Can God Know Man’s Free Acts without Them Being Determinatively Necessary?

Calvinists often argue that defending man as possessing libertarian free will (giving a person a true choice between accessible options such as walking with God or not walking with him and, therefore, the outcomes being conditional) not only places man’s salvation in his own hands, but it also creates uncertainties that would mean that God would not know everything since (as the argument goes) one cannot know an uncertainty for certain. On the other hand, the Calvinist idea is that God predetermines all actions either through decrees, compatibilism, or both, and this makes everything certain and therefore knowable. This understanding makes the theological reality[1] of libertarian free will an impossibility in Calvinism. Fortunately, the impossibility is merely a Calvinistic impossibility rather than an actual one. Continue reading →

Calvinism’s Confusion about God

Although both Calvinism and Extensivism (the belief that God genuinely wants every person to be saved and has made it possible for them to be saved) fall within the parameters of orthodoxy, and I do love my Calvinist brothers and sisters, we embrace very different ideas of God. Since God’s salvation plan is the most dominant theme of Scripture other than God himself, and Extensivism and Calvinism hold such disparate perspectives regarding salvation, with some points being mutually exclusive, it seems easy to see why we would have some significantly different concepts and emphases regarding God himself. Continue reading →

Calvinism Obscures the Simple Gospel

I agree with the Calvinist claim that the gospel is simple and clear, but I contend that Calvinism, by its very nature, complicates and obscures the simple and clear gospel.[1] Yes, someone can be saved when anyone says something like, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” but the difference between what a Calvinist and Extensivist (non-Calvinist) mean when uttering those words is quite different.[2] Just the cache of extra-biblical concepts needed to characterize Calvinism as a biblical position is telling. Continue reading →

The Paradox of Christmas

On Christmas, we give thanks and celebrate Christ humbling himself and being born a baby boy in order to die for the sins of the world (John 1:29). That is the greatest gift and message of Christmas; may Christ’s humility, which made the Christmas message possible, be seen in us.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who . . . humbled Himself” (Phil 2:5, 8).

He who had no beginning was born. Continue reading →

Calvinist John Piper’s Confusion about Salvation

John Piper writes, “My aim here is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for ‘all persons to be saved‘ (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election, therefore, does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world”[1] (italics added).

I am prompted, out of utter bewilderment, to ask, in what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense can there be a genuine desire of God to see all people saved within his unconditional electing of only some to be saved? In what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense is God’s eternally determined plan to make it impossible for the non-elect to be saved consistent with his desire for “all persons to be saved” and the biblical expressions of God’s compassion and omnibenevolence? In what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense are we supposed to glean any semblance of congruency between unconditional election or limited atonement or selective regeneration or limiting the essential internal efficacious call to only the unconditionally elect and his “sincere offers of salvation to everyone?”

Other than in Calvinism’s confusion, in what world does such constitute a “sincere offer?” The offers of salvation in Calvinism to the non-elect are not sincere in the sense that they can be accepted (which is the only meaningful sense of a “sincere offer”) because Calvinism is clear that God intentionally withholds the very essentials that are necessary for salvation from the non-elect. The offer of the gospel to the non-elect, according to Calvinism, cannot be accepted by the non-elect and, therefore, is neither reflective of God’s will for “all persons to be saved” or a “sincere offer.”

There is nothing sincere in the offer because the salvation offered does not even exist for the non-elect since Christ’s death only took care of the sin problem for the elect (4 point Calvinism does not solve the unsavable state of the non-elect since it holds to unconditional election and selective regeneration, which proceeds faith). Moreover, unconditional election is not about “who will actually be saved,” but rather it is about who actually can will to be saved. I respect and love Dr. Piper, but as a counselor, I would categorize Piper’s thesis as spiritual schizophrenia, and as an expositor, his teaching leads to impenetrable and inextricable confusion. It is this type of theological twaddle that contributed greatly to my departure from Calvinism.

