Old Doxoblogy

Monday, December 05, 2005

Has Anyone Ever Believed Against Their Will?

As far as Arminian/Calvinist debates are concerned, this is a loaded question. And that's putting it mildly. Often one of the main objections to Calvinism is that God somehow makes men into robots and that this makes men's praise not a product of the will.

As a Calvinist let me say, "That's a lot of bunk."

This is not what Calvinists believe. God does not make men into robots that worship Him any more than He made the writers of Scripture into robots when they wrote their respective books. As we know, Scripture was inspired in such a way that the Prophets and Apostles wrote in such a way that they maintained their own identities and styles, wrote what they meant to write, but with the Holy Spirit as a guide who made them infallible as they wrote. They were not always infallible, but only when they wrote Scripture.

But this article is not about inspiration. It's about free will. So what does inspiration have to do with free will? A lot, I think. It is evident, even in the Arminian's mind, that this is a situation (inspiration) where God works in such a way to provide an intended result without making men into robots.
This is similar to what Calvinists believe about free will. God never saves anyone against their will. This the Calvinist believes. But the Calvinist also believes that no one is willing to be saved. We are all headed the opposite direction. We are living in a state of condemnation and trudging along the path to make that condemnation secure. Obviously, something must happen. But before we get to that, let me highlight the condition of man as revealed in Scripture.

as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.", "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Rom 3:10-18)

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3)

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1Co 6:9-10)

Those three passages do not leave much hope, do they? But we know that there is hope. What hope is this? Is it a hope that we are somehow smarter than the rest of humanity and able to conclude that if we don't do better we will go to hell? Or is it that we are better than the rest of humanity and have more self-control? Is it that we can recognize a good offer when we see it?
None of these are the right answers. Here is what the Bible says:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:4-9)

Even when we were dead, God made us alive. Problem resolved. God did it. How did He do it? Did He overpower us, stick a gun to our heads and say, "You better repent!" No, He made us alive. When we were in our lost condition, dead to righteousness, God sent the Gospel, and through the Gospel the Spirit came and breathed new life into us. We were reborn. Born with a new nature. Born with a new set of 'want tos'. We were recreated in a split second and in that split second we wanted to believe and repent. We were willing. Did we change into another person? No, we have the same bodies, the same mannerisms, the same green eyes and brown hair, but we have changed. We have changed masters. We have changed within. We hate sin, love God, we do not think on evil, but on that which is good, we do not rebel against Christ, but run to Him and embrace Him as a friend. We changed natures. Better put, God changed our natures.

We were reborn and willingly turned to Christ from our sins. The unwilling believer does not exist. The robot-man does not exist. Only a new creation.


forgiven said...

Hi Dox

Arminian/Calvinist debates it hard to see a reaction to love from your stand point. My stand point is; He Firsted loved us so we love Him. But tell me if I'm wrong yours is; He loves us and He allows us to love Him.

Thanks Dox

Calviminian said...

Thanks for posting this series. I have been reading several blogs with a reformed bent over the past months, but have yet had the opportunity to discuss the doctrines of grace.

Despite your post, it seems that irresitible grace would require conversion against a man's will. If I understand you correctly: No one desires to believe the Gospel; God calls, irresistibly; and man,now desiring and able to believe (unable not to belive), chooses to believe.

However, you focus on the choice after God's calling and neglect the lack of choice prior to God's intervention. That man does not desire God's intervention and God irresitibly intervenes. The man had no choice because according to Calvinism (as I understand it), once God does intervene, no one can persitently resist. Those that God calls cannot refuse and those that God does not call cannot choose.

Removing man's option to refuse God's grace creates in my mind a limited view of God's love for all men, which is my main problem with Calvinism. I write this with a vested interest in the subject - I have three small children.

One is saved, elected, or whatever you would like to call it. And two which are not. What is my hope if God irresitibly calls some and not others? As one who believes in some degree of choice given to man, I have hope - a confident expectation- that God will intervene and make Himself real to my children, giving them an opportunity to receive eternal life. I have that hope because I also believe that He loves my children far more than I ever can or will and desires them to be saved from wrath. Jesus said "Greater love has no man than he lay down his life for his friends." That's how I know He loves me. That's how I know he loves my children and all of mankind.

If I accepted all five points of Calvinism, It would seem I can only pray and wish that he might choose the remaining kids. (I am not intending to insult you, only to express my view of the effect of this doctrine.) It also seems that I could never be sure that I was among the elect as well.

