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"...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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  • « God as "Father" | Main | Relativists and Universal Human Rights »

    How can God be Fair if Man has No Choice?

    Answer: What the Bible teaches, and I hope you would agree, is more important than our feelings about the way we think things should be. And perhaps to your surprise, Calvinists would agree with you that the Bible teaches that everyone has a choice, BUT because men love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20) are naturally hostile to God and think all spiritual truth to be foolish (1 Cor 2:14) they will CHOOSE willingly to reject him. God is not coercing anyone to reject him. We (all of us) do so voluntarily. God would therefore be just if he chose to save no one and leave everyone to their own boasted free will. But instead God is merciful and chooses to save many ill-deserving folk out of the mass of ill-deserving folk on the earth. As soon as you think God is somehow obligated to save you then your salvation is no longer of mercy. So men receive one of two things in this world, justice or mercy, but no one receives injustice. If anyone is in hell it is because they deserved it and chose to go there willingly. Left to ourselves that is what we all would choose and deserve. That is why we need grace to believe. Our own hearts are hard as stone. God must change our hearts if we are to believe (Deut 30:6, Ezek 26:36; John 6:63, 65) and that is what the bible teaches. Are you saying that a man can come to faith in Jesus of his own free will apart from grace? Where do you find this in the Scripture?

    Posted by John on June 18, 2013 12:30 PM

    Comments

    Very well said. Thank you!

    Very well said. Thank you!

    Great article! I would just clarify that men actually don't "willingly" go to Hell, hence the reason God must cast them into it as punishment. In other words, evil men would love nothing more than to enter Heaven and wreak havoc in it without hesitation if given the opportunity. Similar to the fact that Satan was cast out of Heaven after his rebellion.

    Hi Josh, thanks for your comments. As for the "men willingly go to hell" comment it simply means that men are crystal clear of God's existence (from creation) ... and revelation (if they have heard the gospel) The Text says, "Although they knew God ...they suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Rom 1:18, 21). In other words all men know God ...both the creation and revelation declare the truth of God ... and when men are told the consequence of their actions is hell, they continue down that path, knowing it is their destiny.

    Men do not go to hell for lack of knowledge... they know they are going there and choose it over God. That is why I use the word "willing"

    John-

    Yeah, I figured that was the intent. I just don't see anywhere in the text that men willingly go, as if they tuck their tail between their legs and hop into the lake, when really Jesus says to fear Him who *casts* body and soul into Hell. After all, even going to Hell based on their own will would be more obedience to God than they are capable of!

    But I do understand your intent -- that men willingly choose rebellion (even after knowing its consequences) over submission. I would just note that the gates of Hell are NOT locked from the inside (or if they are, it's irrelevant), as many would claim, and the idea that men willingly go there in a small sense seems to favor that perspective. Instead, I would say that sin is man shaking his fist at God and saying "this is how I will live, now what are You going to do about it?"

    So I guess a balanced way of wording it would be to say "men choose rebellion to God over submission, even when they know its consequences."

    I am certainly open to being wrong on this perspective though, if there are some Scriptures that I could check that would state or even imply that men choose to go to Hell.

    Overall I certainly agree with the main point of the article -- men only repent and believe after God graciously regenerates their hearts! SDG.


    I understand the point of what you are saying. However, (while not to be overly contrary), when you declare that "men choose rebellion to God over submission, even when they know its consequences" IMHO it is no different than saying they "willingly" go. In other words they are saying in their hearts, "I would rather go to hell than 'have this Man to reign over us.'" Of course no one wants to endure God's wrath, but they still PREFER it over the God of the Bible.

    They are CONSCIOUS they are going there and still are willing to do so rather than yield to Christ as Lord. It is a conscious, willful choice, not something they do without understanding.

    Men who are dead in sin are still very alive to the flesh.

    Right, certainly the logical conclusion is that they choose Hell over God. I just don't think that we can assign that logical conclusion to the will of the offender.

