Does Calvary Prove Divine Determinism?

John Piper, and many other Calvinists, appeal to God’s work to ensure Calvary (i.e. Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28) as their proof of Divine Determinism (as addressed on THIS PODCAST).

But does citing examples of events God has worked to bring about prove God brings about all events in this manner? If so, there are some significant issues that should be addressed.


When we object to the concept of divine determinism (God’s sovereign work to bring about all things whatsoever that come to pass) and you appeal to the crucifixion as your proof that God brings about all moral evil, are you saying that God is sovereignly working so as to redeem the very sins He sovereignly worked to bring about? Is Calvary just about God cleaning up His own mess — redeeming His own determinations?

Appealing to God’s sovereign work to ensure the redemption of sin so as to prove that God sovereignly works to bring about all the sin that was redeemed is an absurd, self-defeating argument. It would be tantamount to arguing that because a police department set up a sting operation to catch a notorious drug dealer, that the police department is responsible for every single intention and action of all drug dealer at all times. Proof that the police department worked in secretive ways to hide their identities, use evil intentions, and work out the circumstances in such a way that the drug dealer would do what they wanted him to do (sell drugs) at that particular moment in time does not suggest that the police are in anyway responsible for all that drug dealer has done or ever will do. We celebrate and reward the actions of this police department because they are working to stop the drug activity, not because they are secretly causing all of it so as to stop some of it. Teaching that God brings about all sin based on how He brought about Calvary is like teaching that the police officer brings about every drug deal based on how he brought about one sting operation.

Yes, at times the scriptures do speak of God “hardening” men’s hearts (Ex. 7; Rm. 9), blinding them with a “spirit of stupor” (Rm. 11:8) and delaying their healing by use of parabolic language (Mk. 4:11-12, 34; Matt. 16:20), and He always does so for a redemptive good. But the reason such passages stand out so distinctly from the rest of scripture is because of their uniqueness. If God worked this way in every instance these texts would make no sense. After all, what is there for God to harden, provoke, or restrain if not the autonomous will of creatures?

If everything is under the meticulous control of God’s sovereign work what is left to permit and/or restrain except that which He is already controlling? Is God merely restraining something that He previously determined? Why blind eyes from seeing something the were “naturally” predetermined not to see? Why put a parabolic blind fold on a corpse-like dead sinner incapable of seeing spiritual truth? These are questions many Calvinists seem unwilling to entertain at any depth.

16 thoughts on “Does Calvary Prove Divine Determinism?

  1. Excellent post. This is a tough nut to crack: “After all, what is there for God to harden, provoke, or restrain if not the autonomous will of creatures?”

    Although I am a Christian determinist, I am also a compatibilist. I think your “uniqueness” argument is powerful, pointing to the fact that it is most meaningful, and most Biblical, to talk about the freedom of people and their own responsibility for the choices they make (and to which God holds them accountable, and repays accordingly).

    Within our very chaotic universe, there is meaningful emergent autonomy of behavior and other phenomena that God does not micromanage (he abides everything that happens meticulously, but does not direct everything meticulously). This is made possible because deterministic chaos — complex physical systems with tons of internal interference — erodes purpose information over time, whenever God chooses to “let things wander.”

    In the Arminian vs. Calvinist debate, it is most often Arminians that are careful to safeguard the meaning of “wandering” — such a powerful Scriptural motif, from Moses to the Prodigal Son — against the absurd, collapsing reduction that many determinists mistakenly practice.

  2. Good post!

    I have commented several times on these pages that the fact that God says the “I planned your ways in the womb” things to David and Jeremiah is actual evidence that these actions were special.

    Calvinist/ determinists says, “See, God plans every person’s step in the womb—or before time…He says it.”

    And I respond, “Notice that He says it to that person… never as a generic ‘I do this for everyone’ kind of statement.”

    It actually weakens their argument that God says it in time and space to that person…. because those passages make it distinct and clear that it was special and that He does not do it with everyone.

