One significant debate in the church today involves God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. At face value, these two concepts might appear to be mutually exclusive, and thus, many churchgoers feel the need to “pick a side.” This debate usually divides the Church into two opposing forces: Calvinism vs. Arminianism. Calvinists are quick to affirm the exhaustive providence of God; however, in the process, their claims can simultaneously eradicate human freedom and genuine responsibility. Arminians are usually quick to affirm human responsibility for sin as this makes sense of hell and it prevents God from ultimately being charged with evil. However, many Arminians wind up diminishing God’s sovereignty in the process.
I once struggled with these competing ideas but decided to try and believe both of them at the same time by letting them “rest in tension.” After all, the Bible seemed to affirm both God’s sovereignty (Eph 1:11) and human responsibility (1 Cor 10:13). I was ultimately persuaded that Calvinism could make sense of these two views by appealing to compatibilistic human “freedom” (which is not “free” at all). On top of that, I adopted the Calvinist position because my pastoral influences at the time were Calvinists and biblical passages like Romans 9 seemed to affirm divine determinism. At that point I wholeheartedly embraced Calvinism; I believed it, bought it, taught it, preached it, prayed it, and lived it! I became an ardent “Five-Point Calvinist” who defended the acronym T.U.L.I.P.
Perseverance of the Saints
However, after examining Calvinism’s TULIP for nearly a decade, comparing it to the whole of Scripture, and then thinking about it logically, I finally came to the conclusion that “Five-point Calvinism” — specifically the “I” — and any form of theological determinism is simply false. This can be demonstrated in a syllogism I crafted known as The Omni Argument. With help from Dr. Jacobus Erasmus from North West University, we have recently updated the syllogism and provided a version of the Omni Argument which debunks divine determinism (including Five-point Calvinism) in four steps:
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, 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 omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.
It follows from this that if God is a maximally great being and possesses all of the omni attributes eternally, then divine determinism is false and humanity possesses libertarian free will to resist the saving grace of God. That is to say, if one affirms that God possesses His omni attributes maximally, and that 1st Timothy 2:4 is true, and that some people do suffer eternal Hell, then it logically follows that they must reject divine determinism and the “I” of “TULIP” must be dropped. To affirm all of these things simultaneously is logically incoherent (and therefore, false). Humans are so much more than mere “puppets on a string.”
This led to a dilemma as I came to see that both consistent Calvinism and Classical Arminianism were both incorrect. After further research, however, I came to see that this was a false dilemma as another option was available. In my next article I demonstrate exactly how Molinism and the doctrine of God’s middle knowledge saved the day and provides a superior explanation of reality.
Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),