Calvinism: From God or Man? #2 God's Sovereignty And Man's Choice
When studying about Calvinism it is necessary to talk about each point of the “TULIP” However, before we go down that road, we need to back up and discuss something that is absolutely essential in understanding the huge gap that exists between the Calvinist, and those who do not accept those ideas.
Before diving into each point of Calvinist theology, we must first of all start with the Sovereignty of God. We will notice the Free Will of mankind. How the Calvinist views free will, and what the Sovereignty of God has to do with man’s actions.
First let us define what we mean by “sovereignty.”
A Sovereign is someone who possesses or holds supreme power. Politically or otherwise.
For instance, kings are often referred to as “sovereign” because of their power. It is a king who has total power over his kingdom.
And so, as we think of the creator God, we think of a Sovereign who has power over his Creation.
Calvinist, A.W. Pink does give a good definition of Sovereignty. He says
We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of the God, the godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psm.22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the...Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords...(1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible. (Pink p.19)
And so, we will agree, that this is a pretty good definition of what it means when we talk about God being sovereign.
The problem that exists between us and the Calvinist, at least in regards to sovereignty, is not in the definition of the term. But rather, in the usage of the power of the Sovereign.
Pink will say in that same book, that there are only 2 options available. Either God is exercising total control over His creation, or God cannot be Almighty. He either is controlling and has already ordained every single event that has occurred or will occur. Every single thing, that happens, God has caused to happen.
And so, the discussion today is not going to be about the “definition” of the word sovereign, it is not about the AMOUNT of Power that God has - but really the usage of the power of the sovereign God.
When I was a little boy, my father had complete and total control over my life. At any moment, if he had wanted to, he could have destroyed me in any number of ways. When I was a tiny baby, I was completely dependent upon my mother and father for food, and for clothing. But as I continued to grow, my parents, allowed me certain freedoms. They gave me the ability to CHOOSE. They gave me rules to follow, and a choice, of whether to follow them or not. They told me the consequences of obedience and the consequences of disobedience, and then they allowed me to choose.
If I obeyed or disobeyed, it had nothing to do with how much power they had. They still had the exact same amount of power. The same is true with God.
God has given us the ability to choose. If I do obey Him, or if I do not obey him, it has nothing to do with how much power he has.
The same is true with a King or Queen today. A sovereign over a country; he lays out laws, and gives those in his kingdom the choice to obey or disobey. But, if they disobey, does that in some way take away from the Kings Power? Of course it does not.
In fact, isn’t that exactly what God did with Adam and Eve? He gave them a commandment, gave them freedom to choose, gave a consequence for not obeying the commandment and then left it up to them to make the right choice.
They had freedom to choose, and they chose incorrectly. Now, in that instance—in that very moment, that they chose to disobey God, did God lose his power? Did he somehow stop being Sovereign? Absolutely not! He was the same God after they sinned, as he was before they did.
Folks, it’s the same today- if not why not? If I choose to disobey God, does that mean He is not Sovereign? Of course it doesn’t.
It was not a surprise for God when men chose to do wrong. He, from before the foundations of the world, had a plan to save mankind should man choose the wrong.
Again, Pink, in his book The Sovereignty of God, in the very introduction says "those who embrace a doctrine of free will, believe in a disappointed God." (Pink, intro)
Well, I suggest that there have been times that God has been frustrated, and even disappointed. Why? Because, of the choices that His creation has made. When a parent trains a child to do a certain thing, and the child grows to make his own choice, and he disobeys his parents, did the parents somehow lose their power or authority over the child? Of course not. If a parent lost his power over the child, he could no longer discipline, or punish the child. Is the parent disappointed and even frustrated with the child? Yes of course he is.
Well, God has not lost His power over us, just because we make the wrong choice, he still has the ability and the right to punish us, as he chooses. And, when we continually disobey Him, there is little doubt but that he is disappointed.
5And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (Genesis 6:5-6)
He was grieved at the choices that mankind had made. Question, did God lose his sovereignty? Did he lose his power? The text reveals, that he destroyed all mankind with the exception of 8 souls, and – that because they did what He said.
