Richard Coords, “Determinism”

, posted by Martin Glynn

It is common for Calvinists to accuse non-Calvinists of misrepresenting Calvinism whenever we speak of it as “too deterministic.” For instance, Calvinistic apologist Matt Slick, stated in an online debate with Leighton Flowers that he did not believe in determinism, but only later to affirm the statement read from which states, “compatibilism is no less deterministic than hard determinism.”99

Dr. William Lane Craig regularly describes Calvinism as “universal divine causal determinism—God determines everything that happens in the world,” and he provides many solid arguments for doing so. One listener brought a similar critique to Dr. Craig:

“Question: I believe you really mischaracterize Calvinism. What you are talking about sounds more like Hyper-Calvinism. Because Calvinism actually does affirm free will; I can read chapter 10 of the Westminster Confession of Faith where it actually explains how free will works within that system.”

Dr. Craig’s answered by saying:

“What I am rejecting is universal divine causal determinism. Now, if Reformed theology rejects compatibilism then I have got no quarrel with it. In fact, when I read much of the Westminster Confession, I resonate with it. The problem is that I don’t think that the Reformed theologian can give us a coherent interpretation of Scripture. As I said, the Reformed divines – in my first point – typically say that the reconciliation of these texts is just inscrutable. They can’t put them together; it is a mystery.”100

What many lesser informed Calvinists seem to miss is that compatibilism, the philosophical system adopted by most notable pastors/scholars leading in the resurgence of Calvinism today, is a form of determinism. It is the belief that God’s determinism of all things (sometimes referenced as “sovereignty” or “meticulous providence”) is compatible with “creaturely freedom” (defined as creatures acting in accordance with their predetermined natural desires).

Calvinists feel that advocacy of God’s determinism of all things is necessary and fundamental to protecting divine sovereignty and divine omniscience. However, the criticism against such a view is that if God truly needed to determine all things in order to maintain both divine sovereignty and divine omniscience, then it would become self-evident that God is not truly all-powerful, all-wise or all-knowing after all. Calvinism, therefore, unwittingly denies the core traits of God’s divinity.

While there is no dispute that God determined some things, it is denied that God determined all things, particularly since God specifically stated that there are some things that He did not do:

Isaiah 30:1: “‘Woe to the rebellious children,’ declares the Lord, ‘Who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin.’”

Isaiah 54:15: “‘If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you.’”

Jeremiah 32:35: “‘They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’”

Hosea 8:4: “‘They have set up kings, but not by Me; They have appointed princes, but I did not know it. With their silver and gold they have made idols for themselves, that they might be cut off.’”

Zechariah 1:15: “‘But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.’”

1st Corinthians 14:33: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”

Galatians 5:7-8: “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.”

James 1:13: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”

1st John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.”

  • Not My plans.
  • Not My assault.
  • Not My command.
  • Not My kings.
  • Not My excess.
  • Not My teaching.
  • Not My persuasion.
  • Not My temptation.
  • Not My worldliness.

A Calvinist who says that God decreed “whatsoever comes to pass” would have a difficult time explaining these things.

Calvinism also doesn’t make sense in terms of God’s inquiries into mankind. God examines hearts. God tests. God evaluates whether there are any who seek Him. Why do this, if all is determined by decree?

Psalms 53:2:God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there is anyone who understands, who seeks after God.”

Proverbs 17:3: “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests hearts.

1st Thessalonians 2:3-4: “For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

Again, if God meticulously and exhaustively determined our nature, from which our thoughts and intentions arise, what would God be testing and examining when He “tests” and “examines” hearts? Moreover, if there really was determinism in the Bible as Calvinism teaches it, then there is a high probability that the devil would have tried citing it before God, to accuse God of causing his own immorality by divine decree.


99 John Hendryx, How can God be Sovereign and Man still be Free?

100 William Lane Craig,