  3. Leighton,


    Its like the fire department putting out a fire they created. It’s their responsibility to put out the fire that they, themselves, created. They should not be treated as Heroes.

    Calvinist Robert Morey in his book “Studies in the Atonement” writes…

    “He hated the reprobate and planned their sin and damnation.”

    If true, then we don’t know for certain if man is really depraved and sinful.

    What if God had created man and then simply backed off? Would Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit? We’ll never know now. But according to Calvinists like Morey, it was necessary that man sinned. God would not be robbed of burning the reprobate for all eternity.

    If God is so meticulously involved in everything that everyone does, then we are nothing more than stage actors. Everyone has been given their script and everyone executes their part perfectly. Where’s the rebellion? And yet millions, perhaps billions, of actors and actresses are eternally damned for doing so.

    1 John 4:19 (NKJV)….
    We love Him because He first loved us.

    If Calvinism is true, then the Lost can justly say…

    “We hate God, because He first hated us.”

    If God is truly in back of everything, even sin (Edwin Palmer) then the Bible is nothing short of a Public Relations disaster.

    1. Phillip:
      Over the years I have made these points to Calvinists and they say “So what!?” ….followed by some phrase in Latin.

      Of course if what they say is true then even our questioning of it…. and all of man’s cursing God is part of what he put in as the script. There is just no way around that idea. As Luther said, “therefore sin boldly!”

  4. When a theology frequently says, “God is speaking from man’s perspective in this verse” he directly gives the lay person the idea that he is unable to understand important truths in Scriptures using God’s own words… he must trust that theology’s word instead.

    If that isn’t seen to undermine Scripture’s revelation of the truthful righteousness of God… I don’t know what will!

  5. When one reads through the exculpatory arguments here at SOT101 presented by representatives of Calvinism, what one finds is they hold to a DOUBLE-THINK concept of determinism. Determinism AS-IF NOT-Determinism.

    For example, a Calvinist will say concerning evil event [X] , that Calvin’s god -quote “doesn’t restrain” event [X] from coming to pass.
    Trying to paint the picture that Calvin’s god’s role in [X] event is PASSIVE.
    What Calvin himself would call “Mere” permission – which he completely rejects.

    But as Eric points out in his article, when one understands that Calvinism is based upon *UNIVERSAL* divine causal determinism- where *UNIVERSAL* means “Everything without exception”. it logically follows that [X] could not have happened unless Calvin’s god 1) First conceived [X]
    2) Decreed [X]
    3) Rendered certain [X] would happen and no alternative of [X] could happen.

    The notion then that Calvin’s god -quote “doesn’t restrain” [X] reveals itself as kindergarten logic – which is totally absurd.
    Calvin’s god in this case would be arm wrestling with himself.

    Therefore if there ever were an instance in which Calvin’s god did restrain [X] – he would be restraining what he rendered certain.
    Which an adult thinker should be able to understand as an attempt to evade logical thinking.

    1. BR.D writes, “it logically follows that [X] could not have happened unless Calvin’s god 1) First conceived [X]
      2) Decreed [X]
      3) Rendered certain [X] would happen and no alternative of [X] could happen.”

      Examples: X equals…
      – the creation of man;
      – the temptation of Eve;
      – the sin of Adam;
      – the expulsion of Adam/Eve from the garden;
      – the birth of Abel and Cain;
      – the murder of Abel;

      What event is not conceived, decreed; and rendered certain by God.

  6. “Therefore if there ever were an instance in which Calvin’s god did restrain [X] – he would be restraining what he rendered certain.”

    This is simply astute.

    Can Calvin’s ‘logic’ be exposed so easily and debunked so simply and effectively?

    Yes, this post and the noted comment prove it.

    Calvin’s god is inconsistent with himself and Scripture.