Think of it this way. According to Piper’s Calvinism, what if it was not God’s “will for all persons to be saved,” there were no “biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people,” or there were no “sincere offers of salvation to everyone?” What would be the eternal difference for the non-elect? Nothing! Whether God loves or loathes the non-elect is eternally immaterial, and no amount of sophisticated rhetoric can change that in Calvinism.

Most significantly, in Calvinism, the secret will wins out in the end in that only the unconditionally elect are saved.[2] It is more trustworthy than his “revealed” will in the Scripture. How does such reliance and imbued supremacy of this secret will not severely undermine the sufficiency and trustworthiness of Scripture? Might there be other secret wills regarding the church, the Trinity, eschatology, and sin? Cults seem to think so. It inevitably leaves Sola Scriptura limping along rather emptily.

As an Extensivist (non-Calvinist) who believes man is endowed with libertarian freedom, I contend the Bible is unmistakably lucid in teaching salvation is a sovereign work of God and a reflection of his omnibenevolence. According to the unclouded teaching of Scripture, from conception to completion, God alone did the work of salvation and superabundantly provided everything necessary so he could legitimately and unconditionally offer it to everyone. It is truly accessible to all who hear the gospel (Ezek 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9). He is the efficient cause of salvation. He did the work of salvation, including providing sufficient provision and conditions for anyone to be saved.

Accordingly, he did not condition the work of salvation on faith, but rather it is more precise to say the personal reception of the free and full work of God’s salvation is conditioned on faith.[3] Even the act of faith is grace enabled—as opposed to somehow originating outside of God’s grace design in either created or fallen man.

By grace, God bounteously provides every essential for a person to be able to walk in relationship with him. This provision includes opportunity, necessary understanding, a free will to act, the ability for all to respond or reject, and the basis for every sovereignly necessitated condition to exist in and emanate from the grace of God rather than the merit, virtue, or otherwise contribution of man. Both the conditions and the ability to meet said conditions exist because of what is in and provided by God’s work of salvation rather than what is in or deserved by man.

God’s works of grace make it so that every person, even while still in their sins, can believe the gospel unto salvation. I refer to these works of God as grace enablements. God’s grace enablements include but are not limited to God’s salvific love for all (John 3:16), God’s manifestation of his power so that all may know he is the Sovereign (Isa 45:21-22) and Creator (Rom 1:18-20), which assures that everyone has an opportunity to know about him, Christ’s payment for all sins (John 1:29), the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11), the working of the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:1-6), the enlightening of the Son (John 1:9), God’s teaching (John 6:45), God opening minds and hearts (Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; 26:17-18), and the God-empowered gospel (Rom 1:16). Without such redemptive grace, no one seeks or comes to God (Rom 3:11).[4]

Since mankind is offered these gracious provisions and workings of God, people can choose to seek and find God (Jer 29:13; Acts 17:11-12). Moreover, no one can come to God without God calling (Acts 2:39) and drawing (John 6:44), and God is drawing all individuals (John 12:32). The same Greek word for draw, helkuo, is used in both verses. “About 115 passages condition salvation on believing alone, and about 35 simply on faith.”[5] Other grace enablements may include providential workings in and through other people, situations, and timing or circumstances that are a part of grace to provide an opportunity for every individual to choose to follow Christ.[6]

These are grace enablements in at least three ways; first, they are provided by God’s grace rather than deserved by mankind; second, the necessary components for each individual to have a genuine opportunity to believe unto salvation are provided or restored by God; third, they are provided by God without respect to whether the individual will believe or reject, which response God knew in eternity past.

