If there was no Free Will, as the ancient Gnostics alleged, then how can one explain the origin of sin? The Gnostics argued that there was a sense of Dualism, light and darkness, spirit and flesh, in order to account for the origin of sin. Later, the Gnostic convert Augustine, taught a Monism instead, insomuch that all sin comes from God, by divine cosmic ordering, in which everything on balance is actually good, because God is good, and everything comes from Him. Notice the slight amount of Circular Logic there. The problem is that without Free Will, there is no way to explain the origin of sin, without implicating God as the origin of it all. Calvinists affirm a form of Free Will, called Compatibilistic Free Will, but which is not Free Will at all, but just a camouflage for Determinism.
Norman Geisler states: “...God made the fact of freedom; we are responsible for the acts of freedom.” (Chosen But Free, p.23, emphasis mine)
This simple statement explains the origin of sin, such as, “Where did Lucifer get his desire to sin?” What God created was the fact of freedom, but Lucifer is responsible for his act of freedom, and hence God has a logical basis upon which to hold him accountable. However, if you were to say that God’s creative mind is the true origin of Lucifer’s desire to sin, then you would have what Geisler terms, “Extreme Calvinism.” Notice that even Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, stops short of stating that God is the origin of the sinful choices by truly free creatures. Concerning Adam & Eve, before the Fall, Sproul states:
Therefore, for those who insist that in order for God to be “truly sovereign,” that He must have caused the fall of Adam & Eve, Lucifer and the fallen angels, and rendered it certain, have clearly gone further than R.C. Sproul. (As you are about to see, it also goes beyond what John Calvin himself had stated about the origin of sin.) So how are Calvinists going to tell Arminians that they are wrong about the nature of free-will, when even they admit that they cannot explain it?
John Calvin writes: “But now, removing from God all proximate causation of the act, I at the same time remove from Him all guilt and leave man alone liable. It is therefore wicked and calumnious to say that I make the fall of man one of the works of God. But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.123-124, emphasis mine)
Compatibilism doesn’t help the Determinist’s cause either, since it is still raw Determinism, but merely with the camouflaged cover and veneer of free-will. Consider 1st Corinthians 10:13 which states: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
This makes for a great response to the Calvinist who asks why a person chooses one way over another? Here you have two Christians, both enabled by God with sufficient grace to overcome temptation, and yet one overcomes while another does not. Why? The answer is free-will, otherwise there is no “way of escape” after all. Only free-will can explain why one Christian took the escape, while another did not.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “God promises Christians that they never have to sin. He gives grace to aid the Christian so that the Christian can resist temptation, even though he is obviously able to give in to temptation. So if you take two Christians, and one gives into temptation, while another does not, then why does one give in while the other remains faithful? It cannot be a difference of grace--they are both able to resist the temptation. By the Calvinist argument, it must be because one has some good in him, apart from God or grace, and must be able to legitimately boast. But this is obviously, patently unbiblical, and shows how the Calvinist argument is invalid.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
Billy Graham writes: “God created man in His own image and gave him an abundant life. He did not make him as a robot to automatically love and obey Him, but gave him a will and freedom of choice. Man chose to disobey God and go his own willful way. Man still makes this choice today. The is results in separation from God.” (The Enduring Classics of Billy Graham: The Secret of Happiness, Happiness Through Peacemaking, pp.125-126, emphasis mine)
Hal Lindsey states: “So God did this because He did not want to create robots. You see, He wanted a creature that could respond to Him. But, most of all, He wanted a creature that could respond to His love. Now, there cannot be love without freedom of choice. Unless you can choose not to love, you can’t love.” (Gospel of John, emphasis mine)
By the grace of God and through the free will of men to believe in Christ, some are saved (Ephesians 2:8), while others, who are disbelieving, remain condemned and perish. (John 3:18) Our free will is subject to outside influences, both from the negative influence of the devil, through sin, and also from the positive influence of God, through His preceding grace, which enables a man to receive Him.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “God, for some reason or another, seems just as concerned about how one comes to salvation than whether one comes to salvation. After all, salvation means to be rescued. God could rescue us without our consent: without our faith. For some reason He declared that we shall be saved by faith, and whatever made Him put the condition on salvation also causes Him to make revelation conditional as well.” (SEA, emphasis mine)
On the basis of Romans 10:17, what reason is there to believe that saving faith is not available to all? The Calvinist will immediately respond, “then why don’t all believe?” On that basis, the Calvinist will insist that something more than just the Gospel is needed for someone to believe, namely, a changed heart by means of preemptive, Regenerative Grace. Many have converted to Calvinism over that very point. However, God doesn’t give Regenerative Grace to sinners in order to believe. Rather, God gives believers Regenerative Grace in order not to sin, and to accomplish the holy calling in which each Christian has been uniquely called by God to serve within the Body of Christ.
