Steve Sewell, “Does Compatibilism Make Sense?”

, posted by Steve Sewell

My definition of “Compatibilism” :

A desperate attempt by Calvinists to exonerate God of evil doing.

Calvinists believe that God has predetermined all things, that all things happen in the world — including all sin and evil acts — according to His meticulous decree, that nothing occurs that is not by the specific will of God. (That, of course, includes His predetermined choice of who will believe in Christ and who won’t, who goes to Heaven and who goes to hell). Here are some quotes from Calvinist John Hendryx of, from his article, “Compatibilistic Determinism” (bold mine):

Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism. It simply means that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. Our choices are not coerced … i.e. we do not choose against what we want or desire, yet we never make choices contrary to God’s sovereign decree. What God determines will always come to pass (Eph 1:11) …

In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices occur through divine determinism.  

In both of these cases, it could be said that God ordains sin, sinlessly. Nothing occurs apart from His sovereign good pleasure.

We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will. Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent.” Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor separately from God’s meticulous providence.  

Any consistent theologian who uses the term “freedom” usually is referring to that fact that while God sovereignly ordains all that comes to pass, yet man’s “free choice” (voluntary) is compatible with God’s sovereign decree. In other words the will is free from external coercion but not free from necessity.    

R.C. Sproul said there are “no maverick molecules.” Nothing happens by chance, but all falls within God’s meticulous providence, no exceptions.

John Hendryx provides a good representation of the Calvinist position on God’s sovereignty and compatibilism. I encourage you to read the whole article.

Since the Bible teaches that God is holy and just and righteous and pure and sinless, and thus, cannot be the One who causes sin and evil, Calvinists have come up with this doctrine of compatibilism to reconcile God’s sovereignty with the free will (“voluntary choice”) of man, which he lives out according to his sinful nature. They view man as making voluntary choices, but not independently of God, that is, not “separately from God’s meticulous providence” (John Hendryx).

So the question Calvinists have to answer is, how does God carry out His predetermined will for each person that comes into the world, without Himself being responsible for the sins and evil acts they commit? According to Calvinists, since people never do anything that is against their will, since they never do anything that is not in their heart to do, then people are solely responsible for the things they think, say and do — even though God is absolutely sovereign, and — in their view — nothing happens that is not according to His predetermined will or plan or decree.

But as I said in the beginning, this is nothing more than a desperate attempt by Calvinists to get God off the hook. They have to have some way of defending Him against their particular view of God’s sovereignty, since “God sovereignly ordains all that comes to pass” (John Hendryx). It’s a blindness to the true implications of their position. It’s a failure to see the forest for the trees. Let me explain what I’m talking about.

If God in His sovereignty has an exact plan for the world, an exact plan for each and every person, if every thought and word and choice of each and every person is ordained by God, if all these things occur via Divine determinism, if “nothing happens by chance, but all falls within God’s meticulous providence, no exceptions” (John Hendryx), how is it possible that God not be the direct cause of all these things? That is tantamount to saying that God causes all things, but He does not cause all things. It’s tantamount to saying that the sky is blue but it’s not blue. It’s double-talk. Everything Calvinists teach about this points to God as the cause of all things and all things evil — yet at the same time they deny it! I believe the reason they can’t see the obvious and logical implications of their position is because they don’t want to. To do so would betray their beloved theology.

However, the bottom line is, you can’t say the sky is blue and then deny that it is blue. You can’t say that God predetermines all things and then deny that He doesn’t cause those things. Nor can you say that God does cause all sin and evil but is not responsible for it. This is the confused reality of compatibilism. Calvinists refuse to believe the truth about it. Compatibilism is a false explanation designed to protect the name of God. It’s nothing more than a self-provided barrier to prevent them from seeing the truth about what they believe about God’s sovereignty. It’s an illusion.

Why is it so hard to understand that if God predestines someone to commit a certain act it must necessarily make Him responsible for it? How is that person solely to blame, when he only did what God willed him to do, when he could do no less or no more? If the United States President orders his top General to launch a nuclear missile that blows up a terrorist city, which also kills many innocent people, is the General solely responsible for that nuclear strike? Just because he did it willingly? Does the President not have the ultimate responsibility, as the supreme authority in such a situation? Who is the world going to hold responsible for this act — the General or the President? The answer is obvious. And so is the truth about compatibilism. It’s a doctrine that ignores all sound reasoning.

When the implications of compatibilism are so glaringly visible, one must conclude that, since Calvinists believe so strongly in their particular view of God’s sovereignty, they have to provide some palatable way of exonerating Him of any wrong-doing. The way they view God, they have no choice but to come up with some such system. However, compatibilism falls short anything that even remotely makes any sense.

Of course Arminians, too, recognize God as the Supreme Sovereign Ruler of the universe. The difference is that we don’t believe that God predestines the sins and evil acts of people; nor do we believe that He carries them out in their lives. We don’t believe that God does anything in violation of who He is in all of His glorious and holy attributes. Since God is holy and righteous and pure and sinless and just and merciful and compassionate and forgiving and without darkness, and as One who hates sin and evil, we don’t believe He can (or wills) to ordain the sin and evil acts of people without it violating those attributes.

How then, does God as Sovereign Ruler of the universe, carry out His plan for the world? We really only know three things:

One, God is absolutely holy.

Two, man is absolutely sinful.

Three, God is also all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present, infinite in wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and intelligence.

The holiness of God and the sinfulness of man are not compatible. Darkness and light are not compatible. There is absolutely no way that God can have any part in the sins and evil acts of mankind. Yet we know that God governs the whole universe. How He does that, we simply don’t know, for He hasn’t revealed that to us. But it shouldn’t be hard to believe that an all-knowing and all-powerful God, infinite in wisdom (etc.), is perfectly able to fulfill His plan within the sphere of man’s free will — without personally orchestrating their sins. Calvinists don’t see it that way, which reveals that their understanding of God and His sovereignty is very limited. Accordingly, Arminians have a superior view of God.

Beyond that, I think it’s futile to try and figure out how God carries out His sovereignty among mankind. I’m not about to do what Calvinists have done, and try and come up with some sort of system that explains how God does things — again, that’s something He has chosen not to reveal to us. Furthermore, unlike Calvinism, I don’t have to come up with a system that attempts to exonerate God of sin. What I believe and teach about God doesn’t require it.

My advice to Christians is to, first, reject any theology that makes implications about God that are contrary to His character. Then, avoid trying to figure out that which God hasn’t revealed about Himself, and just rest in the things that He has revealed about Himself.

Original Article:  The Arminian Files