The offer of the gospel is unconditional, but God sovereignly determined to condition the reception of the offer upon grace-enabled faith; therefore, faith is not reflective of a work or virtue of man but of God’s sovereign plan of salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). This indicates faith is the means of being regenerated and saved, not the reason for being saved. This truth of Scripture does not imply God is held captive to the choice of man, but rather it demonstrates God in eternity coextensively determined to create man with otherwise choice and provide a genuine offer of salvation, which can be accepted by grace-enabled faith or rejected. Additionally, to fulfill this plan, God is not obligated to disseminate the gospel to people he knows have rejected the light he has given them (Rom 1:18–23) and will also reject the gospel, although he may still send the gospel to them.


[1] John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved,” DesiringGod.org, Jan 1, 1995, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god, par. 1. Accessed 2/20/20.
[2] Sometimes referred to as decretive will. See David Allen’s book, The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 787.
[3] David L. Allen says, “God’s prior initiative in salvation does not preclude libertarian freedom . . . God’s prior initiative in salvation does not have to include Calvinism’s paradigm of total inability of the human will. Denial of total inability is not semipelagianism. As Arminius rightly made clear in his refutation of the charge of Pelagianism, the sinfulness of humanity is so complete that only by grace, and by grace alone, is human freedom even a possibility.” In his article “Claims, Clarity, Charity – Why the Traditional Baptist Statement on Soteriology Is Not and Cannot Be Semipelagian,” October 1, 2018, http://drdavidlallen.com/baptist/claims-clarity-charity-why-the-traditional-baptist-statement-on-soteriology-is-not-and-cannot-be-semipelagian/. Accessed 2/18/20.
[4] Christ opened their minds in Luke by teaching and illumining the real meaning of Scripture (Luke 24:27), and we find the same with Lydia, who was a “worshiper of God” (Acts 13:43; 18:7). She had faith as a proselyte, and God responded to that genuine faith by opening her heart to the gospel. God is always the initiator.
[5] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 7 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), 273–74.
[6] In Matthew 13:18–23, Jesus explains the parable of the sower. He compares the four types of soils to the four kinds of responses to the gospel. In the parable, the seed is the word of God (gospel). Also, in the explanation of the true meaning of the parable, it is important to note the sower and the seed are always the same (there is no indication that he gives one hearer seed that will not germinate and another the real thing), and the only thing that changes is the response to the seed. There is nothing deficient in the sowing or the seed sown, but rather the problem always is in the recipient. Also, notice the response of the good soil precedes regeneration. There is no indication in the passage that some men are predetermined by God to reject the message. Rather, it seems all four had different responses to the message, and the soil is descriptive of the heart; neither the ones that accept nor the ones that reject the seed give any indication of being predetermined. The soil indicates different responses and outcomes to the same seed, which is the word about the kingdom. Just as God created Adam with good soil, so he must grace enable everyone to be able to respond. Therefore, salvation is not a human work, nor is the good soil something innate to some, but rather, it is characteristic of everyone who receives the word of God and by faith is born again.

Calvinism’s Compatibilism and the Problem of Choice in Scripture and Life

When people reject Calvinism and its micro-determinism through compatibilism and decretal theology, some Calvinists retort that we are exalting the free will of man over God’s sovereignty. Of course, that is a straw man. We are exalting God’s Word, thereby exalting God because God’s Word depicts man and woman as having libertarian free will when properly defined. (See my article “Can Man Endowed with Libertarian Free Will Live Righteously Forever in Heaven?”). I contend that no one can read Scripture without being constantly exposed to a myriad of commands with concomitant consequences; choices given by God, conditional promises made by God, and a host of simple statements that only make sense if people can actually choose to obey or disobey, act or refrain, trust or distrust. Such events permeate the Scripture from Genesis 2:16 through Revelation 22:18. First, let me define compatibilism and libertarianism.

COMPATIBILISM: Determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, hence the name. This compatibility is not achieved by compatibilism being less deterministic than hard determinism (compatibilism is often called soft determinism). Rather, it is achieved by defining free choice to mean as long as a person chooses according to his greatest desire, he has made a free choice for which he is morally responsible; even though given the same past, he cannot choose differently in the moral moment of decision.

