|Vol. 14 No. 4 April 2012||
Does Freewill Exist?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dear Editor, I am a born again Christian since 1998 and currently working in Saudi Arabia. By the grace and protection of God, our Bible society was able to hold weekly Bible studies. I would like to have some tips: 1. Topics to discuss (priorities). 2. My heart longs to teach some doctrines (grace, total depravity, justification, election), how to go about it as other peers within our group are teaching 2-handed positions on salvation, Man’s Free Will. Thank you so much for your response. Sincerely yours, [name withheld by the Editor for the safety of the correspondent]
John Calvin (1509-1564) was a prominent, early character in the Reformation Movement. Originally, he was a Roman Catholic and received training therein. He turned, though, his attention to reformers who, unable to rehabilitate the Roman Catholic Church, developed alternative churches to the Catholic Church. Calvin was a prolific religious writer and preached daily as well. Eventually, he opposed both the Catholic and Lutheran churches, and he organized his increasing number of followers into still another church.
John Calvin developed and made popular several religious doctrines that have become a part of most denominations and so-called Christian churches today. Sometimes his doctrines (essentially, five in number) are collectively referred to as “Calvinism.” They are memorable through the acrostic: T U L I P. TULIP stands for Total Heredity Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints.
Total Heredity Depravity is the belief that every newborn baby comes into the world already guilty of the sin of Adam and Eve. This doctrine is similar to the Catholic doctrine of Original Sin. However, God through the prophet Ezekiel disputes both Total Heredity Depravity and Original Sin. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV).
Total Heredity Depravity supposes that the waywardness of sinful man is so great that freewill cannot respond to the Gospel, but that Irresistible Grace (a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on a person) must occur before one can respond to the Word of God. Yet, the Holy Spirit in the Bible never acted directly upon a soul to save it, but instead, the Holy Spirit inspired human penman (2 Peter 1:20-21), apostles and prophets (Acts 2:1-11) to convey the Gospel to lost souls (Ephesians 4:11-12). An angel sent the evangelist Philip to teach the Gospel to the Ethiopian Eunuch, rather that the Holy Spirit converting him directly (Acts 8:38); after the conversion, the Holy Spirit entered the scene to whisk Philip away (Acts 8:29). The miraculous language speaking enabled by the Holy Spirit on the household of the Cornelius was proof that the Gentiles, too, were candidates for conversion, but they still voluntarily responded to the “command” to be baptized (Acts 10:48).
Unconditional Election is the idea that there is nothing on the part of a saved person for which he is responsible to do. However, the Bible teaches that salvation is conditional. Summarized, only those who “obey” Jesus Christ will be saved (Hebrews 5:8-9), whereas all “those who do not obey the gospel” will remain lost (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Specifically, obedience to the Gospel or the Faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26) includes believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 8:24), repenting of past sins (Luke 13:3), acknowledging before others one’s confidence that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-33) and immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). Sins that may occur in a Christian’s life can be removed through repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). Christians are required to be faithful, even if that faithfulness results in one’s death (Revelation 2:10).
The tenet of Calvinism, Perseverance of the Saints, denies that a child of God can sin so as to be lost. Whatever sinful thing a child of God does, according to this doctrine, either will not cause one’s soul to be lost, or it indicates that the person never was really saved in the first place (though the person and his peers thought he was saved). Yet, the Bible is full of examples where the children of God sinned so as to be lost. Every warning to a child of God not to sin in the Bible (someone reportedly counted over 1,500 occasions) implies that the child of God can sin so as to be lost. Otherwise, there would be no point in making the warning in the first place. Notice the following passage that certainly teaches the possibility of a Christian being lost.
While they [false teachers] promise them [Christians] liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage [of sin]. For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world [sins] through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome [by sin], the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter 2:19-22)
Somehow, becoming a Christian, and then returning to a life of sinfulness afterward is worse than the lost state of sin experienced before conversion. A child of God can sin so as to be lost.
Limited Atonement is the teaching that salvation is not available for everyone. Only those to whom God directs the Holy Spirit specifically to motivate to become Christians can be saved. By implication, this doctrine teaches that everyone who will be lost eternally will be lost because of Limited Atonement. It is true that comparatively few souls will be saved compared to the majority of souls that will be lost eternally (Matthew 7:13-14). Yet, that is not because of Limited Atonement, but instead because of human freewill choosing rather to not obey the Gospel of Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). In truth, the Gospel of salvation is for all people – all people have the opportunity to become Christians, and it is the mission of Christians to bring the good news of the Gospel to them. The Gospel is for “all men” (Ephesians 3:9) or “every creature” (Colossians 1:23). “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Every “whosoever” (KJV) or “whoever” (NKJV) passage relative to salvation loudly declares that humans have Freewill. “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved’” (Acts 2:21). “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). “‘Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent” (Acts 13:26 KJV). “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15 NKJV). “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17 KJV).
By whatever name it may be known today, the tenets of Calvinism are not true to the Bible. Babies are not born in sin, bearing the guilt of Adam or any other forefather. Salvation is conditional upon human response to the Gospel – obedience (differs from sinless perfection). God desires everyone to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), though most souls will be lost through their disobedience of the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Even the children of God can sin so as to be lost. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV). Freewill means that each mentally responsible soul is personally accountable for becoming a child of God and remaining a faithful child of God. Essentially, God votes for our salvation; the devil votes against us, and we each cast the deciding vote as to whether we will be saved eternally. We cannot be saved merely through our own efforts without God, and God will not save us without our participation in His plan for our salvation.