Confusing Bible Verses, Free Will, & Determinism (Part 1)

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

February 28, 2017

Question:

Hey Tim, after reading pretty much everything on your website, it has reaffirmed my belief in free will. Although there are a few Bible verses that are troubling me… this may just be bad interpretation, but if you could explain how these play into the free will mindset, that would be great:

John 6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day” and Ephesians 1:4-5: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him in love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of his will.”

These both seem to be stating that we are “chosen” or “willed” by God rather than by our own choosing.

– Rob


Tim’s Response:

Hey Rob! I am honored that you have read almost everything on my website! Thank you for taking the time to do so. I am encouraged to see that you have not fallen prey to the incoherent lie of determinism! I would be happy to answer your questions regarding specific Bible verses. Let us start with John 6:44:

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Notice the word “can.” Can implies an ability and thus, implies free will. So, the Molinist agrees — no one can come to Christ unless provided proper “drawing.” This drawing can be as simple as natural revelation which Paul says is available to all people and thus “no one has an excuse” (Romans 1:20). So, all have been drawn and *can* freely come to God — but they do not have to; they are free to resist His revelation.

Further, if it is true that all those who are drawn will — “irresistibly” — come to  Christ, then this would logically lead to universalism. Consider the words of Jesus as we read John 12:32:

As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.

The key thing to remember is that “can” does not imply necessity. That is to say, “can” and “will” are two different things.

Now consider Ephesians 1:4-5:

For He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will

Molinism solves the problem once again! On Molinism, God predestines all things (as the Bible makes clear), but does this without causally determining all things. Consider the words, “before the foundation of the world.” On Molinism, God possesses middle knowledge (part of His omniscience), and knows with perfect certainty who will freely choose to follow and love Him *if* He actualizes this particular world.

God knew logically “before the foundation of this world” who would freely and eternally love Him in this world if He actualized it. It follows that when God actualized this world (instead of another or none at all), He then predestined all who will *freely* choose to follow and love Christ eternally.

Predestination ≠ Determinism

Many incorrectly assume that if God predestines all things that it logically follows that He determines all things. This is a false and hasty conclusion because although this is possible it is not necessary. In fact, a longer version of my Omni Argument logically proves this to be the case:

1. If “irresistible grace” is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell, then x will go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell.

2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (a maximally great being), then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell.

3. There is at least one person who will not go to heaven and will suffer eternally in hell.

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that irresistible grace is true and (ii) that God is a maximally great being.

5. God is a maximally great being.

6. Therefore, irresistible grace is false.

7. Therefore, divine determinism is false (God does not causally determine all things).

8. God is completely sovereign and predestines all things (Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:5,11).

9. Therefore, predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.

10. The best explanation of all the data is Molinism.

Check out step (9): “Predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.” This deductive conclusion provides evidence that human libertarian free will and responsibility over some things is fully compatible with God’s predestination of all things.

You concluded by saying, //These both seem to be stating that we are “chosen” or “willed” by God rather than by our own choosing.//

We are chosen along with the world God chooses to actualize. In fact, YOU are a special part of this world and part of the reason that God chose to actualize it! (How awesome is that?!?) However, it does not logically follow that you do not possess an ability to reject Christ. There were no causal strings forcing you to be a Christ follower. You freely responded to His drawing and revelation in a libertarian sense. Thus, you are a responsible agent and so are those who reject Jesus Christ eternally — they do not have to reject Christ — that is why hell makes sense.

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),

Tim Stratton


Notes

A special thank you to Johnny Sakr for pointing out the universalist implications following from a deterministic interpretation of John 12:32.

Share:

About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

Learn More