[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of a book by a Traditionalist/Provisionist author and an Arminian (see the reference at the end of the article). SEA publishes a variety of perspectives and sometimes non-Arminians when we think what they have to say is helpful in some way. But articles on SEA do not necessarily represent SEA. They are the perspective of the article author. References to “our reply” in this article do not mean SEA’s reply, but the authors’.]
“Atheism” affirms the belief that there is no God, while “Agnosticism” reflects uncertainty about the existence of God. The problem for non-Calvinists is that Atheists often assail Christianity from the perspective that Calvinism represents Christianity, and so non-Calvinists must therefore clarify that some of the Atheist’s objections are not necessarily applicable.
Sometimes, Calvinists will cite Atheists to non-Calvinists as a neutral, independent party to corroborate the accuracy of Calvinism as the most accurate representation of Christianity. However, Atheists do not claim that Calvinism is the most exegetically faithful representation of the Bible, but rather that Calvinism is the more philosophically accurate representation of Christianity. In other words, Atheists are not necessarily agreeing to a Calvinist’s unique biblical interpretations on key Bible “proof-texts,” but instead are agreeing with Calvinists from a purely philosophical standpoint. This is unsurprising since both Calvinists and Atheists reject the concept of “free-will.” In other words, while Calvinists believe in divine determinism, Atheists believe in biological determinism, meaning that both camps do not believe that humans have autonomous, libertarian free-will with autonomy of reason. We are a product of our genes, claims the Atheist, while we are a product of God’s decree, claims the Calvinist. So, for that reason, it is quite unfair for Calvinists to cite an Atheist’s perspective to non-Calvinists in order to corroborate Calvinism.
Most Atheistic objections to Christianity involve the perception of God’s responsibilities in creation, in terms of what the Bible says that God causes or allows. The non-Calvinist’s response is to ask the Atheist about their own personal responsibilities and accountability to God. However, since Atheists do not believe that they possess free-will, they don’t believe that they could rightly have any such responsibility or accountability. Nonetheless, if a non-Calvinist’s perspective on Christianity is correct, in contradiction to Calvinism, then the Atheist has a choice, and thus non-Calvinists can invoke their human responsibility and accountability by pointing to their free-will choices that have contributed to the present condition of this world. Non-Calvinists believe that God can say to an Atheist that they made their choice, against God’s wishes for them.
[This post has been excerpted with permission from Leighton C. Flowers with Richard Coords, [re]Reformed: A Journey In and Out of Calvinism with a Verse by Verse Commentary (Trinity Academic Press, 2020).]