Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question:
“Dear Dave and TA: I recently read What Love Is This?, and I appreciated the book because you made me consider some things that I have never given much thought to before: election, predestination, foreknowledge, and being chosen, to name a few. But the main issue I wrestled with from the book is free will. I can’t fathom how someone could deny that everyone must have free will. If we don’t have it, what was Jesus talking about in John:5:40 when He said, ‘But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life’?”
Tom: Dave, that is one of the mysteries of—you know, and I know many people who are Calvinists, and I have family members, and I love them, and they’re bright, really bright people, articulate. Yet when it comes to something that should be so obvious, they reject it.
Dave: Tom, it’s pretty incredible. Now, I understand how they come at this, because this has to do with whether we can say “yes” or “no” to the gospel, whether we have the option of receiving or rejecting Christ. Because the Calvinist would say, “Well, if you can decide your own eternal fate, then God is at your mercy. You know, Christ came and died, but it’s in vain unless people believe.” So therefore they have limited atonement, of course, so that Christ’s blood is not “wasted,” as they would say, shed for people who are going to reject Him anyway. And so for God to be sure that somebody is going to go to heaven, there’s not going to be just an empty place up there; He is going to have to cause people to believe.
So then they would go to scriptures like, “Except the Father draw them,” and so forth, “you cannot come to me.”
They forget that it does say, “Come.” Jesus does say, “Come unto me,” and so forth. But I can sympathize with that, because they’re concerned.
Now, it’s a mystery, Tom: why do some people believe and some don’t? You will have to ask the person who said “yes,” or who said “no,” because it’s their choice. We know that there could be no love between husband and wife, parent and child, and between man and God without the power of choice. You can’t make someone love you! And the power to love someone is meaningless without the power to hate them, or at least ignore them, or not love them. So as this person says, we know every day we make so many choices. You can’t say that we’re just puppets on a string. But then, wait a minute! But then how can you say that you can say “yes” to Jesus, or “no” to Jesus? Then aren’t you in charge of your eternal destiny? Well, there is no way to get around it, Tom, we do make choices, and it does say, “Whosoever will may come.”
Jesus says, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Now that’s a misleading statement to say the least, or it’s even worse than that, if a person can’t come to Christ unless He makes them come to Him. And then why does He say, “Come unto me”? Why does God plead all through the Bible with His people to repent, and He says, “Don’t do this abominable thing that I hate. I don’t want to punish you.” He sends His prophets day and night crying out.
You could take Psalm 81: “If my people had harkened to my voice, I would have fed them with the finest of wheat.”
Or Jesus weeping over Jerusalem: “How often would I have gathered you together, but you would not.”
Or Joshua saying: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” All of those statements are nonsense, they are a mockery, telling a person who, according to Calvinism, is totally depraved, can’t make a choice except for evil, and you keep pleading with him to repent. But God withholds what the Calvinist calls “irresistible grace” so that he can’t repent, and yet he keeps pleading with him and berating him for not doing what he can’t do, which God could cause him to do if He wanted to.
Tom: Dave, as you say, as we read through the Scripture, that’s all you have to do. Verse after verse, it’s either true that somebody can make a choice, is willing… Let me say it this way: Jesus said, “You’re not willing to come to me,” so there must be a choice to be willing. That’s a charade, but the charade really hits—it’s like the climactic charade at the Great White Throne Judgment. What is going on there? What is God saying to those—to really, you know, the unregenerated, the lost? How is he holding them accountable for something?
Dave: Tom, according to Calvinism, they couldn’t do anything but sin. In fact, I give quotations in What Love Is This? of many leading Calvinists, and they say, “God causes them to sin,” okay? Now…
Tom: So then He’s on the wrong side of the—you know, the judgment seat. He needs to be among those who are being judged.
Dave: He’s causing people to sin—or let’s not go that far. Some would say that’s hyper-Calvinism. But any way you try to get around it, it ultimately comes down to that, okay? Why does Jesus ask us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” if everything is already according to God’s will? And if everything is already according to God’s will, a man has no power of choice. Then all the rape and murder and crime and wars and evil, evil thoughts and so forth, God is behind that. But look, He’s sitting at the judgment seat of Christ, and He’s saying, “I could have caused you to believe in me. I could have caused you to repent, but I didn’t, because I wanted to damn you,” you know?
Tom, but if we go to—for example, I think one of the most powerful passages is Isaiah 5 where God talks about Israel is His vineyard, and he says, “What more could I have done for my vineyard than I did? I did everything I could to make them fruitful and to bring them to me, and they rebelled against me.”
Tom, it’s difficult—“Oh, well, then we’ve got our eternal destiny. We can say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’” I don’t think you can escape it, but on the other side of it, Tom, as you pointed out, it is so overwhelming! You turn the Bible into a charade if man has no choice and God is mocking him: “Choose you this day…come to me, but you can’t come!”