by Dave Stevens
licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
The following is a review of Norman Geisler's book "Chosen But Free". I only critique chapters 2 and 3. These chapters alone contain so much doctrinal error that it is not worth my time (nor yours) to go further.
In this chapter the author seeks to resolve the conflict between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. He believes that the idea of God's causality somehow makes God guilty of sin. Therefore, Geisler turns his guns on causality (and therefore sovereignty) to remove the implication of sin from God.
Concerning cause, Geisler states,
If neither the devil nor God made me do it, then who did? The biblical answer is that I did. That is, “I” or “self” is the cause of evil. 
In the following section he argues for “self-caused” actions, actions that are completely outside of God's causing. It must be noted that the statement above is a complete denial of God's sovereignty. From here forth whenever Geisler uses the word “sovereignty” he means something completely different than what Paul ascribes to God in Ephesians 1:11, “who works all things according to the counsel of His own will”. In fact, this is the definition of “free will” in its purest form. Free will is the ability to make a decision free from God's sovereign control. If you ask anyone off the street how they would define free will this is what they would say, free from someone else's control. 
So, in a sense, Geisler never deals with his own dilemma. He simply redefines sovereignty to fit his own needs, namely the Arminian definition of sovereignty, which is foreknowledge. He tries unsuccessfully to differentiate himself from the Arminian view in chapter 3, “Viewing the Alternatives”, but we will discuss this more later.
For all the sub-section headings, “Who Done It”, “The Devil Made Me Do It”, “Who Made The Devil Do It”, and so on, you would think that Dr. Geisler would define what “It” is. Geisler is clear that he is talking about sin. However, he never stops and defines sin or guilt! Sin is defined for us in 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness”. Therefore, sin implies that there is a law and an authority that we are held responsible to. Can the word “sin” or “guilt” ever be applied to God? It is interesting that Geisler ignores the very passage that answers his dilemma between God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, namely Romans 9. This shows that the author is not concerned with a biblical answer to the question but is seeking to force the scriptures to fit his view. In Romans 9, Paul does not answer the question by saying that God is not sovereign. Nor does he say that we are not responsible. He simply says,
“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?”.
In other words, who are you to make God responsible to obey anyone? The simple answer to the question is that God can not sin and is not guilty when he causes others to sin because he is accountable to no one. Blame, sin, and guilt are terms that can never be applied to God. To do so would be to make his actions accountable to a law and authority other than Himself. 
Some would say that for God to cause sin would be inconsistent with his nature. After all, does not His law reflect his nature? But what is God's chief concern? Is His primary concern to save man? Or is He more concerned with His own glory? I would argue that God's chief concern is to glorify Himself, which would include not only his love and grace upon His elect, but also his justice upon the damned. Paul states this in the next verse (Romans 9:22).
What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also the Gentiles? (emphasis added)
Why does he endure the spread of wickedness across the world for centuries upon centuries? For the purpose of glorifying his wrath. So his actions are perfectly consistent with his nature of self love and self glorification. Attitudes that, if found in us would be sin, because they are wrongly directed. But when found in God are perfectly appropriate because of his limitless perfections.
Geisler then moves on to responsibility and ability.
However, sound reason demands that there is no responsibility where there is no ability to respond. It is not rational to hold someone responsible when they could not have responded. And God is not irrational. 
And later he states, “Good reason appears to insist that if God demands it, then we can do it. Moral obligation implies moral freedom.” Here Geisler begs the question. He keeps stating his conclusion but never explains how this conclusion is a logical necessity.
Moral obligation does not imply ability. His statements to the contrary are Pallagian and pagan (Pallagius argued against Augustine that we can do good a part from God's grace), even though Geisler admits that grace is required. In other words, Geisler argues that we can obey God's law perfectly because God gives all men the grace to do so, if they only use their free will to take advantage of that grace.
But, where does the bible say, “be perfect, and by the way, you aren't guilty if God does not give you the grace to be perfect”. Geisler argues that 1 Corinthians 10:13 does make this very point. However, this passage is written about believers resisting temptation and was never meant to imply that unbelievers have the ability to be perfect. Nor does this passage say unbelievers have the ability to believe. On the contrary, God clearly states that some never have the ability to do anything good (Romans 3:10-18, 8:7-8).
