The mystery of the relationship between God’s predestination, election, and free will has stirred the minds of Christians for centuries. The ambiguity of the conclusions reached by theologians who study these questions in Scripture is confusing. Who is right? Calvinists who uphold the doctrine of double definition in advance and reject freedom of choice? Or the Arminians, who emphasize God’s foreknowledge as the basis for predestination and defend the possibility of free choice? I do not offer an answer to this dilemma, but I invite you to listen to both groups and emphasize what both parties can agree on.
Calvinism. According to Calvinists, God’s election and predestination depend solely on God’s will. The choice does not depend on one’s personal merits or faith, that is, God’s predestination for salvation is not based on foresight. Man’s faith is a consequence, not a cause of choice. All the elect will surely be saved, for this is God’s original decision from eternity, which cannot be changed (Eph. 1: 4-5; 3:11). Therefore, the basis for God’s election is His sovereign, unchanging will, which cannot be explained (Rom. 9: 15-21; 2 Tim. 1: 9). Apart from God himself, there is no reason to choose some and reject others (John 6:44; 15:16). When asked about the justice of God’s choice of some and the rejection of others, the Calvinist turns to Paul’s words in Romans 9: 20-21, referring to the mystery of His sovereign right to save some of all those sentenced to death.
According to Calvinists, man has freedom of choice, but because of the Fall he is unable to do so (Eph. 2: 1-3). As a person with broken legs, he is free to walk, but unable to walk. It turns out that human freedom is simply paralyzed. Therefore, if theoretically man can choose God, in reality he hates Him. And only God gives grace to the elect to believe and turn to Him (Acts 13:48 “believed those who were destined for eternal life”). This view, which rejects any participation of the human will in salvation, is called “monergism”.
Calvinists disagree about the “double definition in advance.” Some, along with Calvin, believe that the fate of the saved and the dead is determined in advance by God. Others believe that God is active in the lives of the predestined for salvation and simply allows the predestined to die to live in sin as they wish. At the same time, God is not obliged to save anyone. In fairness, everyone deserves to die. But by His grace, God decided to save some whom He had chosen and called. The responsibility for death in the first case lies with God, who determines everything in advance, and in the second – on the man himself, who chooses sin.
Arminianism . The Arminians claim that God really wants all people to be saved (Ezek. 33:11; 2 Pet. 3: 9; 1 Tim. 2: 3-4). At the same time, God does not hypocritically command all people to repent (Acts 17: 30-31). Jesus’ call to come to Him was not limited to the elect (Matt. 11:28). Jesus died equally for everyone, so redemption is universal. The will of a sinful man is bound by sin. In order for all sinners to have the same opportunity to be converted, God gives everyone the preceding grace. Such grace makes any dead sinner able to make a choice in favor of the Lord, not just the elect. Arminians claim the existence of free will because:
find confirmation of this in Scripture (eg, Matt. 22:37; Acts 2:41; 16:31);
this removes the accusation from God of despotism;
it is a reality necessary for accountability (2 Cor. 5:10; Revelation 20:13).
In fact, before Augustine, the Church Fathers held this view. The view that the will of man participates in the acceptance of salvation by grace through faith is called “evangelical synergy.”
Arminians also accept the doctrine of God’s conditional election for the salvation of all believers. God’s foreknowledge of salvation, according to the Arminians, is based on God’s foreknowledge that salvation will respond to the gospel offering (Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 1: 1-2). However, God’s knowledge does not predetermine and is not the cause of future events, but only corresponds to what will happen. To the question: “Why is this so?”, The Arminian answers that it is a secret. The Arminian asks, “What is the point of Paul talking about God’s knowledge in advance if it has no meaning in God’s foreknowledge (Rom. 8:29)”? Thus, the definition in advance is based on knowledge in advance. The unselected do not receive the active action of God, and their sin and death are not predetermined by God, but only allowed.
Arminians oppose the absolute determinism of Calvinists. If God’s predestination, election, and salvation are absolute and inevitable, then all necessity of human choice, participation, and ethical conduct is lost, because the elect will still be saved, and the unchosen will be condemned. If a person’s will does not participate in accepting or rejecting salvation, then, accordingly, a person is not responsible for his faith or unbelief. A person without a choice is a robot. So it can neither be deservedly praised for the good done, nor condemned for the evil done. In addition, any evangelistic activity loses all meaning. The Arminians, on the other hand, prefer to confine themselves to the mystery of God’s knowledge of the future without delving into divine determinism.
What do Calvinists and Arminians agree on? Although the Bible does not have a clear doctrine of preceding grace, as the Arminians teach, both Arminians and Calvinists recognize that man is completely distorted by sin and cannot respond to God’s call without special action from God, that is, grace. Also, both groups recognize the fact of God’s sovereign choice and differ only in what is its basis: only God’s will or God’s knowledge in advance of man’s future faith. One way or another, the initiative for repentance comes only from the Lord, which allows a person to accept the gift of salvation by faith. God controls the circumstances of man’s life in a way that makes his choice inevitable, even though man is not directly influenced or restricted. It is safe to say that man’s role in salvation is reduced to acceptance, faith, and repentance (Rom. 10: 9-13). God will not believe and repent instead of a sinner, so it is the responsibility of the person who is saved. At the same time, man’s freedom to accept the gift of forgiveness does not limit, but emphasizes the effectiveness of God’s call: it will be impossible to refuse God’s call because of its attractiveness, not because of lack of choice.
In the case of the rejection of the gospel by the unchosen, it can be argued that we are confronted with an element of the mystery of the interaction of God’s and man’s will. On the one hand, although God “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11), He does not show the will and action to save the sinner. On the other hand, the sinner himself cannot know of his non-election, of God’s predestination for him or her, and leads a life of unbelief according to his sinful nature and will. The identities of sinners chosen for salvation remain unknown to believers and unbelievers. This means that the gospel must be carried out by believers, whom the Lord uses as a means to attract the chosen of the unbelievers. Thus, God determines not only the destiny of man and the means of achieving this destiny, but also allows man to manifest his will and choices, which fit into His original plan.