Church Education Resource Ministries
Free Will or Predestination
The topic of free will/predestination has
been a very debated subject throughout the history of the
church. It seems there are many viewpoints, and this seems
to be a subject that people will continue to debate until
Jesus Christ returns, GUARANTEED! The church will never
ever come to an agreement amongst each other concerning
this heavily debated subject of free will. Rom 8:29-30 and
Eph 1:4-6 are some heavily debated predestination/free
will verses. Some taking the Calvin side argue that God
predestines people to heaven and to hell while others do
not hold such a position. For those that do hold the
Calvin view view, I ask them this question. Why would God
choose to send over 90% of his creation to hell, while
only choosing to redeem less than 25% of it? Theologians
John Calvin and AB Simpson both have their viewpoints on
the free will/predestination debate. I have not yet
decided which view to take, so I am going to analyze the
basic view of the John Calvin reformed view on free
will/predestination, and the AB Simpson view. After which
I will conclude where I stand.
John Calvin being a reformed Calvinist believes that God from the beginning of time predestined men and angels to either everlasting punishment or everlasting death, and chose a select few to be with Him in heaven. The New Ungers Bible Dictionary a dictionary published in the year 1957 has a lot to offer on a wide variety of biblical subjects. Its not a theological dictionary in anyway, just a straight plain bible dictionary and it says the following about the Calvinistic theology on the free will and predestination view.
Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw its future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death (New Ungers Bible Dictionary 2001).
However reading Calvin alone and his commentary on one of the more popular predestination/free will passages in Eph 1:4-6 Calvin comments on verse 5 in one of his commentaries; "God hath predestinated us in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, unto the adoption of sons, and hath made us accepted by his grace" (Calvin 1957, 200). I've read the Calvinistic view over and over again, it does not appear that Calvin believes in mans total free will. Scholar Jerry L. Walls writes this about Calvin; "Both Calvinism and these varieties of atheism reject the free will defense as a viable solution to the problem of evil, since the free will defense assumes an incompatibilist view of freedom" (Walls 1983, 19). Having read the above quotations from Calvin himself and other credible sources it appears that he believes in God's free will, but believes that God by his own order has predestined some to heaven and some to hell. God did this for the manifestation of his own glory according to the Calvin view. Calvin holds several arguments to support this view and I will paraphrase a few of his views. (1) According to the scriptures election is nor of works but of grace; and that is not of works means that it is not what man does that determines where he is to be one of the elect or not. (2) The sovereignty of God in electing men to salvation is shown by the fact that repentance and faith are gifts from God (New Ungers Bible Dictionary 2001). Calvin clearly does not believe in free will, but rather in total predestination, and this is verified once more in his view on Eph 1:11 and he says "He has spoken generally of all the elect; but now begins to take notice of separate classes. When he says WE have obtained, he speaks of himself and of the Jews, or, perhaps more correctly, of all who were the first fruits of Christianity..." (Calvin 1957, 206). By Calvin logic all saved are the first fruits of Christ, and those chosen before the foundation of the world Eph 1:4. Some Calvinists hold the view that because God predestined some to be with him since the beginning he also dammed others to hell. Holding this view would conclude that God sends people to hell. A staunch Calvinist would never admit to this, but in the writings of Calvin this is what is being communicated.
AB Simpson in no way holds Calvin's view of Predestination/FreeWill, but rather holds to the Arminianist view that God gave man a free will, and its up to him to choose salvation. In his book, the Fourfold gospel his first chapter is about Christ being our savior. If Simpson held the views of Calvinism strongly there would be no need for such a chapter, since Calvinists believe that God foreknew who would come to him, and chose some to be with him, and the rest to spend their eternity away from him. In his book, the FourFold gospel AB Simpson lists 8 steps to salvation on pages 12-13. In the 5th step he says that Salvation comes by accepting Jesus as the savior and then he comments.
This does not mean merely crying out to Him to save, but claiming Him as the savior, embracing the promises He has given, and so believing that He is our personal Redeemer (13).
This right here shows that AB Simpson views are different than that of Calvin. The Arminianist theology holds that salvation is freely chosen, so AB Simpson is in agreement with the free will theology of the Arminian camp. In his other steps its surely obvious that AB Simpson is a free will guy and against total predestination. In step 7 Simpson says that salvation comes by confessing Christ as savior. This of course is a step made by someone who has a free will. If someone did not have free will, then they would not be able to come to Christ, because there would be no need, since they were already predestined since the beginning of time to come to Christ and this would mean that there is nothing that they must do or do not do in order to be saved. In AB Simpson's 8th step he says that salvation involves our abiding in Jesus. This sounds like an Arminian view, since the Arminian camp believe that one can as they say fall from grace and lost their salvation. Simpson does not state that specifically, yet he lists abiding in Jesus as a step to salvation, so this would conclude that he is in for the Arminian view that one can fall from grace and lose their salvation.
