The Fall of Angels and Man Two Views: Calvinism and Non-Calvinism

This article contains the thoughts upon which I based my message Sunday morning October 6, 2013. It is intended to be of supplemental value for those who heard the actual message. If you have not heard the message, some of the information will be more difficult to understand. You may download the message at our church’s website, trinitynorman.org under the Resources tab.

I hope you find these sermon notes helpful to being able to understand these very important concepts as well as the differences in understanding God, the origin of sin, and sin and tragedy in our own day and lives. Although these notes, as the message, are only a brief consideration of these issues, it is an accurate and honest portrayal of the differences between Calvinism and non-Calvinism. At times, some Calvinists seek to either elide or lessen Calvinism’s connection with determinism; this is either from a lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to communicate that dependence. In either case, the connection still exists and therefore any obscuration of such beclouds the true nature of Calvinism’s view of God, man, sin, and the gospel, which is always unfortunate.

I         Determinism: “The thesis that all our mental states and acts, including choices and decisions, and all our actions are effects necessitated by preceding causes. Thus our futures are in fact fixed and unalterable in much the same way that the past is.”[1] Sometimes a distinction is made between hard determinism, which argues that any awareness of moral responsibility is an illusion, and soft determinism which argues that determinism is true and one can still be morally responsible.

In either case, the option of being able to choose other than what one did in fact choose and the idea of origination (that an act or decision originated with the individual as only self-caused) do not exist since everything one thinks or does is the result of determinative antecedents.

This definition of determinism is given in order to aid proper understanding of the following positions.

II      Compatible free will: (sometimes referred to as soft determinism) Says that free will and determinism are compatible. Compatibilism does not mean that sovereignty and free will are compatible (as some Calvinists aver), since all Biblicists believe that God is sovereign. Compatibilism is the view of Calvinism regarding freedom.

1        Choice is considered free so long as the individual chooses according to his/her desire and there is no external coercion (voluntariness exist).

A      Desire is unalterably set by determinative antecedents.

(A) These antecedents can be explained variously depending on whether the compatibilist is a Materialist, Darwinist, Theist, Christian etc. All compatibilists agree upon the existence of determinative antecedents but disagree on what they are e.g. atheist would not consider God.

(B)  Voluntariness exists but origination (that the idea can originate within the person—agent causation) does not.

B       Cannot do other than one did in fact do.

C       Choose freely but there is no choice between accessible options.

2        God directly created angels and man with a nature that would and could only eventually result in their freely choosing to sin.

A      Nature was a direct creation of God

B       Sin is the direct result of a predetermined free choice of man.

C       Thus, God is not the cause of sin, but He did in fact desire it, evidenced by the fact that He created angels and mankind with a nature that would inexorably result in some angels and man to unalterably and freely choose sin

(A) Angels sinned without external temptation

(B)  Man sinned with external temptation—Satan.

3        Fall of Man, “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17).

A      God commanded man not to eat, but had designed everything in such a way that man would and could only freely choose to eat (sin); consequently, God commanded man to refrain from what God in fact designed that man could not refrain from.

B       Although God did not directly cause man to sin, God did in fact desire that man would sin because had He desired man not to sin, He could have created him with a compatible free will to choose only righteousness.

(A) Some Calvinists explain this by arguing that God did this in order to display His wrath.

 III   Libertarian free will: (a form of incompatible free will and, in our consideration, is sometimes referred to as soft libertarian free will) Says that free will and determinism are not compatible. Biblically speaking neither is determinism compatible with God’s holiness, love, mercy, compassion, and goodness, nor with the simple reading the clearest Scriptures. This view does believe that God has predetermined some things and does at times override man’s choice.

1        Choice is free if one could do other than what he did in fact choose to do, i.e. if one has otherwise choice.

A      Includes both voluntariness and origination

B       Antecedents influence but do not cause

C       Could have done other than he did in fact do

D      Choosing is a choice between or among accessible options

(A) God created angels and man with a nature that could freely choose to sin or freely choose not to sin, and whatever they did in fact choose to do, they could have chosen other than that.

E       All effects require a cause. In the Libertarian view, man is the efficient cause of his decisions and actions rather than resorting to the need for determinism (determinative antecedents) like Calvinism. The decisions are limited by the range of choices available as given by God.

2        The Fall

A      When God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree and spelled out the eternally tragic consequence of doing so, God really desired that Adam would not eat and suffer the tsunamic ravages of sin and God’s holy wrath.

