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 The following article is taken in its entirety from Dave Hunt's book "What Love Is This". Chapter 11 of his book is quoted in its entirety here. It is posted here with the express permission of Dave Hunt and the publisher, The Berean Call. The Berean Call is located at http://www.thebereancall.org/ . The Berean Call web site is one of the absolute best sites on the internet. Thank God they earnestly contend for the faith and earnestly encourage the believer.

We highly recommend Dave Hunt's book "What Love Is This" and Laurence Vance's book "The Other Side Of Calvinism". We believe that both books are possibly the best books ever written in defense of the faith against Calvinism. We also highly recommend Dave Hunt’s books “A Woman Rides The Beast”, “A Cup Of Trembling”, “Occult Invasion”, and “Judgement Day”. Here are the contents of Chapter 11 (Sovereignty and Free Will) of Dave Hunt’s book “What Love Is This”:

            ONE OFTEN HEARS Christians say, “God is in control; He’s still on the throne.” But what does that mean? Was God not in control when Satan rebelled and when Adam and Eve disobeyed, but now He is? Does God’s being in control mean that all rape, murder, war, famine, suffering, and evil is exactly what He planned and desires—as Palmer says, “— even the moving of a finger...the mistake of a typist...”?1

            That God is absolutely sovereign does not require that everything man chooses to do or not to do is not his own choice at all but was foreordained by God from eternity past. There is neither logical nor biblical reason why a sovereign God by His own sovereign design could not allow creatures made in His image the freedom of moral choice. Indeed, He must, if man is to be more than a cardboard puppet!             In a chapter titled “the great mystery,” Palmer insists that the non- Calvinist denies the sovereignty of God while insisting upon man’s power of choice, while the “hyper-Calvinist denies the responsibility of man.” He then suggests that the true


Calvinist…accepts both sides of the antinomy. He realizes that what he advocates is ridiculous...impossible for man to harmonize these two sets of data. To say on the one hand that God has made certain all that ever happens, and yet to say that man is responsible for what he does? Nonsense! It must be one or the other. To say that God foreordains the sin of Judas, and yet Judas is to blame? Foolishness...! This is in accord with Paul, who said, “The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The Greeks seek after wisdom and logic, and to them the Calvinist is irrational.... So the Calvinist has to make up his mind: what is his authority? His own human reason or the Word of God? If he answers, the human reasoning powers, then, like the Arminian and hyper-Calvinist, he will have to exclude one of the two parallel forces. But...he believes the Bible is God’s Word...infallible and inerrant...[T]he apparent paradox of the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man...belongs to the Lord our God, and we should leave it there. We ought not to probe into the secret counsel of God.”2

            On the contrary, there is no contradiction between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. That God can be sovereign and man be free to choose is not an unfathomable mystery. But Calvinism denies free will by its definition of sovereignty, making God the cause of all, including sin—yet man is accountable for what God causes him to do. That proposition is irrational. The confusion here should be obvious.

            The “paradox” has been created by Calvinism’s distortion of sovereignty. Accepting this manmade contradiction, J. I. Packer says we must “refuse to regard the apparent inconsistency as real.”3 That pronouncement sounds more like Christian Science, Positive Thinking, or Positive Confession than biblical exegesis!

            On the contrary, as Reimensnyder has said, “The free-will of man is the most marvelous of the Creator’s works.”4 It is indeed the gift that makes possible every other gift from God—for without the power to choose, man could not consciously receive any moral or spiritual gift from God. That fact, of course, is self-evident—and biblical. Repeatedly men and women are called upon to make moral choices, to love and obey God, to believe the gospel, and to receive Christ: “choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15); “if ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19); “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself ” (Daniel 1:8), etc. 

A Serious Contradiction

            Unquestionably, men by their own choice can and do defy and disobey God. The knowledge that men continually break God’s laws is common to every human conscience and experience. In spite of the fact that He is sovereign, and, obviously, without violating or lessening His sovereignty, God’s will is continually being resisted and rejected as a result of the rebellion of Satan and man. That both citizens and foreigners often violate its laws does not deny a country’s sovereignty. Indeed, lawbreakers will be punished if apprehended.

