In his book, Metaphysics, philosopher Richard Taylor discusses the thorny problem of determinism and free will, a fascinating read, I might add–one that most of us, though challenging it remains, can, for the most part, understand. And, as I was reading it, my mind immediately snagged a possible application his discussion has for Calvinists and non-Calvinists respectively as they make their appeals to the unsaved to “Choose Christ!”
To demonstrate his point about free will, Taylor employed the simplest illustration imaginable–the finger. With the index finger held out before you, consider that you can move it to the right and to the left at will. Whatever you decide, you can do.
Even more, you could move it to the right upon someone’s request and could even move it opposite–toward the left–against the person’s wishes or not even move it at all, if you chose to. The point is, it is up to you to move it to the right and it is up to you if you move it to the left. The ability is available to move in both directions. Thus, the choice is real.
Now, pay very close attention here or you’ll miss it. What Taylor suggests is not that you may choose to move your finger to the right or you may choose to move your finger to the left. Rather he means you may choose to move your finger to the right and you may choose to move your finger to the left. Listen for one moment to Taylor:
This datum, it should be noted, is properly expressed as a conjunction and not as a disjunction. That is, my belief is that I can move my finger in one way AND I can also move it another way; and it does not do justice to this belief to say I can move it one way or the other (p.41).
Why is it so important for Taylor to distinguish between “or” and “and”, the former a disjunction and the latter a conjunction? Note Taylor’s own explanation:
It is fairly easy to see the truth of this, for the latter claim, that I can move it one way or the other, would be satisfied in case there were only one way I could move it, and that is not what I believe. Suppose, for instance, that my hand were strapped to a device in such a fashion that I could move my finger to the right but not to the left. Then it would still be entirely true that I could move it either to the left or to the right–since it would be true that I could move it to the right (Ibid).
That’s the nature of a disjunctive statement.
Suppose a Pastor told his congregation “I will begin a series of sermons next Sunday on the book of Matthew or the book of Noah.” The statement would be entirely true, if in fact, he began a series on Matthew, even when there is no such book as the book of Noah, since he did begin a series on Matthew.
As I thought about this disjunction/conjunction distinction, I can see where Calvinists and non-Calvinists may just learn something. Consider the following statements:
Statement #1: “You may choose to accept Christ as Savior and Lord OR you may choose not to accept Christ as Savior and Lord.”
Using Taylor’s point above, even the most extreme, hyper-Calvinist who’s ever lived could agree with this statement. Why? Even if it remains impossible for one of the options to be chosen, the statement remains entirely true. In fact, for Calvinists, the only way one can choose Christ is through efficacious regeneration–the ability to believe. The fact that no one else can is totally irrelevant. The statement is perfectly true.
Statement #2: “You may choose to accept Christ as Savior and Lord AND you may choose not to accept Christ as Savior and Lord.”
Once again, using Taylor’s point about conjunction, only the nonCalvinist may adhere to this statement. Why? Because this constitutes a real, actual choice through which one must deliberate and decide which to do. The enablement is given such that either of the two may be chosen. Moreover, both options must be doable. If either is unavailable, the statement is definitely not true.
It seems to me, when Calvinists talk about offering Christ to the world, ultimately they really are only offering Him to the world of the Elect, regardless of whether they know who the Elect is. For them, choice, in the end, is an illusion.
Non-Calvinists offer Christ to the lost who then must choose–really deliberate and decide–what they will do with this Man from Galilee. Thus while Calvinists are disjunctive, non-Calvinists are conjunctive.