So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds.’ But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’ “Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Ask now among the nations, who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel has done a most appalling thing.’”
When caught in a pickle with Scripture, Calvinists often defer to a Revealed Will vs. Secret Will, or inscrutable mysteries, such as a highly illogical “Sovereignty/Responsibility Tension.” However, what do Calvinists do when God appeals to something specific, like common sense? In such a case, Calvinists would be unable to invoke “mystery” as a solution. This is exactly what happens as Jeremiah 18:13.
Calvinists often defer to Romans 9:20 because they feel that it permits them to make points without having to prove it, or justify it or make sense of it.
Romans 9:18-20: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’ On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?”
This is a favorite text for Calvinists because they feel that it gives them a license to be illogical, and although we can discuss what is the context of Romans 9:20 and who are the real objectors, my point is what can Calvinists do in other situations where God specifically appeals to common sense? We see this a few times in Scripture.
Isaiah 5:1-7: “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. And He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.”
A Calvinist would typically defer to a Revealed Will vs. Secret Will. However, it seems that Jeremiah 18:13 provides a hurdle that must cause Calvinism great difficulty, because it eliminates the possibility of deferring to a Secret Will:
Jeremiah 18:12-13: “But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’ Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘Ask now among the nations, Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel has done a most appalling thing.’”
There are three things to point out:
(1) An Arminian can easily say that God holds them responsible (logically) because He provided them with Prevenient Grace and they still refused, while a Calvinist would alternatively have to say that since Israel did not repent, it is therefore self-evident that they did not receive an Irresistible Grace (Regeneration) but only received a Common Grace, and hence Israel is spot-on about being hopeless and helpless without such (i.e. Total Inability apart from Irresistible Grace). The problem is that God disagrees with Israel (which Calvinism ultimately agrees with unrepentant Israel), and God even calls the Total Inability argument “appalling.”
(2) A Calvinist would say that it is perfectly consistent for God to hold people responsible for failing to do what is otherwise completely impossible. This is part of the “Sovereignty/Responsibility Tension” that Calvinists defer to. But there is a problem, caused by Jeremiah 18:13.
(3) At Jeremiah 18:13, God doesn’t appeal to some deep theological mystery, or a Sovereignty / Responsibility tension, or an unknowable and unfathomable mystery, but rather, God appeals to basic common sense. God appeals to the heathens, in terms of whether they had ever heard of anything so ridiculous as to what unrepentant Israel is saying. Now if God had appealed to Calvinists, then that would cause a problem, because Calvinists would ultimately agree with unrepentant Israel. The bottom line is that if God was helping them, and evangelizing them, then they have to excuse to say that it was impossible for them to repent. In reality, unrepentant Israel was giving a fatalistic answer to justify their love for sin more than their love for God. If God had only left out verse 13’s appeal, Calvinists would have deferred to mystery. But God specifically appeals to something basic, rather than something highly nuanced and deeply philosophical. God is saying that Prevenient Grace (i.e. God’s evangelism) means that people are not helpless and hopeless when He calls them, but rather, where God leads, God enables. When God appeals to common sense, Calvinism loses, since Calvinism heavily relies on Special Pleading in order to avoid logical conundrums.