In your first post on these topics, you describe God as Creator, Soverign, and Wise, but omit Love. I believe the quest to express and preserve our opinion of God's sovereignty may somehow dimish the equally important description of God's love. That is the question I am trying to resolve. I am sure you care for many who are non-believers. How do you deal with the issue of whether or not God loves them?

If God calls only some, how can we say that God loves the non-elect. In "The Atonement is For Everyone" you state that Christ death purchased benefits everyone because it preserves everyone alive until the second coming of Christ. If you are created with no opportunity for salvation, how is that a benefit? Would it not be far better that the earth were destroyed sooner, with fewer people in hell?

I believe God elects and yet somehow gives us a choice. I do not regard myself as superior for having received Christ. I am only grateful for God's wonderful grace. Sorry for the long post, but its been building for months.

John said...


Once again another amazing post! I want to call Doxoblogist the Defender of the Faith. I would have to steal that tittle from Prince Charles of course. But you are much more deserving of it!


Joe said...

I was actively seeking the truth and what God was about when I first heard that sin in my life separated me from Him.

The Spirit of God said to me, "Is this what you want? Then repent of your sin and turn in faith to Christ, believing in His finished work at Calvary."

I did.

What camp does this put me in?

Jeremy Weaver said...

I agree, Forgiven. The post just took a little different angle.

Just to define terms:
Regeneration: New Birth
Conversion: Faith and Repentance.
My veiw requires the new birth to take place so that we can be converted, which is in accordance with our will.
I didn't neglect choice prior to conversion, I said we always chose wrong.
Every man that lives, outside of the work of God, are refusing Christ by their actions.
BTW, You don't have to hear the Gospel in order to reject Christ.
I'll respond to the rest of your comment later. Time for work.

Steve Weaver said...

Another good post!

bluecollar said...

Great post my dear brother!

GeneMBridges said...

If God calls only some, how can we say that God loves the non-elect. In "The Atonement is For Everyone" you state that Christ death purchased benefits everyone because it preserves everyone alive until the second coming of Christ. If you are created with no opportunity for salvation, how is that a benefit? Would it not be far better that the earth were destroyed sooner, with fewer people in hell?

Actually, this is a question those who believe in general atonement must answer as well, for there are those whom God creates that will never hear the gospel and will never have any opportunity at all to be saved. Zip, zero, nada, none at all. How then, can it be said that Christ died to give everybody an opportunity to believe, when not everybody is given such an opportunity? How then can you say that God is doing everything He can, when the free will position implies He values the freedom of the will more than human life?

In the end God knows everything (is omniscient) and therefore, even in the libertarian scheme, prior to even creating the universe God knows the choices all persons will make before creating them, so why did He go ahead an create them? Libertarians cannot consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. It is obviously within His providence for this person to be lost for he could easily have chosen not to create them if He so desired. In the same way, if God foreknew who would be saved then how could we consistently preach that that God is trying to save every man? God knows whom He can save or who will be saved, so who would claim that He is trying to save more?

Does irresistible grace require conversion against a man's will? Question, what is the condition of men's will before conversion according to Scripture? Can men in their natural state muster saving faith? No. Can they please God? No. Can they understand spiritual truth? No.

The unwillingness of men comes from their morality. It affects their will.

The free will position requires that the will is indeterminate. Thus, it is the free will position, not the Calvnist position that requires that men do something against their wills, for no man is truly free in such a view unless they can choose against the dictates of their own nature. Calvinism affirms compatibilism. Men make no choices they do not want to make. Men are unable to believe because they love evil and do not want to believe.

, in Calvinism, salvation is about mercy. In Arminianism it is the result of God responding to men’s wills and thus in the category of justice not mercy. Arminianism is thus unmerciful, because it puts salvation out of the category of mercy altogether.

Sometimes Arminians appeal to a doctrine of prevenient grace, asserting that God’s grace enables people to believe, but is not effectual. It moves them from a state of total inability to a state of “equipoise.” This does not alleviate their difficulty.

If the person is truly at “equipoise,” he would make no choice at all. Think of a car in neutral on a flat surface in a vacuum. Remember, according to the Arminian, there must be no external or internal influence (God’s grace or desires) that direct the choices of men for them to be free (in the libertarian sense). Unless somebody pushes the car and a force is exerted upon the car or by the car, either by the driver putting it in reverse or in a driving gear or by pushing the car, the car will not move. The problem for the Arminian is that, no matter what he says, the individual must make his decision from within himself in response to this prevenient grace, thus, this decision is still out of the chain of grace and located within his own person. Since all people believe for different reasons, the libertarian must say the person’s choice was uncaused (an absurdity violating the law of cause and effect), or it was made because s/he was smarter, more fearful, more spiritual, etc., all of which are intrinsic conditions in men. As such, the libertarian is still putting salvation in the category of justice, not mercy. God is saving those who save themselves.

