Eleven (11) Reasons to Reject Libertarian
A critique of "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell
by John W. Hendryx
In a recent essay I explained that in order to begin moving out of the present state of chaos in the church that we need to subvert many of the false narratives borrowed from the world that have taken hold of us. The intent of this essay is to dismantle one of these core inconsistent narratives in light of Holy Scripture and replace it with a consistent and biblical one. I will propose that one of the most dominant reasons for the current downgrade in the Church is the presuppositional lens through which Scripture is read called “libertarian freedom”. To begin to understand the full extent of the crisis we must begin here. As we define and then closely explore the problems with libertarian free will we will not only expose its outright errors but perhaps even more importantly, its inconsistencies which may have previously gone unnoticed by some. This will help us all think more clearly and replace the unbiblical with the biblical. So without further ado, let’s define the issues.
The libertarians include Socinians, Molinists, Arminians, Open Theists and a growing number of Evangelicals.
What is Libertarian Free Will?
Freedom as understood in the libertarian sense means that a person is fully able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done, and this is not predetermined by any prior circumstances, our desires or even our affections. In other words, our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature. All free will theists hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called our decision or free choice. Libertarian freedom is, in fact, the freedom to act contrary to our nature, wants and greatest desires. Responsibility, in their view, always means that we could have done otherwise. This is what libertarians themselves confess as you will see in the following 3-part definition from Jerry Walls and Joseph Dongell in their popular book Why I am not a Calvinist:
(1) “The essence of this view is that a free action is one that does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence…the common experience of deliberation assumes that our choices are undetermined.”
(2) “…It seems intuitively and immediately evident that many of our actions are up to us in the sense that when faced with a decision, both (or more) options are within our power to choose…Libertarians argue that our immediate sense of power to choose between alternative courses of action is more certain and trustworthy than any theory that denies we have power.
(3) “Libertarians take very seriously the widespread judgment that we are morally responsible for our actions and that moral responsibility requires freedom” That is, a person cannot be held morally responsible for an act unless he or she was free to perform that act and free to refrain from it. This is basic moral intuition.”
Finally, in a very revealing admission, Wall and Dongell end their definition of libertarian freedom by asserting that to prove the validity of libertarian free will “…Arminians rely on contested philosophical judgments at this point.” By their own admission, then they RELY on philosophy, not Scripture as an ultimate basis for their conjecture. Walls and Dongell contest that Calvinists no less must also rely on philosophy to demonstrate the truthfulness of their positions. However, this is a notion which I will decisively refute later in the discussion by showing the Scriptural basis for the position that there is always, of necessity, a reason for the choices we make, especially moral choices (compatiblism).
Libertarians, therefore, when asked what caused the person to choose one action over another, will answer that a free act is when no causal, antecedent, laws of nature, desires or other factors are sufficient to incline the will decisively to chose one option or another. Clark Pinnock, a well-known defender of this position, asserted that only the kind of freedom, which has the ability to choose the contrary, is genuine freedom. He says, “It views a free action as one in which a person is free to perform an action or refrain from performing it and is not completely determined in the matter by prior forces---nature, nurture or even God. Libertarian freedom recognizes the power of contrary choice. One acts freely in a situation if, and only if, one could have done otherwise.” (Most Moved Mover pg. 127) In other words, within libertarianism, we could acceptably choose to receive Christ apart from a desire to receive Him.
Now lets look at the opposing position called compatibilism.
Compatibilism is the belief that God's predetermination is "compatible" with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). Our choices are also determined by our greatest inclinations. Compatibilism affirms that we make choices for a reason, that the will is not independent of the person and we will always choose what we want (Deut 30:16,17,19; Matt 17:12; James 1:14). It means God has granted us the ability to act freely (that is, voluntarily without coercion), but not independent from God nor free from our desires, but to act according to our desires and nature. In other words, voluntary choice (to chose to act as we please) is compatible with determinism. The Scripture itself testifies that
“…no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:42-45)
Figtrees, of necessity, grow figs, not thorns. According to Jesus, then, nature produces a necessary result or fruit at the exclusion of something else. One cannot produce a result that is contrary to nature. While libertarians uphold the philosophy that “choice without sufficient cause” is what makes one responsible, the compatibilist, on the other hand, looks to Scripture which testifies that it is because our choices have motives and desires that moral responsibility is actually established. Responsibility requires that our acts, of necessity, be intentional, as I will further demonstrate later in the essay.
