Written by Thomas Perez. September 14, 2009 at 11:48pm. Copyright 2009.
St. Augustine, Pelagius, Pope Gregory the Great, John Calvin, and Jacobus Arminius
Unlike many theologians and philosophers who would avoid the idea, or at the very least disagree with ‘Theological Determinism,’ I can not help but be subject to this version on a philosophical, scientific, and theological level. While circumstances dictated by society may be the cause of our behavior (will), like; sexual preferences, likes/dislikes and capabilities (as seen in Freuds’ ‘ego’ and ‘super ego’), I can not help but think that an individual does not wake up in the morning and suddenly decides to become an alcoholic, homosexual, murderer, scientist or even a theologian. I believe these things are in our genetic makeup (DNA – an uncontrollable circumstance, inherited). It would appear that even the Scriptures attest to such a possibility (Ex 34:7, Ps 51:5, 103:17). I myself am living proof of that. When I view the strength’s and fault’s of my parents, I see the similarities.
Man is predictable (as seen in Skinners’ model in Part 1). Moreover, it is also seen in the writings of Jeremiah the Prophet; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jere 17:9). Even what appears to be considered a good free choice on our behalf, is deemed unholy and unrighteous filthy rags as quoted by Isaiah the Prophet (Isa 64:6). Man is thus incapable of doing nothing else. In this sense, Freud was correct. He must act in accordance with his freewill (or ego), to walk as destined by the result of what theologians call, not the ego, but “The Fall.”
The fall is the result of what took place in the Garden of Eden as recorded in Genesis chapter 3. In Genesis chapter 3, we have the story of the 1st man and woman. They were given a choice of obedience or disobedience. They had chosen the later, resulting in an inherited nature of constant need, desire, lust and the focal point of ‘self’ to the highest degree of selfishness. These are the choices that were given to us as payment for our disobedience (some call it the sin nature, I call it, the ‘Inherited Sin Nature’ due in part to the wrath of God). As The Apostle Paul said “We were slaves to sin” (Rom 6:17). We are slaves to the fall. Man’s only freedom is freedom to sin. Similarly; according to ‘The Moody Handbook of Theology;’ “The only freedom man had was the freedom to sin; man was now incapable of doing right” (424). Therefore; as a result of the fall, it is logical to think that the problem of evil and sin did not spring from God but rather it sprang from His Wrath upon Man and his willful disobedience in The Garden of Eden. If only the atheistic philosophers would begin to grasp the reality of the fall, then perhaps there would be no contradictions to the positions stated above as viewed in all ‘Deterministic’ and ‘Freewill’ Models.
Therefore; in this sense, Skinner’s model holds water to an apparent lack of choice as unrepentant man continues to do what he see’s fit because he can do no other, due to the fall. Here we also have a choice as considered in the word ‘do’ as in Freud’s model (Man being incapable of responsibility due to our very nature of being, but yet can be responsible due to the ‘Super Ego’) and a model of ‘Soft Determinism’ (unrepentant Man having the ability to ‘do’ which entails ‘choice,’ ‘Soft Determinism’) co-existing at the same time. In other words; the unrepentant man has a freewill of choice, but only in the sense that he is choosing to live according to the fall. Therefore, man really has no free will at all, he is in constant restriction due to his inability to produce fruits other than the fruits of the fall, as seen in our time travel hypothesis, of which I believe theoretically makes sense in reference to predetermined plans. It will also appear apparent that all things are determined from the get go as seen in the poetic writings of (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Such also was the teachings of St. Augustine.
St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD), born in Hippo North Africa, held a similar belief, that all things were predestined and predetermined. According to ‘The Moody Handbook of Theology;’ “Because of the fall, man’s only freedom was freedom to sin,” as quoted by St. Augustine (424). This statement by Augustine also confirms his belief in ‘Soft Determinism’ as cited in the definition of ‘Soft Determinism.’ Man is incapable of doing right due to the fall. When we do what is considered right, it is only based on a moral concept of precepts handed down by a Creator God in the form of the law. According to ‘The Moody Handbook of Theology;’ “Augustine had a Christian mother, he had led a wild life that was restless and without peace. In his search for peace he became a disciple of the Manichaean’s and later studied Neo-Platonic philosophy. Under the influence of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Augustine was introduced to Christianity, but he experienced the terrible power of sin and his own inability to overcome his sinful desires. Upon reading Romans 13:14, Augustine experienced release from his burdens and was converted. He immediately began a diligent study of Paul’s epistles, wherein he had experienced the grace of God” (424).