The Arminian position reduces to real fatalism, because men must be able to choose in a manner contrary to their natures, not determined by their desires or in some way by God. Thus, random chance may be a factor in their coming to saving faith. Alternatively, they believe because they are more spiritual, intellectual, or fearful, thus making this position a form of salvation by merit, not salvation by grace.

How does one come by saving faith in Scripture? Does it rise from a state of nature or a state of grace?

Bhedr said...


That would mean you repented of your own freewill so you need to go to the Arminian camp but don't tell them we *sent* you there or they will tell you to come back here:-) as you didn't go there of your own free will but were sent there.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Sorry I couldn't finish my response last night, since Blogger was down.
But basically, just read what Gene wrote. (Thanks Gene).
I too have two sons. Neither have believed as of yet. Yet as a Calvinist I understand that God uses the means of the Gospel to bring faith and repentance. All those who God predestines to salvation are also suplied with a preacher who brings the Gospel.
Since by God's grace my children were born into a preacher's home where they are daily exposed to the Gospel, I can have good reason to believe that they both might be elect, even though they as of yet have not believed.
Furthermore, how do you as an 'Calviminian' pray for your children? Do you pray for God to save them, or for them to save themselves?
It seems to me that Arminianism provides the least comfort for parents who which to see their children come to faith. The Bible clearly teaches that no one seeks after God. If they are left to themselves they will never come to faith in Christ. Better a God who works sovereignly in all the affairs of life.

Calviminian said...


Thanks for responding! I now realize my post was a bit long. That realization may not stop me from repeating my error.

Can a man refuse regeneration as you define it? I think your answer will be he does not desire it and cannot prevent it. Once regenerate, does a man always desire conversion. I think your response will be that he always will. If these assumptions are accurate, God ultimately causes conversion against the man's will when He regenerates the man.

You state that "Since by God's grace my children were born into a preacher's home where they are daily exposed to the Gospel, I can have good reason to believe that they both might be elect, even though they as of yet have not believed." Why? How does the number of times your children are exposed to the gospel affect anything? I would think an Arminian would tend more to that position. I am troubled by the fact that my children might not be elect and might have been born with absolutely no chance of eternal life. (I don't intend to imply you are or aren't troubled) Once again, that is what gives me problems with Calvinism and why I tend to believe God gives us some choice. Do I struggle as much with this concept in relation to people I don't know or truly love? I should!

You ask me how I pray for my children. I would never pray that they would save themself. I ask God to extend his mercy and grace to them. I ask God to reveal Himself to them. I ask God to call and draw them to Him. I do this believing there is opportunity for them to be saved because God loves them. Should they not repond, I would still know that God loves them, although they would be lost forever. But, how can I know God loves them, if I did not also know He sent his Son for them? How can we say God loves a man if we know the man is not elect? (If that were possible to absolutely know.) That is the questions I was trying to get at in my original post.

As to Gene's response. Thank you as well for your time and obvious effort. You cite my question in the first paragraph of our response, but I don't think you answer it. I am not criticizing, I am interested in your answer.

Further on you write: "Libertarians cannot consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost." I agree. So if that is what Libertarians believe, I'm not with them. I am not talking so much about God's will, as His love.

As to choices against our nature. Didn't Adam make a choice against his nature.

As to feeling superior, more spiritual or intellectual because of a freewill position. I don't get that argument. My response is total grattitude to God who extended his Grace to me, even though he really knows me. My gaze is toward God, not a comparison to others.

Does the patient take credit for a successful procedure just because he gave the doctor permission. No one would take the patient seriously if he did. So, why would receiving a vast inheiritence I could never have earned somehow be called a work?

Once again, I've gone too long.


Jeremy Weaver said...

1)Calvinists believe that the means that God uses to call out His elect is through the preaching of the Gospel.
"It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe."
In additon to this, the "promise is to you and to your children."

2) Calvinists don't claim to know who the elect are. I can say with great confidence that "God commands all men everywhere to repent." This commandment implies something of love for all of humanity. God is telling them how to escape judgment. That is love. God loves all men in this way.

3) Adam did not make a choice contrary to his nature. Adam was created with the ability to sin or not to sin. He excercised his ability to sin when he fell.

I am sorry it took me so long to respond. Till next time.