Compatibilism and Christian Thought – It Bugs Me

Someone defined compatibilism as a reconciliation of the theological proposition that every event is causally determined, ordained, and/or decreed by God in conjunction with the free will of man. Well, that makes about as much sense as when I’d take my toddler to a shopping mall, put her down and let her roam “free”. I was in fact directing her to the next store I wanted to shop at. It’s a non-sequitur within compatibilism that people make free-will choices in anything as very event and action has already been predetermined by God and for his reasons alone.

Within the doctrines of Calvinism, nothing happens which hasn’t been causally determined, decreed or ordained by God. John Piper references the “no maverick molecule” concept wherein if any molecule or spec of dirt only moves through the air as it does because God determined it would. Someone came up with the nice little acronym “EDD” (exhaustive divine determinism) to best express this concept in which God causally determines every single thing and nothing happens which He didn’t determine would happen.

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What Is the Ultimate Aim of Calvinism?

Dave Hunt and James White, in a heated back and forth exchange, cobbled together one of the best books to understand the variance of thought as to Reformed Theology. Hunt is very anti-Calvinism. White is very pro-Calvinism. I readily admit my difficulties with Calvinist doctrine – especially unconditional election and this book has been an eye-opener to understand both sides of the equation.

I’m struck by a statement of Hunt, “Never forget that the ultimate aim of Calvinism is to prove that God does not love everyone, is not merciful to all, and is pleased to damn billions. If that is the God of the Bible, Calvinism is true. If that is not the God of the Bible who is love (1 John 4:8), then Calvinism is false. The central issue is God’s love and character in relation to mankind, as presented in Scripture.” (Debating Calvinism, pg.21)

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Calvinism Explained in 26 Seconds

S. Michael Houdmann wrote an article for the Christian blog, “Got Questions”, addressing why he believes some people so passionately oppose Calvinism? Houdmann’s last comment was intriguing; “For all you Calvinism haters out there, would it help if I told you that you were predestined to hate Calvinism?” I suspect Houdmann was trying to be cute inferring the deterministic aspect of his Calvinistic belief. But instead, Houdmann hammers home the stark reality that determinism within Calvinistic doctrines dominates all other aspects of that creed.

This sound bite is perhaps the most consistent presentation of Reformed Theology. And perhaps Dr. Zachariades is as true of a Calvinist as there is. Frankly, I admire his passion – and his consistency in being a hard-core determinist and believing that “God works all things after the counsel of his will.” So, Dr. Zachariades, you’re teaching me that God, as manifested through Calvinistic determinism not only prevents someone from committing adultery – but that adultery is ordained to be committed when God wants it to occur? Okay … no ambiguity there.

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Determinism & God’s Nature and Character

A Calvinist recently asked me why I have such antipathy towards the Doctrines of Grace. I responded how I find the teachings of determinism and unconditional election problematic such that they affect the very nature and character of God. I elaborated how it’s beyond me that a Calvinist can realistically say, ‘Well, it may be that God has chosen you to be reprobate. But don’t feel bad. God has intentionally doomed you for his glory.’

I went on to explain that years ago, and without realizing it, I’d been attending a Calvinist church. I’d gotten involved in a men’s Bible study where one of the books we went through was Jerry Bridges’ Is God Really in Control? I read through each page and continually said to myself, “That can’t be right” or “I don’t think so!” if only because theistic determinism is (to me) so incompatible with the entirety of Scripture. Why would God see the need to give us Proverbs if he’s determining everything that will happen?

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Compatibilism – Sounds Nicer Than Determinism

Someone stated on a Facebook forum, “Anyone who believes that man’s will is entirely free, and that he can be saved by it, does not believe the fall.” He went on, “God is in control of our thoughts, our words, and our deeds, without making us robots or puppets! We are responsible for all of it!” Lots of verses were provided to justify his beliefs. However, if anything, I found his supply of verses justifying his pronouncements to be woefully lacking. And so, perhaps against better judgement. I responded:

I suspect our respective doctrines are altogether different – especially with respect to such things as Total Depravity, Unconditional election and Limited Atonement. Our doctrines are obviously based on our respective understandings from the Bible. To which, it would seem as though God has taught you things which are significantly different from what he’s taught me. Now, why would he do that? Unless maybe, just maybe, the tenants of determinism within Calvinism are fraught with error. And on that point, I can’t imagine you disagreeing with John Calvin who has written in his Institutes of Religion:

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