Part III: Do You Have Freewill?


Whatever leader you are following has been decided beforehand by the Lord: “And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (1 Sam 10:26 KJV).   If you are following the wrong leader, and listening to the wrong teaching, this too is of the Lord: “And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom” (2 Sam 17:14 RSV).   Thus, the Lord hardened the hearts of the men of Israel from following the good counsel, and moved them to follow the counsel of Hushai that eventually led to their destruction -- a destruction brought about by the Hand of God.   

The scriptures state that God can even control whether a man's wife is unfaithful: “Thus says the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your companion, and he shall lie with your wives…” (2 Sam 12:11 NAS).   Moreover, if, as Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament suggests, it is the Hand of God which brought about these events, and this “fact did not absolve…” the people from their personal “responsibility and guilt”, that means the wives who God forced to be unfaithful are guilty of adultery -- even though it was the Hand of God that forced them to be unfaithful.   When these rather astounding statements in the Bible were presented to the Middle-age reformers, the only answer they could provide was that man’s exercise of reason was detrimental to his salvation. 

In our examination of the scriptures we must pose the question as to who is the author of evil?   There are those who suggest the fallen Angel Satin is the author of evil.   The doctrine of Original Sin states that all mankind are sinners because they share in the sin of Adam and Eve who fell from grace in the Garden of Eden.   Yet the Bible also clearly teaches that all these events were predestined by God prior to even the first act of Creation.   Further, the Bible not only teaches that God created what we call evil, but that all evil is under His direct control.   Thus the question is posed in scripture: “Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6 RSV).   And what does the scriptures state is the source of darkness and evil?   “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isa 45:7 KJV).    

On the phrase, “I form the light, and create darkness, Barnes' Notes writes: “Light, in the Bible, is the emblem of knowledge, innocence, pure religion, and of prosperity in general; and darkness is the emblem of the opposite. Light here seems to be the emblem of peace and prosperity, and darkness the emblem of adversity; and the sentiment of the verse is, that all things prosperous and adverse are under the providential control and direction of God. Of light, it is literally true that God made it; and emblematically true that he is the source of knowledge, prosperity, happiness, and pure religion. Of darkness, it is literally true also that the night is formed by him; that he withdraws the light of the sun, and leaves the earth enveloped in gloomy shades. It is emblematically true also that calamity, ignorance, disappointment, and want of success are ordered by him; and not less true that all the moral darkness, or evil, that prevails on earth, is under the direction and ordering of his Providence”. 

Ultimately, it is clear that the Bible teaches that God is the All-Pervading Power that controls every aspect of Creation -- i.e., the author of all things -- light and dark, good and bad -- and most importantly, that there is a Divine Plan as expressed in the words: “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isa 14:24 KJV).   Based upon this very clear biblical fact, we must question when our church authorities ignore what the Bible itself proclaims, and state that a man has freewill -- that each man has the power to choose good or evil -- or even that he exerts control over his own life, when the scriptures themselves pose the question: “A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (Prov 20:24 NIV). 

In our modern day the Evangelical Christians condemn the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses -- and each of these sects condemn the doctrines of the mainline liberal churches.   While Christian’s are forever finding fault in the system of beliefs that have been adopted by other sects, it is important for the disciple in search of truth to as the question as to what is the source of these many doctrines of belief?   The Bible teaches that even the doctrines of error, and the very limited theories of science are the result of the Lord's doing -- as it is written: “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet” (Ezek 14:9 KJV).   The Bible teaches that in many instances, spiritual powers beyond the perception of man are at work behind the scenes that are responsible for what we would call the error and misconceptions of the world -- as it is written: “And the LORD said, Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there? One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, I will entice him. By what means? the LORD asked. I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets, he said. You will succeed in enticing him, said the LORD. Go and do it. So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you” (1 King 22:20-23 NIV). 

These evil spirits sent from God are well documented in the scriptures: “The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion; and they have made Egypt stagger in all her doings as a drunken man staggers in his vomit” (Isa 19:14 RSV); “Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem” (Judg 9:23 KJV); “And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of the house” (1 Sam 18:10 KJV); “And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with javelin in his hand” (1 Sam 19:9 KJV) -- a javelin that, under the influence of the evil spirit of the Lord, Saul threw at David in an attempt to kill him. 

