be, that He will use them to bring those He calls into His salvation.

  5. “So in my initial answer to you, may I suggest that you look at these two points as opposite poles of a dialectic; we cannot take God and put Him in a box as absolutely free.”

    Really? If God is not free then he is dependent upon his creatures.

  6. To claim Ravi Zacharias as a supporter of “Traditionalism” is to utterly misread the article. It’s truly amazing how a person’s presuppositions, lack of understanding and complete negativity toward Calvinism can so blind reasoning.

    It seems that anyone who says that they believe in free will and is not a Calvinist, no matter how absurdly they get there—Molinist, Open Theist, or just plain anti-Calvinist—is welcomed into the Arminian fellowship.

    If one is willing to read this article objectively it is clear that Ravi is espousing some sort of compromise between Arminianism and Calvinism, and he is refusing to attach himself to either system.

    Of course for Arminians and, sadly, even some Calvinists, the real argument is between the false dichotomy of libertarian free will and determinism. And ironically the true compromise is compatibilism, which is the bases of all Calvinistic confessions!

    1. This is humorous because I just got through telling a friend that Traditionalism is a compromise between Arminianism and Calvinism that refuses to be attached to either system. Lol

      Clearly his reading of Romans 9-11 and 2 Peter 3:9 is like mine, not any Calvinist I know. Sure some of his platitudes could have as easily been something a Calvinist would also say, but his interpretation of key controversial passages fall directly in line with ours.

      Mike, did you happen to take the time to listen to the two other videos Of Ravi I posted at the bottom of the article? How could any Calvinist affirm his remarks there?

      Are you sure it’s not your own biases getting in the way here?

      1. Leighton,

        I see Traditionalism as an outright rejection of both Calvinism and Arminianism rather than a compromise. As I see it, Arminianism is just a softer form of Calvinism. A “Calvinism lite”.

        I think most Traditionalists would reject the TULIP in full, with no Calvinistic hangover.

        Happy Father’s Day to all my brothers in Christ. At least to all those to whom it applies.

        God bless!

      2. I did listen to the the other Ravi videos you posted and, as a Calvinist, I like them and, though I might say a couple of things a little differently, I can certainly affirm them. Ravi is an intelligent speaker and theologian who has decided not to affirm either system—this is very clear!

        I understand why you think that Calvinists can’t agree with him. It’s because, in order to win the debate you force onto Calvinism the “false dichotomy” and conflate compatibilism with determinism—something that, unfortunately, many Calvinists also do.

        “…we cannot take God and put Him in a box as absolutely free. Somewhere the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man meet…To try to answer it and explain it away would require infinite knowledge.” This is compatibilism.

        “A person who is truly born again recognizes that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because he could ever have come this way himself. It does not in any way mitigate or violate the choice that he made.” This line is similar to the Westminster and London Baptist Confessions of Faith.

      3. I notice you have still failed to even acknowledge Ravi’s explanation of Romans 9, the main point that motivated my reposting of this article.

        I already conceded that Ravi wasn’t adopting either system. Neither are Traditionalists.

        And what does Ravi’s rejection of absolute sovereignty (understood as determinism) have to do with his rejection of the Calvinistic interpretations of texts like Romans 9? Why do you think my attempt to win a debate by means of a false dichotomy has anything to do with that fact?

        Plus, you seem to forget that Traditionalists are “compatibilistic” too, in that we also believe God’s sovereignty is compatible with man’s responsibility.

        I have a challenge for you Mike. Find me one notable Calvinistic Compatibilist who ever said “God isn’t absolutely free/sovereign” like Ravi did.

        Also, that last statement concedes we can’t come on our own (“come this way of himself”), something every Arminian and Traditionalist I know also affirms. What’s your point?

      4. It is frustrating when you don’t get specific replies to your questions, isn’t it? Now you know how I feel.

        Sorry but you don’t understand Ravi’s “absolute sovereignty” comments. Did you fail to notice that he recommends the book by Calvinist J.I. Packer, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”? You want to know what a Calvinist says about absolute sovereignty read that book! (Ravi’s “Light/particles/waves/photon” example—among others—comes from Packer.)

        What’s my point? You agree that Traditionalists are compatibilists and you can’t come to God of yourself—both foundational of Calvinism—I don’t know what “your” point is!

        “The temptation is to undercut and maim the one truth by the way in which we stress the other: to assert man’s responsibility in a way that excludes God from being sovereign, or to affirm God’s sovereignty in a way that destroys the responsibility of man. Both mistakes need to be guarded against. …

        God made us responsible moral agents, and He will not treat us as anything less. His Word addresses each of us individually, and each of us is responsible for the way in which he responds – for his attention or inattention, his belief or unbelief, his obedience or disobedience. We cannot evade responsibility for our reaction to God’s revelation. We live under His law. We must answer to Him for our lives.

        It is necessary, therefore, to take the thought of human responsibility very seriously indeed. But we must not let it drive the thought of divine sovereignty out of our minds. While we must always remember that it is our responsibility to proclaim salvation, we must never forget that it is God who saves. Our evangelistic work is the instrument He uses for this purpose, but the power that saves is not in the instrument: it is in the hand of the One who uses the instrument. Let us not at any stage forget that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are both true. …

        In the Bible, divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not enemies. They are not uneasy neighbours; they are not in an endless state of cold war with each other. They are friends, and they work together.”

        ― J.I. Packer, “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”

      5. Mike, slow down. I know the photon analogy is from Packer. I loved Packer when I was a Calvinist and have used that analogy both as a Cal and now as a Traditionalist. We do share some common beliefs, you know?

        I often quote lower Calvinists even now to prove a point against my supralapsarian Calvinistic friends.

        What exactly do you think Ravi’s absolute sovereignty comments entail? Do you think He’s affirming TULIP while undermining the basic Calvinistic interpretation of one of the main passages used to support TULIP, Romans 9? Really? How would that work exactly?

        What Traditionalist or Arminian has EVER said we can come to God alone? God’s initiative is as foundational for our Soteriology as it is to Calvinism. I thought you would know that brother? This is a bit baffling.

        I didn’t say Trads were compatibilists. I explained that we are compatibilistic in the sense that we affirm both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are compatible. We define those terms differently, obviously.

        The way in which we define those terms does guard against the very error Packer just warned about, in our estimation.

