Note: This was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
The rallying cry for Arminians goes as follows:
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). Further, He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Because God obviously desires the salvation of all men, but not all men are saved, then God obviously cannot will a man to repent and place his faith in Christ if he does not want to do so by his own free will.
We can dispatch with this line of reasoning quite easily.
Objection 1: Jesus us offers us an unequivocal example in the Scripture where He shows that God had the power to make people repent, but chose not to:
Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” (Matt 11:20-23).
If God, without any exceptions, desired that all men would repent as the Arminians imply, He must therefore do everything in His power to bring a man to repentance. This is why they criticize Calvinists for asserting that God must be the operative force behind the conversion of a man, because if this is true then a god that desires all to repent will compel every man to repent.
However, isn’t it clear that their presupposition, that God is compelled to act in accordance with His desire that all men repent, contradict this passage? God purposely does not act in a fashion where He clearly could have made men repent. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom would all have repentant sinners if Christ (or a preincarnate Theophany of Him) would perform miracles in their locales.
Yet, He did not do so. Was He impotent and thereby incapable? Of course not! Clearly, the Arminian objects in error, because God does not always do everything He can to make men repent. So, it would be true to say that though God desires that all men come to repentance, He obviously does not always will it to be the case because in those cities it was within His power to show miracles so that they would repent. However, he did not. In fact…
Objection 2: The Scripture is clear that God desires to harden men so that they will not repent, but instead come under judgment.
Jesus Christ quickly gives us the correct interpretation of Isaiah’s prophecy, saying, “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them'” (John 12:39-40).
Further, the very reason Jesus spoke in parables was so that men who were not given ears to hear would not repent:
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear, And they have closed their eyes, Otherwise they would see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I would heal them.’ (Matt 13:13-15).
Objection 3: Clearly, the Scripture does not contradict Scripture, so God cannot desire all to repent and yet not actually have that desire. Further, God cannot will not to show miracles in Sidon for the expressed reason that they come into judgment, but not desire to judge them. Therefore, we are compelled to interpret all these passages in such a fashion where the given interpretation to one does not requires us deny the truth found in the other passages.
How can we do this? Rather simply, actually. God desires all men to repent. In fact, He desires all men to be saved.
However, God is also just and righteous. The Scripture is replete with passages where God makes clear His desire to punish the wicked.
Therefore, God does not have two contradicting desires, but rather two different ones. He desires all men to be saved, but He also desires to bring into judgment men that have sinned against Him. We may call these “differing priorities.”
Men all the time have two different desires and there is no apparent contradiction in this. For example, a man may desire to eat ice cream every day. Further, the same man also desires to look fit. There is a point in time when one desire is going to outweigh the other, according to the overall intentions and priorities of the man. So, he can get real fat, never eat ice cream, or be somewhere in the middle depending upon what his will is given his own differing priorities.
And so, in God’s hidden counsel, He desires both mercy to all and yet accountability for all. He is gracious to some in so that though they are accountable, He may exercise His mercy. He holds others accountable, as it is not acceptable to Him that no one may be held accountable for his or her own sin.
In conclusion. When we take into account the interpretation of a couple cherry-picked verses that Arminians put forward in order to dispute Calvinism, we find several things. First, their interpretation contradicts the Scripture. Second, it forces portions of the Scripture to hold opposite meanings to other portions. Third, it requires the presupposition that if God, or a man, has a desire then one’s heart cannot be set on any other things. This is contrary to common sense, in which we juggle several different desires and according to our own purposes will emphasize some more than others.
Being that “the Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds” (Ps 145:17), then God is correct in His judgment when He is merciful to some and just in punishing others. He is kind in His choosing as to whom He hardens or shows mercy.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Sir, I would respectfully disagree. There are not two wills in the Godhead, for “our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3). God does not desire the salvation of the reprobate, but “The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16:4).
May I recommend an article for your reading: http://www.experimentalreligion.com/duty-faith-jk-popham/
There is no contradiction in doing what one pleases, but being pleased with two different options but opting for the option in what pleases one more.
Would you have any scriptural evidence for your view? I do not read that Almighty God chooses between two ‘options’: He, of the same lump, makes one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour. He does not wish that what He has created for dishonour would be appointed to honour, but He hath created even the wicked for the day of evil… Who could trust a God of two minds?
I wrote you a reply, but lost it. My Scripture is quoted in the article. God could have led Tyre and Sidon to repentance but apparently decided not to at that time. The question is why He would, if He desires that none may perish but all may repent. Can you come up with another explanation?
