Home » Free Will of Men and God’s Sovereignty: A Paradox for Calvinist John Piper

Free Will of Men and God’s Sovereignty: A Paradox for Calvinist John Piper

by Dr. Eitan Bar
23 minutes read

Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15)

“Fate has terrible power. You cannot escape it by wealth or war,”[i] wrote Sophocles, the fifth-century B.C. Greek tragedian and pagan who also taught that the gods are the makers of evil as well as of good. Fate, the opposite of free will, is the development of events in a person’s life (including his own) beyond his control, which is regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

While the concept of an individual’s fate was foreign to the children of Israel, fate has been a prevalent doctrine present in many other ancient religions. In ancient Greek mythology, the concept of fate was personified by the Fates, who were the goddesses who controlled the course of human lives. The Greeks believed that the Fates were responsible for spinning, measuring, and cutting the “thread of life” for every person, predetermining each person’s life. The Romans also had a similar belief in fate, which was personified by the Parcae, who were the personifications of destiny who controlled and directed the course of the lives of humans. The ancient Celts, who lived in the Iron Age, also believed in fate. They believed in the concept of Wyrd, a pre-Christian goddess of fate who predetermined the events of life. There are many other examples of ancient cultures that had religious beliefs in fate or destiny, and these beliefs have continued to influence modern cultures and belief systems.

In Islam, for example, the concept of fate and destiny is known as “Qadar.” This belief holds that everything that happens in the world, including the actions and choices of individuals, is determined by God. According to Islamic teachings, because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, he has predetermined everything that will happen.

Unfortunately, fate did not skip Christianity but infiltrated some circles, chiefly Calvinistic theology. There, it is called “unconditional election.” Calvinistic predestination means that God chooses, before you are even born, if you go to heaven or to hell. In other words, in Calvinism, we are all hand puppets with no real choice of our own.

Predestined to write an article about predestination?

I remember that day in the theology class at bible college over 15 years ago. We learned about the sovereignty of God, that nothing is out of the control of God. But then, the teacher, who was a non-Jewish Christian, said something that took me by surprise. He taught that anything that ever happened or will happen is only because God designed and desired it to happen. Why was this a surprise for me? Because, as a Jewish person, the sovereignty of God never meant that God predetermines every single human event. Free will is a foundation in the Hebrew Scriptures. This is why hearing what the teacher had said was challenging for me and even upsetting.

I still remember asking: “What about a butterfly landing on one flower instead of another flower nearby? Was it because the butterfly made that decision or because God predetermined it for him?” The teacher replied that God indeed predestined the decision for him.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the teacher was simply being consistent with his Calvinistic system of theology. Nonetheless, I was somewhat taken aback. Something about it didn’t sit right with my Jewish understanding. I mean, hadn’t God given us free will and allowed us to make our own choices? I was convinced that free will is a theme that runs not only through the Hebrew Scriptures but throughout the entire Bible, as it is firmly established from the very beginning.[1] See, back then, I was an Israeli Jew who had just started seriously walking with Jesus. I had no clue I was presented with a Calvinist doctrine, nor did I realize my teacher was a Calvinist himself. I also had no idea what “Calvinism” or “Hyper Calvinism” meant until much later.[2] I just figured that’s probably what most, if not all, Christians believe. I also realized I should keep quiet and stop asking too many questions.

But if you knew the first thing about me, you would know that I couldn’t do that. The questions kept coming: How can something so greatly evident in the Hebrew Scriptures (free will) change drastically in the New Testament? How is it that I don’t really have free will, but God makes my decisions for me, and yet I will one day give an account for them? If we’re predestined, we should not be held responsible for any of our sins because we had no choice of our own. Rather, they were forced on us by God; we are not beings of free will. Besides, any version of love without free will is much like an abductor who kidnaps a woman expecting her to love him. It’s not real love if there is no real choice in it.

