I have heard it said on numerous occasions on the internet that those who adhere to the doctrine of free will (also known as Arminians by Calvinists) are the worst kind of idolaters imaginable and — wait for it — inescapably on their way to hell. But wait a sec.
How can Calvinists say that sin, of which idolatry is the worst kind, is the determinative factor in sending people to hell when they actually believe that reprobation (non-election) is the sole determinative factor? Sin is something anyone can and may repent of AND receive forgiveness AND ultimately go to heaven.
Predestination and election unto damnation, on the other hand, is something no one can repent of. The reprobate’s fate is sealed. They will go to hell whether they like it or not OR whether they believe in free will or not OR whether they have sinned or not because God has ordained and assigned them to hell on the basis of his sovereign choice and because it pleases Him. So, for Calvinists to say that free willy idolaters (including Arminians) are going to hell because they are committing the worst kind of sin imaginable (idolatry), is not only a gross misnomer but hypocrisy that woefully stretches to the ends of the abyss. You may already have seen this on the INTERNET:-
But the most abominable form of idolatry in the world is that which Paul calls “will worship”, the worship of yourself (Col. 2:23). Those who attribute salvation in whole or in part to the will, work, or worth of man are the most abominably evil idolaters in the world, for they worship themselves. Freewill-ism is the worship of self. Legalism is the worship [of] self. free will works religion makes man his own Savior, for it makes the will, work, or worth of man the determining factor in salvation. (read Free Will or Free Grace?).
Yep, believe it or not, if there was a moment in your life when you willingly came to Jesus Christ for your salvation (Matthew 11:28) and willingly put your faith in Him and Him alone for your redemption, you are — wait for it again — on your way to hell. And that, my dear friends, is the Gospel (Good News) according to Calvinism. John the apostle of love must be in hell this very moment and crying in agony “please send someone to place a drop of cool soothing and refreshing water on my tongue” because he dared to write “ And whosoever WIL, LET HIM TAKE (and NOT “Let the Holy Spirit force it down your large oesophagus”) the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17). Even the English Standard Version of the Bible which most prominent Calvinists love to promote says that those who are DESIROUS (free willism par excellence) of the Living Water should take of it and drink. God will never, I repeat never, force his Living Water (Holy Spirit) upon anyone.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who DESIRES take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
How the author has come to the conclusion that Paul addresses the alleged monstrosity of freewill-ism in Colossians 2:23, only he will know. Paul never once refers to free will in Colossians 2. He exposes the pseudo spirituality of Christian ascetics who revel in rules and regulations of physical self-denial – Do not taste! Do not touch! Do not handle! The concomitance of legalism and mysticism usually lead to asceticism which is nothing else than a fair showing in the flesh (Galatians 6:12). Christians have no need of this kind of self-denial because they have already died with Christ to the rudiments (underlying principles) of the world.
Bear in mind that Paul does not say that the saints should indulge in all kinds of worldly dainties by tasting, touching and handling them. He deals mainly with the method of self-mortification – the one by means of the flesh through asceticism and the other by means of faith through the work of the Holy Spirit. (Galatians 5:16, 25). The latter does not amount to the death of free will but to the death of the old Adamic nature.
In fact, Christ’s command “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me” proves that the believer hasn’t lost his Godly given free will. In the process or progression of sanctification (holiness) God will never do the denial of yourself, the taking up of your cross and the following of Jesus in your behalf. You have to do it yourself. If you fail to do it you will miss out on the glorious progression of sanctification. Indeed, Jesus is every true believer’s sanctification. Nevertheless, there is a command every believer must obey in order to benefit from the fact that Jesus Christ is their sanctification.
They must abide in Christ. God will never do the abiding in your behalf. If God were to do it on your behalf, i.e. the self-denial and the abiding in Christ, it would never have been necessary for Him to issue those commands. He would have accomplished it Himself. Similarly, the believer’s death, burial and resurrection with Jesus Christ is a fait accompli. Nonetheless, the believer himself must of necessity reckon himself dead to sin, the world and his inherited fleshly nature in order to benefit from his already accomplished death, burial and resurrection with Jesus Christ.
Once again, God is not going to do it in your behalf. Calvinists assert that believers cannot progress in holiness and sanctification because holiness is a state of complete perfection and none of us can gain perfection in this world. That’s a very odd observation to make when you take into account that the Holy Spirit (the Author of holy writ) frequently refers to Jerusalem as the HOLY CITY. Is Jerusalem perfect? This proves, in a nutshell, that holiness in terms of the saint is not perfection.
If holiness or progressive holiness was a castle in the air why did God command his children to be holy? He does not only command them to be holy but that they should be be as holy as He. “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). In addition, God beseeches his children to present their bodies (the flesh) as a living sacrifice, HOLY and acceptable to the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). Notwithstanding God’s command in this passage, Calvinists audaciously tell Him to his face that the flesh is incapable of being holy.
