I was on My Facebook today and saw that someone posted this in a discussion group:
Calvinists give me one passage that shows God forcing or changing someones feelings. To make them love him. Because in Calvinistic theology that is essentially what he does.
In response to this a Calvinist posted this scripture:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:26-27
Does this passage really teach that God forces people to obey Him?
This was my response:
Calvinists think that “cause you to walk in my statutes” is force or necessitation. In Hebrew there was no distinction in the language between occasion and causation, so the context is what we use to determine what is referred to. In this case, Eze. 18:31 should be used to show synergism, not monergism.
Also consider how Ezekiel said that the priests “caused” Israel to sin by ministering to idols (Eze 44:12). Does that mean that the priests forced them? No, the priests lead them or influenced them.
Consider this passage about the whorish woman:”With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.” Prov. 7:21.
Now, can it be literally said that she “caused” and “forced” by her flattering lips? Is this passage really talking about rape or simply strong influence? Obviously, strong influence. The inspired writers of the scriptures used words like “caused” and “forced” in a hyperbolic sense when referencing strong influence. And so we see how the words “cause” and “caused” is used in Hebrew.
Calvinist John Gill commented: “with the flattering of her lips she forced him; to go along with her, not against his will, but with it: though at first there was some reluctance, conscience rose up and opposed; but her words, which were smoother than oil, found a way into his heart, and prevailed upon him to yield to her entreaties; he could no longer withstand her attacks, but surrendered to her; her charming voice, and flattering lips, had more effect upon him than her kisses; notwithstanding these he was reluctant, but could stand it out no longer against her alluring words and soothing language.”
And so it is with the sinner. The sinner resists God, but God continues to woo him, to persuade him, to reason with him, to influence him, etc. At first the sinner resists but eventually yields to the divine influence and is converted, “not against his will, but with it.”
This is a section from my book, “The Natural Ability of Man:A Study on Free Will & Human Nature.”
A Relationship with God Is Man’s Choice
It is an age old question, “What is the meaning of life?” This is an identical question to, “Why did God create us?” The answer to both questions is the same. The answer is: loving relationships. God wanted to love and enjoy us, for us to love and enjoy Him, and for us to love and enjoy each other.
It seems that all men know that loving relationships is what is really important and what life is really all about. When a person is on their death bed, who do they want to be around them? They want their loved ones to be there. If a person is on a plane, knowing it is about to crash, who do they call? They call their loved ones to tell them that they love them. The death of a loved one is the greatest tragedy that we can experience in this life because we are relational beings. We have been created and designed to love God and love each other, and to be loved by God and to be loved by each other.
Just as parents create children to have loving relational experiences with them; God created mankind for the very same purpose. Man was made for a relationship with God. Therefore, while men live without a relationship with Him, they are living unnaturally.
Man is naturally a relational being because man was made in the image of God. The three members of the Trinity have enjoyed a relationship amongst themselves for all of eternity. God is naturally a relational being and he did not depend upon the creation of man in order to have a relationship. But apparently, the pain of the cross cannot be compared to the grief of God’s heart over His broken relationship with mankind, which is one of the reasons He endured such agony in order to restore that relationship.
In the beginning, man had a loving relationship with God. Everything was very good in the Garden and the Lord wanted it to stay that way. But through man’s choice to sin, God’s plan was interrupted.
Now God wants to bring man back into a relationship with Him. But in order to do that, He must turn us from our sins. If mankind had never chosen to sin, the relationship between God and man would never have been interrupted. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God…” (Isa. 59:2). The prodigal son was “dead” to his father because of his choice to leave, and he became “alive again” by his choice to return (Lk. 15:24). To be dead to God or alive towards God is, therefore, a matter of free will. Clearly, it is a decision of the will to have a relationship with God or not.
- Sin separates man from God.
- Sin is a choice of man’s will.
- Therefore, man is separated from God through his own choice.
God’s problem with mankind is that we have chosen to sin. Therefore, the solution to the problem is for God to get man to decide to turn from his sin. God is trying to salvage His fallen creation, to restore our rebellious race to a relationship with Him. In this reconciliation or restoration, He must not take away our free will; otherwise He could not accomplish that which He created us for – a mutual loving relationship. God, therefore, does not force us into a relationship with Him but He gives us the free choice to decide for ourselves to know Him or not.
While I was open air preaching at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, one of the students asked me “Why did God give us free will? Couldn’t He have created a universe where there was no possibility of sin?” I explained that God did not want His universe to be full of puppets or robots. That is why God even gave the angels free will and allowed them to choose between loyalty and rebellion. As Justin Martyr said, “God in the beginning made the race of angels and men with free-will…”31 This is evident from the fact that angels and men were both free to sin. God highly values voluntary loyalty and devotion.