Consequently, the difference between compatibilism (soft determinism) and hard determinism is not to be found in the levels of the deterministic nature of each since they are the same. Rather, the difference is compatibilism simply contends people are morally responsible for their choices if they are made according to their greatest desire, and hard determinism says they are not. Therefore, according to compatibilism, moral responsibility is the product of defining free choice as a person acting in accordance with his greatest desire even though the desire is determined.

LIBERTARIANISM: Man is not determined. He has the actual ability to choose between accessible options, at least in some scenarios. Libertarians contend determinism is not compatible with moral responsibility. Man possesses actual otherwise choice and can, therefore, act or refrain in the moral moment of decision, given the same past within a given range of options.

Extensivism (non-Calvinism) argues God endowed man with this ability, which is an aspect of being created in the image of God. God determines the range of options. Adam’s range of options, the result of creative grace, was greater than mankind’s options after the fall. Fallen man can still choose between options, but the range of options is less than man had prior to the fall. This lessening includes losing the ability to make choices that are inherently righteous or spiritually restorative (making one right with God) based solely on creative grace. In order to make an inherently righteous choice or one that is spiritually restorative, God had to provision redemptive grace—grace enablements—which he did.

The following are typical of what we find on the pages of Scripture from cover to cover.

Joshua 24
Before Joshua gives Israel the challenge to forsake idolatry and serve God, he reminds them of what God had done for them in verses 1-13. Then he challenges them by saying, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord” (Josh 24:14). This comment would make no sense if they were determined by God (via compatibilism) to be in idolatry in the first place. Nor would it make sense to challenge them to serve the Lord since if he determined them to be in idolatry, they could not obey the command. And if they were determined to serve him, they could not choose to remain in idolatry. It does not seem that anyone could legitimately deduce determinism from the scriptural language of this passage. It only makes sense as a conditional, where the Jews have a choice between accessible options. You may read Calvinist commentaries that interpret these passages quite libertarianly, even though that contradicts Calvinism at its very core.[1]

Verse 15 goes on to say, “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The first question is, how could it possibly be disagreeable if God has determined everything? The “if” introduces a conditional, not something predestined. Joshua, who had the same choice, states he has chosen to serve God. This passage gives every appearance that this is a choice that neither he nor they were predetermined to make.

The peoples’ response to Joshua does not indicate a predetermined choosing; they are deliberating. Verses 16-17: “The people answered and said, ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods. For the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.’”

This deliberation gives no indication of being merely a determined part of a determined process, but rather they seem to know this is a choice they need to make, and there will be consequences based on what they choose. Besides compatibilism hollowing out the scene of any intelligible congruence between the words and reality, it seems to make God either incapable of speaking clearly about reality as it truly is or intentionally misleading his people about reality. Additionally, note the complexity of their deliberations; they contain historical information, future consequences to be weighed, and a choice between not two but three options—serve the gods your fathers served, or the gods of the Amorites, or Jehovah. Such a complex structure of deliberation is reflective of libertarian free beings considering accessible options rather than merely experiential, subjective deliberation in which they could not choose otherwise as in compatibilism.

1 Corinthians 10:13
Paul gave a promise to the Corinthians and by application to all Christians. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13; see also Luke 21:36; Heb 2:3). To Extensivists (non-Calvinists), this is a blessed promise conditioned on whether we choose to trust God. If everything is determined, even the means, this promise is meaningless because God has determined through endowing man with compatible freedom that everything is as it is supposed to be; to wit, the one who sins was determined to choose sin freely, and the one who did not sin was determined to choose not to sin freely. Such promises in Scripture, daily experiences in life, jurisprudence, childrearing, marriage, ad infinitum motivate Calvinists and compatibilists to seek to lessen its deterministic nature, albeit unsuccessfully.