            Even Christians do not always perfectly fulfill God’s will. If so, they would have no sin to confess, and there would have been no need for the Epistles or Christ’s letters to the seven churches of Asia or for the judgment seat of Christ—or any other correction from God. Rewards, too, would be meaningless without freewill.

            The Bible itself contains many examples of men defying and disobeying God in spite of His being sovereign and in control of His universe. Through Isaiah the prophet, God laments, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Isaiah 1:2). They are offering sacrifices that He abhors, obviously not according to His will, and they are living lives that dishonor Him. We are told that “the Pharisees and lawyers [continuing the tradition of those before them] rejected the counsel of God against themselves” (Luke 7:30). Quite clearly, everything that happens in human affairs is not according to God’s will.

            Throughout the Old Testament, God pleads with Israel to repent of her rebellion, to return to Him and obey Him. Of Israel He says, “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people” (Romans 10:21). Israel’s history provides more than ample proof that in spite of His absolute sovereignty, man can and does rebel, and that the sin he commits is not God’s will, much less His decree. Typical of His continual lament is the following: 

I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day. (Jeremiah 44:4–6)

            Surely, the idolatry that God calls “this abominable thing that I hate” could not be according to His will. That His will is rejected by man’s rebellion, however, just as the Ten Commandments are broken millions of times each day around the world, does not in the least deny or weaken His sovereignty.

What About Ephesians 1:11?

            In light of such scriptures, how can we understand the statement that God works “all things according to the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11)? Alvin Baker claims that this passage proves that “God works ‘all things,’ including sin, according to His eternal will.”5 However, the word “worketh” (KJV) is energeo, which doesn’t convey the idea of controlled manipulation but of stimulation. See Colossians 1:29 and 2 Thessalonians 2:7,9; see also “work out your own salvation...for it is God which worketh in [energizes] you” (Philippians 2:12–13).

            Nor does Paul say that God works all according to His will, but according to the counsel of His will. There is a huge difference. Obviously, the eternal “counsel” of His will must have allowed man the freedom to love and obey, or to defy, his Creator—otherwise sin would be God’s will. We could never conclude from this passage (and particularly not in light of the many scriptures stating that men defy God’s will) that mankind’s every thought, word, and deed is according to God’s perfect will, exactly the way God desired and decreed it. Yet that is what Calvinists erroneously conclude from Ephesians 1:11. To make that the case, as Calvin did, portrays God as the effective cause of every sin ever committed.

            Christ asks us to pray, “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2). Why would Christ suggest such a prayer, if everything is already according to God’s will and His eternal decree—and if we are already in the kingdom of God with Satan bound, as both Calvin and Augustine taught?

            The objection is raised: “How dare you suggest that the omnipotent God cannot effect His will!” Of course He can and does, but that in itself does not say that God wills everything that happens. Without freedom to do his own will, man would not be a morally responsible being, nor could he be guilty of sin. That much is axiomatic.

            Christ’s special commendation of “whosoever shall do the will of my Father” (Matthew 12:50; Mark 3:35), and such statements from His lips as “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” (Matthew 7: 21), show very clearly that everyone doesn’t always fulfill God’s will. The same truth is found in Isaiah 65:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:17–22, Hebrews 10:36, 1 Peter 2:15–16, 1 John 2:17 and elsewhere. Clearly, there is a distinction between what God desires and wills, and what He allows.

An Important Distinction

            Many scriptures show that God’s will can be, and is, defied by man. Nor does Scripture ever suggest that there is any will or plan of God with which man’s will and actions are by nature in perfect accord. Forster and Marston point out, however, that “Some Christian writers seem to have been unable to accept this.... If, as they believe, everything that happens is God’s will, then the unrepentance and perishing of the wicked must also be God’s will. Yet God himself says it is not his will....”6

            On the fact of human rebellion and disobedience in defiance of God, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree. The disagreement comes in the explanation. The former say that even man’s rebellion has been decreed sovereignly by God and that God’s will is the effective cause of it. The latter explain sin as the result of man’s own selfish and evil desires and deeds in defiance of God. Thereby man is justly held morally accountable, because it is in the power of his will either to intend to obey or to deliberately disobey God. The Calvinist, however, denies that man, because he is “totally depraved,” has such a choice—yet holds him accountable in spite of his alleged inability to act in any way except as God has decreed.

