Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Calvinism and Arminianism. Does God pre-determine our salvation?

The idea of strict Calvinism is where God does what He likes and has created some people for heaven and some for hell. It is a lottery and a decision beyond our control, God decides our destiny.
Arminianism is basically the opposite where man has freewill.
I admit both of these labels have varying degrees, for this reason I would not happily commit myself to either at this stage.
I believe in God's freewill and our freewill. God's freewill is subject to or guided by His character (His goodness) and our freewill is subject to God's freewill. He is the Creator we are the creatures.

It may be good at this time to keep in mind that every good thing we receive from God or every good thing that happens to us is a mercy from God. God isn't unfair He is more than fair (Taken from Matthew 20:1-15). Every bad thing that happens to us we deserve. We are all sinners and the ultimate wages of sin is death (Romans3:23). God is GOOD we are not.

For this topic I would like to focus our attention on Jeremiah 18:1-11. I believe this portion of scripture provides us with a huge clue as to the correct answer.

1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying:
2 "Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words."
3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.
4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?" says the LORD. "Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!
7 "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it,
8 "if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.
9 "And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it,
10 "if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.
11 "Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: "Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."’"

Do you notice who is in control of the nations? It is God, He is the Potter, people are the clay. God made the vessel "as it semed good to the potter to make" v4. This would imply God's predestined will for every man. However as we read we also see God's character and will. V4 also says "the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter". The verse carries on to say that he made it into another vessel.
I must ask why did the potter fail to create what He intended in the first place? I mean He's God isn't He?
The answer is in verses 8-10. God is trying to make us into something good and beautiful. Yet we don't mold into His hands the way He wants us to so He prepares us for alternative purposes. For some we become useful and beautiful vessels but for others the vessels were marred so bad that they were thrown into the valley of the son of Hinnom and were destroyed.

Romans 9 explains it also and I believe that the passage in Jeremiah is what Paul possibly had in mind.

Romans 9
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!
15 For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."
16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth."
18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"
21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,

Notice the example that Paul gives, he uses Pharaoh. When we read the story of Pharaoh it wasn't that God hardened his heart from the beginning but that Pharaoh hardened his heart first and then God helped him along the path he had chosen, to show His might and strength.
God is still soverign but He is good and just...holy, the story of Job I recommend as a good understanding of God's soverignty and yet His perfect plans. We cannot mold ourselves but we can allow our selves to be molded. The way I see v22 is that God endured and was longsuffering with people like Pharaoh. But in the end they would not mold so He prepared them for destruction. He is preparing each and everyone of use beforehand for what He has in store for us.

Another scripture on this topic follows:
Romans 8
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God knew of us beforehand, it is not that He decided who would be saved and who wouldn't, he knew who would be saved an who wouldn't. God knew Pharaoh would harden his heart. It is God's predestined will that every person should be saved and conformed to the image of His Son. This is God's heart but He is so good that He allows us to make our own decisions.
To sum up why God has allowed freewill even to death I believe is that God is wanting a loyal people. How can you possibly have loyalty without an opportunity to be disloyal?

What about these verses?
Matthew 22:14 "For many are called, but few are chosen." (In the context of the Parable of the Wedding Feast).

1 Corinthians 1:
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;
23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,
24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;
28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are,
29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Firstly the wedding of the kings son, Jesus said in the beginning that it was a parable about the kingdom of God. So I believe it is refering to salvation. It is a story where God invited people to the wedding but only some were able to come. Some made excuses and then another came in dirty clothes. I believe when it says many are "called", it does not mean that every person is called, I'll explain.
Called simply means invited.

To get the full picture we now turn to 1 Corinthians 1: 21-29. This passage is saying that only those who are called understand the gospel. It later on says that not many noble are called etc. but the lowly are called so that God can show His glory through "weak" things. "Not many" implies that not all the noble are called. Why would this be so?

I think the possible answer is in Romans8:29-30, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

God knows who will be saved (He foreknew), so those people He foreknew He predestined to be like His Son. It goes on to say that those He predestined He also called. So I believe the situation is this. God desires all to be saved, however some are so far gone "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." God knows they won't even consider His invite so He didn't call them. Its not that He didn't want them to be saved. They didn't want to be saved and became haughty against God. So God didn't invite them to His wedding Feast only some.
Some however were invited and didn't come to the Wedding Feast. I don't know why God invited them but maybe God knew their hearts and there might have been a small chance that they would come and God was good enough to invite them anyway.

Called in the Wedding seems to mean invited. Called in 1 Corinthians seams to mean enlightened. If this is a similar situation as i have taken it as, God enlightens or calls many except for a few. Though only few are actually chosen (because they accepted His invite).

I Hope I am understood? Maybe I can study the "called" business some more.

2Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

This verse I believe proves that God does not predestine people to hell without a choice, we only go there because we choose to. GOD IS GOOD.


  1. Nicely put! :)

    I agree that God has fully pre-determined everything that comes to pass. Nothing ever falls outside of His plan. Even sin (although it goes against God's will), is totally a necessary and predestined part of His plan. And so is the eternal suffering of those predestined for destruction (even though His will is that all be saved).

    I also agree that as humans we have at least the ability to choose to resist His will (unsuccessfully!) or to be malleable in it and delight in it. I aim to be one of the latter :) All people (including me) are fully responsible for our rejection of God. But praise God that He has chosen me along with the rest of His people - those who will be malleable in His hands - to pour out His mercy on me, and to work greater faith and joy and holiness and power in me! He has been far far more than fair...