So, the idea that A.W. Pink says… that God is either in control of all things, or that he is not God at all, is by no means scriptural. God gives man the opportunity to choose, just as he had at one time given angels the right to choose, and some of the angels, chose to sin. And men will also choose to sin. But, whether men or angels choose to obey or disobey, what does that have to do with the power and the sovereignty of God?
Some, in fact most Calvinist’s will argue that God has decreed everything that comes to pass. And that man has no choice in the matter.
God makes the choice of men absolutely clear when he says in Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore, choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
God is giving man a choice – he is saying to Israel, you have a choice to make, choose life, and blessing, or choose death and cursing – but whatever you do, you better make a choice.
Folks, it is clear – God has given us the ability to choose, and just like kings, and just like parents he has given us rules to follow and the consequences of not following, and the blessings of following.
But the choice is ours to make.
In Chapter 1 of AW Pink’s book, he says:
To argue that man is a free moral agent and the determiner of his own destiny, and that therefore he has the power to checkmate his Maker, is to strip God of the attribute of Omnipotence. (P 15)
As we said before, we are not arguing about the power of God, we are simply in a disagreement about the usage of that power.
To say that God is all powerful, does not necessarily suggest that he uses every bit of his power at all times. That he moves men by force, that he causes one man to be saved, and causes another man to be lost. To claim such simply makes God a respecter of persons, and yet the inspired writer wrote in Acts 10 that God is no respecter of persons.
34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35)
Who is it that God accepts… those He forces himself upon? No, those who fear him, and… who works righteousness.
Not only so, but if God is to be- as the Calvinist claims, Sovereign in his actions, all powerful in his every move and all controlling of each small detail of his creation.
Then we have a dilemma for the Calvinist. And that is this: The scriptures clearly teach that God wills that all men should be saved. 2 Peter 3:9, says that God is longsuffering to usward, not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance.
Now, if that is God’s will – and (as the Calvinist claims) man has no choice in the matter. Then none shall perish, and all will be saved.
For what God is so powerful that he can save all man, that he wants to save all man, and since man has no choice in the matter, it follows that he will save all men.
However, that is not what we see. Scriptures plainly teach, that not all men will be saved. And folks, I submit to you today, that the reason all men will not be saved, is not because God is not powerful enough to save all men. He is!
The reason all men will not be saved, is because God loved man enough, to give man the right to choose to be saved or not.
Folks, the act of giving man free will shows us the Love of the Father.
How many Calvinists have ever forced their Spouses to love them? How many Calvinists have ever tried to make a potential partner fall in love with them. Now, I’m not suggesting, that he just put his best foot forward and hoped and prayed that she loved him in return. But rather, he actually forced her to love him. She had absolutely no choice in the matter.
Well, we all know that you cannot force someone to love you. Oh, the rapist, might force someone to have a sexual encounter with them, but that’s not love. A Parent might force a child to come with him after a bitter divorce- but he cannot force him to love. Why? Because the way we show love, is based upon individual free will. Love is not forced upon us.
And when God created man, he did not force certain of us to love him, and certain of us to hate him. He gave us a choice, and in so doing, showed his love to us.
The fact of the matter is God knows us. And he knows that when you give man a choice, you are giving him the option to obey or disobey. To love or not to love.
Now, I know that Calvinist’s do not like to hear this kind of language. But, it is the truth. A God that forces love, forces people to obey, by putting within them the “program” to follow him. He has done nothing more than created robots to do his bidding. Robots are not capable of love, they are only capable of doing exactly as their master has programmed them to do.
It is a fact, that God wants all men to Love him. He wants all men to be saved.
Listen to the scriptures again.
9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
That verse alone tells me that I have a choice, and I can choose to come to repentance. God wants all men to be saved. But God knows that the Majority of people will be lost.
13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matt. 7:13-14)
So God knows, that in giving men choice, he has allowed men to love him and obey, or not to love him, and to disobey. And then he also gave man the consequences for each.