After an analysis of both Simpson and Calvin theology, I most definitely will take the AB Simpson side. First, I will say that we all have a free will and that the neutral-will theory of Calvin is false. RC Sproul says, "We must reject the neutral-will theory not only because it is irrational but because, as we shall see, it is radically unbiblical"(Sproul 1986,53). Even RC Sproul agrees that we have a free will, and we are not robots without one of anykind. Calvin may infer that we do not have a free will, since we are all predestined, but RC Sproul does not agree totally with the Calvinistic viewpoint in this quote and neither do I. Biblically I think that there is far more substantiation for a free will theology than a predestination theology. An article on this complex subject was written on gospelcom.net and the article first talks about the lives of Peter and Judas. Both men failed, and prophecy was fulfilled in both instances. Then the writer asks these questions:
How can God destine one man to brokenness and the other man to hell? How can Jesus restore one to apostleship, and lose the other to the Devil? Are our lives entirely out of control? Are they entirely decided in Heaven? Can something as specific as "you will deny me three times before the cock crows" be planned beforehand for us (http://aibi.gospelcom.net/aibi/predestination)?
God never made Peter sin and no one pointed a gun to his back to sin. However God did allow the devil to test Peter and it broke him for a season. In Judas's case, it was God who allowed Satan to enter Judas, but God never forced Judas to betray him. One bible scholar on a bible series called Ancient Mysteries of the Bible had a theory that Jesus perhaps offered Judas some money to fulfill the prophecy. There is little if any evidence to this claim, because it's all speculation. Those in Calvins total predestination camp probably agree with this view, because it would agree with their view that everyone is either predestined to heaven or to hell. Since Judas was originally predestined to hell, God had to do something to ensure that he went there, so his son Jesus offered Judas a wealthy ransom to betray him. In the bible it says (Psalm 139:16) that God knows all our days in advance, yet we live one at a time. God has a foreknowledge of the future and knows it to the detail. God knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him. I have no idea why he chose him to be his disciple knowing this. Frankly, I do not know if Jesus called Judas, or Judas came to Jesus. The maker of the 1950 film King of Kings showed Judas coming to Jesus, and Jesus welcoming him with sadness. Maybe this is how it happened, or maybe Jesus chose Judas, and maybe Judas was an effective instrument in Jesus' ministry for a season, we do not know.
Ask yourself. If Calvin is correct and AB Simpson is incorrect, why would we need to live one day at a time? I suppose we would be robots, and would have no need to make our own choices, since God would be controlling all our motives, emotions, and courses of action. There are just so many references to a free will of man theology in the bible, that quickly silences Calvinist theology. First in (Romans 6:14-20) it says that unbelievers are slaves to sin, are very sick (Jer 17:9), are full of evil Mark (7:21-23), love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19), are dead to his sins (Eph 2:1), do not seek after God (Rom 3:10-12), and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14) (http://www.carm.org/open/free_will.htm). Lets pause on Romans 3:10-12. The verse says that there are none who seek after God and there are no righteous. Robert Picirilli comments.
Man is fallen and thoroughly depraved. He is therefore capable of no good apart from
the help of God to enable him. He is not capable, that is, of any good that would justify him
before God, or of any absolute good--not even capable, apart from God's gracious work, of
responding in faith to the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ (Picirilli 2000, 261).
Isn't it a main point in Calvin theology that says that God chooses who will be with him in Paradise and that he chooses others to go to hell? If the scriptures are literal and that we do not seek after God since we are not all righteous, then John Calvin is in deep error for teaching a bad doctrine of predestination.
Calvin John. 1957. The Epistles of Paul
to the Galatians and Ephesians.
Grand Rapids: Michigan.
Picirilli, Robert E. 2000. Foreknowledge, freedom, and the future: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43 no. 2: 259-271.
Simpson A.B. 1984. The FourFold Gospel. Camp Hill: Christian Publications.
Sproul RC. 1986. Chosen by God. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Unger, Merrill F. 1957. The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
Walls, Jerry L. 1994. The Free Will Defense, Calvinism,Wesley, and the Goodness of God: Christian Scholars Review 13 no.1: 19-33.
Predestination And Free Will available from http://aibi.gospelcom.net/aibi/predestination.htm; Internet; accessed 2 December 2004.
Open Theism and Libertarian Free Will available from http://www.carm.org/open/free_will.htm; Internet; accessed 2 December 2004.
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