So now for the reasons why libertarian free will falls short of revelation.
(1) According to libertarians, the power of contrary
choice means that it is always within the ability of the human will to believe
or reject the gospel. But if we
have the natural capacity to believe or reject the gospel freely (in the
libertarian sense) why is there the need for the Holy Spirit in salvation at
all, especially when the gospel is preached?
If you ask a libertarian whether he could come to faith in Christ apart from
any work of the Spirit, like all Christians, they must answer ‘no’. In other
words, even to a libertarian, it is not “within the [natural moral] ability of
the human will to believe or reject the gospel.” There is still the necessity
of the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the sine qua non of the
affections being set free from sin’s bondage.
Therefore, they are forced to admit that the possibility of the natural
will exercising faith would be inconsistent with basic Christianity, since we
all know that the natural man is hostile to God and will not willingly
submit to the humbling terms of the gospel. We all agree then, that left to
himself, man has no libertarian free will to choose any redemptive good,
since his affections are entirely in bondage to sin (until Christ sets him
free) and cannot choose otherwise. So it ends up that libertarians must believe
that, in his natural state (which is most of the time), man’s will is only
free in the compatibilist sense, since, apart from the Spirit, he can only
choose according to the desires (love of darkness) of his fallen nature.
Unless, of course, they can offer another explanation of why one cannot believe
apart from the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, Christians all affirm that one must first hear the gospel in order to believe since general revelation is not enough to engender saving faith (Romans 10:13-15). But if it is always within the libertarian ability of the human will to believe, as they claim, then again, what purpose is there for the Holy Spirit while hearing? Doesn’t this reveal that they actually do believe we normally exercise choice according to the corruption of nature? [We must note, as an aside, that the Epistle to the Romans testifies that even those who have not heard the gospel know enough from general revelation to condemn them because “what is known about God is evident within them” and they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18-20).] By all accounts, then, no true Christian believes that a person has libertarian free will to believe the gospel apart to any work of the Holy Spirit.
But, having deduced that libertarian free will must still be true, libertarians believe they resolve this problem by inventing a logical scheme (nowhere found in the gospels) where God grants something to all who hear the gospel called prevenient grace, which temporarily removes the sin nature by allegedly placing sinners in a pre-fall-like state where they have libertarian freedom to either chose or reject Christ, a choice undetermined by any desires or nature. Thus, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the libertarian, is never sufficient in itself. To grace we must add the choice of the unregenerate will. While we heartily agree with libertarians in the necessity of preaching for salvation so that the Holy Spirit can germinate the “seed” of the gospel, yet to dogmatize the belief that once having heard that one is wandering the earth in a semi-regenerate state with a libertarian free will is wild extra-biblical speculation at best. For a biblical example that pronounces the differences among us, consider when Paul was preaching the gospel to Lydia and “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). A libertarian would argue this passage placed Lydia in a pre-fall-like state where she had libertarian freedom to believe or reject Jesus. But the passage plainly says that God opened her heart to respond, not so that she would hopefully respond. There is not one instance in Scripture when such language is used (where God acts to change the heart) when people actually refused (see 2 Chronicles 30:11-12; John 6:37; 65). Rather, when God calls a person or opens a heart to respond, the matter is always settled biblically. They will respond positively. Galatians 1:15 asserts that Paul was set apart and called by grace before birth. Can such a call be thwarted? Jesus call to Paul on the Damascus road was certain, not merely a possibility. When a person hears a preacher call for their repentance they can certainly resist that call because they have an uncircumcised heart. But if God gives an inner call no one resists (Acts 2:39; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; Rom 8:30) but rather, gladly assents to the gospel. The biblical evidence for certainty in calling, then, is clearly on the side of the compatibilist in all cases where the Bible reveals God’s intent.