        Packer also says, “He [God] orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose.”

        Do you agree with that?

      6. First, let me say that I think the lapsarian debates that Calvinists have are counter productive and a little silly.

        Next, I don’t think Ravi says enough about Romans 9 in this article to really be able to say he totally agrees or disagrees with a Calvinistic interpretation. I’ve read your Romans 9 book and I can agree with much of it—corporate election has some explanatory weight but it goes too far. Obviously this is a long discussion that we can’t go into here.

        As for claiming what Traditionalists or Arminians have said, I’m just mirroring your “implications” argument which you often use against Calvinists.

        I know that we define terms differently so why even say that Traditionalists are compatibilistic?

        And lastly, do I agree with the statement: “God orders and controls all things…”? Yes but I also agree that God is love. If I defined love on the surface level that most people do than I would have to reject the God of the bible!

        Look, I sympathize with Arminians. There are problems with the way much of popular Calvinism is explained. If you think that I’m alone in this view then let’s see what Packer has to say: “We must acknowledge that it was in part bad Calvinism that encouraged this unhappy mistake. … It is to be feared that much of the Arminianism in this world has been due in part, at any rate, to recoil from an unspiritual Calvinism. … We are deliberately, in this article, avoiding any attempt to generalize about our situation today; but those who find themselves up against Arminianism (or perhaps it calls itself anti-Calvinism) at the present time would do well to ask whether Calvinists themselves have to had something to do with bringing it into being, by not advancing their doctrine with holy and loving attitudes and actions.” (https://www.the-highway.com/articleSept16.html)

  7. “…you seem to forget that Traditionalists are “compatibilistic” too”

    But brother, y’all are not compatibilistic in the same sense as what the reformed mean by the term. In the technical sense, it’s that God’s predetermination (His decree) is compatible with voluntary choice, not just His “sovereignty.”

    1. Where did you get that idea from? Tim Warner? He’s right up there with the Planet Xer’s, setting dates for the Big Crunch only to watch them go by without event. It’s great publicity, but makes the church like a bunch of Elmer Gantry’s.

    1. I’ve never heard anyone explain Calvinism coherently. No one and I’ve listening to many reknown and less reknown Calvinist sermons, debates, lectures. I’m not a Calvinist, not Arminianist, not sure I have a label yet but I know for sure I’m not those two.

      To sum up my very inept understanding of this article, Calvinist claim total depravity and so man relies on G d to show him he is elect and bring him to salvation, whereas the non elect are never going to be chosen, are totally depraved, destined for damnation and also responsible for not choosing otherwise, because G d is sovereign. Makes total sense … can’t argue with that can I?

    2. Where did you get that idea from? Tim Warner? He’s right up there with the Planet Xer’s, setting dates for the Big Crunch only to watch them go by without event. It’s great publicity, but makes the church like a bunch of Elmer Gantry’s.

    3. Where did you get that idea from? Tim Warner? He’s right up there with the Planet Xer’s, setting dates for the Big Crunch only to watch them go by without event. It’s great publicity, but makes the church like a bunch of Elmer Gantry’s.

  8. Reblogged this on Marius Cruceru and commented:
    Ce parere aveti?

    The sovereignty and responsibility issue should really be seen as two opposite poles of the same position. Light, for example, is viewed from some vantage points as particles. From other vantage points it is viewed as waves. Scientists are aware that light could not be both particles and waves, so they have coined a term for it, a kind of a construct, and they call it a “photon.” All they have done is create a word and a category that accommodates both perspectives which are real. I think you should view the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man as a kind of a precious stone with two facets to it. When it catches the light from one direction, you see one color; when it catches the light from the other direction you see the other color. Our propensity in the Western world to put God into a box and to systematize everything sometimes violates a fundamental precept in philosophy. It is not possible for a finite person to infinitely understand the infinite. If a finite person can fully understand the infinite, the very category of infinity is destroyed. So my proposal to you is to see both of these perspectives and hold them in balance.

  9. Im soOo glad Ravi adresses this..this has been a stumbling blOck fOr me.
    I use toOo really wrestle with this(electiOn)..but nOw I knOw that there are twOoo ways nOw(our respOnsibility and Gods sOvereign hand)..#PeaceInMe

  10. Quote from above article by Ravi:
    “You know, the old illustration used to be the sign outside of Heaven saying “Whosoever will may come,” and once you enter in, you see the sign that says, “Chosen before the foundation of the world.” A person who is truly born again recognizes that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because he could ever have come this way himself. It does not in any way mitigate or violate *the choice* that he made. The choice man makes is to trust God’s provision.”

    I believe the above passage shed some light on whether the Calvinist position (“CP”) or the semi-pelagian position (“SPP”), is taken in the article.

    The key question is whether the phrase “the choice that he made” in the above quote, i.e. the choice for God, was made solely pursuant to God’s grace (or not). If yes, then I am sure many readers will know that it forms one or more tenets in the CP. If no, then God’s grace is not all-effectual since there is this step of acceptance (of God’s grace) which is made possible only by something outside of His grace. In other words, no to this key question votes for the SPP.

    Ravi purportedly said – “[he] recognizes that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because he could ever have come this way himself”. This quote appears to be saying that God’s grace is needed every step of the way. I note that the quote is also unqualified in that it does not exclude this man’s choice (for God) as part of the accomplishments of God’s grace (solely). Therefore, either this quote is misleading, or through this quote Ravi affirmed the “yes” answer (and the CP).

    Further, the phrase “[God’s grace] does not in any way mitigate or violate the choice that he made” in the article, does not contradict the CP since it is never the CP that God’s grace violates man’s will. Instead, the CP is that God’s grace is necessary to effectuate man’s will to choose God.

    In conclusion, based on the above quote, it seems to me that the CP is taken.

  11. As Ravi has himself said many times, “You can’t determine truth by counting noses.” The question should never be, does a particular theologian agree with your view, but does your view come out of the word of God. This kind of rhetoric is beneath the glory of the word of God.