I went on to explain that without free will, there can be no loving relationship. A loving relationship requires mutual consent and commitment. God created mankind to have a relationship with Him. The reason for our existence necessitates the existence of free will. Sure God could have created us without a free will, thereby avoiding all possibility of sin, but this would have also excluded any possibility of us doing what we were created to do! We could not have a real loving relationship with God!
Love is a free choice. God cannot make us love Him. God leaves that to our own free will. God actually commands that we love Him (Matt. 22:37). Therefore, love must not be some involuntary feeling that we have no control over, but love is a choice of our own will. If love were not a choice, it could not be commanded since only voluntary states of the will are the proper subjects of command.
Steve Harrison said, “He made us free moral agents with the ability to chose who we would love. He could have made us like animals, driven only by instinct, but God took the risk of rejection for the prize of uncoerced love. He desires a response of love, a voluntary choice of friendship.”32
The salvation experience is when a person enters into a relationship with God. Eternal life is to know God (Jn. 17:3). A relationship between two people requires a choice or willingness between the two. God cannot enter into a loving relationship with man without man’s choice.
That a loving relationship requires mutual consent is shown by the example of rape. When a man forces a woman into a relationship with him, it is not real love because there is no mutual consent. There can be no loving relationship when there is a violated will. Love must be a free choice or else it is not love at all. Since God wants to have a genuine loving relationship with man, He gives us the freedom of choice to know Him or not.
God made Himself very vulnerable with Israel. Instead of usurp their free will to force them into a loving relationship with Him, He granted them the freedom of choice to have a loving relationship with Him or not. “The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? She is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord. And the Lord said unto me, the backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah. Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and will not keep anger forever” (Jer. 3:6-12).
God even subjected Himself to great heartache by granting Israel the free choice to have a loving relationship with Him or not. He said, “I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go whoring after their idols” (Eze. 6:9). God told Hosea to take a wife of whoredom to illustrate his relationship with Israel, because “the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord” (Hosea 1:2).
The fact that God granting Israel the choice to have a relationship with Him or not is clearly seen when God said, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face” (Hosea 5:15). God was stepping back, giving them the choice and opportunity to come after Him. He was not going to force them to know Him, nor seek after them anymore, but was waiting for them to come after Him. God wanted to have a relationship with them but He wanted it to be a relationship of mutual consent.
God has wanted to know men in a personal way but was unable to know them because they would not consent. God said, “… thou hast forgotten me, and cast me behind thy back…” (Eze. 23:35). “Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number” (Jer. 2:32). God said, “… they refuse to know me” (Jer. 9:6). Clearly, a personal relationship between God and man requires the personal choice of God and man.
We read about the “bride of Christ” and that there will be the “marriage supper of the Lamb.” What is a marriage but the union of two consenting individuals who have decided to enter into a loving and permanent relationship? The consent and willingness of Christ’s bride is clearly seen, since “his wife hath made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7).
I have heard Calvinists argue, “If you pray for God to save someone, you are assuming that salvation is solely God’s decision and is not man’s free will choice.” This line of reasoning is completely fallacious. When I pray for someone’s salvation, I am not praying for God to override their will, violate their will, or usurp their will. I am praying for God to draw men unto Himself by influencing their will. I am praying for God to send the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin or to send a believer to them to give witness to the gospel.
God does not convert men through causation but through influence. This is why we should “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38). Praying for God to save someone through public proclamation presupposes that truth is an influence upon man’s will and that the will of man can obey the truth that is presented to him.
When I pray for someone’s salvation, I am asking for God to reveal His good character to them and give them a powerful revelation of the atonement. If a man wants to enter into a relationship with a woman, he doesn’t give her a “date rape drug” to violate her will, but he woos her until she forms affection for him and chooses to enter into a relationship with him. God does not violate our will, but He woos us to Himself through the Spirit’s revelation of His good character, until we freely choose to enter into a relationship with Him or not.
God is not like some selfish and brutal caveman who takes the women he wants by the hair to drag and force her into his cave. God is a benevolent gentleman who draws and woos the one that he wants through His kindness, to win her affection.
The Natural Ability of Man: A Study On Free Will & Human Nature by Jesse Morrell is an exhaustive theological volume that defends the Christian doctrine of man’s free will against the false Gnostic/Calvinist doctrine of man’s natural inability.
This volume explains the truth of man’s freedom of choice in light of Church history and other doctrines like total depravity, regeneration, atonement, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, predestination, repentance, faith, the believers security, original sin, etc. One Bible teacher called this book “the most comprehensive exposition on man’s natural ability in print.”
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