Do Calvinists Read the Same Bible?

, posted by SEA

Here is an exchange that took place in our private discussion group (edited a bit):

One SEA member said:

I read the following during my daily reading time today.

FIRST: David was being pursued by Saul. So, David asked the Lord that, if he goes down to Keilah, will Saul also come down there, and will they deliver David into Saul’s hand? The Lord answered yes. So, what did David do? “So David and his men, who numbered about six hundred, set out and left Keilah; they moved around from one place to another” (1 Sam. 23:10-13).

So what we find here is that God knew WHAT WOULD happen IF David went to Keilah – he would meet Saul there, for God foreknew that Saul would be there, and that those in Keilah would hand him over to Saul. BUT THIS DID NOT HAPPEN. David left the area of Keilah. God knew WHAT WOULD happen, even that which DID NOT happen. God foreknows future contingencies, and is not directing every event by a strict necessity or predetermined decree.

SECOND: God left a matter in David’s own hands. “David’s men said to him, ‘This is the day about which the Lord said to you, “I will give your enemy into your hand, and you can do to him whatever seems appropriate to you”‘” (1 Sam. 24:4).

So, what did David do? He spared Saul’s life. But God PERMITTED David to do whatever he wanted to do. David had more than one option before him. He could kill Saul in the cave, or he could let him live. God did not tell David what to do, as though it was already predetermined by decree, but allowed David to choose.

I’m just wondering: do Calvinists read the same Bible that I do?

Another SEA member responded:

One of the biggest problems with Calvinism is that Calvinists claim that belief in exhaustive determinism is central to proper, orthodox faith in/view of God. However, when you ask them about passages like this one, they have to basically say that God pre-determined what seem to be decisions made freely. Not only that, but Calvinists are forced to claim that God pre-determined his own claims that folks can act freely (as in 1 Sam. 24:4)! So God appears double-minded and schizophrenic! But also, the Calvinist version of God wants people to believe in exhaustive determinism despite the fact that–according to the Word of God–He continues to operate in the world in such a way that contradicts exhaustive determinism! If God is so dead-set on us believing in such a thing, why create, sustain, and interact with the world in such a way that is diametrically opposed to exhaustive determinism?

Interestingly, this kind of logic usually leads Calvinists to very “man-centered” conclusions. Case in point: When asked about the efficacy of prayer in light of the fact that God pre-determines your prayers along with the outcomes, Calvinists have to say that prayer is still effective because of all the changes it brings about in the pray-er, despite the fact that God has pulled all the strings before the foundation of the world. But wait a minute! Isn’t it “man-centered” to conclude that the efficacy of prayer is all about the pray-er? Because divine exhaustive determinism renders a bizillion-and-one things absolutely meaningless, the Calvinist is left grasping at straws to extricate meaning from Calvinist fatalism.