A response to an article written here http://www.godcontention.org/christian/do-we-have-free-will.
God has been softening my heart in the last 2 years, with regards to the concept of election.
As Timothy McCabe notes in his article:
1. God causes people to sin.
Acts 4:27-28 – For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.
(Also see Isaiah 63:17; Job 1:21-22; 1 Chronicles 21:1-8 combined with 2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Samuel 2:25; Exodus 4:21; Deuteronomy 2:30; Romans 9:17-24; Genesis 45:5-8; Judges 14:4; Luke 22:22; Revelation 17:17; Lamentations 2:6)
2. God judges as guilty those that He caused to sin.
Romans 9:19-20 – You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?
(Also see Acts 2:36-38; 1 Chronicles 21:7-12; Romans 9:17-24; Mark 11:13-14; 1 Samuel 2:25, 3:13; Exodus 14:4)
3. God often compares humans to inanimate objects in His hands.
Isaiah 29:16 – You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
(Also see Isaiah 10:12-15, 45:9, 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:21; Matthew 7:19; Luke 13:9; Matthew 3:12; 1 Corinthians 5:6; 2 Timothy 2:20-21)
4. God Himself gives people hard and unrepentant hearts.
Exodus 7:3 – I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.
(Also see Exodus 4:21, 9:12, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4; Deuteronomy 2:30; John 12:40)
5. God Himself gives people soft and repentant hearts.
Ezekiel 36:26 – Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
(Also see Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezra 6:22; Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26; Daniel 1:9, 4:37; Psalm 106:46; John 6:44, 15:5; Acts 16:14; Philippians 1:29)
6. God does whatever He wants.
Psalm 135:6 – Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps.
(Also see Psalm 115:3; Job 23:13; Romans 9:18; Proverbs 21:1; Daniel 4:17, 25, 32, 5:21; John 5:21; Matthew 11:27; James 4:15)
7. God causes whatever happens, including our decisions.
Ephesians 1:4-11 – We have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.
(Also see Romans 8:28-30, 11:6, 11:36; Proverbs 16:1,4,9,33, 21:1; Job 1:21-22, 37:13; Isaiah 44:24; Amos 3:6; Matthew 5:45; Psalm 104:14; 1 Corinthians 3:7, 12:6; Jeremiah 10:23; John 1:3, 3:27, 15:5)
8. God knows what we will do in the future.
Dan 2:45 – God has made known to the king what will take place in the future.
(Also see 2 Samuel 7:19; Isaiah 42:9, 44:7, 48:5; Deuteronomy 18:22; Daniel 10:14)
Clearly God is sovereign and in control of all that happens. But does that sovereignty extend so far as to actually remove the choice to be saved from a believer? Tim further notes in one of his comments: “Under a free-will doctrine, praying for someone with a hardened heart is out of place, since God does not change people’s opinions or wills. Praying for someone with a hard heart only makes sense if God controls their heart.”
But you also need to deal with verses like these, that clearly show a choice is involved, not just once, but a continual faith to the end.
Luk 8:13 NKJV – “But the ones on the rock [are those] who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.
Hbr 2:1 NKJV – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
Hbr 3:12 NKJV – Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
Hbr 3:13 NKJV – but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
Hbr 3:14 NKJV – For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
Hbr 6:4 NKJV – For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
Hbr 6:5 NKJV – and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
Hbr 6:6 NKJV – if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put [Him] to an open shame.
1Cr 15:1 NKJV – Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
1Cr 15:2 NKJV – by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
1Ti 1:18 NKJV – This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,
1Ti 1:19 NKJV – having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck,
1Ti 1:20 NKJV – of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
1Ti 4:1 NKJV – Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,
2Ti 2:12 NKJV – If we endure, We shall also reign with [Him]. If we deny [Him], He also will deny us.
Jam 5:19 NKJV – Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
Jam 5:20 NKJV – let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
2Pe 3:17 NKJV – You therefore, beloved, since you know [this] beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked;
When you become a believer, your name is written in the book of life:
Phl 4:3 NKJV – And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names [are] in the Book of Life.
