Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

Calvinist, James White, writes: “So often is the ‘God looked into the future and saw who would choose Him’ statement made, that most accept it without any inquiry into its truthfulness. But the fact is that the text knows nothing of this ‘crystal ball’ approach to God’s decree of salvation.”  (Debating Calvinism, p.145, emphasis mine)

Calvinism cannot account for genuine Foreknowledge or genuine Middle Knowledge, since Calvinism teaches that God has essentially written a “script,” and all of life is playing out accordingly:

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: “If God has decided our destinies from all eternity, that strongly suggests that our free choices are but charades, empty exercises in predetermined playacting. It is as though God wrote the script for us in concrete and we are merely carrying out his scenario.” (Chosen By God, p.51, emphasis mine)

Thats the kind of Predestination taught by Calvinism, which is also known as Theistic Fatalism, or even Hard Determinism.

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 adds: “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)

Calvin explains: “God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.20, emphasis mine)

Calvin writes: “…the reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone. … before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God. … the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203, emphasis mine)

When you examine a verse like Acts 2:23, it seems that Calvinism must equate foreknowledge with foreordination in order to make Calvinism work. Arminianism, on the other hand, seems to provide a truly genuine explanation for God’s foreknowledge by allowing foreknowledge to be prescience. Arminians, with the exception of Open Theist Arminians, generally believe that God, being both eternal and omniscient, dwells in all time and space as one eternal now, so to speak. Thus, God can know our future as if it was the past to Him. To God, our future would be fixed, because He would know it as after-the-fact. Additionally, Arminians typically believe in Middle Knowledge, which is God’s exhaustive and infallible knowledge of all contingencies, that is, knowing all of the what-ifs, as revealed at Matthew 11:20-24. Therefore, Arminians believe that God is all-knowing, not because He has written a script for men and angels to play-act in, but because nothing in all time and space can hide from Him.

To a Calvinist, the concept of Sproul’s concrete “script” theory is a foundational principle:

Calvinist, James White, writes: “The conjunction of Gods absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of Gods decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe.” (The Potters Freedom, p.45, emphasis mine)

Those are the glasses that every Calvinist puts on before he reads the Bible. Every verse in the Bible is brought into subjection to that very core principle, and Calvinists have resolutely declared it as “truth.” Anyone who challenges this “truth” is said to have denied Gods sovereignty, and R.C. Sproul goes so far to suggest that if any Christian denies such a “truth” then they might as well be an atheist:

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, states: If He decides to allow something, then in a sense he is foreordaining it. ... If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the ground and glorious plans that God has made and promised to us. ... If we reject divine sovereignty then we must embrace atheism. (Chosen by God, pp.26-27, emphasis mine)

The reason why this is laughable is because God is eternal. God can speak of a time in which every knee shall bow, as per Philippians 2:10-11, not necessarily because He had to script it, in order for it to be so, but because all time and space are set before Him in the present tense.

Dave Hunt states: “God knows every thought, word, and deed beforehand because He is omniscient. That God foreknows all that will happen doesn’t cause it to happen, because He exists outside of time.” (Debating Calvinism, pp.165-166, emphasis mine)

Allan Turner of explains: “The fact that God knows I will act a certain way does not mean His knowledge causes me to act this way. If, as a free moral agent, I chose to behave differently, God’s knowledge about this behavior would also be different.” (None Should Perish)

Jerry Vines explains:God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t determine the future any more than man’s knowledge of the past determines the past.” (Calvinism – A Baptist and his election, emphasis mine)

Laurence Vance writes: “What the Calvinists have done is to turn an attribute of God, foreknowledge, into an act of God, foreordination.” (The Other Side of Calvinism, p.393, emphasis mine)

Bingo! That is it, in a nutshell.

The Calvinist reasons that if the future is known, then it must indeed be determined (which from God’s perspective, is correct). However, the question that remains is exactly who determined the future. In this case, the Calvinist simply assumed Determinism as the cause of the future, without even considering the logical possibility that God knows future events as if they were after-the-fact:

Calvinist, James White, writes: Mr. Hunt claims that God knows all future events because He exists outside of time. But merely making such a claim does not answer the question. Since Hunt specifically denies that God has knowledge of events in time due to God’s decree, it must follow that events in time flow from something other than God’s creative act. Is it fate? Man’s free will? (Debating Calvinism, pp.167-168, emphasis mine)

In other words, because Dave Hunt rejects Sproul’s “script” theory, God must therefore know something that He did not script, which the Calvinist simply cannot fathom, for fear of Sproul’s one maverick molecule” laying waste to all of Gods promises. Therefore, the ultimate question becomes: Divine Determinism or Limited Self Determinism? (I use the word “limited” on the basis of 1st Corinthians 10:13.) In other words, from God’s perspective, yes, the future is indeed fixed, because He dwells outside of time, and therefore has the capacity to know something that we determine, which also allows the Bible to make sense, since the cost of Sproul’s “script” theory would come at the price of making the Scriptures into, as Sproul puts it, one big charade of “predetermined playacting.”