In his day Augustine had three opponents in particular, they were: the Manicheans, (who fundamentally thought Gnostic and dualistic ideologies, stating an opposition between God and matter), the Donatists, (who required worthy ministers to administer the sacraments accordingly. Augustine maintained that the unworthiness of ministers did not invalidate the sacraments, since their minister was Christ), and the Pelagians (of which most of Augustine’s rebuttal against their theological ideologies stem from. It is the Pelagian’s position that declares that a person can come to salvation by his or her own efforts apart from God’s grace). Moreover, according to The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, Augustine believed that “evil could only be privatio boni, the absence of the good which ought to be. Moral evil is a consequence of freewill, whereas physical evil results from imperfection. Second, the Donatist controversy caused him to formulate systematic doctrines of the Church and sacraments. Augustine’s last battle was with the Pelagians, clarifying his teachings on the fall, original sin and predestination. He held that man’s original endowment from God was lost by the fall of Adam, so that now all suffer from an inherited defect and liability from Adam’s sin; and from this the whole human race is justly massa damnata, to be saved only by the grace of God. Since God knows what He intends to do, Augustine is inevitably predestinarian to some extent, and this influenced John Calvin and other reformers” (109).
In general, the doctrinal ancient anthropologic belief system of Augustine in reference to Freewill and the Sovereignty of God is as follows…
1. Because of the fall, Man is inclined to only do a will of evil. Man was no longer free – this lead to the doctrine of original sin.
2. The neutrality of Freewill was lost in the Garden of Eden.
3. In the fall, all men inherited a sin nature including infants – this is the doctrine of the imputation of sin; original sin (Psa 51:5, Rom 5:12).
4. God’s grace is absolutely essential in rescuing Man from his state of total depravity.
5. The grace of God operates contrary to the nature of Man. Salvation is possible only through God’s grace.
6. In this manner, grace is imparted to sinful Man, not because he believes, but because faith itself is a gift of God.
Some would argue that if Augustine’s doctrine is correct, then the responsibility for the shape that the world is in belongs to God, not man. Augustine’s view was not left unchallenged. Enter the Pelagians, or as it is called “The Pelagian Controversy.”
In 410 AD a British monk by the name of Pelagius (360 – 420 AD) challenged Augustine’s doctrine of total depravity (which indicates of lack of Freewill). Pelagius was quiet and lived a solemn life. He was quite the opposite to Augustine. But, he knew very little of spiritual conflict. Pelagius propounded his doctrine of man and salvation in Rome about 400 AD. Pelagius’ doctrines is as follows:
1. Man has the ability to choose good or evil. He is born neutral. Thus, a sinless life is possible.
2. Man is not born with original sin.
3. The problem of evil was “wrong education” or “social up-bringing” (Freudian thought as in the ‘Super Ego’).
4. God’s grace, while helpful in overcoming evil, is unnecessary for salvation.
5. Man can choose of his own ability to accept or reject God’s grace for overcoming evil.
6. Salvation is therefore independent of God’s grace.
Pelagius believed that things unfolded according to the foreknowledge of God in conjunction with Mans Freewill. By insinuating this, Pelagius believed that Man had complete ultimate fate in his destiny and that God acts, intervenes and plays only a supporting role in establishing that which He knew would unfold due to Mans choice in human affairs.