            Thus any independent choice on man’s part—even to sin—must be denied in order to maintain tulip. This is especially true when it comes to salvation. Pink writes, “To say that the sinner’s salvation turns upon the action of his own will, is another form of the God-dishonoring dogma of salvation by human efforts…. Any movement of the will is a work....”7

            On the contrary, there is a huge difference between deciding or willing to do something and actually doing it—something that every lazy person and procrastinator repeatedly demonstrates. Merely to will is not a work at all. Paul clearly makes that distinction when he says, “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18). Indeed, Paul’s will is not the major problem but rather his inability even as a regenerated person to do the good he wills and to refrain from the evil that his will rejects.

            The gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16). The effective power that saves man is all of God, but man receives salvation by faith—and only by faith. For the condemned sinner simply to receive by faith the salvation that Christ purchased on the Cross is no work on man’s part at all. Yet the Calvinist insists that it is. For Pink to call receiving Christ by faith “human effort” is to invent his own meaning of words.

            The distinction between faith and works is so clear in Scripture that we need not belabor the point.

            It is the Calvinists’ extreme view of God’s sovereignty that causes them to reject the biblical teaching that salvation is offered freely to all. Instead, they limit salvation to the elect. Otherwise, they argue, if man is free either to accept or reject salvation, that leaves the final decision up to man and places God at his mercy.

            “So are you suggesting,” they object, “that God wants to save all mankind but lacks the power to do so? It is a denial of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty if there is anything He desires but can’t accomplish.” Yet MacArthur, Packer, Piper, and others say that God desires the salvation of all yet doesn’t decree it. This is a real contradiction, whereas it is no contradiction at all to say that God has given man the free choice of whether to receive Christ or not.

            In fact, power has no relationship to grace and love, which provide salvation. Moreover, as we shall see, there are many things God cannot do, and a lack of “power” is not the reason for any of them, nor is His sovereignty mitigated in the least.

What a Sovereign God Cannot Do

            Vance points out, “The Calvinist perception of God as being absolutely sovereign is very much accurate; however, that doesn’t mean that it takes precedence over his other attributes.”8 Clearly, God’s ability and even His right to act in His sovereignty are only exercised in harmony with His other attributes, which must all remain in perfect balance. Calvinism destroys that balance. It puts such emphasis upon sovereignty that God’s other qualities are made inconsequential by comparison, and God is presented as acting out of character. That is why this book is subtitled, Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God.

            Throughout history, sovereign despots have misused their sovereignty for their own evil purposes. Obviously, however, God employs His sovereignty not as a despot but in love, grace, mercy, kindness, justice, and truth—all in perfect symmetry with His total character and all of His attributes. Indeed, He cannot act despotically or use His sovereignty for evil. Cannot? Yes, cannot.

            “Heresy!” cries someone. “God is infinite in power; there is nothing He cannot do.” Really? The very fact that He is infinite in power means He cannot fail. There is much else that finite beings routinely do but that the infinite, absolutely sovereign God cannot do because He is God. He cannot travel because He is omnipresent. He cannot lie, cheat, steal, be mistaken, contradict Himself, act contrary to His character, etc. Nor did God will any of this in man. To will sin in others would be the same as to practice it Himself—a fact that Calvinists overlook.

            What God cannot do is not in spite of who He is, but because of who He is. Thus Augustine wrote, “Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent.”9 There are things God cannot do, because to do them would violate His very character. He cannot deny or contradict Himself. He cannot change. He cannot go back on His Word.

God Can Neither Tempt Nor Be Tempted

            Scripture must be taken in context and compared with Scripture; one isolated verse cannot become the rule. Jesus said, “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Yet it is impossible for God to do evil, to cause others to do evil, or even to entice anyone into evil. This is clearly stated in Scripture: “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...” (James 1:13–14).

