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:
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.
White writes: “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.
White writes: “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.
White writes: “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 writes: “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)
Calvin writes: “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, states: “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)
A line of questioning like this, is meant to show the Calvinist the cost of his 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.
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.
This might be the most embarrassing question that Calvinists have to answer.
Here is what the Calvinist, Westminster Confession of Faith states: “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, it 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.
It’s 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 God’s creative imagination to conceive of every sin every committed. In such a case, God’s holy character would be completely wiped out. Calvinists really need to think this through, before pushing such a doctrine.
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)
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?