Remember, not even libertatians believe we naturally have libertarian freedom. If we did then we could theoretically believe the gospel apart from the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Yet I have not yet found one libertarian willing to admit this, for to do so would fall into the heresy of Pelagianism. No, the libertarian must acknowledge that, prior to grace, man's "freedom" is compatibilistic. In the end, Scripture defines freedom, not as libertarians do, but as the freedom from the bondage to sin, since we are slaves of sin until the Son sets us free (John 8; Rom 6). Biblical freedom is the freedom to do what is pleasing to God (John 8:34-36; Rom 6:15-23; 2 Cor 3:17) and this freedom from sin is granted in the redemptive work of Christ. Yet the Scripture nowhere says anything about the freedom to choose either contrary or apart from our desires. We either desire and love Christ or we despise him, and if we choose Him, this is the result of sovereign grace giving us a heart of flesh, not a result of nature itself (John 1:13; Rom 9:16). The real difference between the two views, then, is not really the nature of the will for we all can agree that apart from the Holy Spirit, the will acts according to the affections of its fallen nature in a compatibilist sense. The real difference rather is the nature of God’s grace in salvation (what it does for us). This brings us to the next criticism…
(2) Extra-Biblical Intuition: Without providing any biblical evidence whatsoever for the basis of libertarian freedom Walls and Dongell instead make their strongest assertions about why they believe this theory in statements such as “We believe it is … obviously true that responsibility requires libertarian freedom,” and it is their “judgment” that “the common sense view of freedom is libertarian freedom.” Also “…it seems intuitively and immediately evident that many of our actions are up to us.” Right away we see there is an open admission here that the libertarian free will position derives its assumptions solely from a philosophical precommitment of what they call intuitive common knowledge. This means that one of the most the foundational doctrines which hermeneutically controls the way they read the entire Scripture is based purely in speculation and logical deduction with statements like “it seems” rather than from any biblical exegesis. If this were a smaller matter we might be able to overlook it but since this is the controlling factor in how we relate to God in all of Scripture it is a cause for no small alarm. This is baffling since libertarians make bold claims to believe in sola scriptura. You would think that if it were important to God that He would mention it at least once. A system based purely on extra-biblical assumptions makes their case really quite hard to prove. Failure to demonstrate a biblical basis for this belief means that libertarianism should be abandoned, that is, unless they are willing to continue foregoing the authority of the Scriptures in order to uphold their philosophy.
(3) Causeless Choice: Libertarians, of course, like to claim that we also base our compatiblism in philosophical assumptions but this assertion simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. There are an endless number of Scriptures that affirm that our choice to believe or reject the gospel is done so of necessity because of our innermost affections and inclinations. For example, in John 3:19 it says that those who reject the gospel do so because the love darkness and hate the light. A libertarian, on the other hand, to be consistent, must assert that one rejected Christ, not necessarily because he hated him, or on the other hand did not chose Him because he had affection for Him, but rather only because he chose to, which is contrary to everything we know of Scripture. We all know that the will ultimately chooses from the desires and affections of the person. Quoting the Old Testment prophet Isaiah, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for the error of choosing without intent by saying, “THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.” This reveals that it is impossible to honor Jesus with a faith that does not also honor Him from the heart. This is not very different from the kind of faith libertarians are describing. Later to another group of those who refused to believe, Jesus shows us what the cause of our choices are when he replied,
"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin...If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the things your own father does...You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:34-47)
Jesus continually points to reasons or motives as the determining factor for believing and rejecting the gospel: they are “determined to kill me”, “their heart is far from me”, they “want to carry out their father’s desire” and they reject me because they “do not belong to God.” Libertarian causeless choice is, therefore, an idea foreign to Scripture and basically goes against all sound logic. If our choice to receive Christ is causeless, not arising of necessity from our affections or desire when we see God’s beauty and excellence, then it is made, as it were, out of thin air, for no other reason but that we chose, as if the person wills to choose something he doesn’t want. To give you a real life example of libertarian causeless choice, read the following excerpt from a recent conversation I had with a libertarian where I asked a simple question about why we believe the gospel. I asked,
“If the gospel is preached to two persons and they both receive equal (prevenient) grace, why is it that one man ultimately believes the gospel and not the other? What makes the two people to differ? Was it Jesus Christ that makes them to differ or something else? If both had the same prevenient grace it wasn’t Jesus that made the to differ, so obviously one had a natural advantage over the other.
