Calvinists often focus attention on God’s “Irresistible grace,” which effectually or irresistibly draws all the elect to follow Christ, but is God’s grace in salvation all that is “irresistible” on the Calvinistic worldview?
Is any choice ever made by any creature that is “less controlled” under God’s “meticulous sovereign will” than that of the elect coming to faith?
- If so, what is the choice that is “less controlled” by God and why wouldn’t God be deemed “less sovereign” given that He is less controlling in those instances?
- If not, then why focus attention only upon God’s work to effectually bring about the choice to follow Christ when in reality He is working to effectually bring about every choice — including the choice to reject Christ and do moral evil? <<< (this is called “equal ultimacy” and is denounced as heretical by most Calvinistic scholars)
The point of this question is to reveal that God doesn’t become “less sovereign” simply because He is “less controlling” of a creature’s choice in any given situation. This fact is as true in our worldview as it is in any Calvinistic worldview that denies equal ultimacy.
If a Calvinist admits Jeffery Dahmer’s choice to torture a child was in any manner less controlled by God than the choice of an elect individual to follow Christ then he has conceded that “sovereignty” is not merely about “control.” Why? Because God can’t be “less sovereign” in some instances than He is in others.
This reveals the fallacy of attempting to define Sovereignty as “control.” Traditionalists believe sovereignty is better understood as “providence” – the freedom of God to do as He wills.
He is free to move a man’s will (like Jonah) when it serves His redemptive good, and He is free to permit free creatures to act freely and suffer the full weight of their actions (like the Fall & all moral evil). In short, God is free to control or refrain from controlling as it suits His good purpose, therefore the point of contention should be over what things has God chosen to control. God is not “less sovereign” when He is in less control over His creatures choices. Why? Because it’s His choice to not control moral choices. He is free to do that.
Calvinist’s misinterpretation of what it means to be “sovereign” has lead them to believe that Traditionalists would not affirm God’s sovereignty over human will. Calvinists are fallaciously presuming that it was not God’s sovereign will to grant mankind this freedom in the first place. We can affirm that “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” (Ps. 115:3) while still holding on to the equally valid truth that, “the highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16). This means it pleases God to give man a certain level of “autonomy” or “separateness.” This is a biblical view of divine sovereignty and human freedom. As A.W. Tozer so aptly expressed,
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God
22 thoughts on “IRRESISTIBLE CHOICE?”
The Scripture contains literally hundreds, maybe thousands, of verses like this….
Jeremiah 7:13 While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.
No cherry-picking verses out of context and dancing on a half-a-verse. This clear picture of man rejecting, resisting God’s will is everywhere. And it is not just “God-haters” either…. it is God’s chosen people.
Preach it Tozer!
This was a great little article. I love how you pointed out that the Calvinist view of Irresistible Grace is just a theological sub-category of God’s utterly Irresistible will in all things (from their perspective). Irresistible Grace just sounds a lot more pious than irresistible mass murder, or irresistible racism, or irresistible damnation. But all of these are equally valid expressions within Calvinistic determinism.
There was one phrase that might need to be re-worded for clarity. You said, “In short, God is free to control somethings but not others, . . .” Upon first glance this phrase appears to say that God is free to control some things, but He is not free to control others. Yet, I know from reading your work that you meant that God is free to control some things and He is also free to not control some things. The phrase is ambiguous because it allows for the negation (not) to apply to either God’s freedom or his control. A suggested substitute would be, “In short God is free–He may choose to control some things and He may also choose to not control other things.”
Leighton, I greatly appreciate your ministry, brother. As an IMB missionary I have been surprised at the number of my colleagues who have embraced Calvinism in the past several years. Your research and writing gives me a solid, Biblical, and Baptist source to explain my traditionalist position and to counter the Calvinistic arguments I run into. I have a PhD in theology and have done some of my own research on this issue, but my work on the field keeps me busy so I often look to you for answers that I always find to be rock solid and well researched. Your dedication to this task frees some of my time for other Kingdom work. Just know that your hard work and dedication not only address important issues for our Baptist faith, they allow lots of hard working pastors and missionaries to find solid answers efficiently and then return to the Kingdom tasks they must perform.
Great post!! :-]
I agree Andy!
As an overseas missionary myself, I see Leighton’s work the same way you do.
I have watched over the last 30 years one person after another slowly slip into Calvinism (after living their whole Christian lives just fine without it). They enter through the “Give God the glory” -door, or the “you don’t want a man-centered Gospel do you?” -door…..and slowly creep unwittingly toward the “God is the author of all child rape and mass-murder for His glory” -position.
