Arminian Presupposition #4 Refuted

Arminian Presupposition #4. God would never command or invite sinners to do anything they are unable to do. If God calls sinners to believe the gospel, sinners must have the ability to believe it.

Interestingly, both Arminians and hyper-Calvinists agree on this presupposition. The difference is they take it in opposite directions. The Arminian argues that since sinners have responsibility to believe, they must have ability to do so. Hyper-Calvinists argue that since sinners have no ability to believe, they have no responsibility. Both agree that ability and responsibility must go together. The Calvinist believes it is possible for a person to be responsible to perform actions or believe propositions though he may be unable to do so.

Before I proceed further, I want to try to clarify what sort of inability I am talking about. I am not arguing that sinners are mentally, physically or psychologically unable to do what God commands. This is another type of inability altogether. The sinner’s incapacity rises from another quarter. His inability results from his unwillingness. He could come if he would, but he can’t because he won’t. Can a rebel against the king kneel and kiss his scepter? Not as long as he continues to be a rebel. Jesus said to a group of Jews who were seeking to kill him, “. . .you wish not to come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:40). Sinners in a state of nature always act in the same manner. It matters not what the form of God’s revelation, sinners will invariably act in the same manner. Sinners always suppress God’s truth (See Rom. 1:18). John wrote, “For everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).

When we say the sinner’s will is not free, we do not mean he cannot choose what he wishes. We mean he is not able to desire what he ought to. He can only choose according to his highest desires, and his supreme desires are controlled by his nature. Suppose a person is trapped in a burning car and can only escape if he cuts off a limb. If he loves his life more than he loves his limb, he will freely choose to do what he must to escape. Under other circumstances, he could never choose such a course of action, but in that situation his choice would be controlled by a higher consideration. Whatever his level of reluctance, he would choose according to his highest inclination.

As long as the sinner believes it is in his best interest to run from God, he will continue to do so. He believes he cannot trust God and that God is his enemy. He is hostile toward God and believes submission to God’s law would ruin his life. For the sinful rebel, choosing reconciliation with God is out of the question. Please remember, a person cannot choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is absolutely averse.

God’s commands and invitations do nothing to change the sinner’s nature and thus, nothing to change his desires. Who would deny that sinners are responsible to love God and their neighbor? Who would deny that sinners are responsible to repent? Does God not now command all people everywhere to repent (see–Acts 17:30)? Are sinners not responsible to do what God commands? God requires of sinners that we “do justice” (Micah 6:8). How is “justice” defined? Is it not defined by God’s law? Yet, Paul writes that the mind of the flesh is hostile toward God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed is it able to be (Rom.8:7). This is a clear indication that God requires from sinners an obedience they are unable to perform. It is the sinner’s hostility toward God that makes him unable to bow in humble submission to him.

God’s gospel is published freely and universally. Where ever this message is preached, sinners are invited and even commanded to embrace Christ as Savior. Whoever wishes may come and take of the water of life freely. God does not straight-arm anyone and tell them they cannot come because they are not of the elect. All who wish to come to Christ are welcome. It should be clear it is the sinner’s duty to come to Christ. Yet, Jesus said, “. . . no one can come to me unless the Father who has sent me should draw him. . . .” (John 6:44). Please note, he did not say no man may come. All may come. “May” is a word of permission; “Can” is a word of ability. We could translate “no person is able to come to me. . . .” Why are they unable to come? Because choosing him would be contrary to their perceived self-interest. They wanted someone who could fill their bellies; Jesus wanted to fill their souls.

The question is, does Jesus ever invite sinners to do what they are unable to do? Please compare these two statements:

Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

No one can come to me unless the Father who has send me should draw him.

One statement invites sinners to come. The other states they cannot come. You make the call.

Learn this–Sinners invariably make bad choices. Confronted with the gospel, they will always regard it as “foolishness” (see–1 Cor. 1:18). Who wants to believe a message they regard as foolishness?

The Bible commands sinners to look, but tells us they are blind. It commands them to hear but tells us they are like the dead adder that stops her ears and will not listen. It commands them to come but describes them as bound in the dungeon. It commands us to love God, but tells us that in the flesh we are hostile toward him. Where is the sinner’s vaunted ability in all this?


4 Responses to “Arminian Presupposition #4 Refuted”

  1. January 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    If I remember church hstory correctly, the thought that God would not command man do do what he could not was his stumbling block, which in turn is a denial of the effects of the Fall on the human will and the doctrine of original sin.

  2. January 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Augustine sparked the great Pegalian argument with his simple prayer, “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” This is still the crux. In fact – many reformed folk consider the covenant given Moses at Mt. Sinai to be part of the over-arching covenant of grace simply because man cannot keep the law he was given! Hence, it must be grace. No! The Word is very clear – the people of God cowered in fear at the revelation given by Moses and God told them He would always be their God, but they would only be His people if they kept ALL the law. And we know no mortal can do so – we need a savior! Christ kept the law and earned the right to pay for the sins of God’s elect. Praise the Lord!

    • January 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm


      Well, it must be grace, but as you have rightly observed, that doesn’t mean the Mosaic covenant was merely an administration of a covenant of grace. It was clearly a conditional covenant of works that Israel was both responsible to keep and unable to keep.

      Sent from my iPad

  3. January 12, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    For sure, Randy – everything we have is a gift from God, an expression of His common grace on all creation. Our English language has problems with certain words, leading some to confusion as they focus on the word rather than its context and meaning therein. We each have blind spots and must, therefore, walk humbly with other saints who will reproof and correct us and pick us up when we fall.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: