"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Wisdom and the Whore in Proverbs 1-9 | Main | Jesus Actually Saves by C. H. Spurgeon »

    Free Will, Election & Foreknowledge

    Those who affirm the libertarian "free will" of man often teach the doctrine of ELECTION as follows: God, before He created the world, foreknew, from eternity, who would yield to the Spirit, and therefore elected to salvation all those whom He foresaw would do so. In other words, God looks down the corridors of time to see who will believe and then "predestines" them based on the exercise of their autonomous free will to choose Him. In this system of belief the absolute free will of the natural man is necessary to preserve human responsibility. But this concept of foreknowledge ironically ends up destroying itself. There is no person who believes in free will that can consistently believe this theory of foreknowledge, and still go around teaching his views as to God's salvation. Why so? Consider the following:

    1. No Libertarian free will theist can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then also teach that God is trying to save every man. Surely if God knows who will be saved and who won't be saved, then how could anyone argue that He is trying to save more? Certainly, it is foolish to assert that God is trying to do something which He knew never could be accomplished. Some embracing the free will or foreseen faith position charge Augustinians that preaching the gospel to the non-elect is mockery since God has not elected them. If there is any validity in that objection, then it equally applies to them as well who preach to those who God knows will never be saved. To the Augustinian, God commands that the Gospel be preached to all, because, when we indiscriminately cast forth the seed of the gospel, the Spirit germinates the seed of those He came to save (1 Thess 1:4, 5 John 6:63-65). People are not saved in a void but under the preaching of the Gospel and the Spirit brings forth life through the word of truth.

    2. No Libertarian who embraces the foreseen faith position can consistently say that God foreknew which sinners would be lost and then say it is not within God's will to allow these sinners to be lost. Why did He create them? Let the libertarian freewill theist consider that question. God could have just as easily refrained from creating those that He knew would "freely" choose to go to Hell. He knew where they were going before He created them. Since He went ahead and created them with full knowledge that they would be lost, it is evidently within God's providence that some sinners actually be lost, even in the libertarian scheme. He, therefore, has some purpose in it which human beings cannot fully discern. The libertarian freewill theist can complain against the truth that God chose to allow some men a final destiny of Hell all they want, but it is as much a problem for them as for anyone. As a matter of fact, it is a problem which libertarians must face. If he faces it, he will have to admit either the error of his theology or deny foreknowledge all together. But he might say that God had to create those that perish, even against His will. This would make God subject to Fate.

    3. No Libertarian freewiller can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then teach that God punished Christ for the purpose of redeeming every single man that ever lived. Surely we should credit God with having as much sense as a human being. What human being would make a great but useless and needless sacrifice for persons He already knows with certainty would reject Him? Libertarians say that God punished Christ for the sins of those whom He knew would go to Hell. This theory of the atonement--although synergists do not mention this--involves the matter of Christ's suffering exclusively for the purpose of man's salvation--the substitutionary aspect. They fail to have any appreciation for the aspect of propitiation.

    4. No Libertarian can consistently say that God foreknew who would be saved and then preach that God the Holy Spirit does all He can do to save every man in the world. The Holy Spirit would be wasting time and effort to endeavor to convert a man who He knew from the beginning would go to Hell. You hear Synergists talk about how the Spirit tries to get men to be saved and if they don't yield to him they will "cross the line" and offend the Spirit so that He will never try to save them again. Bottom line, the Synergist makes a finite creature out of the Divine Godhead. Can God be taken by surprise?

    Related Essays
    Foreknowledge According to Arminians by Ron Gleason (PCA)
    God's Foreknowledge and Free-Will By Stephen Charnock
    Foreknowledge and the Free Will of Men by John Frame
    Does God Elect Persons Based on Their Foreseen Faith? By John Hendryx

    Posted by John on April 19, 2006 07:51 PM


    Even with this precise logic, the self-deceived will not grasp the truth of election until God opens their hearts to believe it. With that obstinancy seemingly a constant, I must say the culprit is human pride. C.J. Mahaney, in his book "Humility," states that a wonderful contributing factor to our humility is contemplation of the doctrines of grace. Why? The reality of the sovereignty of God reveals His greatness and our complete lack of anything good in us outside of His grace.

    Great Post John.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

    Predestination via foreknowledge doesn't make sense. If God were to look into the future and see that something was going to happen, what good would it do to destine that the thing would happen? It would be superfluous, a waste of God's time.

    The only true way is foreknowledge because of predestination. God knows everything that will happen because He predestined it. Now that makes sense.