Why? Because they offer no push back when the bearded YRR comes knocking.
Why? Because not enough ground work was done like Leighton is doing.
Let’s read the whole Bible. What is God saying?
Does His word say that He created puppets (“Oh, but man is still responsible for his actions!”) that do only what He had pre-determined (in every aspect—rape too—for His glory). This is “proven” with the “roll the dice” and “God turns the heart of the kings” and “He knows the end from beginning” passages.
Does His word say what Tozer says….
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil…. Man’s will is free because God is sovereign.”
This is proven with thousands of verses and the entire “feel” of the Bible that God calls, woos, warns, pleads, arranges, makes it easy/hard… but does not force.
God …did …ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin…
God predestines men to wrath … but not in the same way that he predestines men to life.
Calvinism’s “solution” to contradiction is to declare it does not exist. This is done by fiat. No support is ever offered. This leaves one wondering “Who is more sovereign, who REALLY decreed, God or the Calvinist theologian?”
“Who is more sovereign, who **REALLY** decreed, God or the Calvinist theologian?”
The little man behind the curtain – presenting the BIG SERIOUS POSTURING.
When we learn to recognize, the Calvinist uses the same exact method of posturing – we learn to laugh – while they take seriously every silly imagination!! 😀
One thing I’ve certainly noticed, is that when confronted with solid arguments, the Calvinist will run to the Westminster Confession much faster than they will to the Bible. They recite it as if it were the Bible.
Hello Jackson C and welcome
I’ve not noticed that here.
We have one particular long-termer here – and its almost always a deflection to divine knowledge as the primary camouflage to hide the horrible decrees behind.
In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus describes a person in life threatening condition.
Then Jesus describes 3 responses to the man’s condition:
(1) A Priest, a representative of God – he passes by.
(2) A Levite, a representative of God – he passes by.
(3) A samaritan who does not pass by – but makes a personal sacrifice so that the man may have life.
Which person(s) best depict the God of Calvnism?
Answer: (1 & 2)
R.C. Sproul describes this as Unequal Ultimacy – “In unequal ultimacy [Calvin’s] god passes over those whom he does not elect to save”
In 1 Kings 3:16-28 scripture describes two women, each claiming sovereignty over an infant.
Using Holy Spirit wisdom, Solomon tests both persons, by indicating he will cut the baby in half for the sake of sovereignty.
One woman’s response: “cut the baby in half, at least I will have the sovereignty that is due me”
The other woman sacrifices all sovereignty over the child so that the child may have life.
Which person best depicts the god of Calvnism?
Answer the one who will cut the baby in half for the sake of her sovereignty.
So true br.d!!
Curious the Calvinist definition of sovereign when we have long, clear narratives where God is actually dialoging and negotiating with man:
God and Abraham…for the sake of 50 righteous, no 40, no 30, no 20. And notice he said “righteous”
God and David….choose among these three punishments for the census taken.
God and Moses… I’m gonna destroy these people…. (Moses) “wont the Egyptians say you brought them out here for nothing?”
God and Israel (entire book of Judges) Because you cried out to Me, I will save you…but don’t do it again…(rinse and repeat).
Joshua and Israel….”choose for yourselves this day…..”
Over and over the Bible is full of God interacting in a personal, real time way with His (chosen) people (who get unchosen and swallowed up in the earth if they choose that path).
Well reasoned and Biblical as usual
Very Good Leighton! I am still wondering, beyond prayer and sharing Scripture’s and reason, how do you help Calvinist brothers break free from their loyalty to profess strongly such contradiction? I know the Lord used your debate background to get you to stop, and to without bias look at all the opposing arguments you could find… but how do you help a brother agree to put themselves in such a vulnerable, humble position, where they will allow the authority of the Word using normal rules of grammar and context to trump their strong “orthodox” feelings? Was there a life experience that made you willing, and should we pray for such life experiences for our Calvinist brothers?
That is where my thinking has been taking me. It seems that after years of discussion the veil is still over some of their eyes to the contradictions in their theology. And they need something beyond debate to bring them to the willingness described in John 7:17 – “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am [or Calvin was] speaking on my [his] own authority.” Thanks.
We can pray that they read the Word with an open mind and let it speak.
That is what worked for me. I was constantly (daily) coming across passages like the Wedding Parable…
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses.
He finishes with ….24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’
I tried to think of how this and hundreds of passages like it make any sense as a Calvinist.