Christians are often seen finding fault with leaders and governments because they are under the control of satanic forces.   Yet, they condemn these often barbaric leaders of government even though the scriptures state that this too is the work of God: For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled” (Rev 17:17 NIV).   Regarding the satanic control over the hearts of the leaders of world government which the Lord Himself has ordained and brought about, the Matthew Henry's Commentary writes: “By the powerful influence which God hereby showed he had over the minds of great men. Their hearts were in his hand, and he turned them as he pleased; for, (1.) It was of God, and to fulfill his will, that these kings agreed to give their kingdom unto the beast; they were judicially blinded and hardened to do so. And, (2.) It was of God that afterwards their hearts were turned against the whore, to hate her, and to make her desolate and naked, and to eat her flesh, and burn her with fire”.   How, then, can fault be found with these leaders of government and their people, and be judged by the church when they were “judicially blinded and hardened” to do the Will of God by giving their kingdoms over to the control of the beast?  

That man does not perceive and understand the forces that work upon him is clearly foretold in the scriptures: “I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them” (Isa 66:4 KJV).   That man cannot live in accordance with the higher spiritual precepts of God that have been put forth in the scriptures is also of the Lord's doing: “O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?” (Isa 63:17 KJV).   That man does not see and hear the true teachings of God is written in the words: “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand” (Isa 44:18 KJV).    

Christians claim that Jesus came to make all things plain and clear to the people that they might know the Divine Plan of God.   Yet, they ignore the fact that even the New Testament warns the reader that what Jesus taught will not be clear to the multitudes, and they can never understand the true meaning of his words: “With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says: You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive” (Matt 13:14 RSV).   Therefore, the doctrines published by the church -- that Jesus came to save all people -- are easily seen to be defective.   What the Bible states is that Jesus came to save a chosen few at the expense of the larger body of Jewish believers -- a people that God promised never to abandon.    

  Christians Not Permitted To Question God's Actions? Both Calvin and Augustine recognized that Paul saw it as a grievous sin for man to even question God's determination towards mankind in the words: “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? Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Rom 9:20-21 NKJ).    

Calvin went as far as to write that those people who even question the biblical teaching of Divine Providence and predestination are sinning: “Therefore as those are in error who make the power of election dependent on the faith by which we perceive that we are elected, so we shall follow the best order, if, in seeking the certainty of our election, we cleave to those posterior signs which are sure attestations to it”.    

What this means is that, if you have a loved one who is destined to be thrown into the lake of fire, that you should simply accept their suffering and demise -- and even celebrate the manifestation of their destiny as an exercise of God “in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph 1:4-5 NIV).   As a believer, you recognize the biblical assertion that your loved ones are not saved because God has chosen before the foundation of the world those who would be permitted to come to Jesus: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:16 KJV).   As believers, you understand that those who come to Jesus have been directed into the church by the Father: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45 KJV).   And only those who have been predestined will be raised up: “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39 NIV). 

As a believer church doctrine suggests that you do not have the right to question the suffering and demise of your loved ones who are not saved.   Will you celebrate in heaven when you and the Apostle Paul -- a man who was a killer and persecutor of the followers of Christ -- look down into the lake of fire and gaze upon the suffering of your loved ones who were by human standards saints in comparison to Paul?   Will you rejoice with St. Constantine the Great -- another despot and diabolical sinner -- that God chose to indiscriminately save some of the most evil men the world has ever known, while your loved one who tried to live a good life, but did not come to Christ, has been confined to the torments of hell f-o-r-e-v-e-r! 

If Calvin is correct in his interpretation of the scriptures, then your mere questioning as to why your loved ones were not saved could in fact cause you to suffer their fate, even though you affirmed your belief in Christ.   In analysis of the scriptures, Calvin states that those who question Divine Providence and the Will of God in relation to the predestination of God's chosen people, or even seek knowledge in order to understand why God chooses one and not another, are themselves doomed: “Among the temptations with which Satan assaults believers, none is greater or more perilous, than when disquieting them with doubts as to their election, he at the same time stimulates them with a depraved desire of inquiring after it out of the proper way. (See Luther in Genes. cap. 26.) By inquiring out of the proper way, I mean when puny man endeavors to penetrate to the hidden recesses of the divine wisdom, and goes back even to the remotest eternity, in order that he may understand what final determination God has made with regard to him. In this way he plunges headlong into an immense abyss, involves himself in numberless inextricable snares, and buries himself in the thickest darkness. For it is right that the stupidity of the human mind should be punished with fearful destruction, whenever it attempts to rise in its own strength to the height of divine wisdom. And this temptation is the more fatal, that it is the temptation to which of all others almost all of us are most prone. For there is scarcely a mind in which the thought does not sometimes rise, Whence your salvation but from the election of God? But what proof have you of your election? When once this thought has taken possession of any individual, it keeps him perpetually miserable, subjects him to dire torment, or throws him into a state of complete stupor. I cannot wish a stronger proof of the depraved ideas, which men of this description form of predestination, than experience itself furnishes, since the mind cannot be infected by a more pestilential error than that which disturbs the conscience, and deprives it of peace and tranquility in regard to God. Therefore, as we dread shipwreck, we must avoid this rock, which is fatal to every one who strikes upon it. And though the discussion of predestination is regarded as a perilous sea, yet in sailing over it the navigation is calm and safe, nay pleasant, provided we do not voluntarily court danger. For as a fatal abyss engulfs those who, to be assured of their election, pry into the eternal counsel of God without the word, yet those who investigate it rightly, and in the order in which it is exhibited in the word, reap from it rich fruits of consolation”. 