The meaninglessness can be seen in countless other conditional promises in Scripture. For example, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). And “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). Without importing determinism, no one would ever glean from these conditional statements anything other than humans can choose to ask or not ask, and whatever they choose to do, they could have chosen differently. Additionally, the nature of a conditional is that if you do not meet the condition (in this case, ask), you do not receive the promise (I will do it or you will receive, respectively).

As a reminder, given the nature of compatibilism, it is accurate to say that a compatibilist can exercise free choosing, but not a free choice, if free choice is understood in any sense to permit choosing differently in the moral moment of decision than the person did or is determined to choose. While a compatibilist choosing is free so long as it is according to his greatest desire, his greatest desire is the result of determinative antecedents. Therefore, since the past determines the ultimate desire from which the free choice is made, it is precisely correct to say compatibilism affords humans only with a determined free choice, that is, choosing in which there are no accessible options. Consequently, choices happen necessarily and not just certainly based on God knowing what the person will do.

The determinism entailed in compatibilism is not because of man’s sin or depravity. Nor is it limited to only good acts or pre-Christian acts. On the contrary, compatibilism’s micro-determinism is comprehensive so that whether a person rapes or stops a rape, gets drunk or refuses a drink, prays or does not pray, grows in Christ or does not grow as commanded, shares the gospel or does not share the gospel, he is doing precisely and only what God determined him to do.[2]

Without some choices of mankind being libertarianly free, both the Scripture and life become either tirelessly non-sensical or a depiction of God attempting to pull off the greatest deception imaginable. If you question this, pay attention to how Calvinists read, preach, teach and talk about the Scripture and life. Often they do so as though libertarian is true because one simply cannot deduce determinism from a galaxy of Scriptures or everyday life situations. This is not to say that some things are not determined. The crucial difference at this juncture between libertarianism and compatibilism is that libertarianism allows for some things to be determined and some to be undetermined, whereas compatibilism, Calvinism, only permits everything to be micro-determined. Therefore, Calvinism fails to be a biblically faithful perspective.


[1] John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Commentary on the Book of Joshua (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010). Donald K. Campbell, “Joshua,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 1, edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Logos electronic edition.
[2] Although Calvinists creatively seek to ameliorate this reality, given the entailments of compatibilism, they are inevitably unsuccessful. For this reason, some refer to Calvinists as theological fatalists, which most Calvinists dislike. However, their avowed rejection of libertarian freedom, the entailments of compatibilism, and their belief that God knows the future because he predetermined it seem to allow this argument so long as it is not purely materialistic or overly mechanical—materialistic fatalism. This appears to be the result once you sift through the sophisticated but ineffective rhetoric. Mark Bernstein says, “With respect to human affairs, fatalism claims that we lack the power (capability, ability) to perform any actions other than the ones that we do, in fact, perform. Our belief that there are alternative courses of action available to our decisions and choices is mistaken. As a result, there is no such thing as (libertarian) free will. If, as many believe, this sort of freedom is necessary for the justified ascription of moral responsibility, then there can be no legitimate attributions of moral responsibility. As a result, the common assessments of persons being praiseworthy and blameworthy are unwarranted. It would be difficult to imagine any thesis whose truth would prove so destructive to our self-concept.” Mark Bernstein, “Fatalism” in The Oxford Handbook, 65.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, quite contrary to political correctness and revisionist historians, began as an act of faith and worship by the Pilgrims.

The first Thanksgiving was held in the autumn of 1621 in Plymouth, and it was a celebration of God’s bountiful blessing, which the Pilgrims shared with the Indians.

The Pilgrims’ lives had been characterized by religious persecution and loss of almost all worldly possessions. Many had died during the grueling voyage to the new land, and those that survived faced many more hardships that are so dramatically more treacherous than the difficulties faced by Americans today that we cannot quite grasp the gravity of it except romantically.

Yet, with bountiful food and the freedom to worship God, they gave thanks many times each day, but on this day in a most festive and worshipful way.

Let us not forget: Thanksgiving is an act of worship by God’s people. It is our thankfulness to Him for what He has done and does. Thus, from the vantage point of heaven, complaining must be a most sacrilegious act of self-absorption.