Strangely, however, Sproul also states: God’s omniscience refers to God’s total knowledge of all things actual and potential. God knows not only all that is, but everything that possibly could be.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p171, emphasis mine)

So what might be included in the everything that possibly could be,” and how does Sproul envision that God would know this? (In other words, if it’s merely potential,” then it would not be written in God’s alleged “script” or decree.) Furthermore, what potential things does he refer to? Is it man’s free will? How else can you explain Matthew 11:20-24? Calvinism therefore requires that all contingenies be predetermined as well. Challenge the Calvinists to explain how the alleged decree, has also determined  an infinite series of contingencies?

Sproul explains: The expert chess player exemplifies a kind of omniscience, thought it is limited to the options of chess play. He knows that his opponent can make move A, B, C, or D, and so forth. Each possible move opens up certain counter-moves. The more moves ahead the expert can consider, the more he can control his chess-game destiny. The more options and counter-options one considers, the more complex and difficult the reasoning. In reality no chess player is omniscient. God knows not only all available options, but also which option will be exercised. He knows the end before the beginning.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p171, emphasis mine)

Because He determined it? You see, the only way that Calvinism can avoid making itself out to be a form of an Open Theist theology is by requiring the alleged decree to include all things both actual and potential, namely, all contingencies as well. But Calvinists are unable to explain how the alleged decree accomplishes this. How would the alleged decree determine an infinite series of contingencies? Free will would make better sense, because it is just an infinite number of undetermined and unrealized options that we could make. No one has determined it, because it never happened, except that any option can be foreknown by God, simply by knowing how man’s own choices would naturally play itself out. It’s not determining an infinite series of options, and it’s not determining other people’s chess moves, but simply knowing man, and the intentions of his heart, and playing out their results. 1st Corinthians 10:13 makes such knowledge necessary, since God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to handle, and how could God know our limits, without also knowing all things potential, that is, the knowledge of all contingencies? Calvinism, in contrast, would require that our limits and potential also be part of the allege decree, including whether we take the way of escape or not, and then Calvinists have the audacity to then also talk about compatibilistic free will” in the same breath, which is just more determinism, only camouflaged.

God’s knowledge of the actual, that is, knowing the end before the beginning, speaks of God’s Foreknowledge, having the perspective of dwelling independent of time, while God’s knowledge of the potential, speaks of God’s knowledge of all contingencies, that is, Middle Knowledge. The irony is that Sproul’s explanation is a perfect answer to James White.

Here is a Blog discussion on this very topic.

A “crystal ball” analogy is a commonly used analogy by Calvinists in order to mock the Arminian view of God’s foreknowledge. However, God doesn’t need a crystal ball because He is the crystal ball. There is simply nothing that God cannot know, and nowhere that His eyes cannot see, including the furthest reaches of all time and space, existing as if it were, in an eternal now. Moreover, God not only knows what will be, but also what could and would be, if certain conditions were changed, evidenced at Matthew 11:20-24. This is called “Middle Knowledge.”
Question:  Is there any evidence from Scripture which conclusively proves that God has the capacity to know something that He did not create, cause, decree or determine?

Answer:  Matthew 11:20-24.
Question:  If the future is perfectly known by God, then is it not fixed and determined?, and hence Free Will cannot exist?

Answer:  Who determined the future? From Gods vantage point of being able to look back upon our future, our future would be just as fixed from His perspective, as the past is fixed from our perspective.
Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: “The idea is that from all eternity God looks down the tunnel of time and knows in advance who will respond to the gospel positively and who will not.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.142, emphasis mine)

However, Sproul will now contradict himself....
Calvinist Charge:  Arminian foreknowledge is a “Crystal Ball” theory.

Myth or Reality:  Calvinistic Determinism states that everything is decreed, and even what is permitted is actually part of the alleged decree as well, being eternal, fixed and completely unchangeable. Naturally, then, God would know what He decreed, and that is the extent of Gods knowledge, according to Calvinism, which teaches that God cannot know anything that He does not determine. If others were to determine something, then God couldnt know it. Watch Calvinists say it, in their own words. Its truly a denial of omniscience. Open Theists agree with the Calvinists on that point, and then reject the decree. To know things not determined by God, Calvinists then liken to a crystal ball.
Calvinism doesn’t seem to have a good explanation for God’s foreknowledge, and in fact, doesn’t seem to acknowledge that God even has the capacity to know anything that He does not script:

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

The conclusion is that Calvinists are actually Open Theists, but with a decree, believing that God has predetermined everything in order to know anything. The difference between Calvinists and Open Theists is that Calvinists have a decree, and Open Theists don’t.