I see no contradiction in GOd desiring that all repent but also desiring not to intervene in every single human’s life in order to compel their repentance. Desiring repentance is different than desiring changing every single sinner into a repentant soul.
Well, where does it say that God is not willing that any man should perish, or that He wishes for all men everywhere to repent? I do not believe God says that anywhere in His word. If God wanted all men to be saved, then they would be: for “He hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”
Try reading the blog before replying to it 😉
I know you’re referring to 2 Peter 3:9 😉
I would contend that the “all” in the verse is not referring to all men everywhere, but to the elect. The question to ask is, Who are the “us-ward”? Peter tells us in the first verse of the chapter: “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto *you*…” – the epistle is written to Christians, not all men everywhere.
If a man writes a letter to his wife telling her he loves her, another woman cannot read that and apply his love to herself. Similar principle here: all of the epistles are written to believers: We cannot take every phrase from them and apply them to all men that have ever existed. The word of God is discriminatory.
Anyway, I’ll leave it there – good to discuss these things.
The problem with that differentiation is that it does not make sense 1 Tim 2:4. The standard apologetic is when Paul writes “all men” that what he really meant was “all different kinds of men” (i.e. rich, poor, greek, jew, etc.). However, such an interpretation is not even necessary, as God can have several desires but a consistent will. Indeed, God does whatever He pleases and there is no contradiction in finding several things pleasing and choosing the most pleasing option.
Craig, with your conversion to Eastern Orthodox, have you reconsidered your Calvinistic view on this passage?
FYI the view of the article is not Calvinist either, but it is not traditionally Orthodox. While I think the view is internally consistent, I submit to the Church on this and all matters. I will say this–God does not give equal graces to all. This I think is fundamental, and if one finds this hard to accept, the question is then why God lets people even be born foreknowing the consequences of their actions. Many people, who’s eternal destination is Hell, would have been better off dying in the womb or never even being conceived. Surely God could make this happen, and He does not do it all the time.
When our friend highcalvinism, and most other Calvinists I know of, insist that because the epistles are written to believers then they must have application only to believers; and when they insist that the word “all”, when used in these epistles really only means “all y’all” or “only us believers”, I wonder what they make of Paul’s statement to the non-believing pagans he addresses in Acts 17:30 when he says, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent”. In fact, going a bit astray from your original topic, what is their response to Acts 17:28-29 when he refers to the all-inclusive “we”, the non-believing pagans as well as himself, as God’s offspring and children of God?
I think it is quite clear that, when writing their epistles, Peter, Paul, James & John all knew how to distinguish between “us” and “all”, and wrote out of that knowledge. I mean, just because Newton’s three laws of motion are written primarily in freshman level Physics text books and directed to students of physics, does not mean that those laws are not applicable to all of us, even to non-believers of physics.
Truly that line of “reasoning” is demonic, and is a lie. God is not responsible for sin, nor can God be blamed for the impenitence of any impenitent sin, for God’s will is always and forever not to force men to repent, but to ask them and tell them to repent, but He holds all human beings responsible for their moral choices, and compels no men to believe: God wills to leave the choice to confess Christ up to all men, and God wills that all men repent. If any do not repent, it is not ever because of something God did or did not do. To say otherwise is to serve and obey Satan.
Not sure what exactly you are responding to, but this article was written years before my conversion…essentially me backwards engineering the two wills of God as elucidated by St John of Damascus.
In no way in all of time and eternity can Calvinism in any form ever be in any way at all ever reconciled withe the Gospel John 3:16 2 Peter 3:9 1 Tm. 2:4, with the Orthodox faith John 15:26 Acts 2:33, N-C Creed of 381 AD without Filioque.
If God is compelling people to repent against their will during Jesus’ ministry featuring signs and miracles versus refraining from doing so with Sodom and Gomorrah then how did not everyone who saw and heard Jesus escape his influence without repenting? Did all who encounter Jesus repent at his overwhelming compulsion? Quite obviously no.
There is compulsion and determinism and force and irresistibility and slavery only in Satan, not in Jesus Christ. There are no ifs, ands, or buts in the Holy Spirit. God does not will that not everyone repents. Calvinism is worship of the Devil. Calvinist is Nestorian Atheism. Calvinism is Monergist Antinomian Sin. Calvinism is pure evil. We cannot hate Calvinism enough.