I quickly realized that some of my questions and thoughts made some people very uncomfortable. When I pressed for answers, the responses I received were unconvincing, and the explanations were self-contradicting. I had been taught that I didn’t really choose to believe in God, but that he had chosen for me to believe in him in advance. Of course, they pointed to some verses that, on the surface, sounded convincing enough. So, I assumed I would “get it” with time. But it troubled me, especially when I heard that God would judge all men for their decisions, especially their faith-related decisions, even though the decision wasn’t really their own. It just sounded unfair and contradictory. If God is the one who chose for them not to believe in him, how could they be judged for it? On top of that, I read that God wanted all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). So, if he chooses who will believe in him and wants everyone to believe, then how come not all believe? It made no sense to me. Yet most Christians around me didn’t seem bothered by it. They would brush off the apparent contradictions by saying, “Oh, these are mysteries the human mind can’t explain,” they would brush off the apparent contradictions. But I knew that if I am a logical being, then God must be as well, and thereby the gospel too.

Think about it, if God predestined everything for everyone, faith-related decisions included, why then bother telling Adam and Eve to make their own free decision in the first place:

You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:16-17)

And why did God repeatedly warn Israel about making the right choice as they would suffer its effects? Why warn Israel about who they chose to follow and worship:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

And why bother asking us to choose:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)

I was barely twenty years old, and I had to struggle with these and other questions.

Many years later, another conversation on that same topic came up again with that same teacher. This time it was publicly on Facebook. Unlike the previous question about the butterfly, this time, I relentlessly pressured the issue: “How about the Holocaust? Did that also happen because God designed and desired it in advance?” He replied that he chose not to answer my question because he felt there was too much emotional baggage attached to his answer. Surprise, surprise. Reading his reply, I wondered if he chose not to answer or if God decided it for him in advance… But then I took my son out, and we had pizza.

I know my son loves pizza but hates melted cheese. For a time, we had a weekly cheeseless pizza date (I still argue with him that it can’t be called “pizza” if there’s no cheese). On each date, I had to scrape the cheese off his slice and put it on mine. This arrangement worked fine for both of us, as I appreciate extra cheese on my pizza anyways. Because I know my son well and have prior knowledge about his dislike of melted cheese, I knew for a fact that the following week he would ask for the cheese to be scraped off again. I was right, of course, but it wasn’t because I had a crystal ball or control over his mind. I didn’t predetermine his cheesy decisions for him. It was only because of what I knew. My knowledge did not mean I caused something.

Freewill means existence of evil

Speaking of free will, have you ever wondered how there can be evil in the world if God is good? Asking how a good God can allow evil is asking how a good God can allow free will. Evil is a result of human actions, and humans have the gift of free will. A good God cannot force his love upon others but instead allows them the freedom to choose. With the freedom to choose comes the ability to do wrong, even evil. However, behind the question of “how can a good God allow evil” is the deeper question of “how can a good God allow death?” This question assumes, rightfully, that if God is good, he will provide a way for us to overcome death and live forever. This is why the gospel is considered “the good news.” But ultimately, the choice to accept this gift is ours. Love cannot be forced.

Decisions, decisions

In Genesis, God declared his work good when he created the heavens and the earth. This is exactly what we should expect from a good God. When God observed, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). The point was not to say that there was anything wrong with what he created, but that his work was not yet complete. God was not quite finished. He made the woman to complete what was lacking. A brain can be perfectly made, but what good is one without a heart? The point is that a world with only men and no women in it is incomplete; therefore, such a womanless world would be considered not good. So, then God created the woman. Good!