This Thanksgiving, celebrate it as an act of faith and worship, fulfilling the will of God. “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Some Thoughts On Thinking Christianly About COVID (1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rom 14)

On Sunday, 11/14/21, I preached a message with the above title to help people in our church respond biblically to three areas related to Christians dealing with COVID. I pray these will prove helpful to you as we live for Christ today.

I. How Christians can formulate a Religious exemption claim from the COVID mandate.
II. How Christians should relate to others regarding various opinions regarding COVID
III. How Christians need to handle statistics for the sake of truth-telling

You may access the audio and video here.

Calvinism and the Problem of Damnation and Hell

Calvinism’s exclusive doctrines position it in an untenable place when it comes to people spending eternity in hell. They offer various responses to allay the indefensible entailments of Calvinism that consign people to hell (the reprobate non-elect class). Here are a few: first, some say they deserve to be there. While that is true, it does not tell us why they are there since the people in heaven equally deserve to be in hell. Second, some say it is so God can show his full glory in both love and wrath. But damning people to hell is unnecessary for God to show his wrath or holiness since no one needed to suffer God’s wrath to demonstrate his holiness because Christ suffering his wrath for our sin is the quintessential display of God’s wrath.[1]

Third, some say people in hell chose to reject God. But people are not in hell simply because they chose to reject God, for the very people in heaven rejected God before he overpowered them with efficacious grace. If God had overpowered the ones in hell, they would have accepted him; hence the missing element is God’s overpowering grace. We also know people are not in hell to highlight God’s compassion, love, and grace by pedestaling his contrasting wrath and holiness; the death of Christ sufficiently displayed that. We also know they are not in hell because God was unwilling to do what was necessary for them to not be in hell. Because the death of Christ sufficiently took away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).

Once we dismiss the pleasantries of Calvinism, the only reason some are in heaven and some are in hell is because it pleased God for them to be there. Notwithstanding the weak and misleading arguments to the contrary by many Calvinists, I maintain all consistent Calvinists inevitably believe in double predestination. They either believe God actively predestined some to hell, as Calvin does, or he did so by choosing not to offer what would have surely delivered them from hell to heaven, which is unconditional election and selective regeneration. Calvin refers to this cold, inescapable reality as the product of God’s wish, pleasure, and counsel.[2]

Commenting on what Paul says in Romans 9, John Calvin candidly explains, “He [Paul] concludes that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (Rom 9:18). You see how he refers both to the mere pleasure of God. Therefore, if we cannot assign any reason for his bestowing mercy on his people, but just that it so pleases him, neither can we have any reason for his reprobating others but his will“[3] (italics added). Calvin further says the reprobate are doomed in God’s “hidden purpose” while simultaneously (and quite contradictorily) maintaining “so wonderful is his love towards mankind that he would have them all to be saved.”[4] Calvin classifies God’s good pleasure to doom this innumerable group of people, whom he created, to such a ghastly and unalterable fate, which he did not have to choose, as “incomprehensible judgment.”[5]

Similarly, the Canons of Dort assert, “Moreover, Holy Scripture . . . further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election—those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion, but finally to condemn and eternally punish them”[6] (italics added).

Fast forward to eternity. Imagine all the redeemed, unconditionally elected according to Calvinism, are standing on the precipice of hell in which untold billions of people suffer unimaginable, unquenchable, and unparalleled agony and torment. While the elect gaze into the cauldron of hell, one of the unconditionally elect exclaims God is holy. And that proclamation is immediately and worshipfully met by thunderous amens and hallelujahs since, whether redeemed or judged, God’s perfect and unlimited righteousness and holiness are irrefutably evident to all.

