The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it. 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.’”
4-Point Calvinist, Ron Rhodes, comments: “So God changes His policy toward man when He sees a change in their actions.” (Commonly Misunderstood Bible Verses, p.24)
That’s a perfectly valid conclusion, and which also does not match up with Calvinistic Determinism.
Here you have one of the most powerful discussions on the Sovereignty of God in relation to the free will of man, and best of all, it’s in God’s own words! What could be better? What could be more definitive than to cross reference God’s own words on the matter? On the one hand, God tells Israel to repent and return to Him, and Israel responds by educating God about their Total Depravity. So how does God take the news? Not well. In fact, this is one of those, “You’ve got to be kidding!,” moments. God, being appalled, even turns to the heathens!, and essentially says: Have you heathens ever heard of anything so ridiculous as this?, so preposterous as this?, to think that My own people would tell Me to My face that I cannot deliver them? Here is an object lesson: When God tells you about the opportunity to repent, don’t throw Total Depravity in His face, by telling Him that His ability is no match for your inability, because those words, to Him, are poison. The point is, where God leads, God enables.
Nehemiah 9:28-31: “But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, and admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, by which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. However, You bore with them for many years, and admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, yet they would not give ear. Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.”
When Calvinists approach this passage, they do so with a presupposition of Determinism:
Calvinist, James White, writes: “The conjunction of God’s absolute freedom and His Creatorship results in the doctrine of God’s decrees: the soul-comforting truth that God has wisely and perfectly decreed whatsoever comes to pass in this universe.” (The Potter’s Freedom, p.45, emphasis mine)
A Calvinist forces every verse in the Bible to conform to the principles of Theistic Fatalism.
White explains: “God could refashion and remake Israel as He pleased. He did not have to ask permission, seek advice, or in any way consult anyone or anything outside of Himself. The entire nation was as clay in the potter’s hand. Clay has no inherent ‘rights,’ no basis upon which to complain about the potter’s decisions, no say in what the potter does.” (The Potter’s Freedom, pp.43-44, emphasis mine)
That’s plainly wrong. For God says, “If that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent.” (Jeremiah 18:8) Conversely, God says, “Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.” (Jeremiah 18:9-10) Therefore, clearly, God has given them a “say” in what He does. God gives them a choice, and God acts according to how they respond. They are not forcing God’s hand, as James White is about to argue, but rather, God is forcing them to make a move, through His ultimatum.
White continues: “...upon what principle of logic or hermeneutics are we to believe that the actual point of the parable is that the clay can force the potter’s hand either by its sin or its repentance?” (The Potter’s Freedom, p.225, emphasis mine)
That’s deliberate obfuscation, since no is talking about the Potter’s hand be forced. God is simply stating what He does, and what He does, He says, is conditional upon what man does. In mockery, Calvinists can use all of their favorite buzz words and catch phrases like “the autonomy of man” (p.223) and “the supremacy of the free choices of men!” (p.225) and they can uses as many exclamation marks as they please, but that does not change what is otherwise the plain reading of the text.
According to John 3:16, does our faith “force” God to give us eternal life? Who would argue something so ridiculous? God is not being forced to do anything. God is simply laying out the way in which He will govern the matter. If Israel repents, then He will relent. If Israel rebels, then He will judge them. It is not as if their repentance somehow forces God’s hand to relent, since He is simply stating His own policy. The fact that James White gives such an absurd answer, shows just how weak the Calvinist argument is, and every Arminian would be wise to point out that the root of Paul’s exposition on Romans chapter 9, regarding God being the Potter, is derived from Jeremiah chapter 18.
White continues: “Where is there a discussion of vessels of honor and dishonor in Jeremiah 18? Where is there a discussion of vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy? There is none.” (The Potter’s Freedom, p.225, emphasis mine)
The vessels of honor can be seen in God’s fashioning to “bless” (v.10) “build up” and “plant” (v.9), while the vessels of dishonor can be seen in the fashioning to “uproot,” “pull down” and “destroy” (v.7) including “fashioning calamity” and “devising a plan against,” (v.11) which is also consistent with the Jewish hardening described in Romans chapter 9 and at Romans 11:25.
John Calvin writes: “...and how true is what the Psalmist sings in Ps 115.3: Our God hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. This would certainly not be true if He willed something and did not do them. Nothing therefore is done unless He omnipotently willed it should be done, either by permitting it to be done or by doing it Himself. Nor may it be doubted that God did well in permitting to be done all that is ill done. For this is not permitted except by righteous judgment. Hence, though the things that are evil, in so far as they are evil, are not good, yet it is good that there be not only good but also evil things. For unless there were this good, that evil things existed, they would by no means be permitted to exist by omnipotent goodness. For without doubt it is as easy for Him to do what He wills as to permit what He does not will. Unless we believe this, we imperil the beginning of our faith, by which we confess belief in God almighty.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.67, emphasis mine)
Calvin infers that since God does whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3; 135:6), whatsoever is done must be pleasing to Him, by having either permitted it through secondary causes, or simply doing it Himself. Therefore, when a Calvinist sees this passage in Jeremiah, they infer that His offers of mercy must merely be His Revealed Will, while the results of their choices, must stem from His Secret Will, that is, to mold some to repent and others to rebel. It’s easy to claim Special Knowledge, and Calvinists do it often.
John Calvin writes: “Further, he declares in general that there come from the human race vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy for the manifestation of the glory of God.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.160, emphasis mine)
Calvin adds: “The passage does not describe the origin of our formation; it asserts God’s rightful power in the breaking and shattering of vessels already formed and finished.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.89, emphasis mine)
One Calvinist commented of Israel: “They did not have an innate ability to set themselves on the right path. Despite their freedom to choose between right and wrong, they could not make themselves love God more than they loved themselves.”
I find it amazing that Calvinism takes the argument of Israel, against God. Jeremiah 18:12-13 states: “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.’” God is basically saying of Calvinism, “who ever heard the like of this?” God is not just disagreeing with Calvinism, He finds it “appalling.” What they are missing is the fact that although God recognized their inability to keep the Law, He held that as absolutely no excuse to prevent them from repenting, and returning to Him, in order to receive His mercy.
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “What is important to understand is that Calvinism and Arminianism are two systems of theology that cannot be harmonized. Either God made the choice as to who will be saved and then grants man the ability to believe, or the choice is made by man. Either the elect are being saved, or God is saving as many as he can but failing in his purposes. Either God has ordained whatever comes to pass, or, because of man’s free will, the best he can do now is adjust himself to evil as it occurs.” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.220, emphasis mine)
If Determinism is true, then there is no such thing as Free Will, and there is but one choice in the universe, and that being the choice of the author who scripts whatsoever comes to pass.
One member of The Society of Evangelical Arminians states: “If Determinism is true, then God never responds to anything that we do. This does not fit the Bible at all since in Scripture, God constantly says that He responds to what people do or don’t do.” (SEA, emphasis mine)