He answered in classic libertarian fashion, “One heard and understood, one did not. One believed and one did not. That's the nature of free will. Our decisions are not DETERMINED by forces outside of our will. And that's why one man accepts and another rejects Christ.”
Lets take a closer look at his answer. He said that ‘one understood and one did not’ … but where did such understanding come from to begin with? Was this understanding itself derived from nature or from grace? In the libertarian scheme did God grant this understanding so that one believed? We are forced to conclude that He did not, for if He did this for everyone, then both persons would have the same understanding. So we must conclude that, to the libertarian, such spiritual understanding is entirely self-generated, apart from any work of God’s grace in us. Whatever differences there were between the two men, these differences were not derived from grace. Ultimately, it is a reliance on some innate ability in one man, which the other did not have. So we must ask, then, according to libertarianism, was it chance that generated this difference in natural wisdom between the two? Was it random? Or was one man naturally just smarter or wiser than the other? The only two alternatives left to us here are either that one person just happened to understand (‘just because’) by chance, or that one was already better equipped than the other (in his natural self) to respond positively to the gospel command. Neither of these possibilities is aligned with the teaching or intent of the gospel, which is by grace through and through.
Now, in his second answer to why one believed and not the other, He answered, “one believed and the other did not” But I did not ask him what he did, because we all know what he did already from my question, but I asked ‘why’ he believed. Our libertarian friend didn’t really answer the question as I asked it, but he did answer it according to his libertarian philosophy, since he believes that it was not his desires (or anything else) that caused him to choose one way or the other. The will itself is sovereign, in the libertarian view, and has an ability of its own which can ultimately choose apart from any gracious affections of the heart. To a libertarian, he can choose Christ even if he does not desire Him. While the affections may influence the choice, in their view, still the will can chose what it doesn’t want ultimately, which, of course, destroys the unity of the person.
But the answer faces the same difficult question as the first --- did one just happen to believe? My gospel says that only the humble, who recognize that they have no hope in themselves, will embrace Christ and, in like manner, the proud will despise and reject Him. Either sin and virtue, of necessity, precede our choice when Christ is put before us. It is the grace of God that makes us humble, not innate ability or chance. But the libertarian is unwilling to say it was only by God’s grace in Christ because he then would admit to God’s sovereign choice. Nor will he provide an answer that reveals a moral virtue in one person (humility) that the other (who was proud), did not naturally have. This would expose his belief in salvation by merit. But these two answers are the only possible conclusions. So if there is not of necessity any moral reasonor motive that ultimately compels one to believe or not then how could God blame someone for rejecting Him? To believe the gospel is a moral choice, from the heart. If not then God could not call the rejection of the gospel a sin. If our affections do not cause us to believe then belief and unbelief is ultimately non-affectional, not from the heart and rejection could not be considered a sin. But if faith is a moral choice then how did one person get a more moral disposition than the other? One remained proud and the other humble? Was this by nature or by grace? If by grace then why don’t all men have it? If by nature then some people are more virtuous than others apart from grace. This dilemma is really fatal to libertarian free will and none of them have been able to answer these basic questions. The answer ‘just because’ is ludicrous.
(4) The Belief in Libertarian Free Will Destroys Moral Responsibility – Walls and Dongell make a strong case that our judicial system is based on the commonsense view of libertarian freedom since the lawyers often defend the degree of guilt of clients based on whether they were coerced, their upbringing, emotional state and the like. These kind of conditions indeed often make people less culpable if their inability made them so they could not have done otherwise. If criminals could have made different choices than they did, i.e. if they were coerced into making a bad choice, then we all agree they would not be as legally responsible for their crime. While it is true that coercion often plays a role in the legal degree of punishment, but this only scratches the surface of the matter. Consider the opposite that if criminals just chose to commit a crime but had no intent or motives for it at all then the lawyer would be forced to plead insanity for his client before the court. If the choice to commit a crime were not based and caused ultimately on a reason, desire or motive then he would have to be absolved from guilt because he would not be responsible for it. If one chose to murder someone simply because he chose to it would be a sign of sickness not responsibility. Libertarian free will, therefore, destroys responsibility. Moral responsibility exists, not in spite of, but because our choices have reasons, motives, intent. Only the determinist, therefore, upholds moral responsibility. Can we be held responsible for doing something we do not want to do?