Then another of the unconditionally elect, caught up in the moment, resoundingly declares that God is love. An eerie pause follows this declaration. A hollow cavern of silence. A silence not from or awakening calmness, but a silence invoked by an insurmountable contradiction. A silence wherein an attribute of God is suppressed by the conquest of evidence; a silence like never before. It is not one of awe and glorious wonder but one of confusion and demoralization of the elect.

While God clearly dealt with the elect and the damned in holiness, and the elect in love, it is impossible to truthfully say God dealt with the damned, the reprobate, in perfect love, salvific love. Seeking to explain how God is perfect love and yet withholds his salvific love from those he created and predetermined for eternal torment is like trying to explain God as perfect holiness if he did not deal with all people and sin in perfect holiness.

Moreover, seeking to dismiss this contradiction of God’s perfect love by appealing to such as how God’s withholding his power at times does not equal that he is not omnipotent is fallacious. The reason this argument is fallacious is because love is a moral attribute like holiness and power is not. Consequently, he may display or withhold exercising his omnipotence based on his moral attributes, but his moral nature of perfect holiness, righteousness, and love is always perfectly present. Calvinism calls this type of inescapable dilemma a “mystery.” Anywhere else, it is called what it is, a tragic contradiction in Calvinism, that depicts God unlike the God of Scripture.


[1] Even if people in hell were necessary, a point I do not concede, it seems probable that far fewer reprobates are necessary, and maybe only one would sufficiently display God’s wrath.
[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 21, sec. 7, pg. 210.
[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham: WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).
[4] John Calvin, “Commentaries on the Second Epistle of Peter,” Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, edited by John Owen (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), 419. Logos electronic edition.
[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), vol. 2, bk. 3, chap. 21, sec. 7, pg. 211.
[6] Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine, article 15.

Calvinists and Compatibilists Fail Again to Make Compatibilism Believable: The Hypothetical Otherwise Choice

Some compatibilists seek to temper compatibilism’s determinism by denying the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) by various means, such as the proposed hypothetical otherwise choice known more technically as the hypothetical analytic.[1] Calvinists are prone to seek refuge in the hypothetical otherwise from the harsh unbiblical determinism entailed in compatibilism but it fails as all other attempts to harmonize compatibilism with Scripture do.

According to compatibilism, properly defined, determinative antecedents (one’s past) provide a person’s greatest desire from which one freely chooses; therefore, it is a predetermined free choosing without a choice between accessible options in the moral moment of decision. Given one’s past, a person could not have chosen differently than he did, in fact, choose. At the moral moment when a person chooses to love God or hate God, tell the truth or lie, commit rape or rescue a woman from rape, compatibly speaking, that person acts freely so long as that is his greatest desire, but he cannot act differently given the same past. Therefore, it is a predetermined free choice without a choice between accessible options, i.e., accessible alternative possibilities.[2]

In an attempt to deflect such undesirable entailments of compatibilism, a compatibilist may say that had a person desired to act differently, he could have chosen to act differently. This argument is based on merely a hypothetical otherwise choice rather than an actual otherwise choice. The hypothetical otherwise choice is more formally known as a hypothetical analytical otherwise choice vs. an actual otherwise choice. Regarding the compatibilist’s use of the hypothetical or conditional ‘could have done otherwise,’ Bernard Berofsky says, “The first prominent philosopher of the twentieth century to advance a compatibilist solution to the free will problem based on a conditional or hypothetical analysis was G.E. Moore (1912).”[3]

While it is trivially true that if the compatibly free person had desired to act differently, he could have, that response does not truly answer the specific question. The real question is, could a compatibly free being have chosen differently in the moral moment of decision given the same past? The answer is no. Because, given one’s past, he could not have had a different greatest desire from which freely to choose differently in the moral moment of decision. For example, could Adam, given his same nature and past, have chosen not to sin? No! Robert Kane comments regarding the hypothetical otherwise choice for compatibilism. He says, “It might be true that you would have done otherwise if you had wanted, though it is determined that you did not, in fact, want otherwise.”[4]

