Question (composite of two related questions): I enjoy your magazine so much! I have always wondered why some people believe in Christ and are willing to live for God and others will not. Where does the will come from? In the May 2002 issue of TBC one of your readers asked you the question, “Why did I believe in Christ and someone else didn’t?” It seemed to me that you only toe-danced around the question in your response....Either the difference...is in God, or in man. If the difference is in man, we have cause for boasting [and] that very assumption cannot help but permeate our theology....
Response: We are either stimulus/response mechanisms automatically responding to various stimuli in the way we have been programmed, or we are autonomous with the power to choose for ourselves. If the former, then the “reason” people respond in certain ways to anything could be scientifically explained on the basis of their chemical and mechanical composition and prior conditioning. That this is not true is the commonsense experience of everyone and is easily proved by the fact that thoughts and choices are not physical. Such concepts as “justice,” “truth,” “morals”—or the very “will” about which you inquire—have neither texture, taste, smell, sound or visibility and are thus unrelated to the physical universe of space, time or matter. Therefore thoughts (including choices) do not come from the brain. If they did, you would be the unhappy prisoner of your brain: “What will my brain decide that I should do next?!”
Thus the answer to all questions about the will is beyond any outside rational explanation. The will originates with the nonphysical thinking person living in the body, i.e., the soul and spirit. Why one person chooses to do this and another chooses not to can be answered only by the individuals making those choices. Why is one person an atheist and another believes in God? Ask them. Why does one Christian live more fully for our Lord than another? Ask them. They have not been programmed to do so by God, but each has his own reasons.
Could God create such autonomous creatures and still remain sovereign? Why not? Being omniscient, he knew from eternity past every choice that would be expressed in thought, word and deed by every person who would ever exist. Does the fact that he knows what everyone will do before they do it cause them to do it? Of course not. Time is part of the physical world of which God is not a part. He created everything out of nothing and he himself exists outside of time, space and matter. What to us is past, present and future is all the same to God, who sees all from outside.
You are right. Either God controls everything we say and do, or we make our own choices within the freedom He has given us. That God can cause us to do what he wants could hardly be questioned. He could manipulate circumstances in such a way as to leave us no alternative, or he could force us to do something against our will. He cannot, however, force us to will to do anything contrary to our will, or he would be going against his own will by destroying the will he gave us.
If God takes such control that He causes everything man does, then clearly God is the cause of all sin and suffering. Even though God allows man to make his own choices, but could cause creatures with a will to willingly do His will, and He didn’t exercise that power to stop evil and cause man to do only good, He would be responsible, and thus to blame, for all sin and suffering. Man could then be blamed for nothing, since whatever he did would be willed by God—and whether he went to heaven or to hell would have been pre- destined by God with no choice possible to man.
The real issue is God’s love and character. The end of all Calvinist erudite arguments and references to Hebrew and Greek is this: that God doesn’t love everyone, that Christ didn’t die for everyone, but that God takes pleasure in damning billions whom he has predestined to eternal torment and from whom he deliberately withholds the regeneration, grace and faith without which they could not be saved. Is that the God you believe in? That is certainly not the God of the Bible. He is love and is not willing that anyone perish but desires the salvation of all.
I did not “toe-dance” around the issue. I explained that either God controls man’s choices and deeds, or man does. You opt for the former, thus making God the author of evil and the cause of eternal suffering for untold billions in hell as Calvinism teaches. I believe that is a libel against the holy, loving God of the Bible who would never condone evil, much less cause it.
Calvinism is forced into this defamation of God by its irrational and unbiblical view that if man can choose to believe in Christ he has control of his destiny and could boast of choosing heaven instead of hell. On the contrary, the fact that man willingly receives the pardon God offers neither gives him control nor any cause for boasting. God controls the destiny of all men. This is His universe, he created us, and he makes the rules. He pronounced his righteous judgment upon man’s sin; and he also provided through Christ the full payment of the penalty His justice requires. On the basis of that payment He offers forgiveness to all who will repent of their sin and accept the pardon and eternal life his love and grace provide.
Receiving the gift of forgiveness and eternal life offered in Christ Jesus involves neither payment nor merit on man’s part and thus nothing of which he can boast. Salvation is all of God. Nor does man’s ability to choose snatch his destiny from God and put it in his own hands. It is God who makes the rules and thus is in control. Whether man chooses to believe in or to reject Christ, the consequences of that choice are decided by God alone.