  12. Leighton, thanks for posting. I found you by accident. I was once a 7 point Calvinist. I took Dan Fuller’s classes at Fuller Seminary, Galatians, Hermeneutics-what a blessing, Unity of the Bible, Gospel and Law. I wish I’d have taken him for Romans, I discovered him too late. He of course was John Piper’s theological mentor, though I think Piper has a different take on “law” now. But being out of ministry for 20 years and being a realtor and right to life spokesman, it’s hard to keep up. I was TULIP plus double predestination and this is the best of all worlds. But when I got out in the ministry, I realize others will say it didn’t happen to them, I had a tough time preaching that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and thinking that he’d predestined some of my parishioners to go to hell so he might be most glorified and the elect appreciate their salvation all the more. That is, if too many people get into heaven, God’s then the elect don’t appreciate his mercy as much and if not enough get in, he’s too stingy. It occurred to me if I continued on this course I might be more concerned for my parishioners than the Lord was, which is not at all possible and I don’t think I would have thought that as a 7 Point Calvinist. I’m no longer in ministry. I don’t even teach a bible study at the mega church I’m an elder at. But I am a leading right to life spokesman in our state and one of our arguments is that it is wrong, it is a crime against humanity to dispose of other human beings for our own benefit. It is wrong to treat human beings as a means to our ends-because of the kind of beings we are. It’s wrong to created little human beings and then destroy them for their body parts, or stem cells for research or therapy, at least research in which they, the subjects, don’t have a good chance of benefiting from. So I started thinking that there would be something wrong with God in creating human beings for eternal destruction to glorify himself and to exercise and show his mercy, the one attribute he can’t exercise among the trinity. That is, that he would create beings like us, a little lower than all the angels and created in/bearing his image and likeness, and then use us as mere means to his ends. If that’s who God is, then I guess I would have to accept that He is like that but I don’t know if I would love him and want to spend eternity with someone so monstrous as to decide ahead of time that some of my family members whom I obviously love would be bound to eternity in hell so the elect would appreciate God’s mercy and glorify God most maximally. As I heard Peter Kreeft say, there’s a vastly greater difference between us and God than between us an an ant, but still, we are humans and bear his image and likeness. God has to be a certain kind of person, have a certain kind of character to be all glorious and trustworthy. I haven’t figured out how he could be such and use human beings as mere means to his ends. The Calvinism I learned as a Christian Hedonist says God treats us as ends, not means to his ends as if he is incomplete and creates out of need, to prop himself up etc. So that was something hard to live with. I also reflected on the reasons God had to decide this or that… because if he didn’t decide it all, then it would leave the possibility that he would not be most glorified and that in doing so he was saying that his glory wasn’t worth everything, would be sin for him etc. I’m a realtor now and in the 30 years since Fuller have lost my loquaciousness, but I remember he had to write the script to protect his glory. That seemed to me to deprive God of some freedom and it seemed to make His glory dependent upon how the script went. That if too many rejected him it would impact his glory. It occurred to me that this rationale, that God had to choose who gets in and doesn’t as the way to glorify himself was an assumption, not a direct teaching. I realize we can make inferences, and deductions that are directly taught or intended by the authors, but this one seemed like it was not a necessary inference. Anyway, that’s what first led me away from those points of Calvinism. I’m not an Arminian. I suspect I’m a mysterian. It’s a mystery that is going to be made clear when we are translated and see him face to face. Maybe even then in our finitude it will take an eternity to understand and that that might be one of the things that’s going to make eternity so not boring! I also noticed that my Nazarene friend believed in God was in control, he had plans for their lives and my Calvinist friends would preach the cross and we had to make a decision, to come to Christ, to follow him everyday. Anyway, I appreciate you posting Ravi’s comments. One things I’ll say about the Calvinists and the Arminians… a born again evangelical… they both have tremendous passion for God, the Bible and a lost world.

    1. Don:

      Wow…and welcome! Good post!

      Have a look at some of the other strings too.

      I think you have a lot to add, especially from your observations in the pro-life movement, and observations as a former-Calvinist (like others of us on here).

      Please comment elsewhere as you can. One tip: perhaps you could break your ideas up a bit into paragraphs so we can follow better. Smaller sentences; smaller paragraphs. That way we can follow your line of thought.

      And please do have a look around and comment on the other topics!

  13. Thanks Dr. I’ll take your advice and remember that is not a Face Book reply where I’m afraid to hit the return key.

    1. That response was actually from me, FromOverHere.

      Former Calvinist, 30+ years on the mission field….commenter on many of Dr Flowers’ posts.

      “Enter” works well and helps us all see and understand your salient points.

  14. Ravi is not a biblical christian, rather a religious philosopher.He doesn’t understand that, yes man is responsible but he is not response-able. That is; he is not able, in his carnal nature, to respond to God outside of regenerationn.

    1. yes man is responsible but he is not response-able. That is; he is not able, in his carnal *NATURE*, to respond to God outside of regeneration.

      This is called “punting” to Natural Determinism – instead of acknowledging Theological Determinism.
      An appeal to Natural Determinism however still does not escape the distinction Ravi stated as consistent with determinism.

      “Your *NATURE* is that you are hard-wired to come out to a single conclusion. What is input into the computer is what ultimately comes out. This is the bondage of total subjectivity.

  15. Being raised in the Anabaptist tradition there are aspects of this subject which have always interested me. I recently audited a course from Reformed Theological Seminary and I found the Presbyterian teaching on the five Solas much closer to my own personal beliefs than those of my traditional understanding. But there are a few Calvinistic teaching which I cannot agree with. That being said, when it comes to the Calvinist vs. Arminian debate I find myself siding with Ravi right in the middle. His argument here explains what I have felt for a long time.

  16. There is no contradiction when it comes to God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. They are twin truths that run parallel into eternity and only intersect in the mind of God. I don’t understand why Ravi’s position matters to begin with. And even if it did, Ravi is content to say that our fallen, human minds cannot comprehend the divine mind of God. This is perfectly in line with Paul’s response in Romans: “but who are you, o man, to answer back to God?” If we stop and look to His word, God’s sovereignty is not just in Romans 9. It’s everywhere. To name a few verses, how about Genesis 50:20, Matthew 11:27 (which then nicely weaves in mans responsibility in verses 28-29), Jonah 2:3 (the sailors threw Jonah overboard, but what does Jonah say?), Proverbs 21:1 (hard to argue that one), Acts 2:23, Revelation 13:8, Amos 3:6, Isaiah 42:6, 2 Samuel 23:5, Ezekiel 36:27, Ezekiel 37:5-6 (can anyone who is dead breathe life into themselves?… then notice the human responsibility given in verse 10, the Lord using his prophet as the instrument for His purposes), Micah 7:9 (notice the absolute dependence on God’s sovereign grace). And on and on and on… and yet man is still responsible for his actions and will be held responsible for his unbelief.

