In Part 1 we took a look at Meticulous or Hard Determinism and the way it casts God as a moral monster. In Part 2 we will consider a couple more troubling doctrines of Calvinism, then turn to consider a more Biblically consistent view of God’s sovereignty.
We ended Part 1 with this from John Calvin . . .
. . . how foolish and frail is the support of divine justice afforded by the suggestion that evils come to be, not by His will but by His permission. . . . It is a quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing, but the author of them. . . . Who does not tremble at these judgments with which God works in the hearts of even the wicked whatever He will, rewarding them nonetheless according to desert? Again it is quite clear from the evidence of Scripture that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as he will, whether to good for His mercy’s sake, or to evil according to their merits.
Calvin says it’s frivolous to say God permits evil. He does not just permit it, He decrees it. Then, He is perfectly just in condemning to hell for all eternity those who commit the very evil He has commanded them to do. Calvin then declares, when our moral sense rises up against that as being supremely unjust, a great evil itself, it is a sign we are not aligned with God’s glory. Calvin and his followers announce that God is glorified by sending people to hell.
It surprises many new Calvinists to learn Calvin not only said God elects those who will be saved, He also elects those who go to hell. Contrary to those who attempt to reform Calvin’s image by softening his profile, he taught double-predestination; that God does not just elect those who will be saved; He also elects the rest into hell.
- Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an individual charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite, reprobation. (Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)
- . . . it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to anything but God’s secret plan… God’s secret plan is the cause of hardening. (Book 2, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)
- With Augustine I say: the Lord has created those whom he unquestionably foreknew would go to destruction. This has happened because he has willed. (Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 5)
- . . . individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction. (Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)
Calvin’s brand of Reformed Theology believes God sends people to hell because it brings Him glory. They do not go to hell because they failed to put their faith in Christ. That idea is the “frivolous refuge” Calvin decried. No, they went to hell because God WANTED them there and decreed from eternity past they end there. And all because He gets glory out of it. How? Well, that is a “mystery.”
Or . . .
Maybe it is not what the Bible teaches.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
That all-precious promise is amplified by the truth of 2 Peter 3:9 which tells us God is, “. . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Some Calvinists rework this verse thus, “God is not willing that any OF THE ELECT should perish.” That! is a dangerous abuse of scripture in that it violates the context Peter sets these words in. Peter is clearly saying God’s heart is to save ALL who repent of sin and put their faith in Jesus. Salvation is contingent on faith in Christ, NOT election, as Reformed theology contends.
The only way the Calvinist interpretation of 2 Peter 3:9 works is if Peter makes a tautology. He would have to be saying, “God is not willing that any of the saved would not be saved.” That is nonsense and Peter would not have wasted ink penning it. The only way the verse makes sense is if we take it as it obviously appears. God wants everyone to be saved.
Not according to Calvin.
One of the errors Calvinists make is assuming God’s foreknowledge equals His foreordination. They do not just believe God is omniscient (knows all things than can be known), but that His foreknowledge is due to His foreordination. God knows ahead of time what will happen, not just because He is eternal and sees our future as His eternal now. He knows what the future holds because He has decreed all things the future holds. For the Calvinist, God does not just foreknow things because He is eternal and omniscient; He foreknows them BECAUSE He has foreordained them.
To prove their point, they often rhetorically ask, “Can God foreknow something that ends up NOT happening?” The assumed answer is, “Of course not! Because God only foreknows things that are certain.” While that is true, the Calvinist then adds an additional assumption; that while what God foreknows is certain, it is also necessary because He causes it.
Nothing in Scripture equates God’s foreknowledge to His foreordination. Certainty does not require necessity.
Consider this passage from 1 Samuel 23 regarding God’s foreknowledge . . .
9 When David knew that Saul plotted evil against him, he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord God of Israel, Your servant has certainly heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah to destroy the city for my sake. 11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as Your servant has heard? O Lord God of Israel, I pray, tell Your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will deliver you.”
God informed David of a maneuver by Saul that did not come to pass. If David had gone to Keilah, Saul would have gone there. That was the scenario that would have transpired had David gone there. God foreknew what would happen. Nevertheless, it DIDN’T because David didn’t go there. Because He did not, Saul changed his plans. Apparently, God not only knew what WOULD SURELY happen, He knew the contingencies of what COULD happen when people made OTHER choices. This demonstrates that God not only can foreknow something that DOES NOT come to pass, He also does not determine everything that does. Human beings can and do make choices that eventuate in different outcomes. If God sovereignly decreed EVERYTHING, human choice would be a single, linear reality with only one eventuality. In other words, this whole episode in David’s life never would have happened. There would be no story to tell here.
The Calvinist may push back by saying, “God foreknew David would ask these questions and leave the city after being told Saul was coming.” That does not alter the fact God foreknew an event that did not come to pass. How can that be if the only thing that happens is what God eternally and meticulously decrees?
Are we to believe that God decreed David not go to Keilah and lied to him so he wouldn’t? If meticulous determinism is true, why didn’t God just ordain David not go? Why all the bother of talking to Abiathar; unless human beings do indeed make free choices?
Is this yet another something we are to assign to the ever-growing realm of “mystery?”
God Does What He Pleases
Many Resurgents cling to select texts to support their view of sovereignty. Chiefly . . .
- Psalm 115:3 • Our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
- Psalm 135:6 • Whatever the Lord pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.
While making clear God’s absolute sovereignty, these verses in no way require a belief in meticulous / hard determinism. Saying “God does whatever He please” is not equivalent to saying “All that’s done IS what He pleases.” Everything I order at a restaurant is what I want. Not everything the server sets before me is necessarily the same.
In seeking to exalt God’s sovereignty, Meticulous Determinism ends up turning it into little more than a Christianized version of Fate. God’s sovereignty is actually higher and more glorious than hard determinism makes it. Because of Who and What God is, He is able to accomplish His ultimate objectives while allowing humans beings the power of making real choices.
God determines ends, while allowing humans beings to participate in the means. God’s kingdom WILL come; His will WILL be done on Earth as it is in heaven, ultimately. However, that does not mean everything that happens is decreed or ordained by God. On the contrary, people make choices that are against His will. But because God IS God, He is able to work in such a way that the ends He is ordained will surely come to pass.
Romans 8:28 • We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Consider that promise carefully. “All things work together for good.” There is a process there; a working of things INTO good. If meticulous determinism were true, Paul would have to say, “All things ARE good,” because God decreed them. That is not what he wrote, because Paul did not teach meticulous determinism. He understood God’s sovereignty as something great, richer, and higher. God is so great, so wise and powerful, He is able to take up the genuinely free choices of humans beings for good or ill and work them in such a way that they accomplish God’s ultimate objective.
The debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists has been going on for a long time. This article is not going to resolve it. Admittedly, Reformed apologists could reply to each of the previous points with counter-arguments supported by select verses. I have read and considered them, and find them to be mere obfuscations of the core issues presented here.
At the end of the day and conclusion of the debate, the Hard Determinist has to deal with the fact that their view turns God into a moral monster who does not just permit evil, he causes it. Worse, he does so, FOR HIS GLORY! As stated at the outset, that is not an inflammatory remark merely to be provocative; it is a statement of fact the Hard Determinist has to deal with.
Aspiring Resurgents and Neo-Calvinists, realize what you are buying in to when you embrace the brand of Reformed theology Calvin himself taught.
 John Calvin, “The Eternal Predestination of God,” 10:11
 “Tautology” = To say the same thing in different words. A statement that communicates no new information.