15 examples of failed attempts to show that God’s will always happens below, but first this…
The best way to avoid misunderstandings, such as the preposterous idea that God decrees absolutely all things, is to read the context! Anyone can take a Bible verse here and there and build any doctrine at all, but it is a lot safer to read the entire chapter to see the intent of the author. It is particularly important to not build a new doctrine based on poetry or proverbs, since such wordings might be vague and oftentimes should not be taken literally. Also books like Job contains large amount of poetic expressions, such as this example:
Job 1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and NAKED SHALL I RETURN THITHER: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
We might also be able to find intentional hyperboles or intentional exaggerations to make a point:
Matt. 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
It is clear that God’s will does not always come about in this world:
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, IS NOT OF THE FATHER, but is of the world.17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF GOD abideth for ever.
Notice that John writes “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever”. If all people everywhere and at all times did the will of God, then all people would abide for ever. Clearly all people will not be saved, and that is due to their disobedience – due to acting contrary to God’s will.
This is the filter we should use when reading the Bible:
Ja. 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, NEITHER TEMPTETH HE ANY MAN:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
God does not tempt anyone, much less causes people to sin. We should never blame man’s sins on God at any time. In order to be consistent with TULIP, Calvinists must disagree with all verses which tell us that sin happens against God’s will. For example, Calvinist R.C. Sproul says:
“If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” (R.C. Sproul,
“Sovereign” and “sovereignty” are words not included in the Bible (KJV), which means they must be defined. Free-willers do not have a problem with a sovereign God, but they certainly do not agree with the Calvinistic interpretation of this word. Calvinists normally understand this word to mean something like “God decrees ALL THINGS at all times, resulting in that every single action taken by man always turns out exactly as God wants. He can do anything at all and nothing is too difficult for him – except from creating man with free will”.
Some favorite verses by those who prefer blaming God for man’s sin
Rom. 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
My comment: Has it ever happened throughout history that someone has found fault in God and his actions? Yes, right? The Bible is replete with examples of people who refuse to obey him, rebel against him and cause him to be angry. So this verse is not what man cannot do but should not do. If God’s will is to offer salvation also for the gentiles (showing mercy also to them) and make faith the condition for salvation rather than being born a Jew under the Mosaic law, then who is able to resist this decision? No one. Who can resist his will? The context and the rest of the Bible render it impossible to interpret Rom. 9:18 as “Therefore he makes salvation possible for only some individuals, whereas he blocks the rest from ever being able to seek him or find him.” Such an interpretation would make God alone guilty of man’s unbelief, and hell would be a place where innocent and rejected people would end up who had no chance to be saved (since God successfully prevented them from believing in him). Does that sound like the God of the Bible? You can read more about Romans 9 and Pharao’s heart here, here and here.
Eph. 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,— 11 IN HIM also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will
My comment: The promises in Eph. 1-2 are tied to those who are IN CHRIST, and being IN HIM is an essential foundation and the condition for salvation. From the creation of the world God knew there would be a “body of Christ” (the church, consisting of believers), and a special place is prepared for them in God’s kingdom where this body of Christ is predestined to go. So the “salvation bus” is certainly going there, but who will be the passengers on the bus and who will endure to the very end? That is up to us. If we are in Christ we know that we are heading for God’s kingdom if we remain in the bus. The “us” spoken about in the verse are true believers and therefore “adopted” as God’s children. (This type of adoption should not be compared to what we call “adoption” today, where parents are being promised a baby who they later legally adopt as their legal child.)
Compare also with this verse:
“John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name“
So the order of even is 1) receive and believe in him, and then 2) become children of God. You can read more about Eph. 2 here.