By definition what Calvin is stating would be considered the doctrine of what would be called an anti-Gnostic church: That the ways of God are unknowable, and cannot be questioned.   But is Calvin, Augustine, and even Luther correct?   Thus, the modern Christian dilemma: Regardless of the fact that many Christians do not like to admit it, the scriptures clearly state that everything in the life of man is predestined and controlled, and yet mankind -- not God -- is responsible for the choices that God has made for him.   What we have here can in fact be somewhat compared to the thinking displayed by many rapists who reasoned when they were caught: i.e., she made me do it -- she asked for it -- it was the way she was dressed -- she said no, but I knew she didn't mean it -- it's her fault that I rapped her. 

Only when we begin to perceive the irrationality of these anti-Gnostic doctrines -- doctrines that remain to this day the foundation of Christian thought -- can we understand why Martin Luther distained the use of reason when it was used in analysis of what he believed, and wrote that the exercise of the mind and the use of reason is a hindrance to the believer.   Thus, we must clearly understand the foundation of the Church of the Reformation in the words: “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more frequently than not - struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God”.    

Why did Luther make such a statement?   The answer is because he did not possess the keys of knowledge that the Church of Constantine threw away, and he was only able to make vague sense of the scriptures without understanding the spiritual language and traditions they are composed in.   Because of this void that was created when the Roman Government killed the spiritual Messianic Jews and Christians, it has erroneously become accepted that “reason is the greatest enemy that faith has” -- that the ways of God are beyond the understanding of man -- and that the more intricate revelations of scripture and reality cannot be comprehended.    

Again to put the problem in it’s proper perspective we can review the wisdom and observation of the Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon when he wrote: “The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once…  The fault is in our weak judgment.  Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.  If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other”.    

The foundational tenet of the very anti-Gnostic modern Christian doctrine is that man cannot be certain of anything.   He cannot use his mind in a rational manner.   He does not even have control over the manner in which he thinks and perceives life.   When confronted with evidence that manmade doctrines have infiltrated the church -- or that the Bible has been severely altered -- the believer is required to close their hearts and minds and do not question the accepted doctrines of the church.   Therefore, from this rather depressed vision of reality, it is easy to understand the doctrine that man is saved by faith alone -- and only through faith in Jesus.   Yet, ultimately, from a biblical perspective, there is good reason to assert that believers today cannot be sure of anything -- including whether God will turn upon them as He did the Jews when He hardened their hearts and caused them to ultimately reject Jesus. 

From a modern Christian perspective which is drawn directly from the pages of the Bible: The destiny of every person is decided before they are even conceived.   God alone -- in accordance with His good pleasure -- decides who will be saved, and who will suffer eternal damnation.   The saved person, who is just as much a sinner as the unsaved person, will go to glory simply because God willed it.   God, who is the potter, has total power over the destiny of the clay (mankind) -- and for His own glory creates some people as vessels of honor, and others as vessels of dishonor.   In view of the fact that God controls their very thinking, as well as their every footstep, what the Bible states is that the people themselves have absolutely no power over their own lives to alter their destiny.    

In the words of the 19th century theologian Robert Haldane: “For, by acting in this manner, God has clearly shown that He is the Sovereign Master in their calling and election, and of their rejection - that He chooses and rejects as seems good to Him any of the sinful race of Adam, all of whom are justly objects of His displeasure, without regarding natural qualities which distinguish them from one another”.   Whether a man is to be saved, or condemned to eternal condemnation, or whatever other fate befalls him, is solely the will of God in accordance with His choosing.  

