Free Will and the "Oh Well!" Creed
What is free will? Free will is a doctrine that teaches that man can act
independently of God. This should already ring sour to the spiritually-attuned
ear. The doctrine of free will teaches that man has the freedom to choose or
reject God, never mind the verse that says no man is seeking God (Rom. 3:11).But I remind you that we’re talking about free will; Scripture has nothing
to do with this.
In other words, in the doctrine of free will, man becomes the deciding
factor in his own salvation. Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, according to
this doctrine, was only a potential salvation, not an actual one. According to
this doctrine, the cross of Christ never saved anybody; the cross
only saves those who decide to be saved. What about the verse that says no one
can come to the Son unless the Father draws him? (Jn. 6:44). Never mind it. What
about the verses that say God is the Savior of all mankind (1 Tim. 4:10), and
that the blood of the cross will reconcile all to Him (Col. 1:20), whether those
on the earth or those in the heavens? Never mind them. Then what about the verse
that says God is operating all things in accord with the counsel of His
will? (Eph. 1:11) Again, never mind. I have already told you. Scripture has
nothing to do with this. We’re talking about free will.
Scripture is strong medicine
Reader, if you believe in the free will of man, please investigate the ninth
chapter of Romans in any version you please, come back, then tell me if you
still believe in it. If you still do, then read Romans 11:32. If you still
believe in free will after that, take a little tea, massage your temples, and
read John 6:44. You say you’ve read these verses and you still believe
in free will? Very well; perhaps your neck needs cracked. If you do not know a
good chiropractor, try it yourself. Place one hand on your head, another on your
chin and yank. Ah! Now read Ephesians 1:4. Still? Perhaps bed is the
Go to bed, rise tomorrow with a clear head, then read Proverbs 16:9, 19:21
and 1 Kings 22:22. If, for whatever reason—medical or otherwise—you still
believe in free will, take Daniel 4:35, Jeremiah 10:23, Proverbs 21:1, Proverbs
20:24 and Isaiah 10:15 and call me in the morning. As long as you are neither
pregnant nor nursing a baby, take two readings of Ephesians 1:11. Caution:
do not exceed this recommended dosage. At higher doses, unbearable relief may
Warning: these verses may cause excitability in theologians and seminary
students. Avoid operating a motor vehicle while reading these verses. A persistent
reliance on orthodox tradition may be a sign of a serious condition. If your
belief in free will persists for more than a week, tends to recur, or is
accompanied by rash, pride (or rash pride) and a general looking down on others,
accompanied by a false estimation of self, consult your Savior.
Who chose who?
Don’t take my jolly humor the wrong way. I used to believe in free will
myself. But then a guy asked me to exercise it by deciding not to sin the
following day. I was determined to do it. My alarm clock went off and I reached
for it, but it wasn’t there; Melody had moved it to her side of the
bed. The day had hardly begun and already I had missed my alarm clock;
the word sin, in the original Greek language of Scripture, simply means "to
So much for my vaunted free will.
Deep down, many Christians believe that there is something about them that
makes them smarter than others, able to make a better decision concerning
God than others. Wouldn’t you agree that Christians who think this way would
have something to boast in? They would if an account of their salvation began
with the word "I."
Yet Paul says that, in the true gospel of grace, boasting is debarred. That’s
Romans 3:27. "Debarred" means: shut out, excluded. Do you realize what
This means that a believer cannot even claim credit for his or her ability to
believe! (Quite true, I’m afraid. Read Philippians 1:29 and Romans 12:3. The
first verse says that our belief in Christ is graciously granted us, the second
that our very faith is a gift. You’re disappointed; I can see it in your face.
But now you know the truth: You are no different than anyone else. If God hadn’t
chosen you, you’d be an unbeliever, too, just like your stupid Uncle Harry.
Take heart. Once your pride has recovered from this, you will exult in your
Savior as never before; you will need Him as you never have. (If God has used me
to save you from a fall and soften your opinion of Harry, I am happy.)