So, then, how does anyone embrace the faith produced by the Gospel? The answer that Jesus gave was that you had to receive the Word with “an honest and good heart.” (Luke 8:15) However, Calvinists simply see that as a sign of regeneration because the natural, unregenerate man does not possess an honest and good heart, but rather possesses a heart that is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked heart.” (Jeremiah 17:9) However, Jesus didn’t mention anything about “Preemptive Regeneration” in His presentation of Luke 8:15. In fact, Jesus never specifically taught Preemptive Regeneration, period. So if not for Preemptive Regeneration, how does a “deceitful” and “wicked” heart become an “honest” and “good heart” in order to receive the faith produced by the preaching of the Gospel? The simple answer is that it doesn’t. Evangelism is not about seeking out the race of the good-hearted in order to get them saved. Many with a wicked heart have received the Gospel, while those of a lesser evil nature, remain unrepentant. Why? Because Jesus never said that good-hearted people are inclined to receive the Gospel. What He said was that you need to have “heard the word in an honest and good heart,” not that you must already possess an honest and good heart, as Calvinism teaches that Preemptive Regeneration operates. For instance, a wicked person can be utterly broken and convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), and therefore sincerely surrender under the weight, burden and guilt of sin, empowered by the faith-producing Gospel. Becoming a Christian is not about being a good person, but rather bad people surrendering under fear and pressure induced by the Holy Spirit. Hell is real and Jesus taught more on hell than anyone one else in the Bible. For instance, the two thieves on the cross next to Christ weren’t good-hearted people at all, but yet one of them heard what was being said about Jesus (through the scoffing of the Pharisees), and heard it with honest sincerity, and as a result of it, surrendered to Christ under the conviction of his sins. However, the Calvinist will still ask why one surrendered and the other didn’t. The answer, again, is that one sincerely embraced it, while the other hardened his heart. And why is that?, the Calvinists will still protest. Ultimately, it comes down to a free choice, under pressure of the Holy Spirit, empowered by the faith-producing Gospel. Jesus said to an unrepentant Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” (Acts 26:14) Will you choose to sincerely embrace hope, or will you harden your heart in faithlessness? For instance, Adam and Eve were sinless creatures while in the Garden of Eden. Were they not? Yet, they freely chose to sin, did they not? It was a perfectly free choice. Most Calvinists seem to loathe that analogy, but it was nevertheless a free choice, and like Adam and Eve, God gives us the glorious privilege of being able to receive reconciliation with Him, like the one thief, or the dubious privilege of rejecting Him, like the other thief. Man is enabled, and then held accountable for the enablement. In terms of such accountability, 2nd Peter 2:21 states: “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” Real opportunity is presented, and which also something Calvinism denies, apart from Elective and Regenerative Graces.