    Aspiring Theologian
    The Aspiring Theologian Blog: A Reformed Theology Blog


    There’s so much to reformation theology beyond free will and determination. I wonder if there is an unhealthy emphasis on this subject? Another subject that needs to be addressed these days is the authority of Scripture (i.e., explaining self-authentication, canonicity, inspiration).

    All of your points attacking the libertarian who believes in free will seem to suggest that foreknowledge is inconsistent with unlimited atonement (in terms of God’s efforts generally, the Holy Spirit’s efforts specifically, the efficacy of the Son’s sacrifice).

    I believe in double predestination, meaning that God predestined the righteous for heaven and the unregenerate for hell. One necessarily implies the other.

    On the subject of limited atonement, I believe that God’s offer is open to all, but not everyone will accept it (as foreknown and predestined). It is unlimited because there is no limit to God’s grace. Likewise, Jesus’s sacrifice was sufficient to cover the sins of all men. At the same time, His sacrifice was necessary to cover my sin alone. I don’t think we have to worry about needless sacrifice. Although I understand the concern about efficacy, I think God extends grace to some even without any expectation of return. It brings to mind the parable of the sower or the parable of the wedding banquent. Seed is sown, invitations are sent…but many will not receive Him.

    But to those who will receive Him, the Spirit effectuates the Father's will and brings about salvation.



    Indeed there certainly is much more to Reformation Theology than free will and determinism. Amen. That is why I feel the Lord had me to be involved in the creation of Is is a vast repository attempting to cover the whole counsel of Scripture, of which free will is just a part.

    But the error of synergism & free will etc. is so pernicious and deeply entrenched in modern evangelicalism, that is must be addressed confrontatively because it is hostile to the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. You speak of the authority of Scripture. Amen, most necessary. But what of the authority of the God of Scripture to save whom He wills. If this is not believed then grace is not grace alone.

    Synergism is a man-centered view and not Christ centered. And the absurd boast in the free will of man is the root of it. It is autonomy from Christ and is the reason many people have low views of Scripture in the first place.

    An unspiritual man does not think spiritual thoughts. We do not lift ourselves by our own bootstraps.

    I have read your comments before and your beliefs and, while you, no doubt fervently love the Lord, I would consider your views far from anything remotely Reformed and parhaps even synergistic. Synergism and Reformed theology are opposites, whatever your position may be on whether predestination is double or not. Does anything happen outside of God's will? Does anything take Him by surprise or happen by chance? Anything?

    The degree that we think wrong thoughts of God and Christ, to that same degree we commit idolatry. We all are guilty of this to some degree, but the free will position is about as unbiblical as they get. This is not a side matter which we can just agree to disagree. The grace of God in Christ must be presented rightly, and he gives us the tools to do so in revelation.

    When you claim man has free will you deny that savation is by grace ALONE. That is a serious matter, not peripheral.

    Unless I have misunderstood you, you deny effectual grace and you deny particular redemption. This means that Jesus Christ is not central to your underatanding of grace, for if it did, you would believe that even the very desire, humility and ability to believe the gospel itself is the gracious gift of God.

    Can you thank God for your faith Chong? What makes you to differ from other men, grace or your natural free will?

    Dear John H.,

    From what I’ve read of Luther, Calvin, and other reformed theologians (I attend a seminary that is deeply rooted in reformed theology), I appreciate a lot of what they have to say. I thought this blogsite was devoted to reformed theology and that the monergism site was devoted to free will/determinism. Maybe it’s the other way around.

    I believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I believe in the doctrine of sola scriptura.

    I don’t think these fundamental beliefs are inconsistent with free will. God created all living things to take their appointed place in creation. They fulfill their purpose and glorify God in doing what they were created to do. God created human beings uniquely in His own image. They were created with a rational soul and free will. When they exercise their will to worship God, they fulfill their purpose to the glory of God.

    After I complete a couple of other writing projects, I'm planning to write something on the subject of free will. I don't have the time to give it much thought now.

    Yes, I thank God for my faith. I fully appreciate God’s grace in my life. My gratitude and love for God is directed at Him and Him only. And He knows my heart.

    I doubt God approves of the way you belittle the faith of others. You can defend your views without accusing others of pride and idolatry.

    I indeed suffer from pride and idolatry (we all see as through a mirror dimly), but not for the reasons you suggest—at least the Spirit has not revealed that to me. And I daily make an effort to spend a significant amount of time with the Lord in His word, listening to what the Spirit says.