But not for long, because everything changes, as the narrator explains, when sin entered the good world thanks to the “serpent,”[3] and from that point on, it wasn’t that good anymore. The fact that there was a serpent who didn’t care much for God already shows that God gave free will not only to humans but to angelic beings as well. The serpent believed in the free will of humans, otherwise, he wouldn’t have tried to entice the lovely couple to disbelieve or distrust the wisdom and goodness of God by believing and trusting him. Adam and Eve, out of their free will, ate from the tree God had told them not to eat from (Genesis 3:1-7; Genesis 2:17). Their act of rebellion introduced what we know as the first sin, with all of its effects, including death.[4]

However, God did not get furious with them and did not reject them. He did not turn his face away because he “couldn’t look at their sin.” He did not destroy, ignore, or forsake them either. Rather, he came even closer to them. He confronted them, giving them a chance to explain themselves, only to see them fall, once again, into blaming one another and God himself. All of which was done under their free will. God indeed judged them, but he judged the free-willed decisions they’ve made. However, his judgment was soft and came with mercy as he came as close to them as possible and physically covered their shame.

And yet, Adam and Eve still enjoyed nearly a millennium[5] of life on earth (Genesis 5:1–5). What is evident from the text is that God allowed Adam and Eve to choose for themselves and experience the consequences of their free-willed decisions. If Adam and Eve had no free will, and their choices were predetermined for them, then the story of the Garden of Eden would make no sense. Yet, nothing in this tragic story of rebellion took God by surprise. The serpent’s appearance was known to God, as was mankind’s subsequent rebellion. He watched it happen, but he did not cause it, and he did not stop it. Knowledge does not equal causation.

One of the most notable challenges in Christian theology is to integrate two truths that are widely agreed upon. The first being the foreknowledge of God, his ability to know the future. The second is the complete sovereignty of God, where nothing is out of his control. In other words, the challenge is this: If God knows every future event and nothing that happens is out of his control, then this must mean, allegedly, that God ordained each and every event that ever took place in history and therefore desired each and every event, no matter how evil they were.

That is at least the conclusion of some Christians who perhaps could not reconcile these two truths. But by doing so, they negate the free will of men and put the blame for evil on God. They also apply this logic to the Gospel. If God knew Jesus would be rejected, tortured, and killed, and everything is under God’s control, this must mean, allegedly, that God pre-ordained and took pleasure in Christ’s torture, rejection, and death. However, God knowing about a future event doesn’t follow God’s desire forJesus to be rejected, tortured, and killed.

Once, I saw a small child running in the street. He was probably two or three years old and did not notice a stair coming his way. But I did. It was obvious to me that he was running too fast and would crash on his face. Two seconds later, he fell. It was not because I knew it was about to happen that it happened, nor did I somehow cause it. The child was running freely, and his actions led to the fall. I simply connected the pieces of information I had in my mind and predicted the future based on what I knew. Afterwards, I comforted the little fellow until his parent showed up. Although a simple example, it demonstrates how free will and foreknowledge do not necessarily contradict each other and can coexist.

God is good, and he is never the cause of evil. He does, however, allow free will and, thereby, evil to occur in his world. But he did also promise that one day he would make all things right again (Revelation 21:1–5).

As the omniscient God, his knowledge is comprehensive. He knows all the details of his creation fully, perfectly, and completely, all at once. He knows everything about every situation and creature, including how every event will unfold. Therefore, he knows the future (Isaiah 46:9–10). This does not contradict the fact that God allows men to think and choose freely. He also knows how to orchestrate all human decisions, even the worst of them, to advance his plan of redemption, and he can do that because he is omniscient.

God as the grandmaster cosmic chess player

Imagine a game of chess. A grandmaster chess player comes well-prepared. He learned whatever he could about his opponent and the style of his play. He probably watched enough of his games to study how he thinks to be able to predict many of his moves in their upcoming game. Then, the grandmaster, knowing most chess strategies, chose the one he believed would benefit him the most against his opponent. The mastermind in chess that he is, he also knew which of his pieces, in what way, and at what moment he must sacrifice to trick his opponent and win the entire game! Now, replace this grandmaster chess player with an incredible amount of knowledge and experience in chess, with the one whose knowledge about everything is unlimited, perfect, and complete.

Some people have a lot of information and can even synchronize that information in their minds to predict future events, just like a grandmaster playing chess. We call them geniuses. But God’s omniscience means he has every possible piece of data and can perfectly combine all the data simultaneously. God knows the future not because he determined it or because he owns a crystal ball in his attic. He knows everything about everything and everyone perfectly, and can combine this data to know the exact future. In this way, he can navigate his plans throughout history without demolishing our free will.