However, the Calvinist will still protest. Why, they will ask, does the one surrender under the weight of the pricking of the Holy Spirit, and not another, if not by preemptive Regenerative Grace by way of eternal in the Father Election? The answer is that one hardened his heart and not another. Naturally, the Calvinist will persist with, why did one choose to harden his heart, and not the other? The point of the Calvinist is simple, in that the difference between the two individuals is something that lies within themselves rather than something that lies within God, as Calvinism teaches, whereby God irresistibly helps the one to make the right choice, that is, the eternal elect individual, while withholding help for the other. Although the Calvinist perspective is functionally sound, it is nevertheless not biblically sound, and the Arminian is left to explain the concept of a free-will choice to the Calvinist.
Daniel Whedon explains: “Ask then what fully caused the Will in its conditions to cause the volition and the reply is, nothing. However, in the cause of the volitional decision to repent, God’s prevenient grace does exert an enabling influence on the will. Jon vi, 44; xvi, 8-9. An influence is not the same as a determining cause or partial cause. The will is still free to go in alternate directions.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.74, emphasis mine)
Daniel Whedon comments: “…the grace of God frees the Will from being completely bounded by sin since the Fall, but it does not determine or cause which way the Will volitionally decides. Even for the pagan, the Will is free to choose between sin, relative human good or repenting to become a Christian. Or if the question is: In general, why did the Will in equipoise choose thus rather than otherwise? The reply is, because the Will was a complete and adequate cause for that choice rather than another; and when an adequate cause is assigned the Why is answered.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.74, emphasis mine)
How is it complete?
Daniel Whedon comments: “Our very definition of a free Will is, a power of choosing in a given direction, with a full power of choosing otherwise. Now the rejection of a counter for which there is full power, in given forth the actual, is included in the very idea of a free will.” (Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, p.75, emphasis mine)
This is called the “power of contrary choice.”
What if God took a person and dropped him in hell for two minutes. Upon lifting him out, he might come out cursing, or he might come out surrendering. It just depends upon the free choice of the individual. This, incidentally, is the very picture of “the rich man” at Luke 16:19-31 who suddenly had the heart of an evangelist while in hell, persisting in an attempt to persuade Abraham (on the other side of the chasm) to reach his lost brothers who were soon to join him in hell and fiery torment. Now did “the rich man” require preemptive Regenerative Grace to arrive at this new perspective? The Calvinist will protest that this is simply not the manner in which God deals with the lost. Or is it? When the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, in conjunction with the faith-producing Gospel message, the world is essentially placed under that very same perspective of fear and impending doom in an eternal hell, contemplating the same exact future as “the rich man,” and some become bitter and harden their heart, while others submit. Some put off a decision for Christ for another day, while others walk the aisle and surrender their heart to Christ. Either way, for both, it is a life-changing event. For the one, their heart is regenerated and are now being born again. For the other, their heart has been hardened, and they don’t even realize it, which is why Isaiah warned: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) The perfect picture is the two men on the crosses next to Jesus. Both of them had their eternal future starring them right in their face, and one submitted and the other didn’t. It’s a Free Will choice, and you don’t get Regenerative Grace to make it. Just as what Abraham told the “the rich man,” they have Moses and the Prophets to listen to. (Luke 16:29, 31) Today, however, we have the Bible. Abraham’s answer is that even if someone should return from the dead, even that will not un-harden their heart. They have the free choice either to remain stubborn, which God warned against, “Harden not your heart” (Psalm 95:8), or to surrender and quit fighting and quit kicking against the goads. The Calvinist will still reject that, and ironically, that is entirely their free-will choice.
According to Calvinism, if God went ahead with creating a world that He foreknew would fall away, then God is responsible for all that that world would ever do, both good and bad. Otherwise, God could have stopped it from ever coming to pass, and if God chose not to stop it, then He must have a purpose for it.
In this illustration, if you did continue to have sexual relations with your wife, then it would not be because you approved of her eventual murder, but instead because you desired a normal relationship. For God to have proceeded with the act of creation, knowing that by creating the fact of freedom, people would misuse their freedom, does not require that God approved of their misuse, but rather that there was something else that God did desire. The parable of the Wheat and the Tares, exemplifies this. Jesus stated: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Matthew 13:24-30) Quite obviously, the enemy was Satan, and the Garden of Eden comes to mind. As Genesis records, what God created was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31) In this parable, the only reason why the Sower permitted that tares to continue to grow was because He did not want the wheat to be harmed, rather than having any secret purpose for the tares.