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
My comment: We are totally lost without Jesus who is our Savior, so he is rightfully the author and finisher of our faith. He made the wonderful salvation plan possible for us (he died for us on the cross), and he has promised to never cast us out but rather give us a crown of life if we endure to the end. It is Jesus from start to finish. Hebr. 12:2 should not be interpreted as “Jesus causes certain people to have faith and is responsible for guarding their faith to the very end, whereas the rest are doomed from birth since Jesus never died for them or enabled them to get saved”. Read more here.
Isaiah 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure
The verses surrounding the above verse are:
“Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, —12 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness”
Also this passage focuses on God’s mighty power, and that there is no one like him. Knowing things in advance is not the same as predestining things in advance. Calvinists make a hen out of a feather when it comes to the word “declaring”, as though this would mean that God predestines all things. According to v. 12 there are apparently people who are stouthearted and far from righteous, which is normally something God does not approve of. It is a silly idea that God would predestine people to be stouthearted. “My councel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”. Does this include creating man with free will and making man responsible for his actions, and sometimes even punish man for his sins?
Dan. 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Yes God does according to this will, and since he is our Creator and knows best. It would not make sense to argue with him or suggest that he should not have done things the way he did. Unfortunately, people have indeed complained to God and continued to question his motives (and sometimes his mere existence), so this verse is not about what man cannot do but should not do. Could it be God’s will to punish the fallen angels (who acted contrary to his will), and to create man with free will? Or is this outside his capabilities?
Job 42:2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.3 Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
Comment: The above verses are from KJV, just like the rest of the verses. There are other Bible versions which Calvinists might prefer because of other expressions, but John 42:2 only confirms that God knows everything there is to know.
Lam. 3:37 Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?
Comment: This is also about a general statement about God’s magnificent power rather than a teaching that God predestines all of our steps (including sin). We can continue reading in the same context:
“39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.42 We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.43 Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied.”
Here we read about man complaining about the punishments for his sins (apparently it is possible to complain to God after all), and “sins” would be activities against God’s will. The advice to “turn again to the Lord” means that people previously turned their backs on God. The fact that people “transgressed and have rebelled” yet again means that we are able to act contrary to God’s will. Furthermore, we can read about God being “angry” and have “persecuted” people due to their actions (transgressions and rebellion), which is more evidence of man’s free will.
Exodus 4:11 And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?
Comment: The context concerns Moses’ reluctance to becoming Israel’s leader due to his (Moses) shortcomings in relation to his ability to public speaking. Moses said: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” God can accomplish things despite our shortcomings, and he can even heal people. If he asks us to do something, we can totally trust that he will help us overcome our weaknesses. That seems to be the gist of what God wanted to express when Moses argued against God about his shortcomings. Moses had to be persuaded, and he finally gave in after a conversation with God. God is not suggesting that he is the one who forces people to be deaf, blind, poor, etc, but he rather explains that he is the author of all Creation and he can be trusted.
1 Sam. 2:6 The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.7 The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
Comment: The surrounding verses are these:
“6 The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.— 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.9 He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.”
This is a description with poetic expressions describing God’s power and his future judgment of mankind. Depending on how we choose to live our live, based on our situation and opportunities, we will be punished or rewarded. Read what the author says about the poor. Will God always lift up the beggar and set him among princes here on earth? No, this is not a universal promise for the present dimension but for the future.
Isaiah 45: 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
Comment: The above is in the KJV, but in the NKJV and in many other Bible versions it is rather “calamity” instead of “evil”. The Hebrew word could mean both, as well as a few other alternatives. God can indeed cause physical calamity just like he did when he caused a global flood to hit the earth. Physical pain or punishments caused by God does not mean that he causes people to sin. There is no darkness in God.
2 Chron. 25:20 But Amaziah would not hear; for it came of God, that he might deliver them into the hand of their enemies, because they sought after the gods of Edom.
Comment: Apparently the reason that “it came of God” that Amaziah would not hear – resulting in that he and his people were delivered into the hand of their enemies – was because they turned to other gods in Edom. There you have the reason. Did God want them to turn to false gods? Hardly. The most important commandment is to have no other gods but God. Compare with Romans 1 where we can read about God giving up people to a reprobate mind due to their ungodly attitudes. At one point Amaziah followed the Lord, but he later turned away.