God prepared it, invited, but the people he chose to invite, refused to come.
For me as a Calvinist, I wondered how they could refuse? Surely it was irresistible!
Or the “invitation” was insincere?
Either way it did not match the “God always gets what He wants” scenario, and the “God’s grace is irresistible” scenario.
Surely the Bible teaches over and over that God’s will and call are resistible.
Even His invitation the Wedding Feast.
“I wondered how they could refuse? Surely it was irresistible! Or the “invitation” was insincere?”
I think for the Calvinist, it would be (A or B) or (A + B) – depending upon the psychological makeup of the Calvinist.
Calvinists don’t like to see or acknowledge anything that is not complimentary to their psychological investment.
So they are of predisposed to magical thinking.
Like the notion that good-events and evil-events are somehow magically asymmetrical within Theological Determinism.
For the average Calvinist to recognize that notion as nothing more than wishful double-think, is probably an adherence to rational thinking we’re not likely to expect from them – given the degree of constant doctrinal reinforcements they are subjected to.
Its interesting enough to see how a Calvinist can embrace the idea that as they observe their own internal thoughts, they are functioning as mere spectators of their own neurological impulses – every one determined by god for them to have.
And at the same time clinging to the idea that their choices occur independent of external control
That example of double-think is mind boggling enough.
Good question. Without knowing more about Leighton’s background, I think the questions are….
1. How long have you been a Calvinist?
2. Just how much of a Calvinist are/were you (4 pointer? 5 pointer?)?
3. Did you ever teach Calvinism from the pulpit and, if so, for how long?
4. What would be the consequences for denouncing Calvinism?
If Calvinism is all you’ve ever known, its going to be hard to consider another alternative (1). Just how much of a Calvinist are/were you (2)? Did you ever accept “limited atonement” or did you fall for all of it hook, line, and sinker? Its hard to admit you’ve been “duped”. Were you ever a “reformed” preacher (3)? Odds of John Piper, or worse, James White, ever admitting they are wrong are slim to none. And I am sure leaving the “reformed camp” isn’t easy just based on my experiences with some of them on-line (4). They don’t seem to tolerate “outside the box” thinking very well.
Bottom line. I have some Calvinist brothers that I consider to be good friends. And they do mean well. They give God all the glory for their salvation. We do too, we just see it a little differently.
Thx… Philip… I’ve heard the answers to most of these questions from Leighton… but I agree with you that the more time and energy that they have invested in unsound doctrine requires more than just debate to help free them… I’m thinking praying for a Damascus road experience to soften up their will a little might be in order. 😉
But I am also thinking that longer friendships with some at least takes the cage-Calvinism bravado out of their demeanor.
It doesn’t appear many of our local Calvinists (who historically attack anything that moves) don’t seem to be interesting in attacking on this topic.
I wonder what it is about this topic that brings that makes them shy away?
Perhaps with our collective wisdom, working together, we can identify what is behind this behavior?
It might prove quite illuminating in our understanding of what makes Calvinists tick!
Don’t worry about that they put up a fight on this issue plenty!
They have to because it’s all part of TULIP. In fact tulip is really just one point of Calvinism …repeated 5 ways. They’re all the same point.
Number one is that you are so dead you can’t do a thing and have to be made alive so you can make the choice.
number 2 is that everyone so dead and God made the choice about which ones he was going to make alive.
Number 3 is Christ only paid for the ones that were so dead but then made alive by God.
Number four is you can’t resist. You are dead, then he makes you alive and you have to accept it so it’s irresistible.
Number five is simply that you were so dead and you were made alive to choose it and of course you’re going to keep choosing it because you were dead and now made alive to choose it.
so basically it’s all saying the same thing just repeating it 5 different ways.
The problem is we see thousands, literally thousands, of times in scripture where man is resisting God’s will. So it’s just a philosophy that doesn’t match with scripture
I like to call the TULIP nothing more than the window dressing on the outside of the house. :-]
Its put there as a cosmetic mask to keep one’s focus off the underlying philosophical foundation.
UNDERSTANDING THEOLOGICAL DETERMINISM AND HOW IT AFFIRMS DETERMINISM GENERAL
Determinism is the view that whatever [x] “comes to pass”, at time [t], is determined by something/someone, generating an “antecedent condition” prior to [t]. And [x] obtains under the influences of the state-of-nature which exist at [t].
Theological Determinism affirms Determinism General – and simply qualifies the “something/someone, generating the antecedent condition” as a Theos (i.e., god).
