Tag Archives: election

Unable or unwilling?

A Calvinist friend of mine recently asked me the difference between “unwilling” and “unable” and why I consider the two to be mutually exclusive when talking about mankind’s ability to sin or not. Here’s my reply

If I am unable I cannot be unwilling because my inability precludes my willingness either way. I know you tire of hearing it, but it’s an apt description. If I am unable then I am no better off than a robot preprogrammed to run a certain course and as such I cannot rightly be held accountable for that which I have no control over.

On the other hand, if I am unwilling then I logically have the ability to act in a manner other than that which I choose. That my actions are foreknown is not the same as saying that my actions or choices are less free. In fact, you could even say that my actions are predetermined so long as you account for my freedom to choose at some point (aka, in eternity past as part of God’s omniscience as a brute fact per Molinism).

You see, either I am truly free to choose to sin or not to sin (as the Bible teaches) or else I am unable to choose not to sin (a concept foreign to Scripture).

If I am unable to not sin then I cannot logically be held accountable or responsible for choices that are, by definition, beyond my control.

If I am unwilling to not sin then I am not only responsible for my choice but, in light of the holy standard of God, I am unable to bridge the gap I freely created.

I realize that inability and unwillingness have been tossed around the Reformed world as if they were somehow comparable but the truth is that they aren’t.

The bottom line is that we are either free and responsible or else we are not free and therefore not responsible.

Only one leaves God unstained by the sin and evil that exists in the universe since only one allows for other causal agents who had the ability to freely create and choose to sin against the will of God.


Who’s invited to the wedding?

The following is a snippet of a conversation regarding the twin Reformed doctrines of Limited Atonement and Total Depravity. More specifically, this segment of the conversation is in regards to who has been invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb.

In Matthew 25 what separated the virgins into two groups, what separated those who received talents, and the sheep and goats?

I would have to say that it was the virgins that separated themselves. I imagine God foreknew and we could even consider the ones who were wedded (virgins), faithful (talents), and sheep to be elect but that election would have to be grounded in the free decision of the individuals to choose to accept the finished work God offered (as initiated via the bridegroom, master, and shepherd).

However we must also note that traditional Calvinism with T and I firmly in place has no notion of the potter or “dead man” making any decision whatsoever (so much so that the reprobate can’t even cry out in regards to his station among the damned).

The ten virgins were  all expected to attend the wedding and it was their freely chosen actions that led to their exclusion.

All the virgins were to attend the wedding, but that some were foolish and were not prepared as a result (of their foolishness).

So if they had not been foolish, then they all would have been welcomed at the wedding?

Presumably, they would have all had enough oil to last until the bridegroom arrived if they had been wise (which we are commanded to be throughout Scripture) enough to bring extra oil. Actually it reminds me of the same lack of foresight that Esau showed when he despised his birthright. Or the odd man found in the wedding banquet who didn’t dress in proper wedding clothes.


For Esau I have hated.

One of the most common proof-texts used to show that God arbitrarily elects some to salvation while damning others without merit or cause is Romans 9:13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

Many people have a hard time with this passage as it is often posited as evidence of God’s sovereign choice unto election of Jacob and express damnation of Esau “before he had done good or evil”.

The first thing to note about this section is that the phrase “for Esau I have hated” is derived from the words of the prophet Malachi who, in Malachi 1:2-3, was talking about the nations of Edom and Israel. In the same manner Paul, writing in Romans 9 after a lengthy discussion regarding the need for his fellow Israelites to repent, was discussing the lineage of the chosen Messiah. It is a very large exegetical stretch to come to the conclusion that Romans 9 is talking about individual salvation since the context is the messiah’s lineage. consequently, the pots mentioned in Romans 9:19-26 are not people but nations.

At this point, many (primarily from the reformed camp) will argue along the lines that “nations are made up of people”. While this is true, we are still a long ways away from a particular view of election.

Hebrews 12:16 seems to indicate that Esau was a profane man but you don’t seem to think that God foreknew that or that such a knowledge could have played a part in God’s choosing. It seems plausible that the foreknown, freely made choice to sin was the basis for God’s hatred and condemnation of both the person of Esau as well as the nation that sprung from Esau’s loins; why then would we think that the same sort of freely chosen and foreknown transgressions wouldn’t be the basis of God’s choice to bring the promised seed through one and not the other?

For a more in-depth treatment of this subject I encourage you to listen to: