Growing up Mormon, I believed mankind lived in heaven with God before mortality. Prior to coming to earth, Jesus presented the Father’s plan to us. We would be granted bodies and the ability to choose between good and evil. Since we would all sin, Christ would atone for all mankind. This would grant salvation to those who repented of their sins.
In the midst of this, Lucifer rebelled, taking a third of the hosts of heaven with him. His platform involved taking away men’s freedom of choice so everyone would come back to heaven. As a reward for doing this, he would take God’s throne.
War ensued in heaven and Lucifer and his followers were cast down to earth, never to receive physical bodies or a chance at redemption.
I believed God’s gift of free will, or agency, was ultimately what made Him good. I was perfectly content to embrace open theism to protect God from the evil in the world. A God who couldn’t stop the world’s evil was preferable to a God who condoned it.
Like most Latter-day Saints, I had deep misgivings about Calvinism. I believed it was Luciferianism in the truest sense: the cancer of Christianity. It was diametrically opposed to Mormonism. If any of its five points were true, it would undermine everything I believed.
However, as the years went by I became disenchanted with Mormonism and embraced Christianity instead.
In Moses 7 in the Pearl of Great Price, Enoch allegedly sees God crying in a vision. In awe he asks, “How is it that thou canst weep?”
In verses 32-34 God answers,
“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;
And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;
And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.”
In summary, God weeps for two reasons. First, He can’t violate the agency of man and make him obey. And second, He must punish his children, even though he doesn’t want to.
To be frank, this is pathetic. To say God begrudgingly deals out justice is to say justice isn’t an integral part of His nature. Furthermore, if God is fretting about people’s salvation to the point of tears, how am I supposed to be confident in anyone’s salvation, including my own?
A being that helpless is not worthy of worship.
The other day at church someone stated that everyone who goes to hell will have had their sins paid for. It made no sense and left a bad taste in my mouth. Even with the ransom theory of atonement, the oppressor was supposed to relinquish his captives when payment was made.
Was Christ’s blood insufficient payment? I decided I needed to examine other alternatives, including Calvinism.
While reading Exodus and Romans 5, the strength of the Reformed position came into focus. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush He sent him to tell Pharaoh to let his people go.
In Exodus 3:19-22 (ESV) God gives Moses the whole playbook. He says:
“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
In Mormonism, and I suspect other Arminian perspectives, God can’t know for certain what we will do with our freedom of choice. He can make an educated guess, but can never be 100% sure.
But God doesn’t tell Moses they’re going to play it by ear depending on Pharaoh’s actions. Instead He gives out spoilers. Any number of choices could have upset the playbook. Pharaoh could have let the Israelites go. Or after experiencing the plagues of Egypt, Pharaoh might have continued to hold Israel hostage. Finally, the Egyptians could have withheld their jewelry.
The point is, God was willing to take that bet because he knew how things would turn out. In the midst of the Exodus story we see something shocking. God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. For all intents and purposes, the king of Egypt is God’s puppet and there is never a moment where the Lord is not in control.
When Israel is led out of captivity it isn’t because of a choice they made. It’s because God chose them. In fact, many times during the trip they complain that they should have died in Egypt. Yet despite their will, God continues to save them.
Romans 5 also blew my mind when reading through it. It was so contrary to everything I believed as a Latter-day Saint. There I learned that Jesus was a second Adam. When the first Adam sinned his transgression was imputed to us and when Jesus died his righteousness was imputed instead.
Verse 19 is of particular interest. It reads:
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19 ESV)
The implication this verse makes is staggering. Adam’s transgression is accredited to mankind despite our inaction, and this verse seems to say the same of the atonement.
I’m not ready to become a Calvinist yet. I feel I’m just now getting acquainted with the real Calvinism. God’s sovereignty is definitely it’s strong point, and God’s decree of evil is its stumbling block. But even Arminianism has to grapple with this.
If God knew what Satan would do but made him anyway, then He’s complicit. And if God watches the evil of the world and can stop it but doesn’t, then He can be accused of sins of omission rather than commission.
The choice seems to boil down to two things: would I rather have a God who frets tearfully over the ones He cannot save, or a God who is in control 100% of the time, even if I don’t agree with who He chooses to save and who He doesn’t?
The Bible describes Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. As an author myself, I suspect that if Jesus is author and editor of my faith, that doesn’t leave me a part.
For me, the pendulum is swinging towards the God who is sovereign.