According to ‘The Moody Handbook of Theology;’ “Pelagius believed man was born neutral, without a depraved will and without an inherent tendency toward evil. He believed man had the ability to choose to serve God without any need of God’s grace. Augustine believed Adam’s fall had affected the entire human race so that man was thoroughly corrupt, his will inclined toward evil. Only the intervention of God’s grace could save man; man was not free to choose good. Salvation was not man cooperating with God, but man was entirely dependant on God’s grace for salvation” (shades of Plato, Determinism, and a foreshadow of Calvinism)…Pelagius was ultimately accused of heresy at the Synod of Jerusalem, and Pelagianism was condemned as heresy in 416 AD at the Synods of Carthage at Mileve. The council of Ephesus also condemned Pelagianism in 431 AD. Unfortunately semi-Pelagianism which attempted to follow a mediating position, resulted. Followers of this new mediating theology stressed that both the grace of God and the Freewill of Man were operative in salvation. Mans will was weakened but not fatally injured in the fall. (similar to what many Baptist, Methodists and freewill advocates say today in their defense of this ideology – T. Perez). Semi-Pelagianism ultimately came to fruition in the Roman Catholic Church” (424 – 425).
However, we can recall the prophet Isaiah proclaiming an exhortation of choice to unrepentant Man (Isa 1:18). Conditions of choice like this are spread throughout the Scriptures just as much as the concept of a predetermined will is (Rom 9, 10, & 11, Eph 1:4-5, 11). “Choose this day who you will serve.” Even repentance seems to be a choice. Because Pelagius’ view was radical to say the least, Christianity soon found itself in a new controversy, the controversy of Semi-Pelagianism which was anchored by a new supporter, ‘Jacobus Arminius’ (1560-1609) and his constituent opponent, ‘John Calvin’ (1509-1564).
Pope Gregory the Great, John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius
Before we get into John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, we must look at a key central figure echoed by that of Catholicism down to the present day. The voice is the voice of ‘Pope Gregory the Great.’ By the time of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, the doctrine of grace as thought by Pope Gregory the Great (590 – 604) shows how little Augustinianism was understood in Rome, and how confused theological thought had become in the course of the 6th century. A few lines are sufficient to depict the emasculated Augustinianism represented by Gregory. Reason, science and philosophy are more strongly depicted by him than by Augustine, (History of Dogma).
In short, Gregory saw Christ as putting away original sin, and also destroying sin itself. But the destruction of sin was only by example, by giving us an example to follow. This amounts to saying that Christ’s work was incomplete. For the work of Christ must be supplemented by our penances, for it transformed the eternal punishment of original sin into temporary penalties, which must be atoned for in this life; it acts mainly by way of example. In fact in Gregory’s teachings Christ’s death and penance appear side by side as two factors of equal value. In essence, Gregory regards Christ’s death as an offering (oblation) for our purification. However, Christ represents it constantly for us, ever showing God His crucified body as interceding on our behalf.
From such reasoning, Catholicism upholds the doctrine of ‘transubstantiation’ (the turning of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord during communion; crucified anew), in what Romanism calls ‘The Eucharist.’ The very book of Hebrews teaches against this thought. Along with this came other sacramental offerings of self obedience or penance: Flogation, (self inflicted punishment), asceticism (the renunciation of worldly pleasures), the intercession of Popes, Mary, angels, saints, alms, masses for the dead and indulgences. Such was the condition of the church which eroded from that of true Augustinian doctrine. Is it of little wonder that sooner or later Roman dogma would be challenged by individuals. Reformers like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Tyndale, Zwingli and Calvin had all set the stage for change. However, for the sake of this article I will concentrate on Protestant Reformer; John Calvin.
After Martin Luther spear headed the Protestant Reformation of 1517, albeit unintentionally, Protestant Reformer John Calvin went back and concentrated on Augustine’s original anthropologic system of belief in relation to God’s sovereignty. A concept in which Catholicism nearly destroyed by adding onto it its traditions of thought, rather than upholding Augustine’s original doctrinal intent. Calvin also held similar Aristotelian (philosophy of Aristotle) beliefs in relation to God having foreknowledge. This is partly due to the belief that God is the source (arche) of all things. God alone possesses knowledge in the highest degree.
