What is Determinism?

One way in which Calvinists advocate Determinism is through the doctrine of Omniscience. Although Arminians agree that God is omniscient, Arminians and Calvinists have a very different understanding of how God is able to know the future. For Calvinists, omniscience requires Determinism, and that will be the subject of exploration, as a Q&A is developed:

Calvinist, James White: “If you think about it, if God really knows what man’s going to do, is man really free?, and that’s why the Open Theists go the direction that they do.” (Arminianism: It Robs the Gospel of its Personal Nature)

To a Calvinist, the answer is no, and in this way, a Calvinist uses the doctrine of omniscience as a proof-text for Determinism.

White adds: How God can know future events, for example, and yet not determine them, is an important point….” (Debating Calvinism, p.163, emphasis mine)

“How could God know it?, asks White. For White, God must determine it, in order to know it. For White, omniscience is simply a matter of God knowing what He scripted, and since God scripted everything, according to White, then it follows that God must then know everything. That’s White’s logic.

James White: How can God know what these free creatures will do in the future, if they are truly free (the argument open theists are aggressively promoting today)?” (Debating Calvinism, p.168, emphasis mine)

It’s clear that White doesn’t believe that God could know what free creatures would do, unless God determined their actions, and thus meaning that they are no longer free. 

James White: “If God’s foreknowledge is perfect, does it not follow that the future is, in fact, fixed? And if it is fixed, upon what basis did it take the shape it did?” (Debating Calvinism, p.360, emphasis mine)

From the perspective of an eternal Being, it is fixed, because it already has happened. Who fixed it, are the people in the future who determined their actions. God determines what He does, and man determines what he does, and God interacts with man, in a participatory relationship.

James White: “Is he saying that man’s actions determine the future and that God merely knows what will happen?” (Debating Calvinism, p.57, emphasis mine)

God also interacts, determining His actions as well, acting contingently upon what He knows that man will do. There are many examples of this, such as Genesis 50:20. As an eternal Being, God’s knowledge of the future is perfect, in which His perfect knowledge of the future constitutes the interactions between that which God does, that is, God’s self-determinations, and of that which man does, that is, man’s self- determinations. In this way, both God and man are free in their interactive, self-determinations. However, Calvinists believe that God’s knowledge of the future is perfect only because God fixed it, in its entirety, without which, God otherwise couldn’t be able to infallibly foreknow it.

Dave Hunt responds: “White denies omniscience in his repudiation of any ‘grounds upon which to base exhaustive divine foreknowledge of future events outside of God’s decree.’ If God must decree the future to know it, He’s not omniscient.” (Debating Calvinism, p.389, emphasis mine) 

Dave Hunt is absolutely correct. According to Calvinism, God must predetermine everything in order to foreknow anything, and which leads to the strictest form of Determinism, and ultimately the “author of sin” charge. 

John Calvin: “We also note that we should consider the creation of the world so that we may realize that everything is subject to God and ruled by his will and that when the world has done what it may, nothing happens other than what God decrees.” (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.66, emphasis mine)

John Calvin: “First, the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam He decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121, emphasis mine) 

The Calvinistic, Westminster Confession of Faith: “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to his own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.” (Of Providence, emphasis mine)

Here is what the Calvinist, Westminster Confession of Faith: 1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.” (Confession of Faith, emphasis mine)

 In terms of whether God had decreed all thoughts and intentions of the heart, begs the question of:

(1) Whether this means that God (according to Calvinism) forced sin on to those who think only those thoughts that God decreed for them to think,

(2) Whether the devil and demons are the precise creation of God, having received all of their thoughts externally from God,

(3) Whether the lost deserve” wrath, if their thoughts are decreed by someone else,

(4) Whether God could still be holy and undefiled, if all thoughts of sin and wickedness are decreed from no outside example or any foreknowledge or any conditions of men and angels, but which originates exclusively from the creative imagination of God who dreams up such things, and decrees for others to think the thoughts to do those things,

(5) Whether decreed thoughts can avoid making God into the author of sin.

Its a very slippery slope that you are dealing with, and in which the concept of Decreed Thoughts ultimately and inevitably makes God into the author of the Occult, and not based upon any outside example that is foreseen” (as per the Westminster Confession of Faith), but would simply come from Gods creative imagination to conceive of every sin every committed. In such a case, Gods holy character would be completely wiped out. Calvinists really need to think this through, before pushing such a doctrine.

