12 God’s Decree

Calvinism stresses God’s absolute control over everything. God is credited as the mastermind and ultimate cause of all things. This understanding of God’s sovereignty is firmly established among Calvinists:

“[N]othing happens other than what God decrees.”[1]

~John Calvin

“The Scriptures make it very clear that no one can frustrate the eternal counsel and will of God. God always gets exactly what He wants.”[2]

~Steven Houck

“God Himself actively brings about all things … God sovereignly works in all things in such a way that He makes all things do what He has willed in His eternal counsel. All things, not just some things, always do exactly what He has determined. They do exactly what He has determined just because God Himself works that in them. All of history and everything in history is exactly as God has willed it. The world is not out of control. Even the most minute details take place according to His eternal will and counsel.”[3]

~Steven Houck

“God’s decree is synonymous with God’s will.”[4]

~Patrick Mel

“God did certainly decree from the beginning everything which should befall the race of man.”[5]

~John Calvin

“I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree.”[6]

~John Calvin

“God … effects, and moves and impels all things in a necessary, infallible course …”[7]

~Martin Luther

“Hence, we find every matter resolved, ultimately, into the mere sovereign pleasure of God, as the spring and occasion of whatsoever is done in heaven and earth.”[8]

~Augustus Toplady

“The Sovereignty of God over all, and his independency, clearly shew, that whatever is done in time is according to his decrees in eternity.”[9]

~John Gill

“God predestinates all things whatsoever, both animate and inanimate.  His decree includes all angels, both good and evil.”[10]

~David West

“Not as much as a fly can settle upon you without the Creator’s bidding, any more than the demons could enter the herd of swine until Christ gave them permission.”[11]

~Arthur W. Pink

“It is impossible that any thing should be done, but that to which God impels the will of man.”[12]

~William Twisse

“Nothing comes to pass contrary to his decree. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which he abhors and forbids, occurs ‘by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.’”[13]

~William Shedd

“If God did not foreordain all things, then he could not know the future. God foreknows and knows all things because He decreed all things to be.”[14]

~Arthur W. Pink

“God only permits that which is according to His will.”[15]

~Arthur W. Pink

“[N]othing happens accidentally or apart from the just decree of God”[16]

~Theodore Beza

“If God had not determined its existence, it could not have had being; unless we suppose sin to be greater than God.”[17]

~William Tucker

“What God does not will to be done, cannot be done: and what he wills, must be done.”[18]

~William Tucker

 

Arthur W. Pink teaches that, “God has appointed where each person shall reside: the particular country in which he should be born, and the very city, town, village, and house in which he shall dwell, and how long he shall remain there.”[19] Further, “Christ rules and overrules for the good of His Church the deliberations of the senate, the conflict of armies, the history of the nations.”[20] Therefore, Pink concludes that, “Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens save as God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a bare permission, for God only permits that which He has purposed.”[21]

 

The Calvinist readily accepts that nothing happens apart from God’s decree and will which God formulated in eternity past. With this in mind, Jonathan Edwards states the logical conclusion that, “The eternal decree is the cause of the necessary futurition of evil acts, for the acts inevitably follow on the decree.”[22] He also says, “If God by his decree did force men’s wills, and so necessitate them to be vicious and wicked, then he might justly be called the Author of Sin.”[23]

 

The Calvinist, John Piscator, sums it up when he says, “We neither can do more good than we do, nor less evil than we do; because God from eternity has precisely decreed that both the good and the evil be so done.” In other words, every thought that comes to mind, every motion we make with our bodies, every word that we utter, is the direct fulfillment of what God decreed. We cannot possibly do anything different from what God determined we should do. Thus, we are the product of God’s will. If we are not perfect, it is because God willed that we should not be perfect. If we are liars, it is because God determined that we should be liars. We are completely helpless to do anymore good or evil than what God has already decided that we should do.

 

According to the natural conclusion of Calvinist doctrine, we are merely puppets in the hands of God. We never truly determine to do good or evil for ourselves. Instead, we merely follow the script that God wrote for our lives in eternity past. As the Calvinist Philip Melanchthon says, “All things turn out according to divine predestination; not only the works we do outwardly, but even the thoughts we think inwardly.”[24] Nevertheless, God will judge us for our actions. How can this be? Prosper, the disciple of Augustine, realized that judgment can only occur if the individual has genuine freedom to choose to do good or evil, “By no means would there be a day of judgment, if men sinned by the will or decree of God.”[25]

 

Consider it in this way. The Calvinist claims that when God rewards Christians for their service to Him, He is merely rewarding His own merits which He placed in them. Quoting Augustine, John Calvin teaches, “‘God crowns not our merits but his own gifts; and the name of reward is given not to what is due to our merits, but to the recompense of grace previously bestowed?’”[26] In other words, man is not truly responsible for his reward; it is only God acting in his life who is being rewarded. However, when it comes to judgment, the Calvinist says that the man alone is responsible for his actions. Once again, we see the Calvinist accepting both sides of the argument even though those sides are in blatant opposition to each other. If man only does those things which God acts in His life to accomplish according to His eternal decree, then would it not be God who is truly responsible for those actions which are being judged? Thus, just as it is really God who will be rewarded in the lives of Christians, so also it must really be God who will be judged in the lives of the lost. Such an idea is preposterous, but it is the only logical conclusion of Calvinist doctrine.