Furthermore, inability usually does not diminish
culpability in a moral decision.
If a human were asked to fly and they could not due to their physical
limitations, we could not justly blame them for their inability, but if someone
were to borrow $100 million and squander it in a week of wild living in Vegas,
his inability to repay would not alleviate his responsibility. Therefore, what we ought to do morally does
not always imply that we can, and yet we remain culpable. God commands that we
perfectly obey the Ten Commandments. Our inability to do so morally does not
take away our moral guilt because our inability is moral and intentional. We
wanted to disobey and our desire was rebellion. In fact, Paul
clearly shows that the intent of the divine legislation is to reveal sin, not
to show that we have the moral ability to keep it (Rom. 3:20). In other words, it reveals
that we are impotent to obey the law, stripping up of all hope from ourselves,
so we can only throw ourselves on God’s mercy. We inherited Adam’s guilt and
freely choose to continue in rebellion.
Adam has federally represented all of us, and we agree with his choice
every time we sin, so our inability to repay the debt to God does not alleviate
us of responsibility. Can anyone claim we are not guilty of a crime by saying
“sorry judge, Adam made me do it.” No, we ourselves are guilty when we choose to commit a crime.
(5) Scripture Incompatible with Libertarian Free Will There is simply no passage in Scripture where our wills are seen to be independent of God’s plan and our desires (libertarian freedom). The position is genuinely a philosophical construct. A failure to demonstrate a biblical basis for this belief again means that libertarian should be abandoned. In fact the Scripture shows just the opposite. God clearly says that it was He who foreordained the crucifixion but he also holds those who did it responsible (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). Judas’ betrayal was said to be according to Scripture (Acts 1:16; John 17:12), but God does not hold him any less responsible for it.
Libertarian Freedom Would Make God Himself Not
Responsible for His Choices. God
always makes choices according to His holy nature. All members of the Trinity have acted in sinless perfection. God
cannot even desire an unholy act, nor can He lie, for He would no longer be God
if He did. In fact His choices are so wrapped up in His nature and essence that
He could not do otherwise. But God’s freedom is the real freedom defined by the
Bible -- a freedom from sin, not a freedom to do otherwise. God is free in the compatibilist sense in
that He always acts according to His nature, never against it. God does not have ‘freedom’ to do what is
contrary to His nature, so He is not free in the libertarian sense (in fact no
one is). In a similar way, we all strive toward and look forward to the day
when we will no longer be bound by sin.
Our resurrection bodies will be free from all sin and death. This means there will be no libertarian
freedom on the new earth because we will be compelled to choose good because
that is what we will want by nature. Libertarians often call anyone’s life
where we cannot chose otherwise either robotic or one where we cannot be held
responsible for our choices. If true then this would have to apply to God and
our future glory as well. Is God a robot because He cannot choose to be
(7) If all our choices are free from our own desire and free from the plan of God then they are based on chance. This means that God could be taken by surprise. A chance event is defined as one that does not have a sufficient cause that would make it utterly unpredictable, even to God. But we all know that chance is utterly inconsistent with God’s sovereignty, providence and foreknowledge of future events. This creates another fatal flaw in the philosophy of libertarian freedom.
The Libertarian makes his philosophy of the will
central to his interpretation while compatibilists make the covenant grace of God in Christ
central. It is my contention that the libertarian error is not unlike the
error of the ancients who believed that the Sun revolved around the earth. One’s starting point is always important
because it reveals what is important to someone. To make libertarian free will the philosophical glasses through which one looks at the whole of Scripture (when the Text says nothing about such a belief) is a radical departure from honest biblical interpretation, by any standard. But the bias is so ingrained, it appears, that libertarian free will is simply accepted by many because they say it is 'obvious'. But our preference or feeling is not the basis of how we determine Scriptural truth, especially in such critical matters.. When we see the covenant in Christ as central, as the Scripture does, then we can ask, does God will the salvation of all people with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love his chosen ones with a resolute will that gets the job accomplished? God's love for his people is intensive. His will never let them perish, just as a good parent would not let his child be hit by a car, even if he has to stop him against his will, so to speak. But instead of force, God changes the heart of stone to a heart of flesh that the child will himself desire to obey. The libertarian would have us believe that the child should have the 'right to choose' on his own whether to be hit by the car or not. But to leave a child to himself among danger is inviting certain death. Which is more loving I ask? God saves us because of what Christ does for us, not because some of us were more humble or smarter than others and thus drew on our natural resources and unregenerate affections to choose.
