All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Galatians 5:16-25: 16 But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, 21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. 25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
The Calvinist doctrine of determinism is described by many different terms: Sovereign decree; Divine decree; eternal decree; predetermined plan; predestination; meticulous providence; meticulous control; Sovereign control; etc.
Determinism is the belief that all things occur according to God’s sovereign plan and control, that nothing happens that is not by the hand of God. It’s the belief that God cannot foreknow all things without decreeing all things. They are seen as inseparable. That of course includes all sin and evil, from our very thoughts to our words to our actions and to all the events of the world. You can put the evil hearts and activities of ISIS in there too.
However, determinism is completely contrary to who God is. In fact, our text in Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit proves this doctrine to be absolutely false. It disproves it in two ways:
One: We as Christians often sin. If determinism is true, if God is carrying out all things with meticulous control – including our sins as Christians – then the Holy Spirit is working against Himself as He’s developing His fruit in our lives. The idea that God is somehow working sin in our lives on the one hand, while working the fruit of the Spirit on the other, is not only contradictory, but bizarre. Even if Calvinists try to explain God’s sovereignty in a way that doesn’t make Him the author of sin, the logical implications of their deterministic theology must lead to that obvious conclusion. If nothing in this world happens apart from God’s decree, as determinism teaches, then to deny such a conclusion is to deny sound reasoning.
Two: As Christians, as children of God with a new nature, we’re to grow to become like our Father, because like begets like. If God’s attributes and the way He carries out His will is different than our own as His children, then it removes any real meaning to the “fruit of the Spirit” and “Christ-likeness.” If what we understand and experience (regarding the fruit of the Spirit and of Christ-likeness) is different than who God is Himself and how He Himself works out His will in all things, then clearly, God is working against Himself…..and that’s just what determinism has God doing. However, God is always consistent with Himself. All His attributes always work in harmony with one another and at all times.
Accordingly, our understanding of right and wrong, light and darkness, goodness, righteousness, holiness, love, mercy, grace, justice, compassion, etc. must come from God, and must also be a reflection of who He Himself is. Our understanding of God and His character comes not only through His Word, but also through the fruit that He Himself produces in us.
While this should be clear enough, I want to take time to take a closer look at our text in Galatians:
16 But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.
If God is somehow involved in the fulfillment of the “lusts of the flesh,” then how can we at the same time “walk by the Spirit?” Paul is clear here. The flesh and the Spirit are “against” each other. They are “contrary” to each other. It’s not possible that there can be any harmony between the two. It’s not possible that the Holy Spirit can work against Himself. It’s not possible that God has determined the lusts of the flesh in our lives, while also determining the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. It’s not possible that He is at work to produce holiness in us while working unrighteousness at the same time. It’s not reasonable to understand the sovereignty of God that way. It’s an absurdity to suggest that God wills Christ-like holiness in our lives at certain times, and sin in our lives at other times.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, 21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
Are we really to believe that the “works of the flesh” come to pass because of the eternal decree of God? Paul is speaking to Christians here, so are we really to believe that it’s God’s will on the one hand that there be “works of the flesh” in our lives, while also being the will of God that we “walk by the Spirit?” Furthermore, are we to believe that God is on the one hand leading us to the “kingdom of God,” while not leading us to the “kingdom of God?” For the “fruit of the Spirit” leads to “life,” while the “works of the flesh” leads to “death” (Ro 8:13).
How are we expected to believe that the Holy Spirit is working to bring about this opposing work of God in our lives? There is no rhyme or reason to this contradictory doctrine – no matter how Calvinists try to explain it. There’s simply no sensible way of doing that. There’s simply no way of harmonizing it with this passage in Galatians.