Concepts of Interaction

If a Calvinist and an Arminian were together, which were would be more inclined to underemphasize God's being in time and responding to our actions? Which one would be more inclined to underemphasize God's decreeing all before the beginning of time and initiating actions the people respond to? Sometimes, it is easy to lose sight of the closely intertwined initiation and responsiveness of God.

Some have said hyper-Calvinism borders on heresy, Wesleyan Arminianism makes God appear a passive, fretting God, and Calvinism makes God appear a cold, puppetmaster and ultimate author of sin. What is the truth about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility? I believe the truth is beyond our current understanding, but the theory of "Interaction" is an attempt not just to harmonize all the verses of the Bible on these subjects, but to also use and require all these verses. The paper is a brief definition of the concepts behind interaction.

Interaction: God's sovereignty on one side, man's freedom and responsibility to respond to God on another side, and God's justice on a third side, cannot be understood in isolation from each other. Like three sides of a triangle, the truth can only be illustrated by looking at all three parts. Fundamental to this understanding, are the concepts that God works both in eternity and in time. God's will and working can be both invariant, actively decreed, coerced, and initiating on one side, and dynamic, responsive, permissive, and interactive on the other hand. God is free to combine these elements as He pleases.

Sovereignty: God has one and only one limit on His power: Himself. God's sovereignty does not mean total control. It means that nothing happens beyond what He allows, everything happens that He decrees, and He can even decree freedom within limits, which can make Him angry and heartbroken.

If this was false in one way, then the Bible should not call God the Almighty. If this was false in another way, then those who talk back to God do so because God decreed it.

Absolute Control: God absolutely controls everything He wants to, but He does not have to absolutely control everything, He can allow freedom within whatever limits He wishes. He absolutely controls both the big things and little things He wishes.

If this was false, then God would be the maker of evil robots.

Ordained: God ordains all things, even things that did not originate in His mind. Nothing occurs except within the limits He allows, but things occur that bring Him joy and heartbreak. Everything God decrees occurs, but God does not decree or force all things. Everything, even evil, can be used by God. All, even freely chosen evil actions, are used as a part of His plan, though He did not decree them.

If this is not true in one way, then a Holy God chooses to decree evil to exist, somewhat like a mob boss orders a hit man to murder someone. If this is false in another way, then God's ultimate will could be frustrated.

Choice: The Father Choosing Jesus to come to earth did not mean Jesus Himself did not have a choice. Before the fall, God's control was such that Adam and Eve had choices. Since the Fall, God has not bound our choices more than Adam, but sin has bound our choices.

Free Will: God has free will. If God can do all things, God is capable of voluntarily choosing to limit Himself and give creatures free will within the limits He has set. A skid-row alcoholic may have lost the freedom and power to give up drinking on his own, but He has the freedom to cry for help and stumble into an alcohol rehab center. We have lost the freedom to be righteous on our own, but all have the freedom to cry for help from Jesus.

Total Depravity: Since the fall, none can do good, please God, respond to God, or even seek God on their own. Of course David and many have sought God, but this is by God's grace. God gives a measure of this grace to all. As the Pharisees were more guilty after Jesus came, we are accountable for what we have been given.

Irresistible Will: As Augustine taught God's will is irresistible. A person can do what is against God's desired will, but the consequences are irresistible. Many do things that bring God's wrath, but none, not even Satan, are capable of disobeying God's decreed will.

Evil: Evil is alien to the nature of God. God is not the author of it. Evil is a twisting of what is good. It is a parasite of good, as shadows and darkness are a parasite of light. God hates it, but good uses it in His plan. God permits evil because of His value of human freedom and His not desiring human robots.

If this was false, then evil occurs because a Holy God decreed it, and like His other decrees, ensured it would happen.

In Time and Timeless: God is both in time and timeless. Jesus was in space and time on earth; He may still be so. God often feels love and wrath when events occur. It appears in the Bible that He has permitted His will, in some instances, to be partially dependent on our will. On the other hand, God sees all eternity, He is the eternal now, and if the present is defined as where past certainty and future possibility meet, all times are the present to time's Creator.

If this was false in one way, then God's interaction with man in the Bible is an illusion. If this was false in another way, then God does not really see the future, but only predicts and decrees it.

Foreknowledge: God not only foresees all, He sees all. As a crude analogy, many video games have both an aerial and ground level view. My certain knowledge of what Jeremiah did in the past did not force Jeremiah to do this, neither did God's. Jeremiah's certain prophecy of Judah's choices did not force them to do that or relieve them of responsibility, neither did God's knowledge.

Predestination: Foreknowledge precedes predestination. God does not choose everything before knowing, and God does not know everything and then choose. There is interaction.

