Monday, August 21, 2023

Provisionism: God's Provision Of Salvation For All

Okay, Bible nerds, here we go. 

In some ways, the plan of salvation as presented in the Bible is very simple: 
  • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
  •  “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)
  • “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
  • “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

But as the early church expanded in the centuries following the life of Jesus, a lot of conflicting perspectives on human nature, the nature and ripple effect of original sin, the definition of depravity, the nature of Jesus as the God/man and the efficacy of his crucifixion began to create the need for clarification. 

As a result, the church had to address ‘doctrines of salvation’ (soteriology). It was a messy process.  As church history unfolded, the church writ large occasionally gathered to address the implications of these attempts to explain God in a way that used the language and ideas of the audience. The controversy that followed looked like a pendulum swinging between doctrines that overemphasized either Jesus’ humanity or deity at the expense of the other, or perspectives on God that failed to account for the complexity of the Biblical revelation. 

For centuries, the church wrestled with how to understand the nature of a triune God. Over time, the global church has tightened the outer boundaries of heterodoxy and solidified the foundation of heterodoxy Meanwhile, the question of soteriology remains. The discussion of the nature of God has implications for humanity and the plan of salvation offered through Jesus.  

  • Sin entered the human condition thanks to Adam, but what impact does that have on the rest of us? Just how marred is our image- bearing? Are we simply born with a sin nature (destined to sin) or are we born with Original Guilt, deserving the condemnation of Adam?
  • Does God predestine by sovereign decree that some will be save and some will not, or does God initiate an offer of salvation to all and allow individuals to choose?
  • Does God irresistibly draw people so that they must choose Him, or does he draw them but allow them to refuse?
  • Did the Fall make is to that humans are absolutely incapable of seeking, understanding or responding to God, or are humans deeply marred by sin but still able to respond to God’s revelation?
  • Does Jesus offer atonement to all, or is it limited to those God has predestined? Another way of asking this: if we love Him because He first loved us, does God love everybody or only some of us? How does this impact the call to evangelism?
  • When we are truly saved, will God ever let us go or not? If he seals us with His Holy Spirit, can that seal be broken?

So, yeah, those are some big questions. It has huge implications for what we conclude about the nature of both God and humanity, and for what we believe about how God brings about salvation.

* * * *

Western Christianity has long had two main branches of soteriology: Calvinism and Arminianism. This is not true outside of Western Christianity, but that’s a post for another time.

I grew up steeped in an Arminian approach[1] before being educated in graduate and post-graduate degrees from a Calvinist and then specifically Reformed perspective[2] while joining a historically charismatic church and teaching at a Christian school in which close to 30 churches, both Protestant and Catholic, were represented.

I spent decades describing myself as a ‘Calminian’ because neither camp felt fully like home. I appreciated the Calvinist reminder of God’s sovereignty and the Armenian reminder of human responsibility, but there were things in both of them that seemed to me to be at odds with how the overall arc of the Bible portrayed God’s character and nature, as well as the moral agency of humanity. 

As far as I understood them, Calvinism offered a God who would hold people accountable for choices they couldn’t make; Arminianism offered a God who did not have the power or faithfulness to hold on to His children. And if Calvinism freed people of responsibility for whether or not they followed Jesus (“God chose me for damnation. What was I going to do?”), Arminianism condemned people to their freedom (“I just keep falling out of my salvation, even though I’m not sure when that happens. Altar call, here I come!”)

To be clear: I believe that everyone I talked to loved Jesus and took Scripture seriously. We weren’t disagreeing on the “closed hand” issues upon which followers of Jesus base their faith (see the Apostles’ Creed). So as I describe where I have now landed, I want to be clear that I believe I will enjoy eternity with sisters and brothers in Christ who have different opinions about soteriology. We love the same Savior. We have committed ourselves the same Kingdom. Shalom.

