Calvinism Makes Conditional Prayers, Statements, and Commands Nonsensical

The Calvinist may respond that I err when I say determinism (compatible style) makes conditionals in the Scripture nonsensical. They would probably base this on the idea that, according to compatibilism, man is considered to make a free choice to meet or not meet the condition as long as he chooses according to his greatest desire. Therefore, conditionals are a part of God’s determined process. That is to say, choosing to meet or not meet the condition was still a free choice even though they could not have chosen otherwise in the moral moment of decision. According to compatibilism, the person determined to meet the condition did so by a free choice, as did the person who was predetermined not to meet the condition.

However, each free choice (really, it is a choosing since no other option was accessible) was based on a pre-­determined greatest desire; therefore, each person made a predetermined free choosing, which could not have been different from what it was, given the same past, in the moral moment of decision; thus, there was not anything substantively conditional in the encounter between the determined person and the conditional in Scripture. This is in contrast to a person with libertarian freedom who could, in the moral moment of decision, choose to meet the required condition or choose not to meet it even with the same past. That is the nature of a true conditional, which is actually absent in Calvinism with its decretal theology and compatibilism.

Further, Calvinists may contend that holding people morally responsible for what they cannot do is logically possible. For example, a gambler may acquire a massive debt so large he cannot pay it off, but his debtors still require him to pay it off. In like manner, God’s requirement of the condition to be met by those who cannot satisfy it is not illogical or nonsensical.

My response is that yes, it is logically possible for someone to be unable to meet an obligation and yet be responsible. But we are not talking merely about what man can do without God; in Scripture, God is not inactive, thereby leaving man on his own. To take the gambler’s illustration further, a benefactor could come along, assume the gambler’s debt, and pay it off for him. Although unable to pay the debt, he can benefit from this gift.[1] This type of gift is more reflective of what we see in Scripture that God did for humanity (2 Cor 5:19). He grace enabled the people for whom Christ died (John 1:29; Heb 2:9; Titus 2:11; 1 John 2:2) to receive salvation by trusting him (Eph 2:8–10) and be able to meet the conditionals of his commands and promises. Biblically, God, the benefactor, offered not only to pay the debt of man’s sin, but he also overcame everything that might hinder any lost person from being able to choose to accept the offer through grace enablements (John 12:35–36).

Additionally, in passage after passage throughout the Bible, there is an unmistakable portrait of people making choices between accessible options. These available options include attending consequences. In other words, unless a person is trying to prove the presence of compatibilism in these passages, no one would glean it from the wording, which graphically indicates a choice between two accessible options with appropriate warnings and blessings. Therefore, while it is logically possible for a person to be held responsible for something he cannot do because of his inability to meet the conditional is determined, it does not seem probable, presumable, or something that is identifiably emanating from all the conditionals throughout Scripture, such as Josh 24:15; 1 Chron 28:9; Jer 32:16-23; Mark 6:1-6; 10:17-31; John 14:14, 15; Jas 1:5, ad infinitum.

Moreover, granting that it is logical for the gambler to be held responsible for this one event he cannot accomplish on his own does not entail or evidence that it is, thereby, demonstrable or even reasonable to conclude that he is to be held responsible for every other failed obligation but un­able in every circumstance to have done anything. To clarify, someone may accept the logicalness of the gambler being held accountable in this one case, but that does nothing to demonstrate we are to believe that leads us to conclude that it is logical for him to be unable to act in every event of his life and yet be responsible. It is actually the claim of Calvinism that every person is accountable for every choice while they are micro-determined to have chosen it; the premise that it is reasonable for one in one decision does nothing to demonstrate it is true of every person in every decision. Yet, that is the conclusion Calvinism, with its decretal theology and compatible moral freedom, ultimately demands, which I reject because it is supported by neither Scripture nor life itself.

When a person reads conditional passages just as they are written, the understanding that emanates from the text’s wording reflects libertarian freedom. They are written like normal human communication that reflects real and accessible choices, which will result in different outcomes. This understanding is even evidenced by how Calvinist commentators and preachers regularly interpret conditional passages; they do so libertarianly. One may read their books or listen to their messages and see this practice is contradictorily pervasive. While it is logically possible for someone to be held responsible for something he cannot accomplish on his own (as my illustration suggests), it seems highly implausible that all, or even many, of the conditionals in Scripture permit such an understanding. That would mean we must read countless conditional promises and events, which permeate almost every page of Scripture and include concomitant urgings, warnings, and promises by God based on whether a person meets the stated condition, as disguised deterministic passages.

The very essence of a conditional statement is that the outcome will be different depending on what choice is made, and that difference is the crux of the influence on the choice the free agent makes. For example, a person will be saved or lost depending on his response to the gospel, and other events will have a different outcome based on whether or not a person prays; choosing can alter the future sequence of events. That is not possible in a compatible, morally free state of affairs. Compatibilism includes the voluntary principle of choice (if it is according to their greatest desire, it is considered free) but excludes the possibility of choice, creating a new sequence of events as libertarian freedom allows. The Scripture is replete with humans being called on to make choices based on effecting a better outcome.

Now, why would God fill Scripture with conditionals that give every reasonable appearance of being something wherein people can choose to meet or not meet, which also include understandable warnings and blessings that are inextricably connected to each choice if He designed a plan that precluded them from actually making an undetermined choice between the options given? This is in light of the inarguable reality that God does present many determined events in Scripture and is, therefore, not ashamed or clandestine about the truth that He determines some outcomes.

The Calvinist needs to explain God’s purpose in being so clear about some determined events while camouflaging most of them in language that highlights obvious otherwise choice and conditionality; that is if Calvinism is true. Their inability to satisfactorily answer this dilemma without obscur­ing the unambiguousness of conditional passages that permeate Scripture renders their deterministic obscurations nonsensical and Calvinism, along with its compatibilism, biblically untenable.

To clarify, Scripture is the revealing (revelation) of truths about God and his redemptive plan rather than the obscuring of such. The grammar, context, particular sentence structure, and clear intent that emanates from a normal reading of the conditionals give a person a choice of two or more accessible options. In light of this, why would God embark on such a veiling course to reveal himself and his plan? In other words, if God determined everything, then why would God give some verses that clearly teach some events are determined and equally obscure determinism in so many other verses that give every indication that events are not determined? What is the point?

Until Calvinists can make a compelling case for why God would present so many verses and passages involving otherwise choices in His revelation (the precise opposite of everything being determined) when they are actually clandestine deterministic events, compatibilism fosters a nonsensical option. Which, if Calvinism with its compatibilism were true, would turn revelation into obscuration and deception. If one example of otherwise choice is in Scripture (I think Scripture is permeated with ex­amples of otherwise choice), compatibilism fails as a coherent reflection of man’s moral freedom; in contrast, libertarian freedom easily accommo­dates both otherwise choice and determinism.

[1] I first heard Leighton Flowers use this illustration at

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Ronnie W. Rogers