You Should Have Seen this Coming- Defending the Calvinist View

November 4, 2008

Alright, so a couple of posts ago I discussed the idea of the relationship between God’s predetermination and his foreknowledge and said that there are basically three prevailing ideas, known as the Calvinist view, the Arminian view and the moderate view. I then went through and offered refutations of the Arminian and the moderate views. Therefore, the only option we are left with is the Calvinist view, and it is in this post where I hope to offer a defense of why I believe this is true.

The Calvinist view, as I stated in the initial post, is that “God’s predetermination of events precedes (or is independent of) foreknowledge, and so God predetermines events to occur and then works through time to influence their occurring.” How do we defend this? Let me offer a few supporting Scriptures.

Ephesians 1.3-6, 11

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. . . . In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.

To me this is the cornerstone verse of God’s plan and predetermination, particularly in election to grace. Here we see Paul stating that God “chose us . . . before the foundation of the world” and “predestined us for adoption.” Yet why did he do that? Was it because of his foreknowledge as the Arminian view would assert? Surely not. Instead what it says is that his choosing, his predestining, was executed “according to the purpose of his will” and “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Thus, God’s predetermination for salvation is solely based upon his purposes, his will, in order to fulfill the end for which he put all of this in motion to begin with.

Now, does that tell us why he chose some and not others? Certainly not, but should we expect to be able to understand that answer in the first place? I think all we can hope for is understanding that he did it and that he has his reasons for it, first and foremost of which is the completion of his will.

1 Corinthians 1.27-29

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

In reading these verses, particularly following the passage in Ephesians, I believe we get an even deeper insight into the motivation for God’s predetermination. Paul at this point states that God “chose what is foolish . . . to shame the wise” and “chose the weak . . . to shame the strong.” Not only are we once again presented with God’s sovereign choice in election, but we are presented with it in regards to the reasoning behind it, namely to complete some aspect of God’s will for his creation.

Acts 4.24-28

And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, ‘Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, ‘”Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed”‘- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.’

Moving away from predetermination to grace (election), we find that God’s predetermination also works in the general actions of men. As I brought up in the first post of this series, in this passage, what we see is that God had “predestined” the murder of Christ “to take place,” and so in order to do this he “gathered together” a collection of peoples “to do whatever [his] hand and [his] plan had predestined to take place.” And, referring back to the prophecy in Isaiah 53.10, it was God’s “will” to “crush” Christ, and so the workings that we see spoken of in Acts 4.24-28 were predetermined, once more, to accomplish the ultimate will of God in creation.

Proverbs 16.33

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”

Wrapping up what we have said so far, I think that this bit of wisdom from the book of Proverbs is the final nail in hammering down the Calvinist view of predetermination. The main objection levied by the moderate view is that the Calvinist view has no place for human free will. Yet, their gross mischaracterizations aside, I think that there complaint against the Calvinist view would also have to stand as a complaint against this piece of Scripture as well, which is a line I would hope they wouldn’t consider pursuing.

The idea is this: yes, man does make free decisions, but there is something about those decisions which cause them to always work into the plan of God, and since we have already shot down the view that God’s will is simply reactionary to man’s choices (the Arminian view), there must be something else at work here. That something I believe was most adeptly described by Jonathan Edwards when he describes the human necessity to choose in accord with its strongest inclination, and it is this inclination which is given by God to lead us into doing his will (I hope to expand on this further in the next post using it to refute some of Geisler’s objections in Chosen but Free).

Therefore, yes, we have a choice, but to assume that our choice is somehow able to guide God’s will, which both the Arminian and the moderate views must to some extent affirm, would stand in complete contradiction to this passage. Then, the only option left on the table, which agrees with all of the other Scriptural evidence we have presented as well, is the Calvinist view.