Now think about it. If a person begins an account of his or her salvation
with the word "I," then he or she is boasting. That person may say they’re
not boasting, but denial doesn’t change facts. Yet if they begin an account of
their salvation with the word "God," they are practically repudiating
the doctrine of human free will. What about you? Does an account of your
salvation begin with the word "I" or with the word
"God?" I hope that it begins with the word "God." If it
does, then you have rejected the false doctrine of the free will of man and now
believe in the free will of God. This is a good thing.
For who makes you different from anybody else, and what have you got that was
not given to you? And if anything has been given to you, why boast of it as if
you had achieved it yourself? —1 Cor. 4:7
But here we run into an apparently insurmountable problem, which also appears
quite impossible to overcome. We now understand that God has given us the belief
and faith necessary for salvation. But this leads us to a startling and
seemingly troubling conclusion: He has not given this belief and faith to
others. While this may be a hard pill to swallow at first (I recommend a little
orange juice), it is nonetheless true. As I will show, this is not a problem.
No, truth is never a problem. Discarding error is the problem.
Matthew 13:11 records these words Jesus spoke to His disciples: "To
you has it been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of the heavens, yet to
those (the throng) it has not been given."
Hear Him in Matthew 11:25- "Jesus said, ‘I am acclaiming Thee,
Father...for Thou hidest these things from the wise and
What does the Master say of Jerusalem in Luke 19:42? "If you
knew...what is for your peace! Yet now it was hid from your eyes."
Could it be that God purposely kept some from believing His Son? You
may be tempted to think that the "wise and intelligent" nailed their
own coffins, or that Jerusalem got stubborn apart from God’s influence. Resist
this temptation. I challenge you to read what these verses say, not what the
"wise and intelligent" tell you they say. God is a causer, not
a reactor. Consider the above in light of the following:
Romans 11:8- "Even as it is written, God gives them (Israel)
a spirit of stupor, eyes not to be observing, and ears not to be hearing, till
this very day."
Romans 11:32- "For God locks up all together in
Romans 9:18- "Consequently, then, to whom He will, He is merciful,
yet whom He will, He is hardening."
To the mind unprejudiced by traditional teaching, these verses say one thing:
God is responsible for unbelief. Don’t shoot the messenger! This truth is
probably causing yet another seemingly inescapable problem to trouble your mind.
That is why I am about to place that problem on a sturdy table in front of you
and offer a solution to it in the plainest possible language. I choose English.
If you believe in either the annihilation or eternal torment of Uncle Harry,
then you have encountered a serious problem. I have just shown from the
Scriptures that God is responsible, not only for withholding Himself from Uncle
Harry, but also for locking up Harry in stubbornness. Now look around you. The
world is an oblate spheroid from the weight of people like Uncle Harry;
the spiritually stubborn account for most of humanity. My question to you is:
what happens when these people die in this condition?
You say everyone gets an opportunity to believe before they die? Let’s test
this theory. Pause to consider Israel.
In Romans 11:8, Paul writes that, "even as it is written, God gives
Israel a spirit of stupor" that remains "till this very day."
Paul was quoting Isaiah 29:10. Israel’s divinely-inspired stubbornness, then,
dates at least to Isaiah’s time. (See also Isaiah 63:17 and 64:7-8.) Paul
wrote Romans around the summer of ‘58 A.D. Isaiah lived around 750 B.C. Here
alone are approximately 800 years of God-inspired stubbornness. And what of the
nearly 2000 years of stupor since? Folks, a lot of Jews have died unbelievers in
2800 years. And God, Who has not only made them stubborn (Rom. 11:8, 11:32) but
also holds the keys of death (Rev. 1:18), is responsible.