    And finally, when it comes to salvation, all we can do is ask. But God owes us nothing. We deserve justice, not grace. I will simply leave with Isaiah 55:8-9. All else is vanity, a chasing after the wind.

    1. Hey, Clay. How do you know if they are true if you do not understand them? You interpret sovereignty in a way that does not exist in the Scriptures. Sovereignty simply means “rule”. God is Ruler of the universe. You take that to mean meticulous determinism and we do not.

    2. Clay,
      I was not quite sure what your point was.

      Are you saying that God is sovereign and man is still responsible? That is a “vague” statement since I think all of us agree that He is sovereign. We disagree on the definition.

      You did quote a few of the “50 go-to verses” that Calvinists quote, but one of the verses you quoted was … Matt 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

      So, the question is simply is Christ’s invitation open to all “all who labor” …. and can anyone come to Him for rest?

      Calvinists say His invitation (while sounding open to all) is really only for the .015% of humanity that were designated personally to be able to hear (thus not really an invitation to all who labor!). All others were not given the ability to hear His invitation. One can claim all he wants that “man is still responsible” but if you add in that the choice was made by God before time, and put in motion by Adam thousands of years before ….. and that God in no way enabled or even intended to enable the condemned, then it seems to “necessarily” remove his responsibility.

      It never ceases to amaze me that Calvinists say I am “man-centered” in my approach to the open, availability of the Gospel, when they are just as “man-centered” with their idea that it is man who is responsible for his demise!

      To be consistent, they should claim the whole issue; God micro-manages man’s salvation (no man input) and God micro-manages man’s condemnation (no man input).

      1. Fromoverhere,

        Yes that is my point: that God is sovereign and man is still responsible. You may say that is vague, okay, and I would refer to it as a mystery, but one that is not mysterious to God. In response to you claiming that my view is “man-centered” you are reasoning from the specific to the general. Saying man is responsible for his unbelief is directly from the Bible. If you want to put a label on that, then fine. That’s your call. The .015% comment really has no bearing because an infinite, omniscient God can have his own reasons for why so few are saved, and indeed this is reinforced by Matthew 7:14.

        Now to your question re Matthew 11, yes the invitation is open to all. But let’s not forget the context. Jesus also says in Matthew that “many are called but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) The invitation is for anyone. But few are chosen. To say otherwise would be universalism, which is not biblical. The call I refer to here is not an effectual call.

        When you then bring in responsibility what I mean is that man is not responsible for his salvation, but he IS responsible for his sin and unbelief. On judgment day, the only sin that will send a man to hell is the sin of not believing that Jesus is the Son of God (see John 20:31 and John 3:18). So man is responsible in the same way that Adam was, for “through one man sin entered the world.” (Romans 5:12) It wasn’t through God. It was through one man! Now if sin entered the world “through” man, then man is responsible.

        Now let’s get to the crux of the matter, man’s inability to be responsible in any way for his salvation. I referenced Ezekiel 37 in my first post, but here it is for clarity: “5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
        6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:5-6

        And then here: “And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” – Ezekiel 37:14

        The point is that dead people cannot breathe life into their bodies… this is why God is sovereign in salvation and why John 3 references being “born from above”… it all follows the same thread through the OT and NT. And because a dead man cannot breathe life into himself, he cannot be responsible for his salvation. And because a man cannot cause himself to be born, he cannot be responsible for his salvation.

      2. Clay,

        As a former Calvinist, seminary grad, I can tell you that you hit quite a few talking points!

        1. Mystery: Claim that opposing ideas are mysteries. When they needn’t be. It is not a mystery when a Calvinist claims that God before time created a person for damnation, yet it is the person’s fault. That ain’t mystery. It’s just unbiblical contradiction.

        2. Universalism: All things not Determinist-Fatalist-Calvinist are Universalism. Talking point #2. (interchangeable with “you are nothing but a Semi-Pelagian!”

        3. Effectual call: Gotta get an “effectual call” in there. Here are the words of Christ…. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed —[not “effectually” longed, mind you] to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

        And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw [not “effectually” draw] all people to myself.”

        Christ calling….. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden……not all of you …..just the ones “effectually” called.”

        I can tell you have been on the blogs with “effectual call” card. I wish Calvinists would change that to “insincerely.” Christ insincerely calls.

        4. Man-centered. It is “man-centered” if he responds….. but somehow not “man-centered” in that he is responsible for his demise. Just own the whole thing and be consistent . God saves. God Condemns. leave man out of it—- you cant give the entire decision to God and then say ….oh yeah but God is not the author of man’s demise, man is.

        5. Dean men dont make choice. Gotta have that talking point. Luke 15 the prodigal son was called “dead” twice from Christ’s lips and yet still….. while in a faraway land (and the father waited) he “came to his senses”. Dead yet acted. We are dead to sin and still manage to do it. We are even buried with Christ and still manage to sin. The dead-men card does not work.

        You forgot Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 9. That and a few more will cover it. All of which are thoroughly discussed in this blog.

        Oh….you quoted Matthew 7:14. People “find” the gate. Not —-are pulled through it.

        Sorry for my snarky sound here. Brian is smarter and nicer (!) than I am. It’s just that I was a Calvinist (my story is easy to find in this blog) and I get punchy when we have to deal over and over with the same talking points that really do not hold up under the weight of the rest (99%) of Scripture.

      3. This string may not still be active, but I want to thank many of you, including Fromoverhere and Don Nelson for stating some of the concerns I’ve had in this area of theology/soteriology. I’ve struggled with this for many years and it is hard to find voices that aren’t Calvinistic. I know I am created by God and I worship and praise him, but in a Calvinistic understanding of soteriology, I don’t see how he is loving as the Bible seems to say he is and how we should be.