I’ve recently been introduced to Provisionism (another name for Traditionalism) which postures itself as a return to the view of soteriology before Augustine’s Platonic view on Divine Simplicity laid the foundation for Calvinism (and Pelagius’ contra-Calvin views for Arminianism).[3] Here, I believe, I have found an answer to my Calminian restlessness. A couple caveats before I dive into this particular soteriology.

  • There is room for differences within the same camp just like there is in Calvinism and Arminianism. I largely agree with what I am about to share, but that doesn’t mean I am necessarily in lockstep with everything and everybody about every detail.  
  •  I am always uneasy about associating myself with labels and groups. It’s easy to become ‘guilty by association” with every person and every thought in that group.[4] So, to align myself with Provisionism makes me nervous. I fear there will be an = sign between me and every attitude, thought and personality. Please give me the benefit of the doubt that I am my own thinking person, and will separate wheat from chaff like the rest of you do. 

What follows are the basics of Provisionism. The Articles listed are from Leighton Flowers’ post “Our Beliefs” at  Since his list was intended to be a very condensed overview, I have added to them, sometimes considerably. Please, visit the site to see the specific language in the original post. I will highlight the original post (with some minor additions of my own that are intended to clarify language) in bold italics in each section. Everything else comes from other sources or my personal summary.



We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.[5]  

We deny that only a select few are not only capable of responding to the Gospel but irresistibly drawn to salvation while the rest are predestined and irretrievably condemned[6] to an eternity in hell.

Here’s Calvin himself on what he meant by predestination.

·      “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which He determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of those ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death…Some are predestined to salvation, others to damnation… Regarding the lost: it was His good pleasure to doom to destruction…” 

·      Since the disposition of all things is in the hands of God and He can give life or death at His pleasure, He dispenses and ordains by His judgment that some, from their mother’s womb, are destined irrevocably to eternal death in order to glorify His name in their perdition… All are not created on equal terms, but some are predestined to eternal life, others to eternal damnation…”

·      The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as He permits, nay unless in so far as He commands, that they are not only bound by His fetters but are even forced to do Him service…”

·      “Individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify Him by their destruction.” 

Calvin was pretty clear: God decides who will be saved and who will be doomed. As far as the inescapably damned, who are “held in by the hand of God as with a bridle,” they are in that situation “in order to glorify His name in their perdition.” And why did this happen? God “determined with Himself whatever He wished to happen.” No explanation is given; apparently none is needed. For Calvin, it is sufficient that God decided to create people to destroy for His glory. How this glorifies God is not at all clear to me. 

Approximately 100 years later, The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647) fleshed Calvin’s ideas in a formal Confession. 

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death. Those of mankind that are predestined unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.”

“The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of his glorious justice.”

Norma Cook Everist compares this to someone visiting a blind man and holding up in front of his face an invitation to wonderful party. The blind man couldn’t see the invitation, so he couldn’t read it or respond to it.  

 A.W. Tozer’s view speaks to the Provisionist response: 

Here is my view: God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it… Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” (A.W. Tozer)

This seems much more in line with the biblical presentation of justice. People will be held responsible for what they did with the choices they were able to make. There is no conception of justice in either special or general revelation in which people are responsible for things others force them to do. If the Man Mountain captures me and coercively swings me around so that my foot breaks someone else’s jaw, I am not responsible. He is. If God condemns me to unbelief and rebellion such that I am “bound by His fetters [and] even forced to do Him service,” it seems to me that I am not responsible. He is.

John Wesley put it this way: “He will punish no man for doing anything which he could not possibly avoid, neither for omitting anything which he could not possibly do. Every punishment supposes the offender might have avoided the offense for which he is punished.” 



We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the total incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty and worthy of condemnation before he has personally sinned. 


There are different ways of describing depravity. Even the Calvinist would not claim that our depravity is maximal; that is, that we are the worst we could possibly be. In the Provisionist view, the depravity is ubiquitous, but not impenetrable by the Gospel.  It makes more sense of passages like this:


“We see Christ telling His disciples to keep things quiet until the right time (Matt. 16:20). We see Him hiding the truth in parables (Mark 4:11). If all people are born corpse-like dead, deaf, blind and unable to understand the truth, as Calvinism’s doctrine of Total Inability suggests, why would Christ need to do this?”[8]


Since no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing them through the Gospel.


Think of Gospel here as the good news: the revelation of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. That light pierces the darkest heart. It is entirely a move from God to shine that light, but it can be seen, and it can be responded to.


Notice that the first paragraph of this section is very carefully stated. There is a reason for that. From a book I recommend called The Hexagon of Heresy: 


Augustine held to doctrines of both original sin and original guilt. Augustine taught that original sin is all of humanity’s participation in the sin of Adam. Original guilt is the liability of punishment for that participation, which includes more sinning and eventual death. All humans are, so to speak, born with the default setting of being damned due to the inherited guilt of Adam’s sin, so Augustine’s doctrine of original sin frees God from the blame of evil, while his doctrine of original guilt upholds the beauty of the created order in the punishment of sinners.


These doctrines, formulated in this way, are original to Augustine. He is the first of the Christian fathers in the East or West to teach naturally transmitted personal guilt. (emphasis mine)


The received teaching on original sin [in] the Eastern tradition (notably Chrysostom) saw original sin as a “simple punishment” which was the “loss of incorruption and immortality as well as that of supernatural knowledge and eternal bliss, and the consequent enslavement to the devil.”


Provisionism would align more closely with the Eastern tradition rather than the Augustinian tradition in this case.




We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

In other words, we are not saved by anything we do. It’s all about the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf (referred to as Penal Substitution – Jesus as a substitute for the penalty we deserved). 

I believe the Crucifixion is the fulfillment of the covenant Jesus made with Abraham. This was the cost of the children of Abraham breaking the covenant God made with Abraham. The cost of failing to uphold the covenant was captured in the covenant ritual in what’s called The Covenant Of The Pieces: the covenant-breaker’s body would be broken, and his blood would be spilled. God, much to Abraham’s surprise, passed through The Pieces (dissected animals) but did not require Abraham to do the same. In other words, God would pay the penalty if either one of them broke the covenant. 

Well, Abraham and his descendants absolutely broke the covenant. On the cross, Jesus paid the penalty on behalf of the children of Abraham.  This was the Egyptian Passover Lamb once and for all, whose blood on the doorposts of our heart would spare us from spiritual and eternal death. 

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved (unlimited atonement vs. limited atonement).

The Westminster Confession of Faith contains an interesting section concerning the tension between meticulous determinism and free will. It speaks of God “…renewing their wills and by his almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ, yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by grace.”  As Norma Cook Everist notes in Does God Love Everyone? What's Wrong With Calvinism, 

“It is crucial to emphasize that whereas God’s ‘effectual call’ cannot be resisted by the elect, his ‘general call’ cannot be answered by those who are not elect.” 

Provisionism rejects this approach. God’s call goes to all; God had decreed that the power of the Gospel have such power that those who hear it can respond.

As recounted by Ms. Everist, John Piper (whom she quotes at length throughout the book) insists that God cannot save everyone because he has other purposes he must accomplish, and these purposes are simply incompatible with saving those he chooses to damn. God has higher purposes and goals that prevent him from saving all persons. So what is this higher purpose God has that prevents him from saving those he chooses to damn? 

The answer the Reformed give is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22–23) and the humbling of man so he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (I Cor. 1:29).

So, God coercively determines people to damnation to display the glory of his wrath and make those whom he chose to save in mercy even more thankful?  If that sounds…off… you may appreciate the analogy Thomas McCall wrote to illustrate the problems in Piper’s theology. 

Imagine a parent who is able to control each and every action of his children, and furthermore, is able to do so by controlling their thoughts and inclinations. He is thus able to determine each and all actions taken by those children. He is also able to guarantee that they desire to do everything that they do, and this is exactly what he does. He puts them in a special playroom that contains not only toys but also gasoline and matches, and then gives them explicit instructions (with severe warnings) to avoid touching the gasoline and matches.