 

Consider something else. According to The Westminster Shorter Catechism’s response to its seventh question, “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.”[27] If man sins because God decreed that he should sin, then man has a perfect excuse to present to God. “I couldn’t help it. God made me do it,” would be the cry of many. Likewise, if only those God elects are capable of ever coming to a point of salvation, then man would have another perfect excuse. “I didn’t have a chance,” would be the cry of many. Nevertheless, Romans 1:20 says that no man will be able to offer a legitimate excuse to God on the day of judgment.

 

Most Calvinists agree with James White when he says that man will stand “screaming his hatred at God from the parapet of hell.”[28]  James White believes that, “Every single person who enters into eternal punishment would, were they given the opportunity, freely choose to remain under punishment rather than bow the knee in loving adoration of the God they hate.”[29] Some have even gone so far as to say that condemned man will willingly and happily go to the lake of fire simply because it is the sovereign will of God. However, none of these pictures are what the Bible describes. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man wanted his family to repent in order to be spared the torment he was experiencing. Luke 16:27–30 says:

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

 

Jesus, in Luke 16, paints a far different picture of condemned man than does James White. Elsewhere we read in Matthew 7:22–23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”

 

Jesus does not speak of man screaming his hatred toward God. He does not describe men willingly and happily plunging themselves into the lake of fire. Instead, Jesus says there will be many who will attempt to reason with God. They will try to convince God to allow them into heaven. When God refuses, He says it is because they had no relationship with Jesus but chose instead to work iniquity. How can God condemn people to hell for not knowing Him and doing evil if they were truly following God’s will? How can God condemn people to hell for not having a relationship with Christ when He did not choose for them to have a relationship with Christ? If God determined that those men should never have the opportunity to know Him and, further, decreed that they should do evil, then it is God who should be condemned to hell and not those men. As preposterous as this sounds, and as distasteful as it is to even write this here, this is the logical end of Calvinist thought and doctrine. If God chose that all men should be sinners and that the majority of those sinful men should be condemned to eternal punishment, then in truth, it is not man who is really responsible for what he is or what he does. He is simply what God foreordained that he should be. Ultimately then, it is God, the maker of all that man is and does, who is responsible.  As utterly ridiculous as this is, it is the only logical and sensible conclusion of Calvinist doctrine.  This could be the argument of millions if it were true.  However, we know that this cannot be true because Romans 1:20 says that no man will be capable of providing a legitimate excuse to God.

 


  1. Calvin, Acts, 66.
  2. Houck, Bondage of the Will, “God’s Sovereign Will.”
  3. Houck, Bondage of the Will, “God’s Sovereign Will.”
  4. Mell, A Southern Baptist Looks at Predestination, Source: Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, 479.
  5. John Calvin, Concerning the Secret Providence of God, 266, Source: Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, 288.
  6. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Ch. 23, Sect. 7.
  7. Luther, Bondage of the Will, 265.
  8. Toplady, The Works of Augustus M. Toplady: Vol. V, 202.
  9. Gill, A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, 173.
  10. West, The Baptist Examiner, 5.
  11. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus, 78.
  12. Benson, The Revival and Rejection of an Old Traditional Heresy, 40.
  13. Shedd, Calvinism:  Pure and Mixed, 37.
  14. West, The Baptist Examiner, 5.
  15. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, 243.
  16. Muller, Christ and the Decree, 84.
  17. Tucker, Predestination, L. xvii, 124, Source: Benson, The Revival and Rejection of an Old Traditional Heresy, 92.
  18. Tucker, Predestination, L. c., 67, Source: Morrell, Is God the Author of Sin?.
  19. Pink, Gleanings in Joshua, 73.
  20. Pink, Gleanings from Paul, 153.
  21. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, 147.
  22. Jonathan Edwards, On the Decrees, Book I, Ch. 3, 125, Source: Benson, The Revival and Rejection of an Old Traditional Heresy, 41.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, 15.
  25. Prosper, Pros. ad. obj. 10, Vinc., Source: Fletcher, The Works of the Reverend John Fletcher, Volume 2, 205.
  26. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Ch. 5, Sect. 2.
  27. Westminster Shorter Catechism, response to the 7th question.
  28. Dave Hunt, Debating Calvinism, 51.
  29. Ibid, 13.

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God's Decree Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Zebell. All Rights Reserved.

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