        I’m not very eloquent so I’ll explain my issue in an example….it seems to me the Calvinistic view is like a father having two sons – one he keeps locked in a room, not providing him any education and only providing him meals and a place to live. He sends the second son to school and makes sure he gets an excellent education. Then at the age 18 he makes them both take an SAT test and tells them the one who passes the test gets to go to college will be loved and supported by him, but the one who does not pass the test will be tortured and killed. Now anyone who reads this thinks this is wrong and not right and we would think this father was cruel. How is this different that what the Calvinist says about how God deals with us? If he only gives some the ability to choose him and then punishes, for eternity, those who didn’t choose him because they had no way to and had no way not to sin, then he is that father. While he truly may be and I would still worship him because he is God, I can’t see how I could ever say he was loving. We would never call that father in my example loving.

        Also, I see no way we, as followers of Christ, should ever evangelize or share Christ’s love and grace with others. We would be liars. How can I tell someone Christ died for him/her when I have no idea if he did. How can I say God loves you, when he may not.

        I also agree with Don Nelson who is a Right to Life advocate. It seems that if I truly believed that most of the pre-born were doomed to an eternity in hell with no chance or opportunity to even choose to believe in Christ, then I would not want to be a part of saving a baby so it could be born and then spend eternity in Hell.

        I apologize for my elementary explanations. Can those on here give me ideas as to who to listen to/read who aren’t truly Arminian or Calvinist?

  17. After all that’s been said, can it be said like what Ravi has said that “it is the Holy Spirit that brings about change in the human heart” and it is God and His word that brings about conviction in man’s hearts?

    See 5:30 ff in https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BzV-jPjCjXw .

    While the wicked man always has the choice to choose, it is God alone who can bring about a man’s conviction of the truth of the Gospel. The prodigal son will not have returned if not for the Spirit’s work in both his heart and in his circumstances, which alone led him to think that he could return to his father even as a servant not as a son.

    1. Hey, Cy. Where in the story of the Prodigal Son does it say that the Spirit implanted the idea of returning to his father in his mind in the way you describe?

      1. Hi Eric, thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify.

        That’s my inference from Luke 15::24, 32. The prodigal’s son father said the son was found, i think in the context clearly, by the father. It is reasonable to infer that what the father did to find the son was not the act of welcoming him home since that happened after the son was reaching home.

        What then did the father do to find his son and bring him back to life?

      2. Thanks for the dialogue here, Cy.

        I don’t follow the reasoning at all. What, specifically, in the context leads you to believe the father means “I found him”? Even if he is, why is it reasonable to assume the act of welcoming him home was not the finding? I mean, I think you’re taking the “found” too literally. It’s a parable with a figure of speech used to describe the son being gone and is now back. The father uses a similar figure of speech when he said “this son of mine was dead and has come to life again” just the phrase before. This makes no sense if you apply your same literal reading of “dead/life” cause nowhere in the parable is the son dead. Is it just not easier, more simple, to see the father as using a figure of speech in a parable that has a single meaning instead of creating all these problems and confusion when trying to ring out of this parable a theological treatise on regeneration?

  18. Cy…. it is a figure of speech. You would be truly showing your presupposition if you extrapolate from that passage that the father went and found him….. in a far away land. when the Scripture says clearly that “he came to his senses.”

    1. Sorry, I will have to be curt here as i lost my first reply draft. Argh ….

      I wish to keep this reply short because the main issue of the thread is focused on Ravi, not the overarching issue of predestination vs semi-pelagaisnism. In my initial post, my point is simply that his presentation made clear use of the predestination position in that only God can bring about a change in a person’s heart. If you disagree after reviewing the evidence, I have nothing further to add.

      On my interpretation of the prodigal son, i will add only as follows, since i believe that the over-arching issue is a dead dog, and further beating it with arguments but without the Spirit’s conviction is quite pointless.

      1) My reading of this parable is influenced by my take on Jesus’s parables that focus on lost and found (i.e. lost sheep, lost coin, etc). Spiritual truths are consistent in the parables and parables are never meant to be read in a simple and easy manner. Instead, parables may be read rightly only with spiritual discernment. Jesus himself explained his use of parables knowing full well that they will confound the spiritually lost.

      2) I am not taking a literal reading of this parable. Since there is no mention in the text of the father doing anything to bring the son back, a literal reading would have led to the same conclusion, but that’s not my conclusion. That said, i think we are both reading the parable (or parts of it) figuratively, just in different figurative-ness (if there is such a word).

  19. Fromoverhere,

    I have not read this entire blog. And nor do I really want to. And I find it rather silly to get into a discussion with someone content to use logical fallacies in their response. The fact that this debate between Calvinism and anti-Calvinism exists today should not surprise you. Your arguments too come from a long line of people (Molina, Pelagius, Erasmus, and many others). What does that prove? Nothing. So I really don’t mind your baseless assertion that I am reading from a list of talking points (which I am not). It does not bother me in the least.

    You see, I began my journey through the Bible with a firm belief that I freely and independently “chose” God. But when I got to John’s Gospel, that all changed. And I was angry! I didn’t want to be told that I was “drawn” and chosen apart from my own will. But there it was, plain as day. And so I read on through the NT, and there it was, again and again! This disturbing notion that I did not freely choose God. Romans, Ephesians, Peter, James, Hebrews… I could not escape it! And so, I came to the conclusion that all I could do was believe! I was faced with the choice to either believe the words I was reading, or to reject the Bible outright. And thanks be to God that I came to the conclusion that I took no part whatsoever in my salvation! Looking back at my life as an unbeliever it made even more sense, and the sweetness of the Gospel became more and more of a treasure in my life. Because now I realize that God did not save me because of what I did or who I was, but rather He saved me in SPITE of who I was!

    As to the statement that God condemns man (the non-elect) and still holds him responsible for his sin and unbelief, I actually believe that as well. There is a seemingly apparent contradiction there, but the difference between you and me is that I am content with not having an answer to the mystery. I am content to leave that answer to God alone (again, see Isaiah 55:8-9). It is the same reason that I am content with a God who chose to ordain that evil would be in the world, because I am content that He has an answer that I just don’t have!

    And finally, with respect to the verse on the hen gathering her chicks, that verse too is 100% compatible with a sovereign God who saves his people according to his purpose. I’ve listened to an entire sermon on that verse from CH Spurgeon who was not bothered in the least by that text. And I encourage you to listen or read it if you get the chance.

    1. “You see, I began my journey through the Bible with a firm belief that I freely and independently “chose” God.”

      Not a single non-Calvinist I have ever read or heard would say this. I find you sincere that this was your journey. But please don’t confuse your personal, anecdotal experience with standard teaching on free will.

