The book, “God’s Will and God’s Desire” tackles the problems in the Calvinist-vs-Arminian debate with a distinctly different approach.
The “Calvinist vs Arminian debate” has raged for millenia now. I’m not sure that many people will change their minds once they’ve dug in on a position on the whole thing. The issues are complex and people are passionate on both sides of the debate.
“God’s Will and God’s Desire” is a book with a somewhat unique twist on the issue.
The target audience is the “reluctant Calvinist….”
But the person I have on my heart when I write—my target audience, I suppose—is the person I would define as “the reluctant Calvinist.” He is the Christian who recognizes that lost men do not seek God and that he came to faith in Christ because God first did a transforming work in his heart. Yet he struggles with the fact that the sovereign God of the Bible seems to desire that all mankind should come to faith in Jesus Christ, and yet chooses in His sovereignty to save only some. He reads in the Bible that the ones God chooses, He chose from before the foundation of the world. And so, though he prays for the lost to be saved, he is left wondering whether it really makes a difference in the end.
Yeah, I know. Many of you have heard it all before.
From my experience in discussing these issues with people, I all-too-often get the feeling from many a Calvinist that it’s quite frankly not our business to worry about that. God’s got it. Some almost seem to PRIDE themselves in the fact that it’s just “God’s choice.”
But when you throw the idea out there that if God is choosing some, he is, effectively, choosing to “not choose” others, the Calvinist gets right royally ticked off with you. “God isn’t condemning them. They were condemned already.“
To most people, that’s a shell game. It sort of feels like Hillary Clinton regarding the whole Benghazi debacle, where she said, in response to the pinning of blame for what happened, said, “at this point, what difference does it make?“
The arguments feel tired and worn. And it seems to deliberately miss the problem. It’s a hard point of contention for the Arminian. From the book:
It is hard for the Arminian to embrace the Calvinist’s God. He is a God who is passionate enough about redeeming the elect that He sets aside His rights as deity and takes on the constraints of human flesh. He then allows His own creatures to torture Him and bleed Him to death on a cross. And from God’s view, He allows it for no other reason than to appease His own wrath toward a mankind whose very nature is so hostile to His that they killed Him when they had the chance. And yet this same Calvinist God who “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” and who is now is willing, along with that, to “freely give us all things”—this same God who went to such great lengths of self-sacrifice to be able to bless His own so much—is the same God who decided in eternity past to do that only for some. The others He passes by, yet will hold them accountable for the acts that spring from a nature they are powerless to overcome. In the end, they will be in hell with the demons who fell from grace, and “the smoke of their torment [will rise] before the throne of God day and night, forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).
If someone had two children, lavishing favor and blessing on one of them, but treating the other as though he were trash, that parent would be accused of being a monster. After all, a godly parent loves his or her children unconditionally. To do nothing less than to lavish unconditional love on all of them is what God expects a parent to do. Even if one child were to despise the parent while the other child was honoring and loving, the nature of a Christian parent is supposed to be one of displaying the love of Christ to that child with the evil heart, “if perhaps God may grant repentance” (2 Tim. 2:25). If the Calvinist is right, then God is the only one who can grant repentance. If He sovereignly saves someone, they will come. If He doesn’t, they will not because they cannot. How can someone see God as being so passionate toward some and cruel toward others, when He appears to expect something better from us?
For the Calvinist to merely shift the conversation away from this problem to say that our real focus should be on the fact that none of us deserve heaven, but God gives it to some of us anyway avoids the issue as far as the Arminian is concerned.
But the book also considers the hard realities of what the scriptures say about the true nature of a lost person – the “total depravity” aspect of the human condition.
It doesn’t steer away from it at all. It acknowledges the tension.
The difference is that “God’s Will and God’s Desire” proposes a distinctly different position on what (or who) it is that determines who will and who will not be saved.
The Calvinist says God determines who will be saved; the Arminian says that each lost person is responsible to choose. The book says “sort of wrong” on both counts.
The book says who will and who will not be “chosen” is determined not by God and not by the lost man choosing salvation, but by the church.
And man, does that idea seem to tick a lot of people right off.
But it’s a worthy position to consider and it is developed pretty thoroughly in the book.
The book covers the idea that this position isn’t really “new,” so much as “not documented much historically,” but seems to ring true to a lot of people somehow.
As more and more people read it, I began to realize that there were other Christians who saw it this way, too. They just never saw it presented in this fashion before. When people would read it, it sometimes helped them make sense of some of these difficult issues. Christians with strong Calvinistic leanings usually had a particular response, too. This was something distinctly different than they had ever heard before. Many told me that it gave them a serious reason to rethink their Calvinistic views. The feedback I usually got (from Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike) was that it was an important booklet and that it needed to be published.
It’s worth a read. It is available in PDF format. But you can read it here (at least for now) online. Please check it out. I truly think it’s different and worth some thought.
Please, I invite comments – if you’ve actually taken the time to read the book.