Stepping out of sight, he determines that the children indeed begin to play with the matches. When the playroom is ablaze and the situation desperate, he rushes in to save them (well, some of them). He breaks through the wall, grabs three of the seven children, and carries them to safety. When the rescued children calm down, they ask about their four siblings. They want to know about the others trapped inside, awaiting their inevitable fate. More importantly, they want to know if he can do something to rescue them as well.

When they ask about the situation, their father tells them that this tragic occurrence had been determined by him, and indeed, that it was a smashing success—it had worked out in exact accordance with his plan. He then reminds them of his instructions and warnings, and he reminds them further that they willingly violated his commands. They should be grateful for their rescue, and they should understand that the others got what they deserved. When they begin to sob, he weeps with them; he tells them that he too has compassion on the doomed children (indeed, the compassion of the children for their siblings only dimly reflects his own).

The children are puzzled by this, and one wants to know why such a compassionate father does not rescue the others (when it is clearly within his power to do so). His answer is this: this has happened so that everyone could see how smart he is (for being able to know how to do all this), how powerful he is (for being able to control everything and then effectively rescue them), how merciful he is (for rescuing the children who broke his rules), and how just he is (for leaving the others to their fate in the burning playroom). And, he says, “This is the righteous thing for me to do, because it allows me to look as good as I should look.”

Provisionism rejects this view of God.



We affirm that intervening grace, which breaks through our natural spiritual blindness and deafness, is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

A number of things in this article have already been addressed. As to the last sentence, note that the prodigal son’s choice to return home is distinct from the father’s choice to redeem (save) him once he arrives. Yes, the son “came to his senses” and returned to the Father, but the Father was not required to accept him. The son had not earned his reinstatement into the family. The Father chose, through grace, to respond the way he did.



We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

First, points of agreement: 

“What is not in dispute is that regeneration is the sovereign act of God whereby He imparts His very life and His very nature to the believing sinner (John 1:12-13; Titus 3:5). Man’s first birth is natural; his second birth is spiritual and supernatural. His first birth makes him a member of a fallen race; his second birth makes him a member of a redeemed race. His first birth gives him a depraved nature (Eph. 2:3); his second birth makes him partaker of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). The moment a person is born again he receives a new life (John 6:47; 1 John 5:12) and a new position as a child of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). In short, he is a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).”[13]

In contrast to Calvinism’s regeneration prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel, Arminians offered prevenient grace, a particular kind of grace that God gave everyone in order to make them capable of responding without determining their response. Provisionism rejects both ideas, believing that God ordained for the power of the Gospel message to be itself the act of grace that breaks into our souls.  

What about those who do not have a Bible, or who have not specifically been introduced to Jesus? There is room in Provisionism for the belief that God will reveal the good news of the Gospel to those who do not have access to the actual text of Scripture (think of the many Muslims who have reported Jesus revealing himself to them in dreams). The terms Special Revelation Exclusivism or Agnostic Optimism could apply here.[14] Soteriology 101’s article, “What About Those Who Never Hear The Gospel?” doesn’t use a label, but it explains the concept.

Mankind is responsible to all of God’s revelation because they are able to respond to all of God’s revelation. If they acknowledge the truth of the little revelation that they have received then God is faithful to entrust them with more (Mt. 25:21). If they trade the truth in for lies then they have no excuse (Rm. 1:20). In short, the general revelation is sufficient to lead any one to know God’s special revelation, thus no one has any excuse for their unbelief. Paige Patterson recorded a statement, endorsed by many Southern Baptist leaders, that put it this way, “…whenever or wherever in the world there is a man or woman who cries out to God with all of his heart, ‘Lord I want to know you, I want to know what kind of a God you are,’ then I [God] will make it possible for him to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God is so loving and so merciful that He makes Himself available to everyman who seeks Him, which is why the Bible says, ‘You shall find Me when you seek for Me with all your heart’” (Jer. 29:13).[15]



We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks first of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people group who are His (first Israel[17] and then the church[18]) by repentance and faith, and second of God’s plan for all who trust in Christ (Ephesians 1) to be “conformed to His image” and made “holy and blameless.” (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4).