  2. Hey FearGod (Josh)...LOL

    Thanks for your post,

    I don't know if I quite meant that God predetermined sin. I am suggesting that He knew it would happen but He didn't predetermine it. He gave us free will so He let it happen. He let sin happen even if it went against His will or desired plan for us.

    We might be just playing with terms.
    He is so good though isn't He!



  3. I’ve only had the chance to briefly skim some of your blog and I look forward to having time to read it more closely.

    I note that you have a lot of respect for David Pawson. That respect is well deserved. He’s one of the few bible teachers I would trust.

    Just a comment on a statement you made above:

    “Arminianism is the opposite where man is in control.”

    I think that is a misrepresentation of Arminianism. While I am not an Arminian myself, I was continually accused of being one by Calvinists so I investigated their beliefs. One of the best resources I came across was



  4. Just another comment, this time about the called and the chosen. I note that revelation has a reference to the called, chosen and faithful. THAT might be worth a closer look.

  5. Hello Onesimus!

    Oh it is so wonderful to have someone who is a seeker! It gets a little tiresome talking with atheists.

    Thank you for the thoughts. If I have time I will have a look into it. Very interesting.

    Your brother


  6. And yes, I do really like David Pawson. I have his life teachings on mp3 and listen to them at work :) He doesn't dodge hard questions and yet has faith like a child...if you know what I mean.

  7. Dan,
    I have a lot of Pawsons books, DVDs and CDs.

    I've known his ministry since the mid 1980s but really came to appreciate it about 7 years ago.

    The thing I like most is that he has continually challenged my preconceptions and I've tried to disagree with him far too many times. However, on searching the scriptures I've usually found that he's been right.

    For many years I struggled with my faith. I was finding that scripture did not support a lot of what I'd been taught in church (and through other ministries). I tried to push my concerns aside becasue I wasn't confident enough to trust my understanding of what scripture said.

    When I rediscovered Pawson 7 years ago I found that he confirmed that I was on the right track with most of the things I'd been struggling with.

    Another ministry I trust is that of David Servant. he has several e-books and articles freely available. They are excellent. I have a link to his site on the side bar of my blog.

    Bless you mate

  8. hey Tim,

    Yeah, What helps is that David Pawson was taught to cut the Bible up and that it contradicted itself (from memory). Through this experience and his turning from it, he seems to have answers to a lot of these "problems". I don't know how he does it but he seems to pull together statements and make it so logical and balanced.

    Good to have ya around,


  9. Dan,
    Pawson determined to accept the clearest and simplest meaning of scripture even if it contradicted what he believed. If only more of us would take that approach. Too often we brush aside those "difficult" passages when they challenge what we want to believe.

    We need to START with scripture and base our doctrine on what scripture says. Usually we try to INTERPRET scripture in a way that supports the doctrines we have already chosen to believe.

    I am learning that the primary importance of scripture is not as a theological text, but it is a revelation of God and His relationship with mankind given through real life situations. The more revelation we receive of God and His character, the more trustworthy our doctrinal/theological foundation will become.

  10. I am learning that the primary importance of scripture is not as a theological text, but it is a revelation of God and His relationship with mankind given through real life situations.

    So true!

    God used human writers to write the Bible and yet edited their writings :) The Bible is a story about life...by example, of bad people and good people, and God. Not a text book. Therefore scripture must be compared with scripture to gain a better balance about God's truth. I could make the Bible say whatever I wanted it to say by quoting any verse I liked. But we need to get in context.

    I am still learning with this though and still challenged LOL.

  11. Ah,

    I read a little here and on the site you gave:


    So regarding arminianism, they more believe that Man cannot come to God by themselves with a freewill. God has to give them grace which allows them to have freewill to choose God? "Total depravity".

    So my statment “Arminianism is the opposite where man is in control.” would not be entirely correct?

    I'm learning. What do you think?


  12. Arminains believe in the Total Depravity of man which prevents man from seeking God. They also believe in “Prevenient Grace”, which means God (through a pre-salvation extension of grace) enables man to seek Him. This comes through the conviction of the Holy Spirit working with the gospel.

    Man hears the gospel and the Spirit brings conviction. Man is then enabled to turn to God or to continue to resist Him.

    Personally I do not like the use of non-biblical terminology such as “Total Depravity” or “Prevenient Grace”. While they are intended to describe scriptural principles, they tend to go beyond the principles they are supposed to describe and end up with a life of their own. Doctrine then centres on definitions of the terminology instead of the original scriptural principles.
    Understanding of TOTAL Depravity then comes down to our understanding of TOTAL. To the Calvinist it means a total inability of spiritually dead man to seek God until he has been regenerated. Therefore to the hardcore Calvinist someone needs to be born again before they can believe or repent. And the experience of regeneration is distributed entirely according to God’s sovereign will, enforce by His “irresistible grace” – therefore only those who God has chosen will be saved. (and they WILL be saved and will REMAIN saved because they are unable to resist God's choice for them. The rest can literally go to hell - also solely according to God's chosen destiny for those people).

    Regarding man’s pre-salvation condition I prefer to use the terminology of Paul in Romans 11:32 “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”

    So ALL men are bound over to disobedience – but this is not for the purpose of excluding the majority (as the Calvinist belives). It is merely to place all of mankind on a level playing field. We all start from the same place of disobedience where our only hope is the mercy of God. But praise His name – His mercy is available to ALL. (Though not all will benefit from that mercy. Some will choose to remain in disobedience).

  13. Hey Tim.

    Yep, from what you wrote I would agree with you. It is an interesting thought you brought across about how labels can start bringing their own preconceived interpretation on the scriptures.
    I think we all are guilty of this.

    I'll adapt the ariminian reference.