    For example, if a criminal robs a bank, we as a society can stand back from the situation and think to ourselves that the criminal has chosen prison over hard work, contentment, and living legally. But from the criminal's perspective, he simply chose crime (not prison) over hard work, contentment, and legal living. Philosophically in the end, yes he chose prison over being a legal citizen, but from his perspective that is not his choice. We can't simply assign the logical conclusion of his actions to his original intent, regardless of whether or not he is aware of it (let's face it, he receives the same punishment whether he was aware of the consequences or not). Because on the contrary, the criminal would much rather live out the rest of his days as a fugitive from the law, continuing to wreak havoc on society, than choose prison. So I really don't think men choose Hell in the sense that the word choosing would be normally understood.

    Hopefully you see my comments as seeking doctrinal precision, rather than being contentious. I've often thought about this topic, again typically when people say "the gates of Hell are locked from the inside", implying that men choose to stay there.

    I think the point you are getting at is this: The natural man is violently opposed to God and all that He does. So of course on the one hand the natural man volitionally rejects God and suppresses his truth about Him; but also when it comes time to be punished for such rebellion, the natural man is also violently opposed to justice and so resists being cast into hell all the same because natural men are violently opposed to all that God is and does; not just His revelation in creation but also His revelation of justice in response to their wicked rebellion. The willingly choose rebellion and violent opposition, and so resist any revelation or act of God towards them. The natural man will never agree with God.

    Josh, I like what you said, but the criminal analogy, i think, still falls short based on the simple fact that the criminal thinks he might get away with it, and actually has a good chance of doing so. So of course he is not willfully choosing prison. he thinks of the money, that he night live the rest of his life on a tropical island. On the other hand, the judgment of God is perfect and there is no chance whatsoever he will get away with it ...The fact that he will end up in hell is certain - and he knows it. Men know that judgment is coming. Our conscience and the word of God agree.

    Tyler, yes that is what I'm contending. To the very last second, man will go to Hell kicking and screaming. The justice (and righteousness I might add) of Hell is completely opposite to everything within the natural man's desire, so philosophically I suppose he chooses but not in the normal sense of the word.

    John, I understand what you are saying. Ultimately we both know that any analogy we come up with falls short of fully explaining Scriptural truths we read but I still think it holds up. The fact that natural man continues in sin is a practical denial of the reality of Hell despite the fact that he intellectually knows it. Both the glories of Heaven and Hell are aspects of God's righteousness and the unregenerate man rejects everything associated with God. Consider my analogy again -- imagine if a bank robber feels remorse and then turns himself in. In that instance, he is actually choosing prison but in doing so he is demonstrating his agreement with the rightness of the law. He is demonstrating a change in heart by submitting himself to due process of the law. Within the context of my (less-than-perfect) analogy, I don't think that kind of change of heart is possible by the unregenerate man with regards to Hell, which is why I just think the word "choose" skews the relationship between the natural man and his punishment.

    Good thought-provoking discussion.

    Josh,

    Thanks for the discussion. You make some good points worth thinking about. I guess my point is that man is not in an either/or kind of condition. The noetic effects of sin and his fallen nature guarantees that fallen man will act inconsistently. He "knows God" and suppresses that truth. But because he lives in this world he must live according to God;s rules, but won't acknowledge it. For example, the relativist supports human rights and is against slavery all over the world, even though he denies universal objective truth. In a sense he is forced to obey God because he has been endowed with a conscience. But he refuses to see his inconsistency in telling others that there is a right way they ought to behave. So I am using the same text I used earlier in the discussion to show that fallen man is complex and cannot avoid the fact he lives in God's world and often acts accordingly but refuses to acknowledge he thereby acknowledges God.

    Not trying to drag out this discussion, but I just came across this today (Piper tweeted it) and thought it would be helpful:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/how-willingly-do-people-go-to-hell

    "BUT because men love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19, 20) are naturally hostile to God and think all spiritual truth to be foolish (1 Cor 2:14) they will CHOOSE willingly to reject him"

    no-according to your reasoning men have no choice but to reject God,also its the Christian "worldview" that denies human rights, democracy, and the idea that slavery is wrong
    "So men receive one of two things in this world, justice or mercy,"
    again your show your euro-centric thinking with your apologetic

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