According to the Calvinist: God has a purpose for everything that takes place. I do not believe that God simply rolls the dice of creation and crosses His fingers hoping that everything turns out for the best. I believe in a God who is great and sovereign over all His creation and He has worked out all things according to His own purposes and for His own glory. Nothing comes into existence apart from God. It becomes an exercise in absurdity to try to imagine anything taking place outside of His will.
That’s the religion of a Calvinist: God has a purpose for sin. God ordained sin. If something happens, it’s because God has a purpose for it. That’s Calvinism.
Right now, we struggle with the sin nature, and are ensalved to it, but when we get to Heaven, we will be freed from this nature, to take on a nature as holy as Christ’s, and we will have chosen it, insomuch that we have chosen to be with Christ, longing for His return. Additionally, I’m not so sure that the “ability” to sin in Heaven will be removed, so much as the desire to sin will be removed, viz. a new nature, one that is like Jesus’. For instance, when Jesus was on earth, perhaps He had the physical ability to sin, though with His spiritual nature, He had no desire to commit sin, due to His nature which had no desire to sin. On the other hand, with fallen man, whether it be the “unregenerate unbeliever” or even the “regenerate Christian,” we still have a sin nature (Romans 7:14-25, in terms of the conflict of 2 natures). Someday in Heaven, the sin nature will be removed, and all that will be left is the regenerated nature, with a volitional fortitude and will-power like Jesus’ character. (See here for an additional discussion on this topic, particularly, the quote from Ron Rhodes.) The fact is, that the Calvinist cannot explain free will within the context of their “Determinism” when the creature in question is not “unregenerate,” such as Adam & Eve in their pre-Fall state, including the pre-Fall of Lucifer and the Fallen Angels. Even with the Calvinist’s version of Compatibilism, nothing is left but Hard Determinism, with a mere illusion of Free Will (since what is “compatible” must be meticulously programmed within them, in order for their “free” choices to be rendered compatible with a predetermine purpose, or else their unprogrammed, freedom to do a multitude of other free choices [good or bad], would interfere with a predetermined purposed. In other words, their potential freedom to commit sin-series: B-Z, would interfere with the predetermined purpose of them committing only sin-series: A. Hence, the need for meticulous pre-programming so that their “free choices” may appear compatible with their actual choices). Hence, the Calvinist version of free will, is nothing more than Hard Determinism. For more on this point, see here.
Robots don’t have Free Will. If I was to program a robot, then whatever the robot does, would be an extension of myself, as its exclusive programmer. Now regarding humanity, if there is no Free Will, then where does our Will come from? If it comes exclusively from Determinism (by divine decree, in which everything is fixed, set and scripted), then whatever humanity does, would similarly be an extension of the One programming the unchangeable decree. God is good, but Calvinism otherwise makes God complicit in an allegedly decreed Fall of man.
One Calvinist responds: “I as a believer in the doctrines of grace believe our wills are set free after made alive by the spirit but as scripture teach we still struggle with the old flesh. We receive different gifts from the spirit. We struggle with traditions and presuppositions and not relying totally on the Spirits guide. We are at different levels of maturity.”
However, that is a tough argument to maintain, since it requires that godly people (John Wesley, Adrian Rogers, ect.), were yet “spiritually immature” and “in the flesh.” It’s an argument that says, “We’re more spiritual on the Calvinist side.” As an Arminian, I don’t say that Calvinists are spiritually immature or in the flesh, but rather that they’ve been duped by an ancient, clever lie of Satan, twisting the Scriptures to match a Determinist world-view. However, back to the original point, if not free will, then the alternative is Determinism, and that Arminianism, including those who believe it, are unchangeably predetermined as such.