To make libertarian free will the philosophical glasses through which one looks at the whole of Scripture (when the Text says nothing about such a belief) is a radical departure from honest biblical interpretation, by any standard. But the bias is so ingrained, it appears, that libertarian free will is simply accepted by many because they say it is 'obvious'. But our preference or feeling is not the basis of how we determine Scriptural truth, especially in such critical matters..
When we see the covenant in Christ as central, as the Scripture does, then we can ask, does God will the salvation of all people with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love his chosen ones with a resolute will that gets the job accomplished?
God's love for his people is intensive. His will never let them perish, just as a good parent would not let his child be hit by a car, even if he has to stop him against his will, so to speak. But instead of force, God changes the heart of stone to a heart of flesh that the child will himself desire to obey. The libertarian would have us believe that the child should have the 'right to choose' on his own whether to be hit by the car or not.
But to leave a child to himself among danger is inviting certain death. Which is more loving I ask? God saves us because of what Christ does for us, not because some of us were more humble or smarter than others and thus drew on our natural resources and unregenerate affections to choose.
Why I am Not A Calvinist, Walls and Dongell assert that the purpose of
their book is to assess whether there are persons “whom God has not chosen to
bless.” Here they intend to create an invidious comparison by painting the Calvinist God as distinct from their own because, to the Calvinist, God chooses not to love all men in the same way. But even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that election is contingent on foreseen faith, then there is nothing in Arminian theology to prevent God from only creating those whom he foreknows would respond to the gospel. Since this obviously is not the case, where does that leave the love of God as defined by the Arminian and set in defamatory contrast to Calvinism? In the end God knows
everything (is omniscient) and therefore, even in the libertarian scheme, prior to even
creating the universe God knows the choices all persons will make before
creating them, so why did He go ahead an create them? Libertarians cannot
consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it
is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. It is obviously
within His providence for this person to be lost for he could easily have
chosen not to create them if He so desired.
In the same way, if God foreknew who would be saved then how could we
consistently preach that that God is trying to save every man? God knows whom He can save or who will be
saved, so who would claim that He is trying to save more? Among the libertarians, Open Theists, have
recognized this internal inconsistency and instead of recognizing that the
compatibilist position was right all along they have plunged themselves into
deeper darkness by fastening ignorance on God (since they claim God does not know the
future). assumption that God is somehow obligated to those who are in active rebellion against Him. Our salvation is called merciful because we did not deserve it and so our surprise should not be that there are some that God has not chosen to bless redemptively, but rather, our surprise should be that he was wiling to save any.
Furthermore, Walls and Dongell are clinging to an unbiblical
assumption that God is somehow obligated to those who are in active rebellion against Him. Our salvation is called merciful because we did not deserve it and so our surprise should not be that there are some that God has not chosen to bless redemptively, but rather, our surprise should be that he was wiling to save any.
Libertarians complain that effectual grace forces
people to do something against their will.
If the elect will all be saved, they reason, then they must have no
real choice in the matter.
But compatibilists affirm the belief that we must personally exercise our own
faith in order to be justified. God does not do the believing for us. Consider that a healthy infant who was just born
must breath on his own. Consciously or unconsciously the baby wills
to breath. No one else breathes for him. However, his/her lungs themselves
were a gift of God, apart from his willing. Also he uses his own eyes to
see, but the eyes themselves were are gift of God. Furthermore,
the act of birth itself is not something the baby does by exercising its choice
or will. The baby is completely passive in its birth - this is because life
itself was the gift of God completely apart from our willing. ...And
this is clearly the reason why Jesus uses this wonderful analogy of birth when
speaking of regeneration (see John 3). The new birth is not spoken of in
the imperative as something we should take upon ourselves to do, but something
God does for us. We must be born again to see or enter the kingdom of
heaven. ‘Spirit gives birth to spirit’.