Salvation: The Gospel is offered to all, and to be obeyed by all; no one can say Christ was not my ransom and did not die for me. There is none whom Jesus is unable to save, and none whom Jesus desires to go to Hell. On the other hand, there will be no empty mansions in heaven. For all, there is only One Way to God. Outside of salvation is a banner that reads "whosoever will." Inside of salvation is a banner that reads "welcome you who were chosen from the foundation of the world."

If this was false, then people who believe Christ did not die for them might believe the truth. People who see the need for a mediator between them and God might be seeking one in Mary, Mohammed, or Moon, because they are not going to get one from God.

Kindness: Praise God that is no sadistic vivisectionist, who breeds sentient animals for His good pleasure of eternal torture.

If this was wrong, then Calvinist John Gill is right: it does please God to send the wicked to Hell.

Wrath: God's wrath shows we are truly free; and He is often heartbroken over sin. There are none whom God desires to go to Hell. However, just as George Washington choose, but did not desire, to sign the execution paper of a personal friend who was a traitor, God chooses, but does not desire, to pour out His wrath on the ungodly.

If this was false, then as a little child can get angry with His toy or coloring book, God would have wrath because of what He decreed and ordained.

Justice: God has revealed that sin is not counted where there is no law, curses and sinful nature can pass through descendants, but each one is punished for their own sin.

If this is false, then God being just or unjust is not verifiable, and God's justice is a meaningless term. Breeding people with no option but eternal torture can be called just, too.

Fairness versus Equity: God is fair and just to all. However, God does not give to all equally. Matthew 20 shows that God is just to all. He is not more just to some, but equally just to all. However, God is more generous to some than others, and He has the right to be. Saul of Tarsus, and his assistants justly deserved the wrath of God. God by His grace and mercy, chose and saved Saul, later renamed Paul. He was more generous to Saul than to his assistants, but God was not any less just to Saul's assistants.

Imputed Righteousness: God's justice is based on our works: deeds, words and thoughts, and things not done. Based on this, we are all guilty because of the choices we were free to make. God sent Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, the sacrifice is efficacious for all who repent and believe.

If this is false on one hand, then universalism is true and the verses on everlasting punishment are false. Infralapsarian Calvinist Loraine Boettner says the other extreme, Supralapsarian Calvinism, is just as bad a Universalism. God does NOT desire the death of the wicked.

Generosity: God does not give the same to all, nor does being Just require Him to. God does not love all persons the same. God is fair and just to all, even Pharaoh, Esau, and Judas. God would be just to treat Paul like King Herod, but God is very gracious to Paul, - and to us.

Forgiveness: God forgives our sins; however the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin. God's elect will not commit this. People who never stop refusing to come to Jesus to have life will not be forgiven without repentance.

Perseverance: God knows those who are the elect; their number will never change. We are not only dependent on God for getting salvation, but we can depend on God to preserve our salvation. We have a responsibility to persevere and test ourselves though, for there is counterfeit conversion and the falsely assured.

If this was false on one hand, then we might get saved by grace but stay saved by works. If this was false on the other hand, then the many verses exhorting us to guard our salvation are moot.

The Best of All Possible Worlds: Why did God permit sin, Satan, and the fall? This is certainly not the best of all possible worlds. Rather, God is in the process of making citizens for the best of all possible worlds; people who though born in sin, freely chose to love Him, let Him live in them, and who can sing of His glories forever. People who have the freedom to sin, but having been tested, will sin no more.

Responsibility Does Not Exceed Our Choices: The early church took sin very seriously, but they held a slave girl as totally innocent if her master forced her to have sex.

Repentance and believing Jesus are involved in regeneration

Synchronization: Two events or states, such that if A is true B then is true, and if B is true then A is true. A and B could happen at the same time, different times, or one could be beyond time. A person truly choosing to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and God electing that person to be among the elect are synchronous events.

Elect and Reprobate: The elect are those who God foreknows and chooses to have eternal life in heaven. The reprobate are those who God foreknows and chooses to be tortured forever in the Lake of Fire. There are varying degrees of rewards and punishments.

Arminianism: A family of theologies many true Christians have. Extreme Arminianism has five key problems:
¬ Total Autonomy - Man's Freedom Misdefined
¬ Human Will, Intelligence, and Desire is not Bound
¬ Only our Choice to Get and Stay saved
¬ Repentance Precedes God's Work
¬ No Prerogative, Generosity, or Special Love for Elect
Many Arminians do not have the errors here.

Calvinism: A closely-related family of theologies many true Christians have. Some Calvinists have five key problems:
¬ Total Control - God's Sovereignty Misdefined
¬ Humans are Blamed for Adam's Guilt
¬ Only Grace, Faith is just Another Work
¬ Responsibility with No Respond-ability
¬ No Compassion, Offer, Mediator for the Reprobate
Many so-called 3 and 4 point Calvinists do not have the errors here, but then Calvinists do not consider them true Calvinists.

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by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.