    2. Clay,

      I came like you to the Gospel. Lived that way for years. Then was shown/taught the “doctrines of Grace” by a newly-minted Calvinist (I’m guessing you were too… finding it on your own….not so much).

      But here is where you go off the rails —talk about logical fallacies!!!

      “And so, I came to the conclusion that all I could do was believe! I was faced with the choice to either believe the words I was reading, or to reject the Bible outright.”

      I’m still chuckling!

      You just took the whole responsibility for yourself. You’re killin me!

      So if you could have “rejected the Bible outright” —-then you would not have really been chosen. So it looks like you made that decision!


      1. Clay, Overhere does a great job of showing why the divine determinism of Calvinism is a completely unlivable system. It’s not possible in the real world. In the real world, you know you were able to choose to believe in the Doctrines of Grace or not.

      2. Sorry, but there is no fallacy there. Believing the Bible is a choice. Repenting is a choice. Believing the Gospel is a choice. Indeed, God commands us to believe, to repent, and be saved. I believe all of those things. The difference, dear sir, is that I take no credit for this choice. Do you see the difference? I give credit to the one who is able to do exceedingly more than all I can ask or imagine.

        Free will is free will. I have no problem with free will. But free will is NOT autonomy.

        You see this is why Molinism fails… it inserts an unnecessary claim that man must be free otherwise God must be the author of evil (and thereby concocts a so called “middle knowledge”). And it just fails, because what is left out is that God can have answers and reasons that we simply do not have! If man can be responsible for his own salvation in any way, then God cannot be sovereign. Man becomes sovereign, and God becomes dependent on his creation. You can continue to argue this point all you’d like, and indeed this argument will not be settled here.

      3. Clay…..

        I think others can see that you saying “I was faced with the choice to either believe the words I was reading, or to reject the Bible outright.” Puts some kind of personal faith in your hands. At least you sure sound it!

        Of course if a non-Calvinist says it….. Calvinists cry “foul” “man-centered!” “you are taking credit!” But if you are a card-carrying Calvinist you can say —like Piper “Dont waste your life” (as if you could, right—- I mean how can you out-maneuver what God has for you, right? I man who does Piper think is in charge, man or God, right?)

        But that is not my point here.

        I have given dozens….dare I say hundreds—- of examples from Scripture in these pages.

        This is not about taking credit. No Israelites “took credit” on the night the angle of death passed by —– but they sure did have to believe and act in faith. Later they could have “taken credit” and said foolishly ” we sure showed those Egyptians” —-but that would be silly and stupid.

        We can all see that God did it all. Well, not all. In the finest biblical “type” /example/ mirror/ image of the sacrifice of Christ (Passover) they STILL had to believe, and apply the blood on the door.

        No application of blood —death.

        Was it enough to be “chosen people”? Nope. Was it enough for God to say —-here’s how I am gonna save you? Nope. They had to apply the blood and stay in the house. Simple picture of the blood of Christ. God shows the way….. provides the sacrifice….. gotta apply it.

        You are accusing us of boasting that we got ourselves out of “Egypt.” That’s silly. We had nothing to do with that angel of death —who would have killed us like the Egyptians. All we did is have faith in God’s word and apply the blood that was offered to us.

        The blood of Christ applied in faith. Simple Gospel.

      4. Clay,
        My suspicions are confirmed that you are getting your talking points from the latest-rage YRR sites.

        You make statements like this:

        “If man can be responsible for his own salvation in any way, then God cannot be sovereign.” (reference please)

        Why? Because you say so? Who said you get to define how God wants to define His sovereignty?

        I see Christ (sovereign, God-in-flesh) standing with arms out saying “Jerusalem—- I would have gathered you—- but you would not.” Who is He attributing that final decision to? Does that make man sovereign over God?

        “Man becomes sovereign, and God becomes dependent on his creation.”

        You made another one up! Are you just making this up or getting them directly from monergism.com (cuz you aint getting them from the Word!).

        Do you ever read through the Bible (that’s what got me out of Calvinism)? I read the —not dozens or scores….but multiple hundreds of times the Lord (and He even says “The Sovereign Lord” many times) says “I would have done this…if you had done this.” “If you had….I would have.” (to king Saul) “I would have made you …..but you did not….” “If a city that I said I will wipe out, turns to me, I will repent and not do that…..but if a city that I said I would bless, turns away from me, I will not bless them.” Hundreds and hundreds of times.

        According to you……God Himself is making man sovereign. (not for me…only by your definition).

        You are bringing to the Bible what you know it must mean (the definition of sovereign). Let’s let God define tell us who He is and what His sovereignty is like.

      5. I’m still chuckling myself. Only Calvinists can argue this way and not see how absurd it is. In what sense is choice really choice then? And in what sense is free will really free?

        The logical fallacy is this. You say that you (presumably using your free will) chose to believe the Bible. Then you say it wasn’t really your choice, but rather God’s choice and He deserves the credit, because otherwise He wouldn’t be sovereign.

        Do you really believe that “if man can be responsible for his own salvation in any way, then God cannot be sovereign?” Really?
        God is NOT all powerful and can’t create a being with free will (in His image) to accept His provision for salvation without losing His sovereignty?

        God can’t do that? In my opinion He can, and does, as the Bible from cover to cover makes very clear.

        Calvinism is nonsensical.

      6. That’s right Jeff…..

        As Tozer said it takes a much stronger, much “more-sovereign” God to have created a free man, and still accomplish His sovereign, long-term plan.

        Only a puny God has to micromanage every thought, action, sin, deed of man so that he gets what He wants.

        Is He so weak that if He lets anybody do anything outside of what He wants, that He cannot accomplish the counsel of His will?

  20. I find it rather interesting that you presuppose the sources of my statements (monergism.com, etc). You’d be completely wrong by the way and I honestly don’t think I’ve even seen that website but I may check it out nonetheless.

    It’s also peculiar that all of your own reasoning comes directly from the likes of William Lane Craig who takes his theology from Luis de Molina. Molinism is a cop-out! It robs God of his glory. And this is why:

    1. God’s free knowledge and his natural knowledge comprise the entirety of his knowledge.
    2. Because God foreordained what he foreknew, then “middle knowledge” I.e. God’s knowledge of what people “would” do in a given scenario is utterly needless and fully encompassed in the aforementioned categories of his knowledge.
    3. This is the knock-down argument against Molinism: If man is put in a situation to choose either A or not A and God already knows that the free agent will choose A, then the person really isn’t free to choose “not A”. At least not in the “free” way in which you so desperately want to believe!