Now, I want to make some statements– to help us get an idea of what the root of the problem for the Calvinist God is. Now, we will agree on some things, but as we study together, you will see some things we will not be able to agree upon.
- God is all powerful. Now we all agree with that. People on both sides of this argument, believe that God is all powerful.
- God is all good. Again, there is no disagreement about that. Both sides of the issue agree that God is a being that is all good.
- God wills (his desire) all man to be saved. (2 Peter 3:9) it is a plain fact of Scripture, any man who says God does not desire all men to be saved, stand in stark contrast to what God says. God is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to usward not willing that ANY should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Now that is a fact.
- Now this is where we will disagree, right here- Calvinists teach that whatever happens, it is the will of God. Every single event that man does, is being controlled or made to happen, by the Sovereign nature of God. Notice, their words. From the Presbyterian confession of faith. “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own free will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” That is, every single thing that happens, it is God’s choice that it happens.
- Therefore- the conclusion is, all men will be saved.
Okay, so lets just see. God is all powerful, God is all good, God wills all men to be saved, and God (according to the Calvinist) ordains every event that happens. Therefore, if he is all powerful, - he has the power to save all mankind.
If he is all good, - his “Goodness” desires good things for all man.
According to God’s own word, He desires no man to be lost, but all men to come to repentance.
According to the Calvinist, - God ordains and directs every single event in life that happens.
The only conclusion we can come to, if this argument is correct, is- that all men will be saved. And yet, we know for a fact, that not all men will be saved. (Matt. 7:21)
I submit to you that, the only one of those 4 statements that is incorrect, is the fourth one, which states that God ordains, and directs every single event that happens in life.
Yes, God wants all men to be saved, but all men will not be saved - why not?
The reason all men will not be saved, is not because God has chosen men to go to Hell. Not that he has taken away any responsibility from mankind. But rather, - God loved us enough, to give us choice, to choose to love him in return, and yet many people will not be saved, because they choose not to love him.
So let us look at some passages, that show that God has given us Choice.
Does God give mankind Free-Will?
First, let us ask what we mean by free will. Exactly what is “free will,” or “freedom of choice”? It is not the liberty to do whatever one wishes, with no accountability attached to it. “Free will” is simply the ability to choose between certain options.
To choose between “right” and “wrong.” To choose to “do,” or “not do a thing.” Friend, this is the way all of the world’s societies have been set up. Laws are made, and people choose to obey or not obey, knowing the consequences of each.
Employers operate on the basis that their employees have the ability to make decisions. The judicial branch of our government says to the criminal: “You are responsible for your actions; you had the ability to choose. You simply made a bad choice. And because of that choice, you will pay the penalty.
When God granted free will to the human family, he placed upon us more than just animal instinct - he gave us a great gift; the power to make moral choices. Friends, He did not give the animals this gift. Animals have no sense of ought, or moral capacity to choose based upon a system of beliefs. He gave us, mankind the ability to choose.
But as Wayne Jackson correctly states:
But with “ability” comes also “responsibility.” Responsibility is what a person with choices “ought” to do, and the fact that each of us frequently does what he knows he “ought not,” or else he fails to do what he knows he “ought,” does not nullify the choosing power resident within our souls. If there is no “ability to respond,” there is no responsibility! (Jackson)
Folks, the truth is, that if God has not given us the ability to respond, then God has taken away our responsibility as well, and cannot hold us responsible for sin.
So the question is, has God given mankind free-will? Do we have a choice to make? Christ calls us to come. He says “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) Does, Christ invite me, and then not allow me to come? Or has he invited me, and I must make the choice whether to come or not?
It sounds similar to a passage in the Old Testament. Remember, Joshua 24:15 as he stands to deliver his message to his fellow Israelites, he says, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” they had a choice to make, to serve the God of Heaven, or to serve the god’s and idols that their fathers used to serve. But, the point is, that there was a choice to be made.
God gave Adam and Eve choice in the garden. Calvinist’s will agree with that. So we will not argue about that right now. But, what about their children, did God give them choice? Well, Genesis 4, Cain and Abel both offered sacrifice, you will remember Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, Cain got angry with God.
