The God of the Bible is a God of conditionals. Just think of all the "if .. then" statements in the Bible. God told Abraham in Genesis 18:26 that "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." Then, in Exodus 19:5, God told the Children of Israel, "if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people." And in John 8:51, Jesus said, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." These conditionals are literally everywhere in Scripture. Whether Joshua's "choose you this day whom ye will serve" or Elijah's "How long halt ye between two opinions?" or Christ's final "whosoever will," God has consistently presented men with spiritual choices for them to make. The fact that God so often asks all men, both lost and saved, to make spiritual decisions necessarily implies that all men have the ability to make those decisions.
Of course the Calvinist argument against this implication is that it would impinge on the sovereignty of God. As A. W. Pink phrased it:
Two alternatives confront us, and between them we are obliged to choose: either God governs, or He is governed: either God rules, or He is ruled; either God has His way, or men have theirs.
According to this argument, God cannot give man free will because to do so would lessen His authority. But is that really the case? Does a king become less of a king if he allows his subjects to choose whether to obey him or not? Does a father become less of a father if he gives an orphan the choice of whether or not to become his son? In essence, the Calvinist is denying that God is sovereign over His own sovereignty. God has the ability to work all things according to His will unless it is His will to make man a free agent. What audacity to presume to tell God what He can and cannot will to do.
But perhaps the Calvinist will argue that God did create men with a free will but their will is bound to follow His decrees. This view of man's will is known as compatibilism, and it is advocated by Dr. James White as the solution to the question of how God can hold men accountable for their actions if they are bound to follow His decrees. I'll set aside the obvious logical fallacy for the moment and focus instead on the fact that the doctrine of compatibilism is itself incompatible with Scripture.
Dr. White presents the example of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and argues that:
One sinful action (the betrayal and sale of Joseph into slavery) is in view: Joseph's brothers meant their actions for evil. But in direct parallel, God meant the same action for good. Due to the intention of the hearts of Joseph's brothers, the action in the human realm was evil. The very same action as part of God's eternal decree was meant for good, for by it God brought about His purpose and plan. One action, two intentions, compatible in all things. Joseph's brothers were accountable for their intentions; God is to be glorified for His.
Dr. White's argument is that God did not just allow men to choose evil actions and then frustrate their evil intent by using their actions to accomplish something good. Rather, he argues that God actively causes men to do evil things in order to do good things. This is a direct violation of God's own law, for Christ told us in Matthew 7:18 that "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit." Obviously, God is completely good, thus for Him to produce something evil would be a direct contradiction of this passage of Scripture. We could here repeat the words of Christ in Matthew 12:33:
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
This idea that the same evil fruit is produced by both the goodness of God and the wickedness of men borders on blasphemy.
The Calvinist may further argue that there is no example in Scripture of men ever doing something contrary to the will of God, but in this too, he would be wrong. There are several passages in Scripture which reference men frustrating the will of God. In fact, one of the clearest examples of this was presented to us by Christ Himself in Matthew 23:37-38 where He said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
Here we have Jesus Himself admitting that His desire was to treat Jerusalem in a particular manner, but He could not do so because the people of Jerusalem did not share that desire. Jesus presented this same concept in parable form in chapter 22 of Matthew. There He likened the kingdom of heaven to a king who had arranged a wedding for his son. In verse 3 of that chapter, we read of this king that he "sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come." Once again we see that the desire and even the bidding of the king was for the people to come, but they did not do so because their own will was contrary to that of the king. And in Isaiah 65:12, we further read that God's judgment was kindled against Israel specifically because they chose to reject His call upon them:
Therefore will I number you to the sword, and ye shall all bow down to the slaughter: because when I called, ye did not answer; when I spake, ye did not hear; but did evil before mine eyes, and did choose that wherein I delighted not.
Once again, many additional examples could be given. The Scriptures are replete with accounts of men doing things contrary to the will and the desire of God. These examples are only possible if God has in fact endowed all men with individual soul liberty.
Read more in this series:
The BIBLE and the TULIP
Basic Ability vs. Total Depravity
Individual Soul Liberty vs. Unconditional Election
Benevolent Atonement vs. Limited Atonement
Limited Mercy vs. Irresistible Grace (coming soon)
Eternal Security vs. Perseverance of the Saints (coming soon)
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." (Proverbs 9:9)