(A) God created man and woman with the ability to avoid such through choosing righteousness.

(B)  Thus, our experience of choosing between options is not an illusion but reality.

B       God knew that both angels and man would sin. He did not desire them to sin nor did He give them a nature that unalterably led to that eventuality.

C       God did not desire that His creation suffer the hellish, horrid, and ghastly ravages of sin. He is a holy and good God and always desires good for His creation.

D      He did know, anticipate, and comprehend in His plan that angels and man, given true otherwise choice, would use that freedom to sin.

(A) Knowing is not causing

IV   The complication

1        I believe, along with everyone of whom I am aware, that it may very well be impossible to create otherwise free beings and guarantee that they will not sin.

A      Thus Calvinism defaults to compatibilism so God can be sovereign—set up the track that you run on.

2        Better solution: God overcomes that dilemma through a co-extensive creation/redemption plan, which only He could accomplish.

A      Therefore: He did not create man to inevitably freely choose sin nor did He desire that end, but rather that man would choose holiness, and knowing he would not, God overcame man’s faithless choice with love and mercy without sacrificing sovereignty or holiness or His omnibenevolence toward His creation.

B       He did what no one else could do, guarantee the outcome of true otherwise choice beings; it cost Him His only begotten son, the Cross, the death of Christ.

(A)  After the fall, He afforded man grace-enablement, thereby restoring man’s ability under the power of the Holy Spirit and the gospel to be able to choose to accept or reject the gospel, and whatever each person chooses, he could have, by God’s grace, chosen otherwise.

(B)  In heaven we will be unlike Adam. We will be like him in that we have otherwise free choice, but unlike him in that we will have knowledge of good and evil. Consequently, we will not be susceptible to the one place Satan could tempt man (Genesis 3:5).

a         We will have experiential knowledge of sin, which apparently Adam did not and could not have had.

(C)  Little boy stove illustration: I use this as an illustration of how experiential knowledge affects the use of otherwise choice. For example, a mother may tell her little boy not to touch the hot stove. Each time she perceives his interest in touching, she warns him of the horrible pain, hospitals, surgery, and the loss of freedom to play, something of which he is so fond. Tragically, despite mom’s best warnings and pleadings, one day, the little lad touches the fiery electric grill, and everything comes to pass just as his mother had warned.

From that moment on, the little boy still has the freedom to touch the fiery hot stove, but he freely chooses to refrain for the rest of his life. He has no interest in touching it, and every inclination is to guard against even touching it by accident. The difference is not the loss of otherwise choice, but rather prior to his burn he had only faith knowledge. His understanding was based on only believing his mother’s words. Now, he has experiential knowledge coupled with even a greater faith in his mother’s words.

a         This is not to undervalue nor elide all the promises of God concerning the eternal state and His protection, which are sufficient in and of themselves, but merely to illustrate how experiencing sin can affect even a fallen human to never choose an act again while maintaining otherwise choice.

V      Good and evil

1        Freedom is good, and the misuse of freedom is evil, sin, and the source of all hurt and God’s judgment.

A      Freedom to choose is good and misuse of that freedom is bad, but not the freedom itself.

B       The freedom to walk down the street is good; some misuse that freedom and rob people, but the freedom to walk the street is not bad.

C       The freedom to travel is good; some misuse that and 9/11 happens. It is not the freedom to travel that is or becomes bad, but rather the misuse of good.

(A) God created freedom to choose to do good or evil, which is good, but the misuse of that freedom in choosing sin is evil.

2        He always comprehended this in His creation/redemption plan and will overcome all in glorification.

3        This is all to say that it seems to be impossible to create beings like God, with the ability to choose between real options—to act or refrain—and guarantee they will not sin except through creating, restoring choice, and redemption.

4        God is the only one who could accomplish this as laid out in Scripture, but it cost Him His only begotten Son.

VI   Invitation:

1        “There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:6–13).

A      Not creation flesh and blood, but salvation, new creation, John 3.

2        That’s why it tells us John’s reaction when he saw Jesus, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (John 1:29).

3        The end “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

4        Eternity, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away….I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death’” (Revelation 21:1–8).

5        Now, the call and the choice, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17).

copyright 2013, Ronnie W. Rogers



[1] Ted Honderich, ed., The Oxford Guide to Philosophy, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995, 2005), 313.