Calvin (1509-1564) was a Frenchmen who accepted Reformation teachings in 1533. Driven out of France in 1534. Went to Geneva in 1536. There, his Academy became a pivotal center of Protestantism, attracting scholars from many lands. Calvin’s finest work is the ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’ in which he discusses the sovereignty of God in relation to ultimate union with Christ. According to the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions;
“Predestination in particular was never a leading axiom of Calvin’s thought: the heart of his theology was union with Christ through the Spirit, by which a person found peace with God and the beginning of a transformed life. But many of Calvin’s followers (e.g. Theodore, Beza) were quick to establish the divine degree (to eternal life and death) as the principle from which all other ideas were derived, and on this basis elaborated logically rigorous theological systems. This new emphasis on predestination was due in part to a need to preserve the distinctive identity of the followers of Calvin over and against the Lutheran wing of the Reformation, and to the resurgence of interest in Aristotelian philosophy. Calvinist theology reached powerful expression in the ‘Helvetic Confession’ (1566) and at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), the latter expressing the the so-called ‘five points’ of Calvinism: 1 Total depravity, 2 Unconditional election, 3 Limited atonement, 4 Irresistible grace, and 5 Perseverance of the saints” (190). Naturally, there would arise an opponent as in Calvin’s day. The opponent is Jacobus Arminius who held Semi-Pelagian doctrines.
Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) Dutch theologian, gave his name to the system of theology known as Arminianism. After studying with Beza (one of Calvin’s follower’s), he became minister in Amsterdam Holland. After disputes, he became professor at Leiden, where there were further arguments over predestination, leading to severe divisions, upon which Arminius’s advocates were condemned and ultimately left the Reformed Dutch Church. Arminius believed that God willed that all people be saved, and that it is only because God foresaw the belief or unbelief of individuals that He can be said to have predestined some to salvation, others to damnation. His views is as follows: 1 Christ died for all, 2 God’s saving grace can be resisted, 3 Christians can fall from grace, 4 The Holy Spirit is necessary to help the achievement of what is good, and 5 Persist in holiness, obedience and faith.
What Arminius could not reconcile in his thought process was the more systematic approach that Calvin’s follower Beza had constructed in regards to God’s sovereignty. According to Michael Collins and Matthew A. Price, “Arminianism arose as a reaction to the harsh and inflexible application of Calvinism practiced by the Dutch Reformed Church and in particular to the belief that God predetermined the eternal fate of each person before the creation. Those who rejected the specifically Calvinist emphasis on pre-destination, human wickedness, and the irresistible nature of God’s grace were known as Remonstrants, or Arminians, after the Dutch Reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius. After his death, his followers advocacy of his views led to a national crisis in the Netherlands, which ended at the Synod of Dort (1618-19), at which the Arminians repeatedly tried to defend their position but were eventually condemned. Their thought, however, was to play an significant role in the Protestant Churches, since they provided a more optimistic message than either Luther or Calvin had done, asserting the freedom of man’s will for the good and evil” (‘The Story of Christianity’ pg 160). Such is the story of two opposing figures in history.
As promised, let me briefly summarize the two opposing Scriptural views:
Arguments For: Arminius’ 5 points as shown in scripture.
Ezek 33:11, I Tim 2:3-4, John 3:3, 5-7, 16-17, I Pet 1:16, Isa 55:1, Matt 11:28, John 9:37-39, Rom 8:29, I Pet 1:1-2.
Matt 13: 10-16, John 10:24-30, 6:35-40, 44, 47, 65, Rom 1:18-32, 3:10-19, 9:26-29.
Arguments For: Calvin’s 5 points as shown in scripture.
Jere 17:10, John 6:37, 44, 65, 15:16, Acts 13:48, Rom 3:1-23, 9:6-24 II Cor 4:3-4, Eph 2:1-3, Eph 1:4-5, 9-11, 2:8-10, Phil 2:13, Rev 4:11
Matt 11:28-30, John 3:16, 6:35, I Tim 2:3-4, 2 Pet 3:9, Rom 8:29.