It might surprise some to know that Calvinists, Arminians, and Provisionists all accept the term ‘predestination.’ They just mean different things by it. For the Provisionist,

“By predestination we mean the predetermined redemptive plan of God to justify, sanctify and glorify whosoever freely believes (Rom. 10:11; Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:1-14). No person is created for damnation, or predetermined by God to that end (2 Pt. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Ezek. 18:30-32). Those who perish only do so because they refused to accept the truth so as to be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).”[19]

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain individual people for salvation and others for condemnation.[20]

Provisionists embrace corporate election – not just the existence of a corporate group (which people can freely choose or not choose to join) that God has predestined for His purposes, but what God plans to do with those in the group.

“In Ephesians 1, Paul teaches that those “in Him” have been predestined to become “holy and blameless” and “to be adopted as sons,” but he never says that certain individuals were predestined to believe in Christ. Paul speaks of what “the faithful in Christ” (vs. 1) have been predestined to become, not about God preselecting certain individuals before the foundation of the world to be irresistibly transformed into believers. 

Whosoever believes in Him is predestined to become “holy and blameless in His sight,” (vs. 4) which parallels Paul’s teaching in Rom. 8:29, which says, “he also predestined (those who love God, Rom. 8:28) to be conformed to the imagine of His Son.”  “He predestined us (“the faithful in Christ”) for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ,” (vs. 5).

According to Paul, believers “wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23)…This passage is about God predetermining the spiritual blessings for those who are in Christ through believing the word of truth (vv. 1-3)….God has invited all to come to Christ and enter into His rest (Matt. 28:19; 11:28; Mark 16:15; John 12:32; 2 Cor. 5:19–21; Col. 1:23) and He genuinely desires all to come (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Ezek. 18:30–32; Matt. 23:37; Rom. 10:21). 

All who come will be trained (sanctified, conformed to His image, Rom. 8:29) and guaranteed a place (adopted, glorified, Rom. 8:23), because that is what God has predetermined for all who are in Him.”[21]

John Wesley once preached a sermon that captured the heart of the Provisionist on this view: “God decrees from everlasting to everlasting that all who believe in the Son of his love shall be conformed to his image, shall be saved from all inward and outward sin into all inward and outward holiness . . .” In other words, God has decreed from all eternity that those who believe in Jesus will be saved and are predestined to be conformed to his image.

John Piper, a committed Calvinist, once wrote: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. This is perhaps the most important sentence in my theology.” Norma Cook Everist, in her book Does God Love Everyone? The Heart Of What's Wrong With Calvinism, points out the contradiction between this view and the Calvinist view of Double Predestination:

If God is MOST glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, then it seems God should give everyone his irresistible grace, and cause all of them to experience the great satisfaction of salvation But here is the question that screams for an answer: if this is so, why does God need to damn anyone by his sovereign choice in order for his full glory to be displayed? For the damned in hell are certainly not satisfied in God. 

So if God is MOST glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, then it seems God should give everyone his irresistible grace, and cause all of them to experience the great satisfaction of salvation. That it seems would glorify God even more according to Piper’s own claim that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” 



We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

The discussion of God and time is complex and, at times, bewildering. It might be impossible for us finite humans to ever truly understand how an infinite God interacts with time. Some key points of contention:

1.    I think all parties agree that God can know anything that can be known (#ommiscience). But...are the specific future decisions of individuals with libertarian free will a thing that can known (foreknowledge), or are the possible choices and the ultimate choice what can be known (dynamic omniscience), or is it merely possible choices that God finds out about when they happen (Open Theism)?[23] 

2.     If God’s knows what people will freely choose – and God cannot be wrong – does that means people can’t choose otherwise when the time comes…which sounds like determinism. On the other hand, if God transcends time, He knows the end from the beginning, so He knows without being the one who put the decision in cement. 