If the cheeseless pizza, running kid who fell, and grandmaster chess player metaphors did not resonate with you, let me challenge you with some biblical examples instead. For instance, Cain takes Abel out to a field and kills him (Genesis 4:3-7). King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11-12). Amnon rapes his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). God knew all these events would happen, but does that mean God desired, designed, and preordained these evils? The fact that God knows and allows something, such as rape or murder, does not mean God wants it or takes an active part in it.

Otherwise, we find ourselves with a theological contradiction: a God with a shady character causing people to do evil things (and then judging them for it), and a hypocritical God who, on the one hand, demands “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13), but on the other hand, ordains, designs, and plans all murders. But sovereignty is a zero-sum game for Calvinists. For them, either God preordained every event, or he was not really in control. 

This belief or doctrine has far-reaching and unfortunate philosophical, theological, and ethical implications. For example, you might think it sounds crazy to say that cancer is a “gift from God.”[6] And yet, John Piper has gone on record saying exactly that – if you got cancer, then “it is designed for you by God.”[ii] As troubling as this might sound, John Piper is only consistent with his own theological convictions as a reformed pastor. So, if God preordained everything, then he also preordained someone’s cancer. The ideology behind Piper’s belief is called “Religious Determinism” or “Religious Predeterminism.” It’s Calvinism’s version of fate. Simply put, it is the idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action — evil as they might be — were predestined by God in advance. This doctrine is deducted from the five points of Calvinism.

One step too far

The sovereignty and foreknowledge of the omniscient God mean that he knows everything in advance and, therefore, can use everything for his plans. However, pre/determinism takes it one giant step further by negating free will. Pre/determinism claims that what to the unequipped eye might seem like the free will of men does not actually exist, as God has predetermined every aspect of reality. This includes faith-related decisions you thought you made yourself. According to the five points of Calvinism, you can’t even believe in God for yourself unless he chooses it for you.

The doctrine that God chose who will believe in him is based on another reformed doctrine called “Total Inability” (subclause of Total Depravity). In simple words, Total Inability means that men entirely lost God’s image. Therefore, they are unable to do anything out of goodness, not even to believe in God. For that reason, God’s image is completely lost in men, so God needs to take over your mind and soul and force you to believe in him against your evil will. Reform theology sees the soul of non-believers as utterly and fundamentally corrupt because humans have allegedly lost any trace of the image of God in them. I do believe losing the image of God in us is possible. Yet it is a long process whereby we continuously ignore and reject our conscience, slowly replacing it with the moral values of the devil. It is very rare, yet Adolf Hitler might be an example.

But in reformed theology, or at least in hyper-Calvinism, non-believers are born without the image of God, and only if and when God elects them, he then enters them and reactivates the human conscience. But otherwise, according to reformed Baptist pastor Clayton Kraby, they are “unable to choose God.”[iii] Due to this complete corruption of the human soul, allegedly, we deserve nothing, and it’s a surprise that God chooses anyone. If this sounds like an exaggeration, know that these are not my words. Take a look at the explanation offered by the popular reformed website “GotQuestions”:

God elects people to salvation by His own sovereign choice…God, before the foundation of the world, chose to make certain individuals the objects of His unmerited favor or special grace…God elects someone to salvation not because of something worthy God finds in that individual but because of His inscrutable, mysterious will. He makes the choice as to who will be saved for His own reasons…The question we really should ask is not why God chooses only some for salvation but why He would choose any at all.[iv]

Notice the last part of the quote, “The question we really should ask is not why God chooses only some to salvation, but why He would choose any at all.” This reminds me of the prodigal son who said to his father: “I am not worthy to be called your son.” Gladly, his Father proved him wrong.