            What about instances in Scripture where the Bible says God tempted someone, or was tempted Himself—for example, “God did tempt Abraham” (Genesis 22:1)? The Hebrew word there and throughout the Old Testament is nacah, which means to test or prove, as in assaying the purity of a metal. It has nothing to do with tempting to sin. God was testing Abraham’s faith and obedience.

            As for God being tempted, Israel was warned, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 6:16). They had done so at Massah, in demanding water: “they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7). Later they “tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust…they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Yea…they tempted and provoked the most high God” (Psalms 78: 18,41,56).

            Clearly, God was not being tempted to do evil—an impossibility. But instead of waiting upon Him in patient trust to meet their needs, His people were demanding that He prove His power by giving them what they wanted to satisfy their lusts. Their “temptation” of God was a provocation that put Him in the position either of giving in to their desire or of punishing them for rebellion.

            When Jesus was “tempted of the devil” to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple to prove the promise of God that angels would bear Him up in their hands, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16—“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:1–11). In other words, it is one thing to rely upon God to meet our needs as they arise and as He sees fit, but it is something else to put ourselves deliberately in a situation where we demand that God must act if we are to be rescued or protected.

            In the quotation above, James goes on to say, “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” Temptation to evil comes from within, not from without. The man who would never be “tempted” by an opportunity to be dishonest in business may succumb to the temptation to commit adultery and thus be dishonest with his wife.

            God was not tempting Adam and Eve to sin when He told them not to eat of a particular tree; He was testing them. Eve was tempted by her own natural lust, her selfish desire. Even in innocence, mankind became selfish and disobedient. We see this in very young infants, who as yet presumably do not know the difference between right and wrong.

What God Cannot Do to Save Man

            Furthermore, when it comes to salvation, there are three specific things God cannot do. First of all, He cannot forgive sin without the penalty being paid. In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before the cross, Christ cried out in agony, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me...” (Matthew 26:39). Surely had it been possible to provide salvation without Christ paying the penalty demanded by His justice, the Father would have allowed Him to escape the cross. We know, therefore, that it was not possible for God to save man any other way. Even God’s sovereign, omnipotent power cannot simply decree that sinners be forgiven. This fact destroys the very foundation of Calvinism’s salvation for the elect alone by sovereign decree.

            Secondly, God cannot force a gift upon anyone. That fact also shows that salvation for the elect cannot be by predestination. Salvation can neither be earned nor merited—it can only be received as a gift from God. And the recipient must be willing; the gift cannot be imposed by the giver against the recipient’s will.

            Finally, even God cannot force anyone to love Him or to accept His love. Force cannot produce love. True love can only come voluntarily from the heart.

            By the very nature of giving and receiving, and of loving and receiving love, man must have the power to choose freely from his heart as God has sovereignly ordained—“if thou shalt…believe in thine heart…thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). The reception of God’s gift of salvation and of God’s love (all in and through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins) can only be by a free choice.

            Christ repeatedly gave such invitations as “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), or “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37); and “whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). Relying upon the ordinary meaning of words, we can only conclude from Scripture that Christ is offering to all a gift that may be accepted or rejected.

            There is no question that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16); “If thou knewest the gift of God” (John 4:10); “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift” (Romans 5:15); “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23); “For by grace are ye saved…it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8); “God hath given to us eternal life” (1 John 5:11), etc. By its very nature, a gift must be received by an act of the will. If forced upon the recipient, it is not a gift.

            Tragically, Calvinism undermines the very foundation of salvation and man’s loving, trusting relationship with God through Christ.

Free Will Does Not Conflict With Godʼs Sovereignty

            Literally hundreds of verses throughout the Bible offer salvation to all who will believe and receive. The Calvinist objects that if man had the choice of saying yes or no to Christ, he would have the final say in his salvation, his destiny would be in his own hands, and God would be at his mercy. Therefore, where the Bible seems to say that God desires all to be saved and is offering salvation to all either to be accepted or rejected, the Calvinist must limit the application only to the elect—and they must have no choice. Thus Scripture’s clear meaning is changed to make it conform to TULIP.

