Monday, November 30, 2009

Free Will and 2 Peter 3:9

The following is my response to an AOMin email. Enjoy =)



Thanks for your email and your interest in the subject of Calvinism. The single greatest point I would like to begin with is one that you stated in your email: "I've just always assumed we have free will." In other words, one of your presuppositions is that men have "free will." Two questions seem to logically follow this statement: (1) How do you define "free will;" (2) Upon what basis do you say that men have "free will?"

In my experience, most folks tend to define "free will" to mean the following: an inherent ability within sinful man to be able to spiritually accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only does the Bible not define the term "free will" in this way, but it simply does not define it at all. I would suggest that the Bible very clearly teaches the opposite of the definition I listed above. In fact, the Word of God emphatically teaches that because of our fallen state we are unable to repent and believe, or perform any spiritually-pleasing act before God's sight.

Because I want to zone in on your question relatively soon, I'll list a handful of passages on the subject with a book recommendation or two for further study. Ephesians 2:1-4, John 6:37-44, Romans 3:10-11, Romans 9:10-18. Two books that I would recommend to you are The Potter's Freedom and Drawn by the Father both authored by James White.

Now onto your question: "How does a Calvinist explain 2 Peter 3:9? It says God doesn't want "anyone to perish", "but everyone to come to repentance". How can that be if God has predetermined who will perish, and who will be saved? Unless he is drawing everyone to him, which can't be true." If you will allow me, note that this question is only indirectly related to man's ability, or lack thereof, to spiritually come to Christ in faith. However, I think it is a perfectly valid question regarding the Calvinist perspective on predestination: If God has foreordained those whom He would save, how can He also desire every person who has ever lived or ever will live to be saved?

I'll give you my conclusion first, then explain my reasoning in how I interpret this passage. My conclusion is simply that God does not desire to save every person who has ever lived or ever will live. How can I say this in light of 2 Peter 3:9? I think the answer is actually in the text ... but we must pay attention to the pronouns.

The Apostle Peter starts off this epistle addressing a particular audience when he writes: "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1, NASB). This same audience is being addressed in chapter 3, but a contrast between a second group is made throughout the chapter. After reminding this group of Saints that this is his second letter written for them (vs 1), he then introduces a distinct group of people he describes as "mockers," "scoffers," and "ungodly men." This second group, a group of unbelieving men, are referred to using pronouns such as "they" and "them."

After such a clear distinction can be seen between the Christians ("beloved," "you") and the non-Christians ("their," "they") we arrive at verse 9. If you follow the pronouns, and the distinction that Peter himself is making in the text, the questions can then be asked: Who is God patient towards? Who does God not desire to perish? The simple answer is that God is patient towards the "you," and He does not desire the "any" and "all" to perish. The question then becomes: Who is the "you," "any," and "all?" Without inserting a foreign meaning onto the text (commonly called "eisegesis") Peter is referring to Christians. God is patient in His coming for the sake of His elect people, and desires that all of His chosen ones will be saved. Other explanations of this text make the "you," "any," and "all" mean something that is foreign to the context.

I hope this was helpful for you. Please let me know if you would like to discuss this further, or have any further questions.

Because of Christ,
Casey (Rusty) Ryan

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