    If you want to hear Molinism and similar arguments taken apart listen to Paul Helm’s debate with William Lane Craig (it’s rather long but I found it very helpful). Or even better, read Frances Turretin’s “Institutes of Elenctic Theology” which was written in the 17th century. It basically shreds Molina’s theology to pieces.

    And finally, there simply is zero logical fallacy in believing that a good choice that I made was not or cannot be foreordained by God. If so, what fallacy is this? Please let me know.

    You know, I am actually content to be wrong in my theology. Perhaps one day I will learn I had it all wrong! But for now, nothing in the Bible gives me reason to believe that I am in any way responsible for my salvation (especially the verses you quoted!). I rest comfortably at night with a belief that God has answers that I don’t have, and reasons for his actions that I don’t comprehend. And why? Well, I simply go back to Isaiah 55:8-9!

    1. How can you rest comfortably at night? God may have foreordained that you believe that He’s foreordained you to believe He’s foreordained you to salvation, when in fact He has foreordained you to believe that, when He’s really foreordained you to damnation, so that, in His good pleasure, He will be completely glorified to the utmost and totally sovereign indeed.

      Which is more glorious, to foreordain a sinner who deserves to be condemned to think they are foreordained to salvation and they are, or to foreordain a sinner who deserves to be condemned to think they are foreordained to salvation when in fact they are not? Calvinists seem to believe God does both so I assume both situations glorify God’s sovereignty. I would argue that the latter glorifies God’s sovereignty and justice more than the first because it is less dependent on man (i.e. his accurately knowing God’s true intentions) and magnifies His righteous justice upon damnable sinners. I’m not sure how any Calvinist can know they aren’t in the latter category so I don’t know how any of them sleep comfortably at night. In fact, I believe Calvin himself had doubts right up to his deathbed.

      I sure wouldn’t sleep well at night if I believed it, I know that.

    2. Clay,
      There were many, many just as firm as you in Calvinism (including me) who have moved on so it is certainly not once-in always-in

      for me it was the daily reading large chunks of scripture…and seeing over and over the Lord in OT imploring His people to do this or that…and them not doing it(!) or Christ with outstretched arms saying “O Jerusalem….I longed to gather you…. but you would not.”

      Hard for me to see the divine Christ longing for them ….but them not coming. I get the ‘not coming’ part (that fits Calvinism!), but what does not fit is that Christ says flat out that He wanted it but they did not, so He does not get what He wants. ((or else He is “wanting” wink-wink insincerely or deceptively)). Many many verses like this —-not the 40-50 that the scaffolded my Calvinism on.

      oh and ps….. you must be reading some kinda sites since you dont learn how to talk like this out of thin air …”God’s free knowledge and his natural knowledge comprise the entirety of his knowledge.” (or from the Scriptures).

  21. And by the way, returning to the original question at hand: Ravi’s position on these matters. You guys might want to listen to Ravi’s responses from the 2007 Ligoniers Conference during two separate Q&A sessions with Al Mohler, RC Sproul (a truly remarkable man and sorely missed!), Sproul Jr, and Duncan. You might be a bit surprised to see that many of his responses fall well within what most would consider Calvinist lines.

  22. A friend referred me to the YouTube video linked to this blog. Thanks Dr Flowers for reading this out, as it is easier on my eyes to listen rather than reading on a computer screen. But I have read all the blog entries, looking to see if anyone would comment on Ravi’s statement:

    “A person who is truly born again recognises that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because he could ever have come this way himself.”

    At 9:48 in the video Dr Flowers seems to hesitate just a little, reading the word “ever” and I wondered whether there was / is a mistake here, because it seems to me that the sentence would read more naturally if the “ever” was “never”.

    I noticed that Chris H enquired about the source / provenance of the article but I couldn’t find any response to his concern.

    A search on Google for the alternate phrase “because he could never have come this way himself” brings up 2 hits from the same site, whereas using “ever” has about 5 hits.

    1. Ed, the question is, how were they “ordained”? Was it through meticulous determinism in which each individual is selected or rejected? Or were all who have faith ordained to eternal life?

      It’s like saying “All who were ordained to go to Pheonix boarded the plane”. Does that mean the pilot selected them?

  23. Thanks Eric for your response above to my post. I suspected that what you wrote might be the case. Just looking at it now again I also wonder whether transposing the words “he” and “could” and adding a question mark may give a similar meaning.
    i.e. “A person who is truly born again recognises that it was really the grace of God that brought him there because **could he** ever have come this way himself?” Though that sentence does NOT show up on a Google search!

  24. Dear Sir,

    Do you have more bibliographical information on Mr. Zacharias’ article than “Ravi K. Zacharias/ 1987”, e.g., name of publication, month and date of publication?

    Mark from Texas

  25. Anyone who follows Dr Ravi knows that he is not a calvinist, neither does he believe in the 5 points.

    TULIP is an acronym representing the five points of Calvinism, but God’s Word indicates a different view:

    1. Total Depravity
    —– This belief points to our depravity and sin nature, believing that we cannot choose where we spend eternity. However, although we have a sin nature (Romans 3:23), we can choose to come to Christ.

    2. Unconditional Election
    —–This belief teaches that God chooses who will go to heaven or hell, but God’s Word tells us that He does not want any of us to perish (Matthew 24:14; John 1:29).

    3. Limited Atonement
    —–This belief means that Jesus only died for certain individuals, yet Scripture shows us that Christ died for all (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12).

    4. Irresistible Grace
    —–This belief states that elect individuals cannot resist the grace of God, but there are many instances in His Word where we are told that we must choose whether to receive or reject God’s invitation (Acts 7:51; Matthew 10:32–33).

    5. Perseverance of the Saints
    —– This belief asserts that no matter what happens, the saints will persevere. However, the key word should be preserve, because it is when we are faithful that He preserves us (Psalm 31:23, 37:38, 97:10).

  26. • We are born with a sin nature.
    • We can choose to come to Christ.
    • When we choose Christ, we are reconciled.
    • When we are reconciled, our sins are forgiven.
    • When our sins are forgiven, we can spend eternity in heaven.