Kane goes on to say, “You could have done otherwise would only amount to the counterfactual claim that you would have done otherwise, if (contrary to fact) the past (or the laws) had been different in some way, for example, if you had wanted or desired or chosen otherwise.”[5] Therefore, the hypothetical otherwise choice, hypothetical analytic, fails to diminish the unflinching micro-determinism of compatibilism. Kane notes that Bernard Berofsky, a compatibilist, is “among the critics of conditional or hypothetical analyses of power and ability. He thinks compatibilists should look elsewhere if they wish to blunt the force of incompatibilist [libertarian] arguments.”[6]

Compatibilism leaves Calvinism with God ultimately determining what every person thinks or does, whether righteous or sinful, and they could not have chosen to act against God’s ultimate causation. Ultimate causation is not relieved of ultimate responsibility because man is the proximate cause, and there are other intermediate causes.

This micro-determinism continues after a person becomes a Christian. Sometimes Calvinists seek to relate the determinism of compatibilism only to salvation or the lost person only being able to choose to do evil. But salvation does not change the person’s moral nature from compatibilism to libertarianism. Thus, every Christian who obeys or does not obey God, prays or does not pray, gives or does not give, evangelizes or does not evangelize ad infinitum is doing precisely what God determined he could only choose to do. This means that God is commanding many of his children to obey him and punishing them for not obeying when, in fact, he predetermined they could not obey him; he calls all to be faithful and spiritual when he did, in fact, determine that many of those so commanded cannot be faithful and spiritual.

Conversely, he warns of unfaithfulness and its consequences to many whom he predetermined to be faithful so that they cannot be unfaithful. And, truth be told, if experience is even marginally reliable, he has determined that even the Christians he determined to be the most faithful, he also determined them to sin and sin often. That is where the teachings of Calvinism place God, which I believe is far outside of the biblical portrait.


[1] COMPATIBILISM: Determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, hence the name. This compatibility is not achieved by compatibilism being less deterministic than hard determinism. Rather, it is achieved by defining free choice to mean as long as a person chooses according to his greatest desire, he has made a free choice for which he is morally responsible; even though given the same past, he cannot choose differently in the moral moment of decision.

Consequently, the difference between compatibilism (soft determinism) and hard determinism is not to be found in the levels of the deterministic nature of each since they are the same. Rather, the difference is compatibilism simply contends people are morally responsible for their choices if they are made according to their greatest desire, and hard determinism says they are not. Therefore, moral responsibility is the product of defining free choice as a person acting in accordance with his greatest desire even though the desire is determined.

LIBERTARIAN: Man is not determined. He has the actual ability to choose between accessible options, at least in some scenarios. Libertarians contend determinism is not compatible with moral responsibility. Man possesses actual otherwise choice and can, therefore, act or refrain in the moral moment of decision, given the same past within a given range of options.

Extensivism argues God endowed man with this ability, which is an aspect of being created in the image of God. God determines the range of options. Adam’s range of options, the result of creative grace, was greater than mankind’s options after the fall. Fallen man can still choose between options, but the range of options is less than man had prior to the fall. This lessening includes losing the ability to make choices that are inherently righteous or spiritually restorative (making one right with God) based solely on creative grace. In order to make an inherently righteous choice or one that is spiritually restorative, God had to provision redemptive grace (grace enablement), which he did.
[2] Calvinists, compatibilists, speak inconsistently with compatibilism when interpreting Scripture, life, following God, prayer, preaching, teaching, counseling, and discussing ideas. To see this, one only needs to listen to them or read their sermons and writings.
[3] Bernard Berofsky, “Ifs, Cans, and Free Will: The Issues” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 182. Berofsky is a professor of Philosophy at Columbia University.
[4] Robert Kane, “Contours of Contemporary Free Will Debates” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 13.
[5] Robert Kane, “Contours of Contemporary Free Will Debates” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 13.
[6] Robert Kane, “Contours of Contemporary Free Will Debates” in The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 14.