    Maybe this is not beneficial—I’ll have to pray about my participation here.


    John H. (and anyone else),

    What are we to make of those Christians who claim to be neither Reformed nor Arminian? I've met a few who claim that both systems denegrate the grace of God, and that God would NEVER predestine an individual, foreknowledge or otherwise. Yet they still claim "grace alone" and a belief in original sin.

    A prime example is a website I stumbled across a few weeks ago (gotta love those random Google links!), where an obviously sincere individual has spent a great deal of time writing a small book about what he calls "selective salvation," i.e. Calvinism or Arminianism...he considers them to be two extremes that are both wrong.

    I think he misrepresents both systems, particularly Calvinism (what else is new?), but can anyone truly be neither, and yet not be fully Pelagian?

    If anyone's interested, the site is There's much more on the site, but this is a feature.

    It has been my experience in discussing libertarian free will with someone who has carefully and logically thought trough the issue that if they continue to hold to that view it ultimately leads them to embrace some type of open theism instead of the truth of the sovereign, all-knowing, all-mighty God as revealed in Scriptures.


    Thank you for your fine response, and, believe me, I understand this offends you but this has nothing to do with belittling you or your obviously genuine faith. But none of my arguments against you have been ad hominem (against you or your character), but rather, are revealing inconsistencies in your theology. So any idea that I might be belittling your person is a misunderstanding. Love of a person cares about them and says something if they are going off course, all the while recognizing that we are all beggars pointing to bread to other beggars. Your belief in free will of the natural man means that you still have some regard and hope from the natural self with regard to redemption.

    Can a natural man (w/o Spirit), no matter how much outward persuasion he has, love Christ, see goodness, beauty and excellency in Him that he might believe in Him? Can an unregeneate man, who the Scripture says hates Christ, have any affection for Christ and believe in Him while still yet hating him? Or does his hostility need to first be disarmed? Consider that any need for the Spirit at all in salvation is an admission that man, of himself, has no free will, but his will is in bondage to corruption.

    Christianity, historically speaking, when speaking of man's will is not interested so much in philosophical questions about whether I have the ability to choose between vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The question is, does the Bible teach that the natural man has any will to believe the gospel, or is his will so corrupted, broken and hostile that he cannot heed any and all calls to believe in Christ in his own powers? Are calls to believe the gospel heeded by the natural man? or does he need to have the Spirit first that he might understand and see the beauty and excellency of Christ(1 cor 2)? Can an unregenerate man love Christ? The gospel itself would make no progress were it not for Divine power.

    You have consistently affirmed the free will of the natural man, and you may not like to hear it, but this totally contrary to the gospel, and my affirmation is the central historic position of the Reformation. The unspiritual are morally impotent to exercise their will to do themselves any redemptive good unless Christ sets them free. (John 1:13; 6:65; Rom 9:16).

    Prior to regeneration man is in bondage to the corruption of nature. Bondage to sin means he is not free to believe the gospel of his own powers. He cannot even lift a finger toward his own salvation because his will is broken. Yet you are affirming that the will is free and can choose one way or the other as if total depravity did not exist.

    What is Paul's Definition of a Christian? (Phil 3:3): i.e. those "who worship in the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh." No confidence means none, zero...that apart from the Holy Spirit we are spiritually bankrupt. It speaks of those who have been stripped of all hope from self (including the human will), and instead depend on the mercy of Christ alone. The will of the fallen man (prior to regeneration) is broken to such an extent that it will not and cannot lift a finger toward its own salvation. Total depravity, to a true Evangelical, does not simply mean that the unregenerate have sinful tendencies, but that we are broken and must despair of all hope from our own resources. Jesus Christ alone can save. He does not believe the natural will can just as easily believe or not believe in Christ, but affirms, with the Gospel that the will is depraved and broken just as are his other faculties. That which is flesh is flesh...It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail." To glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh, means that Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven and earth. He reigns supreme over all things and that He alone can save whom He will (Matt 11:27; Rom 9:15). "it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16) That the fallow ground of the natural man's heart must be plowed up by the Spirit of Christ to hear the gospel or he will never dispair of self because he is by nature hostile to God and is not naturally inclined at all to have his pride humbled to believe the gospel.

    Chong: you claim that faith itself is a gift you can thank God for? I do not refer to the opportunity for all to believe, but thankfulness for the actual belief in Christ, that God was the author of it. Do all men receive this gift? If all receive it then none would perish bexause all would believe and you would be acknowledging that such grace is effecual. But you earlier denied effectual grace so your belief that faith is a gift is contradictory.

