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Calvinist “Compatibilism” of James White

One of James White’s arguments is called the doctrine of ‘compatibilism’. Calvinism teaches that we do not have free will and that God is in control of everything. This is what Christians argue: if God is in control of everything in this world, man does not do things by his own free will, then when a person lies, steal, commits sodomy, incest and rape, did God allowed that all to happen? Was it God’s will to do all that?

What we argue against Calvinists is that we have to say that man has free will. The sins that you and I commit are from our own free will. It’s our own fault, we can’t blame it on God.

But James White argues against this with ‘compatibilism’: everything is under control by God but He is not the actual person doing the sin, that’s what they call ‘compatibilism’. God uses that bad thing for good, so mankind does the actual sin himself but God has control over that and uses it for good.

Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Here, Calvinists use this passage to show that when Joseph’s brother sold Joseph to slavery, it was not his brother’s fault, it was God’s fault that made it happen. This passage shows the doctrine of ‘compatibilism’ where mankind does the actual sin but it’s still under the control of God because He uses it for good purpose.

Isaiah 10:5-17 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few. For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus? As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria; Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols? Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;”

Here’s another example used by James White that mankind is doing the actual sin but God is using it for good, He’s still in control.

We agree with him that all things work together for good, that God can use anything, even the bad, for good. But we disagree that God was the one who caused those people to have His will and make those people sin. We believe that mankind, out of his own free will, did the sin, and God, by His own great love and mercy, uses the bad that Christians do for good.

Calvinist makes a big deal about the decree of God. It’s not the free will of man to sin, God decreed it but He’s not responsible for the sin because He’s not the one actually doing the sin, all He did was decree it to happen and mankind was the one who did the sin himself.

But we need to realize this, if God decreed a man to sin, then God sinned. The example is David decreed Uriah to be killed but God gave him the responsibility.

2 Samuel 11:14-15 “And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.”

David decreed for Uriah to be killed.

2 Samuel 12:9 “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.”

Here, God said that David killed Uriah with a sword even though he didn’t actually do it, he just decreed it.


Another argument that they use is the logic of secondary causes. God is the first cause, who decreed it to happen. The second cause is man, man is the one actually doing the sin, so don’t blame it on God. The first cause and the second cause don’t go together. The one who did the sin is man, not God.

The Bible says, man, who is supposedly the secondary cause, cannot blame it on God as the first cause because the first cause is from the man himself, not God.

James 1:13-15 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

Man is the first cause himself, don’t blame it on God. v13-15 says that God isn’t even the first cause.

In the court of law, the one who takes more blame for the murder/sin is the first cause, not the second cause. The instigator (the first cause) and author of the murder plot are going to take more blame than the one who listened to the instigator and actually did the murder (the second cause).

The doctrine of compatibility actually accuses God not only of doing the sin but He would get more blame for the sin. They have their logic all twisted. 

When we’re going through suffering and facing the consequences of sin in this world, it’s all from man. We better thank God that He quoted Romans 8:28, that despite our free will committing the sin and we have to put up with the consequences, God will still show us mercy by somehow using that for good.