The Provisionist view is that foreknowledge is not determinism. God’s transcendence of the limitation of chronological time means that He  knows what people will freely choose, are freely choosing, and have freely chosen. As for what Provisionists reject in this point (see above), I will quote Leighton Flowers at length to circle back to the character and nature of God. 

“1 Cor. 13:4-8: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

Is God patient with the reprobate of Calvinism, who He ‘hated’ and rejected before he was born or had done anything good or bad? Is God kind to those He destines to torment for all eternity without any regard to their own choices, intentions, or actions?  Does God honor the non-elect by allowing them to enjoy a little rain and sunlight before they spend an eternity suffering for something with which they had absolutely no control over? n Is God not easily angered by those who are born under His wrath and without hope of reconciliation?  Does God keep the record of wrongs committed by reprobates? Does the so-called “love” of God for the non-elect fail or does it persevere?

Given that biblical definition of love as “self-sacrifice,” let us consider Christ’s command to love our enemies. Is this an expectation Christ Himself is unwilling to fulfill? In other words, is He being hypocritical in this command by telling us to do something He is unwilling to do? Of course not. The very reason He told His followers to love their enemies is ‘in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…’ (Matt. 5:45).

The meaning is undeniable. We are to love our enemies because God loves His enemies. He loves both ‘the righteous and the unrighteous’ in exactly the same way we are told to love our enemies. Paul taught, ‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.’ And again in Romans 13:8: ‘He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.’ Thus, to deny Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for everyone is to deny that He fulfilled the demands of the law. This would disqualify Him as the perfect atoning sacrifice.”[24]



We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. 

We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.

Clement (35-99 AD) wrote:

“It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction. . . . He who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice. . . . For no other reason does God punish the sinner either in the present or future world, except because He knows that the sinner was able to conquer but neglected to gain the victory.”

Basically, people with libertarian free will are responsible for their response to the appeal of the Gospel because they actually have response-ability. If God made them incapable of responding, they are not responsible. God is.

“The vast majority of modern Calvinists instead hold to some form of soft determinism or, as it is also commonly called, compatibilism. Compatibilism holds that an action of a human agent, even though determined, is nonetheless free if it is in accordance with the agent’s desires (i.e., determinism and free will are thus considered to be compatible, hence the name compatibilism). Moreover, theistic compatibilists generally argue that for any agent in any actual situation, God has determined sufficient conditions (whether external or internal) to be present in that situation to ensure that the agent will desire to act (and will thus choose to act) as God has prior decreed him to act. Compatibilists, then, generally hold that God decisively conditions the desires of human agents to freely choose as God has determined.”[26]

Summary: either God makes the decision for you, or God orchestrates nature and nurture such that you can’t help but choose how God determines you to choose. It feels like a difference with a minimal distinction. In both cases, people are not exercising the kind of agency that could hold them culpable for their decision. Meanwhile,

Libertarian Free Will (or contra-causal freedom) is ‘the categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action.’ So, in relation to soteriology, LFW is mankind’s ability to accept or reject God’s appeal to be reconciled through faith in Christ. Given that mankind is held responsible for how they respond to Christ and His words (John 12:48), there is no biblical or theological reason to suggest that mankind is born unable to respond to His powerful, life-giving words (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:15-16; Rm. 10:17; John 6:63; 20:31). It makes no practical sense to hold mankind responsible (response-able) to Christ’s words, if indeed they are unable-to-respond to those words, nor is it ever explicitly taught in Scripture.”[27]

We believe that Jesus was truly God and truly human, right? It’s why he could be the perfect substitution for us. This means Jesus had to be like us, and we had to be like Jesus. It’s worth noting that Jesus clearly exercised free will: 

“No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:18)

I like this summary: 

“If God is ultimately responsible for men’s response to His own appeals then it would be irrational to call them responsible. People are held responsible to God’s Word because they have the moral capacity to respond to it by either suppressing it or believing it. By believing it they aren’t meriting their own righteousness; instead, God is graciously crediting them with the righteousness of Christ.”[28]



We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.

We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.