    Spurgeon once said: "God does not promise that He will improve our nature, or that He will mend our broken hearts. No- the promise is that He will give us 'new' hearts and right spirits. Human nature is too far gone ever to be mended--
    It is not a house which is a little out of repair, with here and there a slate blown from the roof, and here and there a piece of plaster broken down from the ceiling.

    he also wisely said, "... A man hates God-- the Holy Spirit makes him love God. A man is opposed to Christ, he hates his gospel, does not understand it and will not receive it-- the Holy Spirit comes, puts light into his darkened understanding, takes the chain from his bondaged will, gives liberty to his conscience, gives life to his dead soul, so that the voice of conscience is heard, and the man becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.And all this is done, mark you, by the instantaneous supernatural influence of God the Holy Spirit working as he wills among the sons of men."


    (Note: faith is not the material of justification but the medium - "by grace THROUGH faith" Eph 2:8. We are not saved by our faith but through faith. We are freely saved by Christ's finished work where God's elect are attributed Christ's satisfaction (grace) which we appropriate through faith." God promises to give unto all those that are ordained unto life, his Holy Spirit, to make them willing and able to believe" (WCF Chapter 7:3). -see John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-65, Rom 9:16; Acts 13:48).

    May the Lord richly bless you in your studies.

    Solus Christus


    You asked, "What are we to make of those Christians who claim to be neither Reformed nor Arminian?"

    Indeed, I have heard this before, and that is why I like to bring the debate rather, to whether someone believes in Monergism or Synergism. It is more accurate,and is where the rubber meets the road. Can a natural man have spiritual thoughts? love Christ? believe in him without the Spirit of God changing his heart of stone to a heart of flesh?

    The other terms often have too much baggage and so they are inconsistent versions of one or the other. Most people therefore, hold to woefully inconsistent positions in theology. i.e. believing in irresistable grace but rejecting limited atonement. This is an impossible supposition, for where did the irresistable grace come from to begin with? Christ of course. Therefore Christ died an a way for the elect (to secure irresistable grace) in a way he did not for the non-elect. No grace of redemption is Christless.

    Not all persons who you might call Arminians are actually consistent five point confessional Arminians but rather, many are inconsistent Calvinists or Arminians. Holding to certain views that contradict each other.

    But I have discovered that it is quite easy to pinpoint whether one believes that regeneration precedes faith or not?


    In your second point, you touched on something that I've been trying to find an answer on. If election is true, then why did God create the non-elect?

    Reformed theology and Calvinism are fairly new to me; I've been spending a lot of time on - what a resource! Anyway, could you guide me to some resources that answer this question? Thank you.

    Sean J.


    Deep question >>>>If election is true, then why did God create the non-elect?

    As noted in the essay, this is a problem for all, whether election is true or not. Those who reject unconditional election, and believe it is conditional (i.e God's love conditioned on our response) as noted above, still believe that God has exhaustive foreknowldge, and could have done something to stop it if he willed it. So even in the free will position, His allowing it means that it was still within His Providence, i.e His will. If it is against his will then it is to say that there are powers in the universe greater than God which can take him by surprise, an impossible supposition of course. So this is not a problem for the Calvinist alone but all Christians.

    Further, when we ask a question about God's secret will such as why God creates persons He knows will persish, the presuppostion of that question is faulty because it assumes that there may be some answer outside of the perfect will of God Himself. In fact, the question inherently seems to betray our hearts belief that there must be a reason better than God simply wills it according to His sovereign good purpose (Eph 1:4, 5, 11). Can you think of a better reason than God willed it?

    But if we are to pry a little, God does all things for his own glory, and He is good so His reason is good by definition. We trust in His goodness and therefore, even though we do not know all reasons because he has not revealed them, we do not presume the worst about His motives, but trust with faith in His holy, just a righteous character. And though we now understand in a glass darkly, we will then know in full. But we have to believe in light of the Text, that God will be glorified in his justice just as much as his mercy. Those who have done evil in the world are responsible for it and since God is infinitely holy, He character demands that perfect justice be done, whether on the wicked or on Christ in our stead.

    Sean J. asked: "If election is true, then why did God create the non-elect?" The reason given in Scripture is quite clear, even though most people don't like the answer very much:

    "Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" -- Romans 9:21-24

    God created and preserves the lives of the non-elect in order to demonstrate His glory toward the elect -- "that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy." This is the simple answer given in God's word, and all Christians should be unashamed to proclaim it!

