The Farmer, the Boys, and the Pond

, posted by Kevin Jackson

In his book “Chosen but Free“, Dr. Norman Geisler* gives an illustration that vividly explains the problem with the Calvinistic teaching of Limited Atonement. Here is a paraphrase of the story:

There was a farmer who owned a pond. He did not want anyone to go swimming in it. He built a fence around the pond and posted a sign that said: NO SWIMMING ALLOWED.

One day three boys came upon the pond. They saw the sign, but decided to go swimming anyway. They climbed the fence and jumped into the pond. After jumping in they realized that there was no way to get out. They began to drown.

The farmer came to the pond, and saw that the three boys were drowning. He said to the boys, “Didn’t you see the sign? You have broken the rules. But I am a kind and loving farmer, so I will let one of you out.” The farmer then proceeded to throw a rope to one of the boys, and pulled him to shore. Then the farmer folded his arms and watched the other two boys drown. (The End)

If you met this farmer, would you say that he is a kind and loving man? Or would you perhaps describe him as heartless?

In the story the farmer represents God. The boys are humanity. The way the farmer behaves is exactly the way that Calvinists describe the behavior of God in regards to humanity. He has thrown a rope only to one of us (the elect). The rest of us (the reprobate) are left to drown.

On one point (God’s justice), Calvinists are right. None of us deserves to be saved. Yet on the second point (God’s love), they are terribly wrong. They paint a distorted image of God. Like the farmer, He could save all. Yet, He has capriciously and arbitrarily determined to save only a few. Calvinists say that this gives God glory.

In reality, the Bible teaches that God has provided a way for all to be saved. He loves all. He is not willing for anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance (cf. Ezek. 33:11; John 3:16-18; 3:36; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not for only our sins, but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2; cf. 1 Tim. 4:10). Some, unfortunately, reject the “rope” that God has provided in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus will perish. However, it is a travesty to lay their rejection at the feet of God who has provided a means for all to be saved.

*Dr Gesiler does not consider himself to be an Arminian. He attempts to split the middle between Arminianism and what he calls “extreme Calvinism.” He refers to himself as a “Moderate Calvinist.” Nevertheless, he makes some excellent points against classical Calvinistic doctrine.