In other words we must first be regenerated if we are to believe and
enter the kingdom. We love him only because He first loved us. No
one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. To say we can
free (redeem) ourselves by utilizing our unregenerate, unspiritual will is to
undermine the gospel. It is Christ who renews and quickens the will,
the desires and affections. When God
mercifully grants new life to a person, a heart of flesh, new spiritual eyes
and ears and illumines their mind to understand, God does not violate their
will for they gladly utilize these things that God gave them with their own
The analogy could likewise be extended to someone like Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead. Lazarus did not try or use self-effort to come back to life. Jesus commanded life to enter him and it was so. Yet Lazarus opened his own eyes and sat up in his own grave. His being resurrected itself was the gift of God, unrelated to what Lazarus personal will was. Similarly, God's regenerative grace enters into us (the new birth). This is purely an act of God’s mercy to us since He is under obligation to save no one. Libertarians, in making this charge, tend to confuse coercion with necessity. (See my essay on the same).
(11) Libertarianism dismantles the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ purchased in our redemption, to the libertarian, is never sufficient in itself. This grace is conditional and only when faith is contributed to the mix is it considered sufficient. Faith is seen as something that arises separately from Christ’s work rather than as a result of it. So to a libertarian, we could not properly thank God for our faith since it is the only thing that is alone self-generated. While all men have grace, so they say, grace is not what makes men to differ from one another. If something other than grace sets apart the elect from the non-elect then it is not grace alone (or Jesus alone) that saves.
To help the reader understand compatibilism here is an analogy that just about anyone can understand. Consider a new mother, her infant and the approach of a madman with a dagger. Like most mothers, this new mother adores her baby so much that she would be willing to sacrifice her own life if it would save her child. But, in this instance, she faces a choice. A madman approaches her and holds out a dagger and orders her to sacrifice her baby. In fear she chooses to flee from him and, of course, refuses to kill her child. But the question, which seems ridiculous because the answer is so obvious, is why doesn’t she plunge the dagger into the child? She has the physical capacity to do so, right? She could easily plunge the knife into the child with her physical ability but she refuses, and in fact in incapable of doing so. Why? It is because her great affection for the child makes it morally impossible for her to carry out such an act under any circumstance. In the same way, we naturally (while unregenerate) refuse to plunge the dagger into the sin which we so love and join ourselves to Christ. Our disposition and affections determine the necessity of our choices.
John Frame once said in regard to the difference between Determinism & Fatalism: Determinism means that all events are rendered unavoidable by the cause, which include our choices. Fatalism says all events will happen, regardless of our choices.
believe that apart from a supernatural work of the Spirit to change our
disposition, to disarm our natural hostility and illumine our hearts and minds
to the truth, we would always turn our affections away from Christ toward
darkness (John 3:19, 20). We have the physical ability to say a prayer or
walk an aisle, but our hearts are filled with hostility toward God and we
naturally suppress the truth in unrighteousness as Paul asserts in his epistle
to the Romans. Our inability is simply a matter of the affections and we
chose accordingly. Some persons, when they see Christ immediately have
affection for him and others despise Him. The question we must all ask
is, what makes the two to differ? Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who has disarmed our hostility, forgiven our sins and adopted us into His own family.
Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who has disarmed our hostility, forgiven our sins and adopted us into His own family.
by John Hendryx
Does the Bible Teach "Prevenient Grace" in the Wesleyan/Arminian Sense? by
Bible Logic Fallacies of Synergism Libertarian Free Will Theism
Calvinism vs. Arminianism (Debate) Victor Reppert, Steve Hays, Paul Manata, and Dominic Bnonn Tennant
This is massive debate between Calvinism and Arminianism that took place between (mainly) Victor Reppert, Steve Hays, Paul Manata, and Dominic Bnonn Tennant. This post will function as a (almost) one-stop shop for seeing anti-Calvinist arguments, and rebuttals to those arguments.
by John Hendryx