If Calvinism is true and God “influences the desires and decisions of people,”1 as Wayne Grudem and most Calvinists insist, then let us interpret Scripture accordingly.
Adam and his wife, Eve, bore two sons: Cain was the elder and Abel was the younger. Scripture notes: “When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground” (Gen. 4:2 NLT and henceforth).
What the Bible means is that God influenced the desire and decision of Abel to become a shepherd, while he also influenced the desire and decision of Cain to cultivate the ground. For remember, God “influences the desires and decisions of people.” We must interpret Scripture with this hermeneutic. God did not (and could not) simply foreknow the desires and decisions of Abel and Cain. That would mean that God was dependent upon human beings for his knowledge. God is sovereign. He “influences the desires and decisions of people.”
During the harvest season, Cain “presented some of his crops as a gift to the LORD” (Gen. 4:3). What the Bible means is that God influenced the desire and decision of Cain to present some of his crops unto himself. Likewise, Abel also “brought a gift ~ the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock” (Gen. 4:4). What the Bible means is that God influenced the desire and decision of Abel to offer the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock unto himself.
However, the LORD “accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift” (Gen. 4:4-5). What the Bible means is that God accepted the gift which he influenced Abel to desire and decide to give. This was not, however, Abel’s gift, which sprang from his heart to offer to the LORD. For Abel could only offer that which God had influenced him to present unto himself, because God “influences the desires and decisions of people.”
Additionally, what the Bible means is that God did not accept the gift which he influenced Cain to desire and decide to give. Though, consistently, it was not genuinely Cain’s gift, which sprang from his heart to offer to the LORD. For Cain could only offer that which God had influenced him to present unto himself.
One wonders, then, if God was angry with Cain or with himself for influencing him to only present “some of his crops as a gift” unto himself (cf. Gen. 4:3). At present, it appears as though God did not accept what Cain offered, though what he offered was influenced by God, since God “influences the desires and decisions of people.”
This rejection of God made Cain angry. So, the LORD spoke to him: “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (Gen. 4:6).
This saying must have confused Cain’s Calvinistic underpinnings. For he knew and believed that God is sovereign, and as such that he “influences the desires and decisions of people.” But God was telling him that he would “be accepted” if he would do what is right.
“But,” thought Cain, “how can I do what is right unless God influences me, giving me the desire and decision to act right?” “Moreover,” reasoned Cain, “if I refuse to do what is right, then was I not being influenced by God to act thus? For God ‘influences the desires and decisions of people.'” Living this out consistently was beginning to take its toll on Cain’s mind.
Cain was in quite a theological pickle. Almost at his wit’s end, he then realized: “How can I possibly subdue sin and be its master unless God influences my desire and decision to actually master it? God just isn’t making any sense today. Usually his commands are so clear. But all of this ambiguous language and conflicting concepts are incongruous with my Calvinism.”
Well, our story here becomes dark. For God must have refused to influence Cain’s desire and decision to master or subdue sin. “One day,” the Bible records, “Cain suggested to his brother, ‘Let’s go out into the fields.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him” (Gen. 4:8). The sovereign LORD must have been pleased, for Cain, like a good servant of God, was influenced by him to desire and decide to murder his own brother; which, according to John Piper, was the best thing that could have happened to Abel.
But, alas, that is not what we find in the LORD’s holy word. “Afterward the LORD asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother? Where is Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ Cain responded. ‘Am I my brother’s guardian?’ But the LORD said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground! Now you are cursed and banished from the ground, which has swallowed your brother’s blood” (Gen. 4:9-11).
Cain found it very odd that the LORD asked him, “What have you done?” For Cain knew, as every good Calvinist knows, that God influences the desires and decisions of people. “What have I done?” asked Cain. “I have done that which you influenced me to do. You gave me the desire to murder my brother. You influenced my decision to end his life. What have I done? Why did you influence me to desire to murder my brother? Why did you influence me to decide to end his life? That is the question!”
Thankfully, we do not need to reinterpret or re-write Scripture in order to support a Calvinistic presupposition. For nothing could be more false than to suggest that God “influences the desires and decisions of people.”
1 Wayne A. Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, ed. Jeff Purswell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 146
Originally found on the site: Classical Arminianism