Those who fail to comply with God’s demand that they progress in holiness will forfeit the reward God has in store for those who gain a continual victory over the flesh and who failed to present their bodies (the flesh) as a living sacrifice, HOLY and acceptable to the Lord. Here again Calvinists adamantly deny that God is going to reward his children at the Bema seat of judgment. Is their anything in the Bible Calvinists believe? They seem to shun most of the truths in the Bible. Growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord is exactly the same as growing in holiness and sanctification (2 Peter 3:18).
The verb “grow” is a present imperative, which could be rendered “be continually growing” which is nothing else than a progressive growing in holiness and sanctification. If the command that the saints are to be partakers in the divine nature of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4) is binding, then the command to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ is precisely the same as growing in holiness and sanctification. Peter provides the manner in which the saint should grow. He should add to his faith virtue. The word for “virtue” is “aretē” which means “excellence.”
In addition the saint is obliged to add to virtue, knowledge. This knowledge cannot be accumulated from intellectual pursuits but is clearly a spiritual knowledge that can only come through the Holy Spirit with the focus on the Person of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Knowledge alone is not enough. The saint ought to continue adding to knowledge, temperance (self-control) and to temperance, patience and to patience, godliness and to godliness, brotherly kindness and to brotherly kindness, charity (agapē, 1 Corinthians 13:13).
The saint cannot reach the greatest of these unless he grows or progresses in an accumulative manner from all those other aforementioned virtues to charity. Note carefully that the saint himself must add these things to his life. Although it is the Holy Spirit who enables the saint to grow in holiness and sanctification, the saint himself must add these virtues to his life. Only when the saint denies himself daily, takes up his cross and follows Jesus will that which the Holy Spirit enables him to do, come to fruition. Similarly, the saint himself must put on Christ like a garment in order to escape the lusts of the flesh. (Romans 13:14).
The Holy Spirit will not do it in behalf of the saint because He will NOT infringe on the saint’s God-given free will. It ties in perfectly with what Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your own salvation (sanctification; progression in holiness) with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. God the Holy Spirit’s work in a saint must be worked out by the saint himself. In this sense the Holy Spirit and the saint are co-workers in the progression of the saint’s growth in holiness and sanctification.
To explain this more clearly I would like to refer you to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-15. Note carefully that Paul does not say that the Holy Spirit presses toward the mark but that “I press toward the mark” (KJV) or “I pursue the mark.” In all of the abovementioned your Godly given free will plays a major role. God is not going to force you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow his Son and neither is He going to force you to add to your spiritual life all those virtues mentioned in 2 Peter 1:5-7.
You yourself must take responsibility to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ and to grow in holiness and sanctification, and to do it you need to make choices on a daily basis and choices can only be made with a healthy free will.
THE DEVASTATING CONSEQUENCES OF THE DENIAL OF FREE WILL
The statement that the-non elect, including Arminians, are all going to hell is in its very nature a decisional declaration and any decision involves free will, unless the statement was imposed on those who believe the nonsense that all Arminians are going to hell. If so, then those who believe that all Arminians are going to hell, do so because God forced them to say so. Fancy that, those who declare that Arminians are going to hell because of their stubborn insistence that man has a free will, are using their own free will to come to such a high-minded and judgmental conclusion. It leads to the bizarre situation where reformed Christians take up arms against free will by using their own free will. Indeed, Reformed Theology is a very strange religion. Let us now look at the consequences of the denial of free will
It asserts that man has lost the image of God
The common belief among reformed Christians is that Adam and Eve were both endowed with a healthy and active free will but that they lost it or at least corrupted it when they sinned. Consequently their ancestors can only choose evil. When God forbade Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil He practically told them “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, . . .”
The very fact that God uttered these words in the assemblies of Israel many years later (Deuteronomy 30:19), proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that man has not lost his God-given free will. He is quite capable to choose between life (good) and death (evil). If man has lost his God-given free will and his ability to choose between good and evil it would mean that he had lost God’s image in which he was created (Genesis 1:26-27). The Fall marred God’s image in man; it did not erase it altogether. At least one passages in Scripture confirms this.
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. (Genesis 9:6)
The greatest deterrent for murder, according to the Bible, is the knowledge that man is made in the image of God. One can understand why Satan who is a murderer and a liar from the very beginning (John 8:44) is bent on killing men, women and children; he hates the image of God in man. What is this image? It comprises three very important elements, i.e. the power of intelligence, the power of emotions and the power of free will. All three are bound up in one inseparable unity. None of these can exist and operate without the other.