            God’s sovereignty is not in question. The issue is what that means biblically. The Calvinist argues that if God’s desire is for all men to be saved—and obviously they are not all saved—then God’s will is frustrated by rebellious, sinful men who by their wills have been able to overturn God’s sovereignty. As a consequence of this mistaken view of sovereignty, the plain meaning of numerous passages must be changed in order to support tulip. The Calvinist insists, “The heresy of free will dethrones God and enthrones man.”10 In fact, this error was rejected by Augustine himself.

Setting the Record Straight

            Clearly, there are a number of things a sovereign God cannot do, yet none of these limitations impinges in the least upon His sovereignty. God is not the less sovereign because He cannot lie or sin or change or deny Himself, etc. These follow because of His sinless, holy, perfect character.

            Nor is God any the less sovereign or lacking in power because He cannot force anyone to love Him or to receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Power and love (and love’s gift) do not belong in the same discussion. In fact, of the many things we have seen that God cannot do, a lack of “power” or a lessening of sovereignty is not the reason for any of them. Pusey points out that “It would be self-contradictory, that Almighty God should create a free agent capable of loving Him, without also being capable of rejecting His love.... Without free-will we could not freely love God. Freedom is a condition of love.”11

            Far from denying God’s sovereignty, to recognize that mankind has been given by God the capacity to choose to love Him or not, and to receive or reject the free gift of salvation, is to admit what God’s sovereignty itself has lovingly and wonderfully provided. In His sovereignty, God has so constituted the nature of a gift and of love that man must have the power of choice or he cannot experience either one from God’s gracious hand.

            Nor could the power of choice challenge God’s sovereignty, since it is God’s sovereignty that has bestowed this gift upon man and set the conditions for loving, for receiving love, and for giving and receiving a gift. Yet as Zane Hodges points out:


If there is one thing five-point Calvinists hold with vigorous tenacity, it is the belief that there can be no human free will at all. With surprising illogic, they usually argue that God cannot be sovereign if man is granted any degree of free will. But this view of God actually diminishes the greatness of His sovereign power. For if God cannot control a universe in which there is genuine free will, and is reduced to the creation of “robots,” then such a God is of truly limited power indeed.12

            It is foolish to suggest that if man could reject Christ, that would put him in control of either his own destiny or of God. God is in control. It is He who makes the rules, sets the requirements for salvation, and determines the consequences of either acceptance or rejection. God is no less sovereign over those who reject Christ than He is over those who accept Him. He is the one who has determined the conditions of salvation and what will happen both to those who accept and to those who reject His offer.

            But the Calvinist, because of his extreme view of sovereignty, can no more allow any man to say yes to Christ than he can allow him to say no. This error, having destroyed the foundation for a genuine salvation, creates a false one. And in order to support this false salvation that, allegedly, God imposes upon an elect, Calvinism has had to invent its five points. This fact will become ever more clear as we proceed.

1. Edwin H. Palmer, the five points of calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, enlarged ed., 20th prtg. 1999), 25.

2. Ibid., 85–87.

3. J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 212.

4. Junius B. Reimensnyder, Doom Eternal (N. S. Quiney, 1880), 357; cited in Samuel Fisk, Calvinistic Paths Retraced (Raleigh, NC: Biblical Evangelism Press, 1985), 223.

5. Alvin L. Baker, Berkower’s Doctrine of Election: Balance or Imbalance? (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1981), 174.

6. Roger T. Forster and V. Paul Marston, God’s Strategy in Human History (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1973), 32.

7. Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 2nd prtg. 1986), 218.

8. David S. West, The Baptist Examiner, March 18, 1989, 5; cited in Laurence M. Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism (Pensacola, FL: Vance Publications, rev. ed. 1999), 256–57.

9. Augustine, The City of God, trans. Marcus Dods; in Great Books of the Western World, ed. Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer J. Adler (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), 18: V.10.

10. W. E. Best, Free Grace Versus Free Will (Houston, TX: W. E. Best Books Missionary Trust, 1977), 35.

11. Edward B. Pusey, What Is Of Faith As To Everlasting Punishment? (James Parker and Co., 1881), 22–24; cited in Fisk, Calvinistic, 222.

12. Zane C. Hodges, “The New Puritanism, Pt 3: Michael S. Horton: Holy War With Unholy Weapons,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1994, 7:12

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