Free-Willers Will the Will of God

Calvinists imagine that Arminians and other non-Calvinists want their own will to be done in the earth -- that they want to be autonomous from the will or desire(s) of God. John Piper confesses that, during his time as a non-Calvinist, he perceived of free will and the sovereignty of God as indicating that God can do anything with people that the people give Him permission to do. (link) (emphasis added) That notion is not Arminian teaching; that is a caricature of Arminianism constructed by Calvinists.

Arminians agree with Calvinists like John Piper that ultimate self-determination belongs to God alone. (link) What we deny is the Calvinist's deterministic error that presumes God, as the inevitable Author of sin, has decreed, rendered certain, and brings to fruition our desires to choose sin, wickedness, evil. Piper comments:
I think most lay people, when they talk about free will, just mean, "I really choose," and of course you do [in Calvinism one chooses what God decreed he choose]. So fine, you have free will. We all do. But those who are theologically thinking and writing about this, what they mean is that I, John Piper, am able, ultimately and decisively, to determine my own will, and God cannot and does not [have anything to do with that determination] when I chose that he won't [have anything to do with that determination]. So I have that kind of autonomy in the universe. (link)
Though Piper contradicts his own theology here is beyond the point. What is most significant is the agreement between the Arminian and the Calvinist that God is the ultimate Determiner in the universe. Arminius insists that God knows all that can be known, which is exhaustive in nature, and that this knowledge includes what He "can do about the acts of the creatures ... consistently with Himself or with these acts."1 The ultimate Decree of God is eternal and God "does nothing in time which He has not decreed to do from all eternity."2 Still Calvinists do not believe Arminians when they insist that God is sovereign because Arminians reject the error of determinism.


There is no inconsistency in the two-fold biblical concept that God sovereignly allows us to will contrary to His wishes and yet He remains completely sovereign. Does God influence us, through His Holy Spirit, toward that which is good? Yes. Does God influence us, through His Holy Spirit, toward that which is evil? God forbid. Arminians deny any perception that God influences anyone toward that which is evil; and this is explicitly what Calvinists teach: God has decreed, rendered certain, and brings to fruition even that which is evil. The Calvinist God is the Author of sin.

The devout Arminian or non-Calvinist longs not only for the will of God to be done, on earth as it is being carried out perfectly in heaven (Matt. 6:10), but also for the will of the creature him- or herself to align with the perfect will of God. We agree with medieval Dutch priest Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471) when he instructs us: "My son, say thus in everything: 'Lord, if this be pleasing unto You, so let it be (James 4:15). Lord, if it be to Your honor, in Your name let this be done. Lord, if You see it expedient for me, and approve it to be useful, then grant unto me that I may use this to Your honor.'"3 Our longing is not for our will to be done but for God's will to be done in and through us for His glory, and the glory of Jesus Christ, by the power and ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We do not love our will but the perfect will of God.

We also understand that there exist three wills in our reality: the will of God, the will of human beings, and the will of the Devil and his ministers. Thomas warns us of the difficulty in judging "truly whether a good spirit or the contrary drive you to desire this or that or whether by your own spirit you be moved thereto."4 We must judge our own motives and our desires and will by the holy word of God. Most often in life we can find the will of God in the word of God -- our ultimate divine authority.

Thomas writes: "You must commit the whole matter," whatever matter arises, "to [God] with special resignation of yourself, and say, O Lord, You know what is the better way, let this or that be done, as You shall please."5 Do not allow any Calvinist, or anyone else for that matter, persuade you that Arminians seek the defense of their own autonomous will. Free-willers desire and will the will of God to be accomplished because God is perfect, God is righteous, and we can always trust God to act with justice (Gen. 18:25). We conclude, along with Thomas, "Behold, I am Your servant," O God, "prepared for all things; for I desire not to live unto myself, but unto You; and oh, that I could do it worthily and perfectly!"6 Now this is the heart of Arminianism.


1 Jacob Arminius, "Disputation XVII. On the Understanding of God," in The Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 2:341.

2 Ibid., 2:227.

3 Thomas à Kempis, Of the Imitation of Christ (New Kensington: Whitaker House, 2005), 109.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid., 110.

6 Ibid.


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.