In his book on atonement, Prof. of Theology Joshua McNall challenges the Calvinistic predeterministic view on God, and that of John Piper in particular, which views God as the conductor of evil. According to McNall, Piper’s view is:

A strong affirmation of divine determinism that does not shrink from crediting all manner of horrors to God’s single-minded pursuit of his own glory. For this reason, Piper agrees with Charles Spurgeon “that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes.”…A deeper problem for Piper’s theology may involve the implications for God’s character in this glory-driven determinism. This theology appears to make God the author of evil in a misguided attempt to “justify” God’s ways.[v]

Replacing free will with pre/determinism will not only compromise the character of God but will cause a logical contradiction. The affirmation of pre/determinism undermines the rationality of its affirmation. This confusing sentence was perfectly illustrated by the prominent Christian philosopher William Lane Craig:

There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not, in fact, been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control.[vi]

But the effect of predestination goes one step further. The Calvinistic doctrine of predestination is logically interrelated with legalism. Since Calvinists believe the way to know if a person is really saved or not is by testing their actions (Are you laughing from worldly jokes? Are your sleeves long enough?), then in the mind of the Calvinist, if they fall into sin and cannot get back on their feet, it is proof that they were never saved in the first place. This also means that God did not elect them. To avoid this realization about themselves, they must ensure they never fall into sin. They may also impose a strict regime on their family members and if they have the power, on their entire congregation.

One thing is for sure, we can’t blame reformed-Baptist pastors for not being consistent with their Calvinistic theology. If God is the one who predestines and preordains our choices for us in advance, then all evil in the world exists because God designed and desired so. For Piper, cancer is less about pesticides, harmful chemicals, ionizing radiation, heavy pollution, or the hole in the ozone layer but more about God “gifting” people with cancer. Piper’s theology leaves him no room for choice but to force a gruesome sickness into God’s will by wrapping it as a “gift.”

Spending years volunteering as a medic on ambulances and intensive care units, I saw many dying cancer patients, some of which were little kids. I also saw my dear aunt and uncle slowly dying of cancer. I remember sitting by my aunt during her last days. She looked lifeless and decaying. Her cancer looked nothing like a gift from God. If anything, a gift from the devil. If terminal illnesses are the gifts God gives his children, I would have some serious questions about his sick taste in gifts (and about his character). But again, we can’t blame Piper for not being consistent with his Calvinistic doctrines. Therefore, Piper must teach that God “conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil.”[vii] And his teaching affects the minds of millions.

Suppose this is how a pastor sees God and life. In that case, this will also be the lens through which he reads the Bible: “All the sinful acts of Herod, Pilate, of Gentiles and Jews were predestined to occur,”[viii] says Piper. According to this paradigm, people are no more than puppets in the hands of God. So, if Jesus was rejected, tortured, and killed, it was ultimately done by the puppet master, and he’s the real one liable, not the “sinful evildoers” he used. In that case, however, we end up with two problems. One is of a triune God who killed himself. The other is a self-contradicting doctrine whereby humans who lost any trace of the image of God and are evil, yet simultaneously God ordained and marionetted their evil acts for them, then watched them do it, and then blames and judges them for it.

I am sure you can see how gigantic the difference is between one doctrine that teaches God gave mankind free will and therefore allows evil to exist versus a doctrine that teaches free will is an illusion and fiction, as even evil was predestined by God. The bottom line is that Calvinism negates free will and, therefore, crowns God as the grand maestro behind all that happens — evil included.[7]

But let’s press things a little farther. What about a small child who was raped and killed? Did God know in advance this would happen? Yes. Does that mean God preordained, designed, and willed the child’s rape and killing? The answer should be a profound “Absolutely not!”. Yet to others, the answer is, “I choose not to answer because too much emotional baggage comes with my answer.” You see, for predeterminism to be consistent with itself, it must say, “Yes, God preordained this evil like he did with any other.”