Note however, that IT CAN BE REMOVED AGAIN!!!
Rev 3:3 NKJV – “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Rev 3:4 NKJV – “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
Rev 3:5 NKJV – “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Teaching “hard determinism” to unbelievers is dangerous. Especially in the sense that Timothy does it, where he basically claims that your choices flows from you feelings and desires, and God is ultimately in control of them.
Here is a comment I made to Tim:
Unbelievers will hear this message, and inspect themselves and realize they have no regard for God. The conclusion? Clearly God did not choose me, so I will reject this God even more so…
So how do you find the middle ground of truth between these 2 extremes? On the one hand you have hard determinism or Calvinism or OSAS (Once saved always saved), where God is supremely in control – even of your own feelings, and hence your choices. Is it fair then for God to condemn you to an eternity in hell, if He is ultimately responsible for you choices?
On the other hand you have Armenian-ism, where it is all up to you. You save yourself, and God no longer has a say… Clearly there are Bible verses that can be used to condone both these doctrines – so where is the middle ground of truth?
My current thinking leans towards the following: God also have a will, and He is sovereign. Some people He clearly calls or rejects irrespective of their own wills or feelings. Take Paul for example, he got struck blind and had direct revelation from God. I do not think He had much choice in the matter. You also have people like Ananias and Sapphira – whom were clearly already believers – yet they got struck down and killed for lying to the church. You also have this passage in Matthew that scare me to bits: [Mat 7:22-23 NKJV] 22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Where people will think they are saved, yet they are not! And you have examples like Judas or Pharaoh, where God claims to have hardened his heart – thus preventing any kind of belief or repentance. So BOTH God and the person needs to choose each other.
This means we can have the following situations:
- You choose God, God chooses you – heaven
- You choose God, God does not choose you – hell (“depart from me, I never knew you”)
- You do not choose God, God chooses you – like Paul (and some Prophets and Pastors), this is an irresistible choice and you will turn.
- You do not choose God, God does not choose you – hell
This is not a once-off choice though, even after God chose you and you chose God, you have to keep on doing so – else you are still in danger of losing your salvation as the Bible passages previously clearly shows. We are warned in no uncertain terms to make our call and election sure:
[2Pe 1:10-11 NKJV] 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We are also told in no uncertain terms in James, that your faith is dead if does not become works:
[Jas 2:17-20, 22, 24, 26 NKJV] 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? … 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? … 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. … 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
We do not work to get saved! Nay, our work is proof we do indeed have a saving faith! In Evangelical Christianity, we have such a focus on the sinners prayer and conversions, that we are no longer making disciples. Jesus made it clear, that there will be people in the end that prophesied, cast out devils and did miracles in His name, yet He NEVER knew them. Even the devils believe there is indeed a God, yet this is not the type of faith that get you saved! A saving faith must have the following characteristics (to name a few):
- Puts God first in your life in all you do ([Mat 10:37-38 NKJV] 37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.)
- Really Truly Loves (1Jo 3:10 NKJV 10″ In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor [is] he who does not love his brother.” and again, merely saying or acting like you love the people around you is not enough- you love has to become tangible deeds [1Jo 3:18 NKJV] 18 “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”)
- Overcomes (see the admonitions to the overcomers by Jesus to the 7 churches in Rev 2 & 3)
- Works (Jas 2:20 NKJV 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?)
- Is Zealous and not Luke-warm (Note Jesus’ admonition the church in Laodicea, where He warns the church [Rev 3:16 NKJV] 16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.)
- Produce the correct fruit (see Gal 5:19 – 23 and the stern warning directly thereafter: [Gal 5:24 NKJV] 24 And those [who are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires., it is imperative for you to crucify the flesh – else you are not Christ’s…)
So I encourage us all, to do some serious introspection, prayerfully and brutally honest – to measure if our faith really measures up to the above…