​​Dave Hunt: “Intending to protect God’s sovereignty, Calvinism makes Him the cause of every thought, word, and deed, and thus of sin. This libels God, mocks man, and erases motivation, as well as any meaning of punishment of reward.” (Debating Calvinism, p.335, emphasis mine)

Hunt adds: “What is the point of judgment, either for the saved or the damned, if everything is God’s doing?” (Debating Calvinism, p.140, emphasis mine)

James White: “...since God judges on the basis of the intentions of the heart, there is in fact a ground for morality and justice.” (Debating Calvinism, p.320, emphasis mine)

​Hunt responds: “Yes, God judges ‘the intentions of the heart,’ but Calvinism falsely says that He causes the intentions He judges.” (Debating Calvinism, p.327, emphasis mine)

Instinctively, James White was looking for a basis in man for God to hold him accountable and judge him, such as man’s thoughts and intentions, but if God (as described by Calvinism) decrees those same “thoughts and intentions” for him, what happens to the basis for divine judgment that James White indicated?

If God must decree everything, in order to know anything, as per James White, then certain texts of Scripture become impossible to explain, because they otherwise never became determined or settled in the actual world. Jeremiah 38:17-23 and 1st Samuel 23:6-13 are perfect examples, which neither the Calvinist nor (honest) Open Theist can explain.

The following line of questioning is meant to show the cost of the Calvinist position. If the Calvinist believes in omniscience the way that an Arminian does, then there is no problem, but if a Calvinist believes that God infallibly knows the future only because God exhaustively decreed the future, then the thoughts of the demonic realm must necessarily have originated from God, in which God is the sole independent mind in the cosmos, from whom all thoughts originate. That is the ultimate cost of the Deterministic perspective, and it is very dark, indeed. The complaint that Calvinism makes God into the Author of Sin becomes a foregone conclusion, and the more pressing issue is how does the matter of decreed-thoughts impact the holy character of God, and the answer seems obvious.

Question:  What is Determinism

Answer:  The former Gnostic, Augustine (354-430), originally belonged to a sect that had denied Free Will and affirmed Determinism, and which disregarded the Old Testament Scriptures, since it otherwise undermined the principles of Determinism. Having converted to Catholicism, Augustine later rediscovered a hearty Determinism in Scripture, in which the dualistic Determinism of the Gnostics was repackaged as biblical Predestination. While an Arminian would understand biblical Predestination to mean whatsoever God does, a Determinism would understand it to mean that God does whatsoever comes pass. 
Determinism Quiz

Question:  Do you believe that God is omniscient?

a. Yes
b. No

(Both Calvinists and Arminians agree with a., in that God is indeed omniscient.)

Question:  Do you believe that God’s thoughts are entirely holy?

a. Yes
b. No

(Both Calvinists and Arminians agree with a., of course)

Question:  Do you believe that God infallibly knows what any random demon will think next?

a. Yes
b. No

(Omniscience requires it, of course.)

Question:  If God had not “decreed,” “fixed” and “determined” any random demon’s next thought (in which you say that the future is “fixed” by God), could He still infallibly know it?

a. Yes
b. No

(According to the quote from James White, his rhetorical answer was no, that God would otherwise not be able to know it, without having determined and fixed it.)

Question:  Are the demon’s thoughts holy?

a. Yes
b. No

(Remember that the Calvinist affirmed that the future is fixed by God, and that God’s thoughts are holy.)

Question:  Do you believe that the wicked thoughts of the demons originate from God? 

a. Yes
b. No

(Now the Calvinist is in a pickle, with regard to Determinism. The Arminian believes that the future is fixed by both God’s self-determined choices and everyone else’s self-determined choices, too, and that because God is eternal and independent of time, He is able to infallibly know it, which is different from what Calvinists believe, in which the future is completely scripted by decree, and God necessarily must know what He scripted.)
Six verses which crush the Calvinist doctrine of exhaustive Divine Determinism:

Isaiah 30:1-3: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the LORD, ‘Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation.” 

--Not My plan.

Jeremiah 32:35: “‘They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’

--Not My command.

Zechariah 1:15: “‘But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.’

--Not My excess.

Matthew 15:10-14: “After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear and understand, “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Then the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’ But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’

--Not planted by My Father.

Galatians 5:6-9: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.

--Not My persuasion

James 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

--Not My temptation.

But according to exhaustive Divine Determinism, (1) whose plan was it, before it was anyone else’s, (2) whose command was it to decree child sacrifice, (3) who determined the excessive abuse and rendered it certain, (4) who planted the enemies, (5) who determined the persuasion into error, and finally, (6) whose temptation was it really? It’s one thing to say that God decrees SOME things, but those who say that God decrees EVERYTHING have some explaining to do.