To suggest that man has no free will is to claim that he is incapable of expressing emotions like love, compassion, kind-heartedness etc. I have challenged many Calvinists on this particular issue by asking them whether they forced their wives to marry them or whether their wives exercised their God-given free will to express their love for them. To date none of them have answered me. I don’t know whether they are afraid of their wives who might just rebuke them harshly for the notion they they had been forced to marry them.
Be that as it may, they don’t know how to answer my simple question. In the reformed frame of mind coercion, enforcement, compulsion and causality have replaced free will. They piously call it the sovereignty of God, claiming that He caused Adam and Eve to sin which, of course, means that Adam and Eve either had a free will but was not allowed to use it or had no free will at all. It’s like saying: “I caused my son or daughter to do drugs and then punished them for their drug abuse.” Indeed, this is precisely what the Westminster Confession of Faith declares: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” (III: 1) (1) Clement of Rome, who was the Apostle Paul’s companion, said,
“But, you say, God ought to have made us at first so that we should not have thought at all of such things. You who say this do not know what is free will, and how it is possible to be really good; that he who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice… Since therefore every one’s freedom constitutes the true good, and shows the true evil, God has contrived that friendship or hostility should be in each man by occasions.
But no, it is said: everything that we think He makes us to think. Stop! Why do you blaspheme more and more, in saying this? For if we are under His influence in all that we think, you say that He is the cause of fornications, lusts, avarice, and all blasphemy. Cease your evil-speaking, ye who ought to speak well of Him, and to bestow all honour upon Him.”
Paul emphatically states that Clement’s name is written in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3). And yet, there are many Calvinists who assert with biblical authority that Clement of Rome who believed in the free will of man is now in hell. Therefore, Paul who endorsed Clement’s view on free will and called him a fellow-worker is also in hell this very moment because he was – according to Calvinists – a free-willer idolatrous. By the same token RC Sproul (a staunch Calvinist) must also be on his way to hell because he wrote:
“Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with free will. Yet they chose to sin.” (2) (Emphasis added)
This sounds so much like Arminius whom R.C. Sproul despises and disdainfully refers to as an atheist. Arminius said:
“The efficient cause of that transgression was man, determining his will to that forbidden object and applying his powers or capability to do it. . . . Man therefore sinned by his free will. . . .” (3)
Despite R.C Sprouls’ amicable Arminian view of free will he calls Arminians atheists. What an hypocrite!
Let us now look at the blasphemy Clement warned against in some of the statements made by reformed theologians. John Calvin wrote:
“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (4)
Dr Jesse Morrell wrote:
“Contrary to John Calvin’s blasphemous charge that “God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it,“ (5) the Bible explicitly and plainly describes God’s great heartache and disappointment with mankind because of their sin. What a great tragedy to read “…it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth (Gen. 6:5-6).
The fall of our race did not bring any “pleasure” to God. It was not arranged for “his own pleasure.” God was deeply upset with mankind’s sin because that is not what He had planned for us! That is not what He created and designed us for! God did not publicly grieve over man’s sin when secretly He had caused them to do it! Mankind’s sin was not the result of God’s secret decrees, but was the result of man misusing and abusing the free will that God gave them.” (6)
“God made Adam and Eve to this very purpose, that they might be tempted and lead into sin. And by the force of this decree it could not be otherwise but that they must sin.” (7)
Dr John Edwards said,
“He might have hindered the fall, but he would not. The reason was because he had decreed their fall, as we may gather from God’s creating the tree of good and evil before their creation…” (8
Even Martin Luther unashamedly said that God was actually the cause of sin, so that all sin is caused by God and all sin is unavoidable. He said:
“God . . . effects, and moves and impels all things in a necessary, infallible course…” (9)
He also said,
“This is the highest degree of faith – to believe that He is merciful, the very One who saves so few and damns so many. To believe that He is just, the One who according to His own will, makes us necessarily damnable.“ (10)
Dr John Edwards said,
“If God by his decree did force men’s wills, and so necessitate them to be vicious and wicked, then he might justly be called the Author of Sin.” (11)
Jesse Morrell wrote:
“According to Brown’s Dictionary of the Bible, the Nicolaitans “imputed their wickedness to God as the cause…” Jesus said, “…the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Rev. 2:15). Jesus hated their doctrine! And is there a doctrine more worthy of our abhorrence and hatred than the doctrine which makes God the author of sin? It is Allah of the Quran of whom it is said “whom [he] pleases he causes to err, and whom he pleases he puts on the right way.” (12) But when Paul asked the question, is “Christ the minister of sin?” he promptly answered the question with a stern “God forbid!” (Gal. 2:17) It is not the God of the Bible which is the author or cause of sin.” (13)
No wonder R.C. Sproul could say that Calvinism is compatible with Islam when he brazenly declared that:
” . . . this first sentence in the third chapter of the Westminster Confession has nothing in it that is peculiarly Calvinistic. In fact there’s nothing in this statement that is uniquely Christian. Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Islam and all classical Christianity have always believed that God sovereignly governs the universe and the affairs of history in such a way that, as St Augustine said, that in some sense at least He ordains everything that happens because if He doesn’t ordain everything that happens, He’s not sovereign over everything that happens and if He’s not sovereign over everything that happens, He’s not God.” (Emphasis added throughout)
I don’t need to point out to you that R.C. Sproul’s statement is an ecumenical declaration to its very core. Notice carefully how he pulls down the barriers between the God of the Bible and Allah and ever so subtly suggests that the God of the Bible and Allah are one and the same person. Who is sovereignly governing the universe and sovereignly ordaining everything that comes to pass – Jehovah God or Allah? You can’t have two Gods governing the universe. That would fly in the face of Islam who believes that there is only one God and he he has no son.