As we can see, the views expressed are at odds against each other and pretty much repetitive. Yet by comparison of what has been discussed thus far, what are we to believe in? What about determinism? There are some good reasons for taking it seriously. If so, what becomes of Freewill? There many arguments to that serious too, and rightly so.
At the microcosmic level, physical bodies do seem to behave according to laws, and to be, in principle, predictable. And because human behavior is to a great extent predictable, we might agree that determinism is true. Even Heisenberg’s attack on determinism at the microcosmic level seems to replace determinism only with a randomness that may exist at the subatomic level but that leaves necessity unchallenged at the size of human bodies, as discussed in the functuality of the human brain (not only that, but random human action by pure will might be worse than predetermined action). Nevertheless as discussed, the human brain has three collective features; the Medulla (that which signifies Determinism), the Cerebellum (that which signifies movement based on choice/will, or Soft Determinism), and Cerebrum (that which causes outcome from the cerebellum, such as reading, writing, etc, as a result of freewill to do this or that. Soft Determinism/Existential Freedom).
Perhaps the sovereignty of God operates within all three chambes; that which He ordained to be so, as in the Medulla or soul/mind of Man if you will. But, as we have learned, the soul and mind of Man was destroyed due to the fall as Scripture and Augustine indicates, or as in the ‘Ego,‘ as Freud puts it. It merely exists doing that which it is only now capable of doing, breathing and providing vital bodily functions. However, according to the writings of St. Paul, the Human body was meant to do more than just exist, it was to be a vessel fitted and made to glorify God since all three chambers as a collective whole was created in the image of God (I Thess 5:23). Perhaps this can confirm Paul’s words found in Philippians 4:7-8 in his plea for conformity to the mind (cross ref with Romans 12:1-2), as to grow out of the fall and into Christ!
In the Cerebellum, there are indications that we have what is called Existential Freedom, which gives us the ability to pick up a pencil, read, write and ask the very questions upon that which we read, as in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch as he met the Apostle Philip (Acts 8:26-39). However, and this is most vital, perhaps the Cerebrum caused an outcome of faith due to God revealing Himself first as indicated in Acts, considering that it was God who directed the evangel Philip to speak with the Ethiopian to begin with. Therefore, perhaps he had the ability to use what I call a Restored Freewill in conjunction with Sartre’s Existential Freedom. However, it must be pointed out that what God is restoring is the freedom that was lost in the fall.
And what of freedom in general? It may be that freedom is an emergent characteristic of certain physical systems. By “emergent characteristic.” I mean a feature of a system that is not a feature of any of its parts, something in a way the “liquidity” is a feature of water but not of either hydrogen or oxygen. Secondly, there are practical reasons for rejecting determinism. If hard determinism is true, then no one is ever responsible for his or her actions, and there is no moral reason for praising or blaming anyone for any act whatsoever. Indeed, in this case all our moral, juridical institutions and ideas are wrong and should be dismantled as Skinner suggested. However, if we were to consider such an action; murder, theft, chaos, etc, would be our ruin. Yet one may argue, “we live in a world where evil persists anyway and such actions are committed on a daily basis, even with our moral and juridical institutional systems in place; therefore, freedom exists to either break these laws or uphold them, whether that be the spiritual moral laws of God or that of society.” True, but this much is of a certainty; you will be punished either in this life or the life to come; albeit – it being temporal.
All views are plausible to say the least. It seems to me that there are things that operate in this universe with predictability and are therefore functioning in what it is meant to do, and thus can do no other, as in determinism. However, from a practical standpoint; it is also observable in our everyday behavior that we can make choices, I.e., what we choose to eat on a given day, what college we will we attend, who will we choose to marry and what we will ultimately believe in. Would we choose to believe in a God. If so, what faith would we choose to follow? Perhaps, we may choose a life of unbelief instead. Yet within this practicality, much of its fruition’s are based upon some type of original origin, such as: culture, society, upbringing and personality traits as seen in our DNA. So are we the products of randomness based upon the deck of life that we have been dealt with, or do we have freedom in the truest sense of the word?