  7. One of the big problems with meticulous determinism is that ultimately it results in a zero-sum gain (at best, if you don’t believe people have any significant value) for the display of God’s love through grace and wrath / justice. As the sole determiner of all things, His grace and wrath ultimately must be reflected back upon Himself, resulting in this zero sum. This is where Calvinists try to apply responsibility to people for their sins via secondary causes, despite the actions being completely outside their determination. This a=b, b=c, but a=/=c logic ultimately holds no real weight.

    Conversely, if God created creatures capable of 1st cause decisions, His demonstration of love through both grace and justice is always a positive sum, displaying His glory as He shows love to those outside His deterministic control. In this view God is not redeeming or enacting divine justice on decisions He’s made, but on the decisions made by others, which again, results in a positive sum display of God’s love.

  8. Pastor flowers,i want you to receive God’s greatest blessing,since leaving a militant angry life of homosexual living ,and being transformed by GRACE,and from the beginning of my walk with Jesus,His grace and love began to soften my angry heart.when i understood how calvinism is misunderstanding God’s plan, my anger was inflamed the more i understood ,the more angry i got. please know i believe you are right in your view, but just as important is your humility,before God and the world> God has used your humility in my life,to share the Gospel.please i weep when i share the Gospel,i see the whole counsel of God His wrath against sin His graceful offer,and His love through the holy spirit and your humility …. thank you …… steven

    1. Thank you Steven for your encouraging post! The theology that defends truth but leads also to gracious compassion for the lost and for weak believers… seems to me like the theology that best represents God!

  9. Daily Bible reading gets me to Ezra, and 1 Cor 5.

    I find it amazing that Calvinists use this as one of their 40 (read-only-this) verses.

    1 Cor 5:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

    The idea of “God gives the increase” or “God is making it grow” is vague. But it is clear in the passage that the one who plants and the one who waters will be rewarded according to their labor.

    This is similar to the phrases “I persuade men” or “I am all things to all men to win some” that Paul makes.

    Calvinists deny that the person receiving salvation has anything to do with it. They are “too-dead” and must be regenerated, then they irresistibly are given (forced) faith. Any participation by man would rob glory from God, says the Calvinist.

    But how about the many times the Bible mentions man’s participation in the “feet of those who bring good news”? Does this participation also rob God of His glory? According to Calvinisms if a man (any man: the receiver of salvation or proclaimer of salvation) participates at all then God’s glory is diminished.

    What are we to do with all these verse?

  10. More from today’s reading. Proverbs

    20: 27 The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit,
    exposing every hidden motive.

    Wait. What?

    Man can have motives of his own that God did not give him? And they are hidden? And the Lord shines light on them….. revealing them? To whom?

    This is another of the the thousands of verses that do not sound like God planned it all out ahead of time. How refreshing to see that the Lord works with us, gently or firmly pointing us in the right direction.

    The Scripture spends a lot of time telling us that He reveals, calls, appeals, reminds, rewards, chastises, commends, teaches, trains, corrects. These are all personal verbs, depicting a personal God who works with man who is created in His image.

  11. Today’s Bible reading in 1 Cor 5.

    Let me make the additions to the text that a Calvinist Bible would / should have.

    5:5 I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you—something that even pagans don’t do [but we know it is God’s divine secret will]. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother [All part of God’s divine secret will]. 2 You are so proud of yourselves [but doing what God decreed you to to], but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame [But obviously God did not give you that faith and repentance].

    Yes, I know, nearly sacrilegious on my part, but is this not indeed what the bottom line of Calvinism teaches?

    Calvinist friends —–without using double speak and illogical, non-understandable phrases —- please tell me where I am not understanding.

  12. Daily reading today Nehemiah 3-5.

    4:9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.

    We see this kind of thing all over the Bible. Praying to God & a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. Praying to God & protecting ourselves. God provides the process of the lamb’s blood on the door in Egypt & and with brush in hand they apply the blood on the door. God provides the process of the Lamb’s blood on the cross & and we apply the blood in faith.

    God does not do it all. He provides guidance and the process. He expects from us faith and obedience.

    That is the message of the Bible.

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