Thus in Theological Determinism, it can be stated:
– The “Determinative CAUSE” is God
– The “Determinative EFFECT” is the state-of-nature
In this view, the state-of-nature does not “cause” [x] to obtain – it merely effects the way [x] will obtain. Additionally, in Theological Determinism, the state-of-nature, along with everything else, is also determined by God. Thus, God “causes” [x] and God also causes the state-of-nature effecting [x] at [t].
In other words, God is the “author” of both:
– The cause of [x]
– The effect at [x]
When a person develops a disease, the state-of-nature will effect how that disease obtains, which means the state-of-nature will influence what we observe as the symptoms of the disease. But the symptoms don’t “cause” the disease. And the state-of-nature cannot “cause” itself – for Theological Determinism stipulates the state-of-nature is “caused” by the Theos.
Alcoholism is considered a disease. If a person dies of Alcoholism, we will observe certain symptoms. But those symptoms do not “cause” the person’s death – the Alcoholism does. However, Determinism stipulates an “antecedent condition” as the “cause” of the Alcoholism. And that “antecedent condition” could be the person’s life-style.
Yet Determinism, again stipulates an “antecedent condition” until all “antecedent conditions” are exhausted. And thus a chain of “antecedent conditions” are to be observed moving backwards like dominoes, until we arrive at the originating “antecedent condition” – which Theological Determinism stipulates as God’s decree.
God thus sets the dominoes in place, and “renders certain” domino #1’s movement, as an “antecedent condition” for domino #2’s movement – and so forth, until finally [x] obtains (in this case the person’s death).
But again, we understand, the state-of-nature at [x], the person’s death, is not the originating “cause” of [x] the person’s death. It merely influences/effects how [x] obtains.
The “cause” of the originating “antecedent condition”, causing the second “antecedent condition” and so-forth with each “antecedent condition” in the chain, is the Theos Determining every “antecedent condition” which will “cause” the final [x], as well as the state-of-nature that will exist at [x].
Now, it should be obvious, God does not have to “force” or “coerce” domino #1’s movement – gravity can do that.
But gravity exists as the state-of-nature, which God “causes” to exist.
Additionally, gravity cannot “render certain” domino #1s fall.
God has to ensure domino #1 is positioned such that gravity can “effect” its fall.
In Theological Determinism, (as it is in Determinism General), the state-of-nature, can only function as a “sufficient condition” for HOW [x] will obtain. It cannot function as the “necessary condition” needed to “render certain” [x] will obtain.
So again, we simply trace backwards to all “antecedent conditions” of [x] as well as the state-of-nature, until we arrive at the origin – which Theological Determinism stipulates is God.
Hi greetings from Italy. I have read many of your articles here and I found them really interesting, but something had me wondering: If God is so powerful, then wouldn’t be so easy for him to save a person, making that a person choose him ( According to that person free will)?
Some people say irresistible grace kills free will… but I think it’s not necessary true. For example if you love a person and you have the choice to beat that person to death, then you will automatically refuse to do that. Now if the reason a person rejects God is because of his wicked heart (John 3:19-20) since the evil deeds of a person reflects what’s in his heart, then what if God gives that person a pure heart and takes away the evil one… wouldn’t that person automatically believe in God / fall in love with God? If God is so powerful then wouldn’t be so easy for him to make a person fall in love with him(thereby making that person choose him)?
I don’t know if you hold the view that irresistible grace kills free will so what do you think of this subject? Also if it’s true that God can make a person freely choose to repent..Do you think God refuse to do so because he wants people to choose him while being under resistible grace?
Hello Erik and welcome.
Calvinism is founded on what is called “Universal Divine Causal Determinism”.
Which rules out “Libertarian” freedom in any form.
It embraces instead what is known as “Compatibilist” freedom
This is freedom which is compatible with *ALL* things being determined *FOR* you by factors outside your control.
Robots and computers for example have “Compatibilist” freedom.
They have the freedom to be what they are designed to be – and do what they are programmed to do.
But three other logical consequences come with “Compatibilist” freedom
1) Absolutely nothing is UP TO YOU – since all things are solely UP TO a THEOS who infallibly determines *ALL* things at the foundation of the world
2) No Alternative Possibilities are permitted – at pain of falsifying the divine decree
3) No ability to be or do otherwise is permitted – at pain of falsifying the divine decree
The vast majority of the human race is designed specifically for the lake of fire.
And humans designed with “Compatibilist” freedom – and thus designed to function robotically.