In this instance, I can agree with Jean-Paul Sartres’ Existential Freedom. It would appear that life, at any given time, can be pretty much predictable (as in the sun rising and setting). Yet, life can throw us a curve ball from time to time as in Sartre’s ‘hikers analogy’ demonstrated earlier in this chapter. Life may throw at us the unexpected; like an accident, a death in the family, or some type of financial crisis. The list goes on and on.
However, such curve balls that are thrown at us in life are not all entirely bad. For I.e., one can be given a curve ball in life to believe in a sovereign God or not. It may well be called a curve ball due to its potential consequences if one chooses a life of disbelief. But, then again why would a sovereign God ask us to choose Him, if He already knew that some would disbelieve in Him to begin with? Moreover, if upon hearing the words of the evangel, one chooses to believe and live a holy life separated unto God, how is his/her belief system (faith), established to fruition, when we by nature are creatures of imperfection?
Pelagius’ position in this instance can not hold water, due in part to various verses of scripture declaring the heart, (the very core of man) as desperately wicked, so wicked that even his righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa 64:6, Jere 17:9). So I say in this instance, “who are we to be so boastful as to declare that we chose Him and therefore He accepted us in return.” I say “nay,” there is none that seeketh after God (Psa 5:9, 10:7, 14:1, 36:1, Pro 1:16 cross ref – with Rom 3:10-18, 23). The very word ‘choice’, by definition means ‘desire’, according to Webster’s Dictionary. And to desire something is to wish or long for (crave). If our hearts are so wicked, how can it desire God to make that so-called choice?
Therefore; from a theological standpoint, how does one reason with the Lord as Isaiah exhorts us to do (Isa 1:18) if we are so desperately wicked? Before, I answer that question, let us look at, what I call ‘The 5 R’s‘. According to modern day Apologist Norman Geisler, they are as follows 1. Reason over Revelation, 2. Revelation over Reason, 3. Revelation only, 4. Reason only, and 5. Revelation and Reason (An Introduction to Philosophy, pg 64). To me, it would appear that a revealing God revealed Himself through Revelation as Gen 12:1-3, Ex 3:1-18, I Sam 3:21, Isa 40:5, Matt 11:25-27, 16:17, 20:16, Jn 1:12-13, 12:32, Acts 9:1-16, II Cor 2:10-11, Eph 3:1-3, II Thess 2:13-14, James 3:17 indicates, otherwise we would have no concept or idea of an eternal being because no man has seen God at anytime, except the Mind (Logos), the very person of God that became flesh. Thus producing in an individual, ‘Revelation over Reason,’ thereby producing what is called ‘faith’ which then becomes the Revelation and Reason.
It is God choosing to save Man. Truly a reason to believe (Jn 3:16-17, 36). This results in perfection. If one were to accept Reason only or Reason over Revelation, then that would be implying a system of Epistemology (a philosophical viewpoint that concerns itself with the nature and scope of knowledge. What does it mean to know the truth and what sort of things go beyond the evidence of our senses). This type of reasoning is dependent upon our opinion and knowledge.
If Freewill is reason, then our salvation, or at the very least, our aspirations of perfection from a theological standpoint is invalid due to our fallible wisdom. And since epistemology seeks the truth through reason (a questionable and fallible attribute of man), then truth can never be discovered unless it is revealed to us by the epitome of all truth, ‘Jesus Christ.’ Therefore, Revelation must reveal itself first to us. It is God choosing us to faith (which is not seen), and repentance through the illumination of the Holy Spirit. To the unbeliever it is a faith built and produced upon ideologies. But to the believer, it is a faith that is seen by knowing that it exists in our minds, much like a thought that exists, but is never truly seen unless the thought is acted out.