But I find any idea that suggests God predestines children being put on fire or takes pleasure and satisfaction in it to be an acute misrepresentation of God. Blaming God for orchestrating evil is a demonic doctrine that contradicts the truth of the scriptures. In the Bible, God is portrayed as compassionate toward the sick and suffering.[8] Not “gifting” them with sicknesses. Sickness is what the devil seeks to gift us with, which Jesus came to cure.

Yes, God can and uses evil in our lives, such as our sicknesses, to teach us about life, ourselves, and him. Pain is the spade God uses to dig deep into our souls. Or, as the famous idiom goes: “No pain, no gain.” And yet, it is the devil who wishes to harm us. It is Satan who receives pleasure from our sicknesses and suffering. Never God.

Besides, what kind of loving parent takes pleasure in his children’s suffering and sickness? I mentioned I had spent eight years volunteering as a medic with Magen David Adom in Israel. I saw a lot. But never did I see a parent enjoying and receiving pleasure from the sight of their child dying of cancer. And yet, Piper tells his millions of followers that God “gifts” his children with cancer because he loves them. What kind of a cruel gift is this? Who wants to receive such a gift, let alone follow a God who allegedly gives these “gifts”? I am sure that John Piper is a wonderful person who loves God devotedly. But can the church expect the world to take its message seriously when these teachings are publicly published in God’s name?

Speaking out against such great, popular, powerful men might be unpopular. And I am sure it will cost me plenty of negative reviews as retaliation by Divine Abuse’s followers. Yet we must stand for the truth. We ought to defend the gospel from distorted doctrines and heresies. We must clear God’s name and make a crystal-sharp distinction between good and evil, never ascribing evil we see and experience to the good God. Consider the words of C.S. Lewis, who, despite being a polite British gentleman, declared it unapologetically:

If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad and God really good, then you cannot talk like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. Confronted with a cancer or a slum, the Pantheist can say, ‘If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God.’ The Christian replies, ‘Don’t talk damned nonsense.’[ix]

Some refer to Isaiah 45:7 as a place where scriptures allegedly show God to be the author of evil: “The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.” However, the Hebrew word for calamity (RA’) used in this verse does not speak of moral evil. The context of Isaiah 45:7 is God rewarding Israel for obedience and punishing Israel for disobedience in accordance with the Law (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28).[9] There is a vast difference between righteous acts of God that may be profoundly unpopular with us and moral evil. Another point to bear in mind is the first part of the verse, “forming light and creating darkness.” Darkness is not a thing on its own. It is a lack of something else, the absence of light. In the same way, when God’s protection over Israel is absent, it allows calamity.

Did God will the Holocaust?

This discussion on pre/determinism might be a bit like a philosophical mambo Jambo to some. But it’s essential as the doctrines of Divine Abuse are established on this view. Plus, for me, it is also very personal. During the Holocaust, many of my family members were captured and tortured by the Nazis. Most of them were put to death in horrific ways. Some of my family’s stories are about how Nazi soldiers tortured my grandmother (I’ll save you most of the details), only to murder her later on. That is at least what they thought they were doing, as they shot her together with the other Jewish captives. Often, the Nazi soldiers had the Jews dig their pit while sitting by, mocking them. Once done, they would have the Jews stand at the edge of the hole, and then, expecting they would fall back into the pit, they would shoot them from afar. Perhaps getting bored shooting so many of us, they developed shooting games. For an instant, they would bet among themselves how many Jews could be killed by a single bullet. Anyways, they shot my grandmother in one of the shootings but only injured her. She fell back into the pit, lying by the dead bodies of her friends, but only acted dead herself. Waiting for nightfall, she then crawled out into a nearby forest. My grandmother, who lost everything, survived the Holocaust, moved to Israel, and died in 1987. I had the privilege of being held in her arms for the first few years of my life. My story is not at all unique regarding Jewish families of European descent.