6And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? 7If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. (Gen. 6:6-7)
Now, notice, I did not say one word about Cain having a choice… but does it appear that Cain had a choice? God said “if you do well, you will be accepted, if not, sin lieth at the door.” Does that sound like a choice to you?
Well, what about Noah, God saw the evil choices that man had made all down throughout the years. And it grieved him at his heart. Genesis 6 tells us, that God told Noah to build an ark, and it gives the dimensions, and all the rules he was to follow. Then at the end of the chapter, Genesis 6:22 it says “Thus did Noah, according to all that God command him, so did he.”
Did Noah have a choice, to obey or not to obey? Was there any action Noah had to do, to save his soul from being destroyed by the flood. Or, did God save Noah, based upon nothing that Noah did? – well, I’ll let you decide.
So, you say, yes, but Noah chose correctly. Yes indeed, but Noah chose! That is the key. He had a choice to make. The Calvinist says he had no choice in the matter, at all. That God chooses for Noah.
Well, now we will fast forward in the life of Noah, a little over one year later, the water has subsided. The floods have gone down, and they are all out of the ark.
We come to Genesis 9: 20 where the Bible records for us. “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drunk of the wine, and was drunken…”
Now, he planted a vineyard, who did? Noah planted – then, Noah drank the wine, and then Noah got drunk. Now, who made all these choices? Did God make these choices?
Again, let me recall for you the Presbyterian confession of faith. “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own free will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”
Now, I want you to see, the Calvinist God is not just “allowing” things to happen. That gives man choice. His God is actually causing or forcing all things to happen.
But this passage in Genesis 9 says, Noah got drunk. Someone made a choice to drink wine, and someone made the choice to get drunk.
Now, let us see for a moment what God says about drunkenness.
Proverbs 20:1-Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Ephesians 5:18- And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit
Galatians 5:19-21 -Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Now these are just a few verses about what God says about drunkenness. So the question that begs to be asked is this. Did God choose for Noah to get drunk? Or did Noah choose to get drunk?
Noah must cause a lot of trouble for the Calvinist. Because, in the matter of just a few chapters, in basically one single year in the life of Noah – he according to their thinking, was forced by God to build a large boat, and save himself and his family. He gets out of that boat, and God forces Noah, to build an altar of praise to God. And then, just a little while later, God forces Noah to get drunk and sin.
Drunkenness is certainly a sin. If God chose to cause Noah to sin, then God is responsible for the sin of Noah. But, James says in James 1:13, “let no man say when he is tempted, that he is tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and neither tempteth he any man.”
So, that tells me, that Noah made a choice, not God. He made the wrong choice, and yet folks, God was still sovereign after the choice that Noah made.
Now, I submit to you that we could go through practically every single event in the Bible, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, the Tower of Babel, Abraham and Lot, Isaac, Jacob, all the way down the line, and we would see, that men made choices. Some choices were pleasing to God, some choices were not pleasing to God. But, God was not diminished one bit, because of the choice that man made.
The fact through all of scripture is that God loves mankind enough, to allow us to have free choice. Go back sometime and read the great”faith chapter” of all the Bible- Hebrews 11. You will find, men and women who were faithful – they were faithful, not because God forced them to be faithful. But because God told them what to do, and they did what God said. The fact that they obeyed was evidence of their faith. But friend make no mistake about it, they chose to obey.
God is sovereign, and man has free will. Friends, this is the God of the Bible.
The facts are simple and clear. God is indeed sovereign. He is in control of all things, but God allows man to make choices. And that being the case, if we have free will, then there must be some condition that must be met, if mankind is to be saved.
Of course the true Calvinist, will also deny this. They will say that salvation is based upon absolutely no condition whatsoever. So we will discuss this next time.
Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (GrandRapids: Baker Book House, 1930), p. 19.
Jackson, Wayne. "Does "Free Will" Grant a License to Sin?" ChristianCourier.com. Access date: August 30, 2017. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/932-does-free-will-grant-a-license-to-sin