In his recent essay, How the Lord of Life Gives Life, John Piper gives us an answer to the basic question: since we are all dead in our sin, how is it that some are called to be in the light of God’s Son, and some are not?
This gets to the heart of the much-reviled Calvinist doctrine of predestination. This is very hard for many believers, including yours truly, to square with the notion that we are, each of us, free souls. Each of us free to choose to believe…or not. The heart of the argument is at Acts 13, which is part of Paul and Barnabas’ mission to the Gentiles:
47For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'”
48And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (emphasis added)
“[A]s many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” It is clear who the appointing authority was: God.
Where does this leave our vaunted free will? Isn’t it clear, crystal clear, that if God appoints us to do something, we will do it? Perhaps. The Bible is chock full of people, great and small, who did not do God’s will. Even when that will was graven on stone tablets. Those who deny God’s will may appear to get away with it in the here and now.
The point is that while we may, in theory and practice, ignore God’s will for us, the opportunity to become a saint is there for at least some of us. And, by logical inference, not there for others of us.
But the extent of evil in the world does not answer another question: what proportion of those who do evil are among those who have been chosen to receive God’s grace through His Son? And this is where our free will enters the fray: we may have been chosen, but we may ignore the call.
When we do, and I’d guess that many or us do ignore the call, it is to our eternal peril. While we may appear to avoid God’s call, we will be called before the throne to account for our actions here on earth.