QUESTION: [similar to several others]: While I was in a Baptist church I heard nothing but “whosoever will may come,” “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” “as many as received Him...”—all of this from man’s standpoint. I don’t remember any emphasis on the sovereignty of God, election, foreknowledge, predestination or the work of the Spirit drawing to salvation. When our Baptist pastor came under the teaching of some Presbyterians and began teaching these things, it caused a stir in our church. I asked, “God, which am I supposed to believe?”
I was helped greatly by Horatius Bonar’s God’s Way of Holiness and by Jonathan Edward’s view of the will. That man has been endowed with a free will by his Creator is undeniable. But what makes the will make its choices? According to Edwards...our choices are determined by what we think is the most desirable....
[But] the mind of the sinner never thinks God to be a good choice....So unless the Spirit of God moves upon the person and the mind is changed through the miracle of the new birth, our mind...will lead us away from God. Yes, Jesus invites us to come to Him (John:7:37)...but who is it that wills to come? Only...the Father and the Holy Spirit [can] cause...the renewed sinner [to] embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. Even Jesus said, “No man can come to me unless the Father...draws him” (John:6:44).
In view of this, the controversy between brothers in Christ...could be put to rest....I appreciate your stand for the truth [but] am grieved with the ongoing controversy over Calvinism and the free will of man.
RESPONSE: I respect your earnest concern. Bonar and Edwards were highly esteemed Christian leaders, but the Bible, not any man, is our authority.
You say that God gave us “free will”—but then you ask, “what makes the will make its choices?” If something or someone “makes the will make its choices,” free will is not free. You say that no one has a desire to come to Christ until they are regenerated and “the Father and the Holy Spirit...cause...the renewed sinner to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.” Surely you see the grave contradiction!
If Calvinism is true, God mocks the vast majority of mankind. He calls, “Come unto me,” to those who can’t respond because He doesn’t cause them to come. Yet He will send them to the Lake of Fire for not coming, even though He could have caused them to come! The literally hundreds of times in the Bible that God calls men to repent and weeps over Israel through His prophets are a further mockery. And He damns forever in the Lake of Fire for not believing the gospel those who can’t believe unless He regenerates them and gives them the faith—and yet He refuses to do so? Is this the “God” in whom you believe? I hope not.
Of course, God is sovereign and can do whatever He pleases, and we cannot complain. But He assures us that He loves the entire world (Jn:3:16) and would “have all men to be saved” (1 Tm 2:4). Indeed, “God is love” (1 Jn:4:8,16). But this Calvinist God damns multitudes He could save. The biblical God does all He can to bring all men to Himself, but each one must choose. Of Israel, He laments, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?” (Is 5:4). Jesus wept, “How often would I...and ye would not!” (Lk 13:34).
The word “freewill” appears 17 times in the Old Testament. Calvinists deny free will. They say that only those whom God causes to repent and believe the gospel will do so. Only after He has “regenerated” the sinner can God supposedly, by “irresistible grace,” give him faith to believe. But the Bible says, “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Rv 22:17).
Calvinism says we must be regenerated before God can cause us to believe. The Bible says we are regenerated by believing the gospel: “being born again (‘regenerated’)...by the word of God...which by the gospel is preached...” (1 Pt 1:23-25). John writes, “that believing ye might have life [i.e., be regenerated] through his name” (Jn:20:31). The Bible teaches a new birth through believing the gospel. Calvinism teaches that “regeneration” comes by an act of God before the sinner even believes the gospel. That is clearly not biblical.
This is not “hyper-Calvinism” but the Calvinism of “moderates” such as John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, John Piper, D. James Kennedy, et al. They say that God loves all men—but has a “different love” toward those for whom Christ didn’t die and does not want in heaven and thus will not regenerate. That is hardly love, which is why we titled my book, What Love Is This? Have you read it? In it I deal with your question in depth. You would benefit from its thorough treatment of the subject.
Does God really want all mankind to be saved (as the Bible says) or just a select elect? Did Christ die for all (as the Bible says) or just for a select group? These are vital questions that deserve our attention. On our radio programs (Search the Scriptures Daily), all available on our website, and in our articles and Q&As of the past 20 years, you won’t find an undue emphasis on Calvinism.
You say I deal with Calvinism too much. Yet you complain that only Calvinists talk about the sovereignty of God, election, foreknowledge, predestination, or the work of the Spirit drawing to salvation. Must we remain silent in the face of false views that are presented on these important subjects? Everywhere I go, Christians tell me that Calvinism is causing confusion and division in increasing numbers of churches.
I appreciate your concern and often tell the staff that I prefer not to mention Calvinism—but we try to answer the questions we are asked. I have attempted to avoid direct reference to Calvinism unless absolutely necessary. Ironically, you have caused me to respond to these things once again.