I wonder if your theology has an answer for this. I’ve been staring at that
throw rug over there by your rocking chair. All this time I thought that was
your dog lying under it. Now I see that Boscoe is chewing on the sofa. That lump
under your rug is all the verses I’ve just quoted that you’ve been sweeping
under there for most of your Christian life. I think it’s time for a little
The "Oh well!" creed
Calvinists (those folks belonging to a religion invented by John Calvin) ran
into the same problem; they simply put their dogs outside. But besides this,
they also had trouble with the idea of a sovereign God bringing billions of
people into the world, only to send most to an eternity of torment. You see, the
Calvinists at least saw the truth of the sovereignty of God; give them credit
for relatively flat rugs. They acknowledged that members of Christ’s body are
predestined for it long before birth, apart from personal merit. That’s easy
enough to see; Ephesians 1:4-5 and Romans 8:29 say as much. So hooray for the
But what of the billions of people who aren’t predestined for
heaven? What about the horrible problem of a God who purposely feeds hellfire
with divinely-hardened flesh? Well, the Calvinists finally devised a
"solution" to that: they no longer considered it a problem! Today, one
of their shortest creeds is: "Oh well!" This creed is repeated a great
deal at funerals. Calvinism so infuses the heart with Christian love that its
founder, John Calvin, once had a disagreeable Spanish theologian, Michael
Servetus, burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553. Doesn’t that hurt? I guess
only if you hold onto the match for too long.
Song and dance
At the other end of the problem stand the Arminians. These folks followed
Jacobus Arminius, who rejected Calvin’s predestination teaching of pure grace.
Arminius believed salvation was available to everyone—if they exercised
their free wills and took it (i.e. "works"). The Arminians’ rug
resembled a beret on the Matterhorn. But at least they relieved God of
responsibility for His creation. God sent them a large "thank you"
card, which can be seen at the National Free Will Museum in Meesavemyself, New
Mexico. This museum is open only if you believe that it’s open.
"If you go to hell, it’s your fault!" is the Good News of
the Arminians. This bogus gospel, passed down to the present, is believed and
preached by millions. It even makes some people want to wear robes.
But the doctrine, "if you go to hell, it’s your fault!"
does have an even more sinister side-effect than making people want to wear
robes. That side-effect is: If you go to heaven, it’s your credit. This
deduction is unavoidable. If going to hell is one’s fault, how can
staying out of it be anything but one’s credit? I give up. If I
can be stubborn enough to lose my salvation, it is self-evident that I can be
savvy enough to gain it. This little song and dance is also called
"salvation by works." But I wouldn’t tell people that this is what
they really believe. Well—I guess I would. But they won’t like to hear it.
And they sure won’t believe it.
So you say you want to get persecuted? That’s awesome. Then walk into your
average evangelistic church today and suggest to them that the blood of Christ
was shed for—and will ultimately save—everyone.
For some reason, this news will stab their hearts and they will hate your
Want to hear some sense?
Now I’m going to solve the problem and relieve your troubled mind. Don’t
credit me—give God the glory. (But I do accept Red Lobster gift certificates.)
The problem, restated, is: 1) No one can believe in God unless God gives
belief 2) He refuses to give belief to most of humanity, hardening hearts to
boot, and—here comes the problem— 3) He allegedly sends those whom He
has hardened (without the proper clothing, one would assume) to an eternity of
You will notice that the Calvinist and the Arminian viewpoint have one common
point: a belief in eternal torment. The Arminians ducked this horror by making
God not liable for sending folks to orthodox hell. The ticket out? Free will.
Free will is one of the easiest heresies to disprove from Scripture—but it
doesn’t matter. Arminian-types who believe in eternal torment are in the
embarrassing position of having to stare sovereignty-of-God verses in the face
and deny them; I’ve witnessed the phenomenon. But at least, unlike Calvinists,
they resist a God who damns people on purpose. Calvinists, delicate souls,
simply recite the "Oh well!" creed and go home.
The common problem with these two errant beliefs is—eternal torment. In my
next book, I will put together the correct part of Arminianism with the correct
part of Calvinism (discarding the rest), to show you the truth.
Photo credits: neck crack by "kaex0r";
proud doll by "Saffy"; shrugger by "orijinal"; proud robe
dude by "Drab Makyo"; Creative Commons License: Attribution
ALSO: Listen to the Martin Zender / Dan Sheridan Show
"The "Oh Well" Creed