“27 Now after the time that Amaziah did turn away from following the Lord they made a conspiracy against him in Jerusalem; and he fled to Lachish: but they sent to Lachish after him, and slew him there.”
Jer. 10:23 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to DIRECT HIS STEPS
The context is this:
“21 For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.Behold, the noise of the report has come, And a great commotion out of the north country, To make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals.—25 Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and have made his habitation desolate.”
Comment: Notice above that that there are people who have not sought God, like heathens or families that did not call on the name of the Lord. Clearly this is not according to God’s will. A man is not supposed to turn his back on God by not seeking his guidance, and walk on his own ways. If a man does not seek God, he will not be guided on the right path. Read more here.
1 Sam. 2:25 If one man sins against another, God will judge him. But if a man sins against the Lord, who will intercede for him?” Nevertheless they did not heed the voice of their father, because the Lord desired to kill them.
Comment: According to Adam Clarke the particle ki, translated “because”, is better translated “therefore” just like it does in many other parts of the Bible. (Young’s literal translation reads “though”.) This means that God wanted to kill the individuals in the story due to their refusal to listen to their father’s voice. This is a more logical translation than rendering the passage as though God wants to kill certain people for no reason, and manipulates them into not listening to their father and then proceeds to take this as an excuse for killing them. That would be circular reasoning and would turn God into an unrighteous criminal. Sadly many Calvinists would rather turn God into a monster than letting go with their precious philosophy of Calvinism.
Example 14 – Psalms
Psalm 115:3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Psalm 135:6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
Psalm 33:10 The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.11 The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
My comment: Psalms often contain poetry which mirrors the reality in many ways, so we must approach the verses with this in mind. Yes, God has always done whatever he has pleases, but naturally this could include creating man with free will. What the context of these psalms has in common is the declaration that God is the great and magnificent Creator, and that false gods (which are no gods) cannot compete with his wonderful powers.
Psalm 33:15 says “He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works”, which is a description of how God has originally made man and also judges their work. It does not say that God micromanages every single step that man takes, nor that man does not have a will of his own. If you think “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought” means that God first manipulates the heathens to come up with various evil schemes, and then turns around and “heroically” halts these plans that he himself initiated, then you are mistaken. It is just a poetic description of God’s power which the heathens cannot interfere with. The verse does not say that God either prevents people from sinning, or predestines their sin. During Jesus’ second coming, he will only have to breathe on the son of perdition to destroy him completely (2 Thess. 2:8), so the power of God is indeed great.
Example 15 – Proverbs
Prov. 16:4 The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. (NKJV)
Prov. 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.
Prov. 21:1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.
My comment: Also proverbs contains poetry, so we must keep this in mind. Instead of having to ignore loads of verses which show that God is angry with sin and where he desires all men to obey his commandments, it is better to read the more vague proverbs and psalms in context and not superimpose them over clear verses. The first verse just shows God’s right to handle all judgment of mankind, whether people are righteous or unrighteous. Read more about these verses here. Neither of these verses contains promises that God predestines every all things. That would put all the blame on God.
Mark 3:35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.
I thought all people did the will of God? Are all people his brothers, sisters and mothers?
Matt. 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but HE THAT DOETH THE WILL OF MY FATHER which is in heaven.
”He that doeth the will of my Father”? If everyone would always do the will of God then everyone would enter the kingdom of God.
John 9:31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and DOETH HIS WILL, him he heareth.
”If any man—doeth his will”? Jesus separates those who worship God and obey him (doeth his will) with those who are sinners. This suggests that sinners are not doing the will of God, unless sinning is according to his will.
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
God desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Has this so far happened?
Heb. 3:7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,8 Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
Clearly people constantly act against the will of God. Today and in the past.