Summary: those who truly commit to following Jesus are sealed by the Holy Spirit, which is a God-side seal, not an us-side seal. God keeps His own and never stops working in them to transform ever increasingly into the image of Jesus. Apostasy, then, is a term we apply to those who appeared to follow Jesus but never truly did.

In the end, the marker is perseverance. I like the image of the Fellowship in the Lord Of The Rings – a fellowship which included Borimir. He was not always strong, but he finish well and true. He had a particular kind of character embedded in him. 



We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.

We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God, in His grace, has ordained the Gospel to be that which penetrates the murkiness of our depravity-stained souls. It is sufficient to make us responsible, as it invokes a ‘response ability.’ 

Once again, Provisionism allows for the possibility that God reveals the gospel supernaturally to those who without the Gospel who respond to the truth God gives them through general revelation and their conscience. If follows from the principle that those who are faithful with little will be given much. “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27

[1] I say “an” and not “the” because there is variety in Arminian theology.

[2] I say “a” and not “the” because Calvinist’s don’t always pluck all the petals from the TULIP.

[3] That’s painting with a broad brush. This is a short article. Work with me.

[4] For example, I’m evangelical, but, wow, does that make me cringe a lot.

[5] Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9

[6] I am not aware that Provisionism requires a particular belief in the nature of hell (ECT? Annihilation?)

[7] Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6;Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15

[8] Leighton Flowers, The Potter’s Promise

[9] Psalm 22:1-31; Isaiah 53:1-12; John 12:32, 14:6; Acts 10:39-43; Acts 16:30-32; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Col. 1:13-20; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 9:12-15, 24-28; 10:1-18; I John 1:7; 2:2

[10] Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19

[11] From admin at Soteriology101, “Are You Better Than Your Friend Who Refused To Believe?”

[12] Luke 15:24; John 3:3; 7:37-39; 10:10; 16:7-14; Acts 2:37-39; Romans 6:4-11; 10:14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20; 6:15; Colossians 2:13; 1 Peter 3:18

[13] “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?” from the admins at Soteriology101. 

[15] See also John 1:9; Acts 17:24-27; Romans 1:19-21; Romans 2:14-16; Romans 10:17-18; Colossians 1:5-6, 23; Titus 2:11.

[16] Genesis 1:26-28; 12:1-3; Exodus 19:6;Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 24:31; 25:34; John 6:70; 15:16; Romans 8:29-30, 33;9:6-8; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:11-22; 3:1-11; 4:4-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 7:9-10; 2 Timothy 2:8-10

[17] This has been called “Election To Service.” Israel was chosen to serve God’s purpose of bringing the Messiah and his message to the rest of the world – all the world was intended to be blessed through them.

[18] Also called Corporate Election. 

[19] Leighton Flowers, in The Potter’s Promise

[20] “People are not in hell to highlight God’s compassion, love, and grace by pedestaling his contrasting wrath and holiness; the death of Christ sufficiently displayed that.” (Ronnie Rogers, “Calvinism and the Problem of Damnation in Hell.”)

[21] Leighton Flowers, The Potter’s Promise

[22] Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17

[23] That is almost certainly an unfair description, but this is not a book. Work with me.

[24] Leighton Flowers, The Potter’s Promise

[25] Genesis 1:26-28; Numbers 21:8-9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; Esther 3:12-14; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:20-24; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-24; 13:34; 15:17-20; Romans 10:9-10; Titus 2:12; Revelation 22:17

[26] “Philosophical Reflections on Free Will,”  Robert L. Hamilton

[27] Leighton Flowers, “The Doctrine of Free Will.”

[28] Leighton Flowers – but I’m not sure where I got this. 

[29] John 10:28-29; 14:1-4; 16:12-14; Philippians 1:6; Romans 3:21-26; 8:29,30; 35-39; 12:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:17; Ephesians 1:13-14; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 1:21-22; 1 John 2:19; 3:2; 5:13-15; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 13:5; James 1:12; Jude 24-25

[30] Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5


No comments:

Post a Comment