Predestination or Freewill Part 2: The Crux of the Debate

Ephesians 1:4-7; Romans 8:29, 30
       According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.
       For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): The doctrine of Election. What is it? No doctrine of Scripture perhaps has suffered so much damage from the erroneous conceptions of foes, and the incorrect descriptions of friends.
      The true doctrine of Election I believe to be as follows: God has been pleased from all eternity to choose certain men and women out of mankind, whom by His counsel secret to us, He has decreed to save by Jesus Christ. None are finally saved except those who are thus chosen. Hence the Scripture gives to God’s people in several places the names of “God’s Elect,” and the choice or appointment of them to eternal life is called “God’s Election.” Those men and women whom God has been pleased to choose from all eternity, He calls in time, by His Spirit working in due season. He convinces them of sin. He leads them to Christ. He works in them repentance and faith. He converts, renews, and sanctifies them. He keeps them by His grace from falling away entirely, and finally brings them safe to glory. In short God’s eternal Election is the first link in that chain of a sinner’s salvation of which heavenly glory is the end. None ever repent, believe, and are born again, except the Elect. The primary and original cause of a saint’s being what he is, is God’s eternal election.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): The Calvinists hold [that] God has absolutely decreed, from all eternity, to save such and such persons, and no others; and that Christ died for these and no others. The Arminians hold that God has decreed from all eternity, touching all that have the written word, “He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be condemned;” and in order to this, Christ died for all―all that were dead in trespasses and sins―that is, for every child of Adam, since “in Adam all died.” The Calvinists hold, secondly, that the saving grace of God is absolutely irresistible; that no man is any more able to resist it than to resist the stroke of lightning. The Arminians hold that, although there may be some moments wherein the grace of God acts irresistibly, yet, in general, any man may resist, and that to his eternal ruin, the grace whereby it was the will of God he should have been eternally saved.

JOHN L. GIRARDEAU (1825-1898): The Calvinist contends that in bestowing the principle of faith upon the sinner, God also determines him to believe. The principle never slumbers as a mere potentiality―a simple capacity to believe. Hence the difference between the two parties emerges into view. The Calvinist contends that God gives the sinner power to believe; the Arminian that God gives him the power to believe, and that the sinner is free to use or not to use that power. In the last analysis, [Arminians believe] it is his own will that must determine the question whether or not he will employ the power and actually believe, and so it is his own will which determines the question of personal salvation.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): They will have nothing to be necessarily applied for the working of conversion, but the preaching of the Word, taking it for granted that all men have universal or common grace, which God by His sovereignty―they say―was obliged to give, else He could not reasonably require faith of them. And upon this comes in the pleaded-for power of free will, and man’s ability to turn himself to God.

JOHN WESLEY: The Calvinists hold, thirdly, that a true believer in Christ, cannot possibly fall from grace. The Arminians hold that a true believer may “make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience”―that he may fall, not only foully, but finally, so as to perish forever. Indeed, [for the Calvinist], the two latter points, irresistible grace and infallible perseverance, are the natural consequence of the former, of the unconditional decree [of election]. For, if God has eternally and absolutely decreed to save such and such persons it follows, both that they cannot resist His saving grace―else they might miss of salvation―and that they cannot finally fall from that grace which they cannot resist. So that in effect the three questions come [down to] one, “Is predestination absolute or conditional?” The Arminians believe it is conditional; the Calvinists, that it is absolute.

JOHN L. GIRARDEAU: That question inevitably resolves itself into this simple one: Is God the determining agent in actually saving man? Or, is man the determining agent in saving himself? The determining agent, I say; for Arminians hold that God provided atonement through Christ, and gives to men the assisting and co-operating grace of the Holy Spirit; and that, without the atonement of Christ and the grace of the Spirit, no man could be saved. But it is the specific difference of the Arminian doctrine that, in the last analysis, the will of man must be conceived as the determining factor. It is plain that the real question at issue between Calvinists and Arminians in relation to election, is this: Did God decree that He would save some men, and consequently that He would give them grace to determine their wills? Or, did God decree to permit men with the assistance of grace to save themselves, and consequently that He would leave it to their own wills finally to determine the question of their compliance with the divinely fore-ordained condition of salvation?―I have, therefore, fairly stated the question at issue, as to this matter, between Calvinists and Arminians.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): I dislike the use of these labels and extra-biblical terms.

R. L. DABNEY (1820-1898): We Presbyterians care very little about the name Calvinism…Some opponents seem to harbour the ridiculous notion that this set of doctrines was the new invention of the Frenchman John Calvin. They would represent us as in this thing followers of him instead of followers of the Bible. This is a stupid historical error!―John Calvin no more invented these doctrines than he invented this world…He found [these doctrines] where we find them, in the faithful study of the Bible.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer—I wish to be called nothing but a Christian…It is a nickname to call it Calvinism.

JOHN WESLEY: Away then with all ambiguity! Away with all expressions which only puzzle the cause! Let honest men speak out―Is predestination absolute or conditional?

JOHN L. GIRARDEAU: Conditional or unconditional?—These are the test-questions, the shibboleths of the contestants.


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