    Here's some food for thought:

    "[N]o one has said that the 'rule of predestination is the foreknowledge of faith or unbelief." -- JACOBUS ARMINIUS (Works, III:484, London Ed.)

    I think god's word clearly says he wants every human being to saved. When we believe in him and repent for r sins he will send his spirit for us who will help us in all needs to stand firm in god and also to live a righteous life. I'm a believer led by god's word than by theologies. If god's election is true then why does god sends Jonah to Nineveh who r not even elected then to be destroyed and forgive them when they repented . I don't think god would have preserved them if they would not have repented for their sins. If election is true then there's no need to preach the gospel since ppl are already elected. Then why would god ask us to go around world preaching. It doesn't make sense at all. Above all how does this discussion help us spiritually . Praying for u all. May god bless u all .

    plz do explain me this also. I don't understand why paul wants us to understand god's will and do it if god's will will be done anyways. I have so many doubts like this . Plz explain

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thank you for posting your questions. We all believe, like you, that men must repent of their sins and repent of trusting in one's own righteousness and trust in Jesus Christ alone to be saved. No one is saved apart from faith in Christ.

    We believe in the doctrine of divine election because the Bible teaches it everywhere (Eph 1:3-5; John 6:63-65 & 37; Romans 9:15, 16 just to name a few) And since Jesus teaches it, I believe it. If you believe God's word rather than theologies, then you would abandon your theology that God does not elect us. You made it up. There is nowhere in the Bible that teaches this. You are relying on your logic rather than the word of God.

    For example, you said, "if election is true then there would be no need to preach the gospel since people are already elected." First of all we do not teach that election saves anyone. Election does not save but is God's plan ... His blueprint of what he intends to do in time through the work of Jesus Christ as applied by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel. God does not save people in a void but through the preaching of the gospel. No one is saved apart from believing in Jesus Christ. We cast the seed of the gospel but no one will believe the gospel apart form the work of the Holy Spirit. Do you believe a person can come to faith in Jesus apart from any help from the Holy Spirit? That is what you seem to be saying.

    The Spirit must open our eyes, ears and heart to the gospel. Left to ourselves, the Bible says, no one will ever understand spiritual truth (see 1 Cor 2:14).

    This helps us spiritually because the Bible teaches that it is because of Him that we are in Christ Jesus who is our wisdom from God and our sanctification. (1 Cor 1) Let me ask you ... do you ascribe your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, humility, sound judgment or good sense? If you do you are boasting that you are saved because you were wiser than your neighbor rather than by grace ALONE. Why did you believe the gospel and not your neighbor? What makes you to differ, Christ or something else? This helps us spiritually because it shows that salvation is ALL OF THE LORD, not partly the Lord and partly because we were smart enough to believe. Salvation is by grace alone so election ensures that ALL GLORY GOES TO GOD. IN Christ He gives us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe.

    We preach the gospel and we pray for unbelievers BECAUSE God is sovereign. Only he can save them. Men are dead in trespasses and sins and will not believe unless God opens their heart to the gospel. Do you pray for others salvation? In your view, since God cannot help them until they do something, then what actually are you praying that God will do for them? We pray that God would open their hearts that they might believe.

    John H

    Hi John
    Thanks for the explanation . I do pray for salvation of my friends and for the unbelievers. I believe if we pray to god he will grant it if it is his will as Jesus says. If god's people are already elect then why god shows grace only when they repent and destroys them when they would not have in case of nineveh. Why god's word ask's us to resist evil and choose good ways in many places in the bible. Is the wrong things done by us is also god's plan for us. I just want to get clear about this

    Wow, I think I understand election! Like B.P. Burnett, before I held fast to everywhere in the Bible that pointed to God giving everyone a chance to be saved and I thought it would not be fair, otherwise. I now see the point that even if God gave us the free will to decide that holy fate, He knew it ahead of time anyway, so it is the same thing as creating the rest of the population for destruction, sad but true. Just like all the "innocent" children and animals of Israel's enemies that were massacred with God's authority, some circumstances surrounding God's justice are hard to swallow. I think Jesus' sorrow over Jerusalem's ultimate destruction is attributed to the fall of man in general. Even God as Father weeps for those who perish for that same reason. However, it seems that we have some control over the degree in which we nurture our love/passion towards God because of Paul's declaration to work out our salvation. If you feel this last statement is in error, John, please respond! Thank you. As far as evangelism goes, we can be still be used by God as His spokesperson in the salvation process.

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