  The Folly Of The Westminster Confession: In the Westminster Confession of Faith, which contains so scriptural a summary of Christian doctrine:  “The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in His providence, that it extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and men, and that not by a bare permission, but such as hath joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and otherwise ordering, and governing of them, in a manifold dispensation, to His own holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin. The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass. God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence. God's works of providence are, His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures and all their actions... God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy… By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death”. 

In the words of Robert Haldane respecting the above Westminster Confession of Faith:  “In these articles it is asserted that God fore-ordained, decreed, and willed the existence of all the evil which 'comes to pass.' It is also said that God brings His decrees or His will into effect by creation and His governing providence, by which, in the exercise of His wisdom and holiness, He powerfully governs His creatures, and superintends and directs, disposes and orders, all their actions. According to the above truths, so well expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, to which so many profess to adhere as containing their creed, everything without exception, great and small, that has ever taken place, or shall ever take place in heaven, or on earth, or in hell has from all eternity been ordained by God, and yet so that the accountableness of the creature is not in the smallest degree removed. This is declared in the clearest manner respecting the greatest sin that ever was committed, even the crucifying of the Lord of glory. It took place according to the express ordination of God, yet the wickedness of those by whom it was perpetrated is explicitly asserted”. 

Based upon Luther's doctrine of Faith, and Calvin’s doctrine of Predestination, the new Christian Church that enlisted under the banner of Protestantism had become the most narrow of theologies ever known to man.   Because man's works accounted for nothing, the mark of the true Christian was one who suspended their powers of mind and reason in the endeavor to believe whatever doctrines the religious authorities of the church created.   They believed that to even question the will of God was a sin -- and mankind could do nothing on his own accord that could save him.   Christians accepted that their lot in both life and the hereafter were totally beyond their own control.   Further, even the faith that was necessary for their salvation was said to be a gift from God.   Therefore, even the question of their faith was a matter of Divine Providence.    

From the perspective of the emerging Protestant theology: If everything that ever happened on earth, in heaven, and in hell, was foreordained by God, then man's existence was reduced to that of a mere puppet.   Hell existed at the foreordination of God.   Adam fell at the foreordination of God.   By virtue of original sin -- which sin was foreordained by God -- mankind was doomed because of his inherent sinful nature.   From the population of doomed men, God choose certain men to be saved -- men who were in many instances themselves the most immoral examples of creation -- and they were saved even though they did nothing to deserve His grace.   The Jews, who sought to live in the Light of God, were rejected -- while the diabolical heathens who rejected the Light of God, were received as God’s chosen people.   Mankind was reduced to nothing, and had no say whatsoever over his destiny.   As stated in the Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopedia: Predestination was “…God's eternal decree, by which he determined within himself what he willed to become of each man. For all are not created in equal condition; rather, eternal life is foreordained for some, eternal damnation for others” (Institutes 3. 21. 5).  

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary quotes The Westminster Confession, which it states is “the standard of the Church of Scotland and of the various Presbyterian churches of Europe and America”, and writes the following: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own free will freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw its future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving Him thereto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Therefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by His Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice’”. 

Unger's Bible Dictionary then goes on to conclude: “In support of this doctrine several arguments are made by Calvinistic theologians: (1) According to the Scriptures election is not of works but of grace; and that it is not of works means that it is not what man does that determines whether he is to be one of the elect or not. For the descendants of Adam this life is not a probation. They stood their probation in Adam and do not stand each one for himself. (2) The sovereignty of God in electing men to salvation is shown by the fact that repentance and faith are gifts from God. These fruits of His Spirit are the consequences and signs of election and not its conditions. (3) The salvation that is of grace must be of grace throughout. The element of works or human merit must not be introduced at any point in the plan. And that would be the case if repentance and faith were the conditions of election. (4) The system of doctrine called Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, should not be thus designated. That though taught clearly by Paul, particularly in (Rom. 8:9), it was taught also by others of the writers of sacred Scripture, and by Christ Himself. Reference is made to (Matt. 11:25-26; Luke 4:25-27; 8:10; John 6:37,39); etc. (5) That the sovereignty of God is evidenced in dispensing saving grace is illustrated also in His establishing the temporal conditions of mankind. Some are born and reared in the surroundings of civilization, others of barbarism. And precisely so some are blessed with the light of the gospel, while others, dwelling in pagan lands, are deprived of that light and consequently are not saved  





To contact the author: Allan_Cronshaw@nazirene.org