"Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?"
In this short article I will attempt to touch anew on the age-old controversy that has been the battle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism. Classic Calvinism has always championed the sovereignty of God, while extreme Arminianism, in its efforts to salvage human freedom and responsibility, has neglected the sovereignty of God. What I attempt here is to find a via media that rescues the truth of both sides, while maintaining the glory and authority of our glorious Creator.
Historically, we have been forced to take sides on this issue through a false dilemma. We have been told that if man is free, then God is not sovereign. It is either sovereignty or free-will, but it cannot be both. This I believe is a ploy to beg the question of predestination at the expense of human freedom. Most Arminians believe in the sovereignty of God and the free will of man,but since the opposing arguments from the Calvinistic camp have been one-sided, so has been the Arminian response.
" God has decreed, from eternity, whatsoever comes to pass in time and that according to his good pleasure." Calvinists contend that nothing happens apart from that which has been decreed from God. Man is responsible for his sin because man "chooses" to violate the law of God. We were ordained to make every action that we make and man is only "free" in the sense that God designed and programmed us to desire to make the choices we do. We freely choose life or death because we are predestined by God to choose that way. Calvinistic freedom is not the ability to choose between options, it is only a guarantee that man will not have a desire to do anything against what fate God has given him. In other words, if I sin, I choose to do so freely because that is what I desired, but God determined that I would make that choice since he ensured that no other desire was available to my will.
It is plain to see that Calvinistic freedom is not freedom at all! It is their philosophic attempt to save God from being the Author of sin. They cannot extricate themselves from this conclusion because if the outcome is always the will of God, and man can do no other, then God is the cause of all sin and all unrighteousness. Where does the responsibility lie? It must lie on the Sovereign God! If we approach the subject with the Calvinistic "either/or," then God is the cause and instigator of all the sin in the world, or, he has created man with a free-will and free choice to respond to the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit, thus putting the responsibility and accountability upon us.
Sanctification has been defined in many ways, but one definition helps us to bring up some interesting questions. Someone or something is sanctified when it fulfills the purpose for which it was created. If a certain man was created for destruction, and complies with the will of God, is he not perfect in the sight of God? Is not holiness doing the will of Him who created us? Why does He still find fault?
This brings us to the quoted passage at the beginning of this article. " Why doth he yet find fault? For who has resisted his will? " Romans 9:19. First of all, it is the will of God that none should perish, but yet not all will be in heaven. So resisting the will of God is possible. Paul's argument was not against those with Arminian beliefs, but against those who charged God with absolute predestination and reprobation! God has made us all, but we do not all have the same advantages. Some are born kings and some paupers, some into a Christian family and some into an atheistic household, but that never determines our final destiny.
God offers all of us the gift of salvation and the hand of His mercy is not by our willing it. When it is offered, it is our responsibility to accept the gracious offer. Scripture states that we should "choose this day whom ye will serve" (Josh 24:15,) and warns us, "Turn you now at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you...Because I have called, and ye refused...rejected my reproof...for they that hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord...Rejected my counsel." (Proverbs 1:23-31.) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou hast killest the prophets, and stonest them who are sent to thee, how often would I have gathered thy children, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37,) "If any man will do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God " (John 7:17.)
If man cannot act freely, then it is impossible for man to sin or do righteousness. Man can only be rewarded or punished if he is able, responsible, and accountable for his moral behavior. Otherwise it is foolishness to say that man is to be praised or blamed for what he does. It may be easy for Calvinism to send a man to eternal hell for doing the will of God, but I cannot!
This is only true if we remove total depravity and prevenient grace from the equation. We all inherit a fallen nature in which we are tainted morally to the point that no man seeks God apart from the grace of God reaching out to the sinner first.
Is God all powerful? Yes! Is He truly sovereign? Yes! This I believe that both Arminians and Calvinists can agree on. So nothing limits God from creating man free! In fact, to say that God cannot create us with a free will is to deny the sovereignty of God! To concede that man has a free will exalts and glorifies the sovereignty of God! Arminianism enthrones God as a holy God and takes the responsibility for sin back to the source, mankind itself.
Arminians need to grasp the reality of the sovereignty of God and implement this back into our theology. Sovereignty is not to be treated as an enemy to truth, but that which should balance the trend towards free will humanism. Jesus is not on the throne of Heaven wringing His hands and saying "Oh, how I hope that they will accept me at the crusade today," he is the Mighty God! We are to beg His mercy, we are the ones that need acceptance! Our twelve steps and Roman's road do nothing! No preacher can speak for God's acceptance of the sinner! They may have said the right formula of words, but God knows their heart! When they are received they will have the witness of the Spirit and God will verify it to their hearts that they are in the faith.