What then becomes of the unbeliever? Did God chose not the unveil Himself to them as Calvin’s followers (e.g. Beza) insinuate? God forbid. All will eventually be saved (I Tim 4:10). As it is written “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
What is revealed in Scripture is a choosing of the Body of Christ. We are the first fruits (the Church) of His death. “But all shall be made alive, every man in his own order” (I Cor 15:21-23). Such is the sovereignty of God’s personal election of all Mankind not just a few. From the sheep to the goat, to wheat and tares; each has its own individual preordained life, that are given alternatives to chose many paths (Existential Freedom) to the epitome of truth (Jn 14:6 – Jesus Christ). It is rather an election from sin and imperfection to complete holiness and union with Christ, as Calvin indicates in his ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion,’ where sin and death are completely destroyed! God draws all. Why draw all, if He does not intend to save all? He calls many, but He elects a few by choice to be partakers of the harvest that is to come! Therefore, Theological Determinism and Existential Freedom are adjacent to one another in this life time.
It would appear to me that originally pure freedom did exist in the garden at one point until the fall. The fall resulted in total darkness and an inherited sinful nature, as in Augustine’s viewpoint. Upon this fall, mankind experienced a freewill contrary to that of God. As God hath said “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways.” Yet, it is by choice that God came to save that which was lost. If He came to save a few, then He truly did not come to buy back, by His right of purchase, all that was lost. But, Scripture reveals that He did (II Cor 5:19).
However, He has chosen as it will appear, some to a Restored Freewill by choosing the elect on His own merit and sovereign freewill through Revelation over reason. This may be the reason why the Scriptures always tend to refer to the believers when talking of freewill (Josh 1:8). Such believers as Moses, Joshua, the Israelites and the prophets were all given back their freewill by a Restored Freewill or Revelation (God revealing Himself first) over reason. In this John Calvin is correct. However, in relation to salvation, it is God applying the same principles as He did in the past concerning the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets: Revelation over Reason.
Let us remember; According to the Scriptures, it was God who first created man and walked and spoke with him. It was God who first spoke to Noah. It was God who first spoke to Abraham. It was God who first spoke to Moses, and it was God who first spoke to the prophets. Thereby, revealing Himself for the salvation of all men, and to the glorification of His sovereignty.
Perhaps what most theologians miss is the verse found in I Tim 4:10, which indicates that God is the Saviour of all Men, especially the elect! Hopefully this verse will tie the other seemingly contradictory passages of scripture together. There are hundreds of other verses declaring God’s ultimate election of the entire human race. Such is the classic wonderful teaching of ultimate reconciliation. But this study is not devoted to a discussion of soteriology but to freewill as pertaining to philosophy and faith.
As for myself, I favor the teachings of Ultimate Reconciliation. Although traditional Calvinism & Ultimate Reconciliation can seemingly clash to a certain degree, I myself do not consider that possible if one was to understand the two views properly. I think Karl Barth (1886 – 1968) came close to accomplishing that; though by careful study, I find myself uncertain as to the means of which he attained his conclusions, but I do understand what he was trying to convey; a conclusion that led to ‘Universal Salvation.’ Nevertheless, and most importantly; it must be pointed out that a true Christian bears good fruit & upholds the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith, everything else is debatable, or of scholastic differences.
Upon this concept, I can agree with Jacobus Arminius in point number one – that Christ died for ALL men. Yet on the same token chooses to have at His disposal vessels of honor and dishonor to bring about His ultimate will (Rom 9:21)! This should not be of no surprise to the reader, God always had a people chosen and set apart for Him, whether those individuals were a chosen holy nation (as in the Israelites), or men that were called and separated onto God (I Pet 2:9). Someone may argue this point by claiming; “if the idea of a God were perfection, as we have demonstrated, then why not reveal Himself as part of that perfect will to all nations, not just the Israelites?” If that were the case, then there would be no knowledge of the evil to compare the good against.
Both were created by a sovereign God as demonstrated in the Garden of Eden when God planted every tree in that garden and called it good; including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 1:31, 2:9). Thereby, by creating the concept of freewill and setting a standard against it, something else played into the picture; the concept called ‘obedience.’ Man failed in his obedience and seeks to rejoin with his Creator but cannot, unless that Creator reveals Himself first. We all seek the same goal: the Kingdom of God. Let us seek it through the eternal Logos – Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. The Almighty One! Let this be our motto.