Hence Allah must be the one – at least in the eyes of Islam – who governs the universe and sovereignly ordains everything that happens. Furthermore, R.C. Sproul suggests that it is far better to be an Islamic than an Arminian, who in his estimate, is no better than an Atheist. Why? Well, because both Calvinism and Islam hold to the doctrine that God sovereignly governs the universe and ordains everything that comes to pass. This has sadly led to the despicable situation that when asked whether God ordains rapists to rape and kill babies the answer is YES (Read What next Antwoord?). Referring to the pronouncement of this doctrine at the Synod of Dort, England’s King James (who gave us the King James Bible), though he was no Arminian and hardly a “saint,” expressed his repugnance:26
This doctrine is so horrible, that I am persuaded, if there were a council of unclean spirits assembled in hell, and their prince the devil were to [ask] their opinion about the most likely means of stirring up the hatred of men against God their Maker; nothing could be invented by them that would be more efﬁcacious for this purpose, or that could put a greater affront upon God’s love for mankind than that infamous decree of the late Synod . . . (14)
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20)
It denies the concomitance of free will and love
If God is the essence of love, which of course He is, and if man was made in his image, which of of course he was, it follows that man too has the capacity to love. Has man lost his capacity to love at the Fall of Adam as he supposedly has lost his ability to choose between good and evil and now only allegedly has the capacity to choose evil? Not according to Jesus who said,
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
If man has lost his ability to love, Jesus would never have issued such a profound command. Does man consistently love his neighbour as he loves himself? Calvinists don’t seem to think so because they teach that they ought to hate God’s enemies and love their own enemies (the problem they have, however, is how to differentiate between their enemies and God’s enemies.)
I can help them. God’s enemies are all the non-elect and if they do not hate the non-elect as God hates them, they are being grossly disobedient. Having established through Jesus’ command in Matthew 22:37-40 that man is quite capable of loving his neighbour but nevertheless does not always do so, it is evident that man must of necessity have a free will. How do we know?
Either man has the capacity to choose to obey God’s command to love his neighbour or not, or it is God who causes him to love his neighbour or not. If the latter is true, it would never have been necessary for God to issue the command. He could merely have caused man to love his neighbour or not. The concept of “obedience” and its opposite “disobedience” could never have existed if man did not have a free will.
Its very nature demands that the person/s to whom the command is given must make a choice to either do as they are told or not. Causal obedience is not obedience and in the same way causal love is no love at all. Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” The “if” is a conditional particle that clearly implies that man has the capacity to either choose to love Christ or not.
(1) Clement of Rome (The Ante-Nicean Fathers, Volume Eight, Published by BRCCD, p. 740)
(2) R. C. Sproul (Chosen by God, Published in 1986, p. 30)
(3) James Arminius (The Works of James Arminius, Published by Baker Book House, p. 371, 373)
(4) John Calvin (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8).
(5) John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion” Book III, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)
(6) Jesse Morrell, “The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature”
(7) Piscator (Objections to Calvinism As It Is by R. S. Foster, Published by Swormstedt & Poe, 1854 Edition, p. 266)
(8) Dr John Edwards (On the decrees, B. 1, Ch. 111, p. 102)
(9) Martin Luther (Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther, translated by J. I. Packer & Johnston, Published by Revell, 1957 Edition, p. 265)
(10) Martin Luther (Martin Luther on The Bondage of the Will, by Rev. H. Cole, 1823 Edition, Published by T. Bensley, p. 58)
(11) Dr John Edwards (On The Decrees, B.1, C. III, p. 125)
(12) Quran 6:39
(13) Jesse Morrell, “The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature”
(14) King James I; in Jacobus Arminius, The Works of James Arminius, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), 1:213.