Why was I sharing a horror story about the Holocaust with you? Because I cannot count the number of times I heard Calvinists explain that since God knew the Holocaust would take place, God Himself ordained the Holocaust. “His reasons are beyond our understanding,” so they say. In other words, just like with the “gift of cancer,” they are saying that God wanted the Nazis to pull my grandmother’s fingernails off her fingers as they tied her up. I do not know what kind of God would ordain or want an evil event like the Holocaust (perhaps the god of ISIS?), but I know one thing: it is not the God of Abraham.

Yet this is not about me or my family. It is about a twisted logic that blames God for predestining all evil done by mankind. The same logic that blames God for the rejection, torture, abuse, and death of Jesus Christ. The same logic that teaches God allegedly hated and crushed Christ. Some Christians speak of God as if a bloodthirsty monster who causes evil and then hates and punishes people for the evil he made them do. And then we wonder why churches are getting empty… Besides, we, the Jews, will never be able to accept a gospel that portrays God in such a way as the generator of evil who deprive men of their free will. But unfortunately, this is the gospel mostly presented to Jews by the conservative Israeli church.

I honestly can’t see how Christians who experienced real horror in their lives can believe in predestination. Those who came to know the darkest parts of humanity know it can’t be caused and orchestrated by a good God. Evil is the antithesis of God and the opposite of his nature and character. God doesn’t cause evil; he hates it.

While our discussion on the free will of men and God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty was introductory, a detailed explanation of how these truths work together in perfect harmony is beyond the scope of this book. However, there are other books available that provide in-depth exploration on this topic.[10]

But doesn’t the Bible teach that God chooses who to save?

This article is based on my new book, ‘The “Gospel” of Divine Abuse,’ available on this Amazon page.
free sample is available here.

[1] Genesis 2:16-17; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15.

[2] Nor did I knew what Arminianism was. By the way – I’m neither one.

[3] In Hebrew, Serpent can mean either a “snake” or a shiny angelic being. Perhaps it was both.

[4] While they did not die instantly, they got banished from the Garden of Eden which had the tree of life in it; preventing them from eating of it.

[5] If taken literally; Adam lived 930 years. We are not told how long Eve lived.

[6] There is a reason why we say, “Thank God!” to the news of someone finally getting better, but not to someone getting sick. It is because we recognize that illnesses are evil and a result of the fall. 

[7] There’s one positive side effect to this for Calvinists- when they will stand before God giving account for their decisions, they can argue: “my bad decisions were actually not my own, they were preordained by you.”

[8] For example: Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; John 11:31-32,36; Luke 7:13

[9] In verses 1–4, the Lord promises to raise up the pagan ruler Cyrus, the future king of Persia, and to enable him to subdue nations as a means of gaining Israel’s release from exile in Babylon. The Lord would remove every obstacle that stood in the way of Cyrus and would give to him the treasures of the peoples he conquered. Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. and issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to their homeland in 538 B.C. The Lord would accomplish his purposes through Cyrus because he is the one true God over all of history (v. 5). God’s ability to announce his plans in advance and then to carry them out would demonstrate his sovereignty and incomparability to all peoples (vv. 6-7). Verse 7 concludes the oracle with a powerful assertion of the Lord’s control over both nature and history. He is the one who created the light and darkness, and as the creator, he is also the one who uses both “success” (shalom) and “calamity” (RA’) in the working out of his plans within history.

[10] For those looking for a theological solution that allows both God’s foreknowledge, his sovereignty, and the freewill of men, I would recommend William Lane Craig’s book, “The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom.”

[i] Sophocles I: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus.

[ii] John Piper, “Don’t Waste Your Cancer“, Feb 15, 2006, desiringgod.org

[iii] Clayton Kraby, The Five Points of Calvinism, reasonabletheology.org

[iv] Got Questions, “Unconditional election – is it biblical?

[v] Joshua M. McNall, “The mosaic of atonement”, page 234-235.

[vi] In: Timothy A. Stratton, “Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism: A Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Philosophical Analysis”. Page 169.

[vii] John Piper, “Is God Less Glorious Because He Ordained That Evil Be?” Desiringgod.org

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity, page 33-34

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Dr. Eitan Bar
Author, Theologian, Activist