Saturday, June 30, 2007

Is Calvinism unfair?

I have often heard people say that they would never worship a God who chooses who is to be saved and who is to be damned. "That's not fair!" is the rallying cry from many evangelicals today. There are two reasons I believe people make such statements. 1. They somehow feel that everyone deserves a chance to be saved. God owes it to His creation to allow them that choice. 2. They want to hold on so dearly to their "free will" making their conversion a result of their own decision. I will answer both of these objections.
Does anyone deserve a chance to be saved? Well, the answer to this will be obvious when scripture is examined. What is the condition of fallen man? "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother concieve me." (Psalm 51:5) David tells us here that even at our birth we are unclean. Before we have even gotten the chance to speak or act on our own, we are sinners. Psalm 58 tells us "the wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth, speaking lies." Not only are we guilty for Adam's sin from birth, after birth we commit actual sin. Genesis 8:1 tells us "...the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth..." The scripture has many other clear statements about the state of man's heart. "...the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live..." (Ecclesiastes 9:3) "The heart is decietful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) The heart of man is so wicked that he cannot even understand how wicked it is! Genesis 6:5 gives one of the most clear statements of man's condition in all of scripture. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." This verse includes every single thought every man had ever had on earth at that time as being evil! Man did not have a spark of goodness in him at the time of the flood and the same is true today. We could all be killed by God deservedly in a flood today just as back then. Thank God however that in His goodness He has made a covenant not to do it again. God told Adam in the garden that the day he ate of the trea he would surely die. That is what all sin deserves. "For the penalty of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23) The fact is God would be just in condemning every single person to hell eternally. The very existence of the question "how could God be fair by only choosing some for eternal life?" shows how wrong our focus is. The real question should be, "why does God save anyone?!" The God who loves everyone and wants nothing but the best for everyone is not the God of the Bible. As Luther said to Erasmus, "Your God is too human." This statement may seem shocking but let me remind you that Israel was commanded to utterly destroy the Canaanites in the book of Joshua. This included women and children. There are more verses in the Bible about the wrath of God than about the love of God.

Now for the second point, what about our free will? Let me first say that there is no concern with defending free will in the Bible. The Bible only uses the term "free wil" when discussing free will offerings. The subject of free will comes up pretty early in Christian history through the writings of Tertullian and Justin Martyr. Both of these men lived in the second century. Although they were great men in many respects and defended the faith against Jewish and Pagan opposition they both held on to some pagan philosophical ideas. They held that man is able to choose between good and evil. Many Arminians today use the term "libertarian free will." I believed in this view until I began studying the Bible more seriously. It may appeal to our reason but the ultimate source of truth is the word of God. The Bible paints a very different picture of our will. Our will from birth is one enslaved to sin and is not able to do anything but sin. "For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law , indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:7,8) This verse alone should prove the point. Before a man is born again he is in the flesh "That which is born of flesh is flesh..." (John 3:6) Therefore this includes all men who are not born again. Are faith and repentance pleasing to God? If so then this verse is clear that man cannot have faith and repent with his free will. Jesus Himself is explicit when he says "no man can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44) Notice that word "can." Can is a word of ability. Thus if a man is not drawn by the father, he cannot of his own free will come to Jesus. The word draw in the verse may better be translated "to drag." It is the same word used in Acts 16 when Paul is dragged into prison. 1 Corinthians 2:14 brings this point out well, "The unspiritual man does not recieve the gifts of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerened." Notice again that the word is not merely one of resistance but of ability. Let me make it clear here that I do believe that man has a free will. However, man's will is tainted by sin and man only wants to sin. He is not somehow forced by God to sin. He loves to sin and does it freely. The reason he cannot choose good is not because God will not let him, rather because man does not want to choose good! He cannot want to because of his nature. If it seems illogical that God can hold man accountable for something he cannot do, let me remind you that the purpose of this is not to give an answer which appeals to human logic but to scripture. Any good Arminian will have to agree that man can be held accountable for things he cannot do. The Bible tells us that we are to be holy as God is holy. Does any Christian believe that man can actually do that? Of course not! But does that deny that man is still responsible for his sin? By no means. As Luther said so many times, "free will is nothing."
According to the Bible's view of the sinfulness of man and his innability as demonstrated here and is evident all over the scripture if God left it up to us to choose Him, no one would. However, God in His infinite goodness and mercy chose even then to set His love upon some. In spite of the fact that man deserves absolutely nothing but the eternal wrath of a Holy God, He chose to save some and send His only begotten son to die in their place. Those people whom he elected, who continually spit in His face, He chose to give a new heart (Ezekiel 36) and change their hardened wills to ones that love God. That is not as Norman Geisler would call "rape." That is not unfair. That is grace. There is nothing more beautiful than the effectual call of a holy God upon people who deserve endless punishment.

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