  27. Anyone else think it worthwhile to notice this talk is more then a year old? I think it shows that as great as we would like to think we are; we are no greater then the best who came before us! And we will be no better then those who come after us! As long as we are so immature as to NOT point out to others their mistakes because we don’t want to see our mistakes mentioned! Like making our talk a FUN way to spend our time! Instead of a search for truth! So we are failing to show we believe we prove we are Jesus disciples (not by the perfection of ALL of our doctrine) but by loving others more then we love what MUST be the opinion of our GROUP! As I believe is taught in John13:34,35

  28. So great to revisit this YouTube post… I didn’t realize until recently that this article was on Leighton’s site, but glad to listen/read it again. This was my first introduction to Leighton speaking up about calvinism about a 1 year 1/2 ago! I stumbled on to it when I started researching/trying to find some  scholars who might possibly be like minded in what I believed to be true about the Word of God.. What I mean is… not having just calvinism & arminianism as the only biblically sound choices that adhere to sound doctrine… I’ve told this before, but it’s a question that always surfaces in my mind. Shortly after being saved my sister lets me know, that I would one day need to decide which one of these systems I agreed with? soooo odd looking back now!!! These two positions didn’t matter one bit to me at the time, but once I started learning what they were neither seemed right to me. I guess from a layman’s perspective they both really appeared to have flaws…. I couldn’t articulate it completley, but it seemed to be obvious to me anyway… So this seemed soooooooo discouraging (really much more dramatic honestly!!), but then I found this first article written by Ravi & read by Leighton. Wow was this encouraging!!! Before this site & this particular article my questions seemed very simple first question #1 why doesn’t the Scriptures simply tell me which system to cling to? and then question, #2. why is there such disharmony from these two systems toward each other?

    Because in Scripture it is clear;

    Colossians 3:14 NASB — Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

    Of course I’ve found these questions don’t even put a dent in untangling this situation there is no easy question, but the logical conclusion to no easy question is why??… these two systems seem unproductive in harmonizing God’s Word!!!, and both mar in some way God’s Word and His image!!! I love this from C.S. Lewis’s, the eternal now of God and it makes sense!! & Ravi’s comment of our finite minds trying to completley grasp an infinite God is absolutely NOT going to happen!!! never will a person explain how He spoke this world into existence,  

    Genesis 1:3 NASB — Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light…. C.S. Lewis also pointed out that God cannot be evaluated by the scientific method, as He is the author of all science.. 

    So in trying to prove aspects of God man places God on the same level as man… & He will NEVER be on the same level as man……… Perriod……. but He is so Amazing He came down to walk among us, took on the sins of this world, died in our place, & was the One and only perfect sacrifice!!! He draws all men to Himself to be in an authentic relationship, not to be in a theological system and then dig your heals in… To me it seems like fear in some regards, because people want others to agree with them or maybe it’s pride “I’m intellectual & right period”…  I know it’s hard feeling like an outcast, but I’d rather stand agaisnt the world than against His Word. Neither of these positions seem to harmonize His Word and for me calvinism seemed the most tragic… It makes God the author of all evil they can twist this in whatever direction, but all roads lead to divine determinism in this systematic which i find to be a “big lie”… We are not robots and this secret will of God reminds me of a pastor who said to me shortly after coming to faith that, “there could be other universes that got it right”🤔🤔🤔 What??? I quickly said, I don’t believe Jesus is popping into a bunch of other universes to suffer and die, but then he quotes; Deuteronomy 29:29 NASB — “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.

    What a stretch to come up with another universe getting it right over this thought over this verse… It seems like people get this attitude of I’ve figured it out, but other parts of God’s Word are being left out. So much of calvinism has an awkwardness to it, even members of my family don’t want to hear about it.. I know my sister and husband are calvinists and they avoid me, but I still speak up at times and I pray often for them to be led out of calvinism.. Keep up the good work, because it helps others find their voice🌻

    1. Wonderful post Reggie!

      And yes – the fallacy of Excluded Middle – is a debate strategy designed to corral people by manufacturing the illusion there are only two extreme positions and one is forced to choose one.

      The use of these types of strategies – manifest a lack of intellectual honesty – and reveal a focus is on winning – rather than a love for truth.

      For me – these types of strategies fall under the category of a spirit of manipulation.

      1. Br.d what you say here makes a lot of sense!;
        “-rather than a love for truth.
        For me – these types of strategies fall under the category of a spirit of manipulation”

        Thank you for your insightful discernment😊

    1. Hi Tony and welcome

      You ask a great question.
      Since scripture is not a text book of metaphysics or philosophy – the nature of free will is not explicitly taught.
      The authors of the text are simply writing with the basic assumptions of those aspects of free will people experience in their normal lives.
      So what we are left with are inferences within texts which we interpret as one form of freedom vs another.

      So Calvinist D.A. Carson for example takes the position that there are actually two streams of texts in scripture.
      One stream which infers compatibilistic freedom and one stream which infers Libertarian freedom.

      Another Calvinist scholar – Dr. Oliver Crisp says he believes the scripture is “Underterminant” about the matter.
      But he perceives inferences of one kind of freedom over another.

      Dr. Gordon Fee – reminds us that the human mind approaches scripture with ideas that it already embraces as unquestionable truth.
      Those ideas embraced as unquestionable truth function as an internal canon in the mind.
      And those ideas then powerfully influence the way the mind interprets the data of scripture.
      For example, people who years ago believed the earth was flat – were convinced the scripture affirmed that belief.
      And they would be willing to burn you to the stake as a heretic if you disagreed.

    2. “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

      “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,”
      ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19‬ ‭



      the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action;

      the power of control the mind has over its own actions:
      the freedom of the will.
      power of choosing one’s own actions

      the act or process of using or asserting one’s choice; volition

      You can’t expect the ancient Hebrew language to have a word equivalent but it has a concept equivalent by definition.

      In order to choose one must have a choice in the matter. I would highly recommend you watch this as it will explain the origin of Calvinism and how it is in fact gnostic


      1. Hello Nihil Sine Deo – and welcome
        Thank you for this post!
        Yes – it is widely recognized that Calvinism evolved from Augustine’s synchronization of Gnosticism and NeoPlatonism into Catholic doctrine.
        Thanks for the link – I’ll take a look at it.


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