To destroy Geisler's argument one simply needs to ask the following question. Would God be just to hold someone responsible to be absolutely perfect even without His help or grace? The answer is clearly yes. We are accountable for obeying the law, whether God grants us the grace to obey it or not. Therefore, accountability is there, even if ability is not.
Geisler also argues that rewards become meaningless if we do not have the ability to obey. Here his argument becomes completely confused when he states “why eulogize Mother Teresa and vilify Hitler, if they could not help doing what they did?”  He seems to confuse volitions with ability. God rewards (graciously and not by obligation) volitions or choices that are in accordance with God's law. God punishes volitions that are contrary to His law. The issue is not whether God rewards or punishes volitions. The issue is whether our volitions are free from God's sovereign control of all things. So, the supposed conflict with rewards and punishment is a straw man argument.
The next section entitled “An undeniable fact” is based on the false premise that “determinism, as apposed to a self-determinist, believes that all moral acts are not caused by ourselves but are caused by someone (or something) else”  At this point, I am astounded by Geisler's lack of scholarship. How could anyone make such a claim. I am not aware of any determinist that would ever deny 2nd causes. Determinism affirms that God is the first cause of all things, but it never denies 2nd cause. On the contrary, determinism affirms 2nd causes, such as our desires and our volitions. His statements are sounding much more like propaganda then any form of scholarship.
Geisler's view on what he calls “predetermination” is riddled with logical fallacy. He equates foreknowledge with predetermination while at the same trying to differentiate his view from Arminianism. Take the following example:
“In response we need only point out that if God is all-knowing (omniscient), then from the standpoint of His foreknowledge the game (football example) was predetermined. For He knew eternally exactly how it was going to turn out, even though we did not. Therefore, if God has infallible foreknowledge of the future, including our free acts, then everything that will happen in the future is predetermined, even our free acts. This does not mean these actions are not free; it simply means that God knew how we were going to use our freedom – and that He knew it for sure. 
But what can predetermination mean other than “to determine beforehand”. Geisler seems to forget who is predetermining what. In his statements it is man who determines the choices in the game, assuming you follow his view of free will. Then God foresees them. But how God is said to pre-determine anything is not explained.
Geisler states repeatedly that for God to foreknow implies that the actions or choices are fixed. This is true. But fixed actions that God foreknows (“for sure” as Geisler likes to state) in no way imply that God has determined them. For example, a prophet can know something will happen before it happens (foreknowledge). However, this does not mean that the prophet has predestined it to happen. Foreknowledge is not determining anything. For God to determine something before hand, He must do the choosing, determining, and destining, not man. Geisler's view makes predestination absolutely meaningless.
In the section entitled, “Three views on Sovereignty and Responsibility” Geisler unleashes another wave of propaganda “straw man” arguments. He states, “What is more, according to Ames, God determines to save whomever He wishes regardless of whether they choose to believe or not.”  Ames is not arguing against volitions. The issue is whether our volitions (choices) are free from God's sovereign control. Geisler's language shows that he is more concerned with misleading the weak than with finding truth. His next statement is even worse.
If free choices were not considered at all when God made the list of elect, then irresistible grace on the unwilling follows. That is, man would have no say in his own salvation. Accordingly, the fact that all men do not choose to love, worship, and serve God will make no difference whatsoever to God. He simply “doublewhammy” those He chooses with His irresistible power and force them into His kingdom against their will. 
On the contrary, the Westminster Confession of Faith states in chapter 10 section 1:
All those whom God hath predestined unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call, by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being willing by His grace. (emphasis added)
Does this sound like God forces people against their will? It is hard to believe that Geisler's blatant misrepresentation of Calvinism is due to ignorance. It would seem more likely that he is attempting to mislead others. I will skip right to Geisler's following statement regarding God's sovereignty.
There is a third alternative (to Calvinism and Arminianism). It postulates that God's election is neither based on His foreknowledge of man's free choices nor exercised independent of it...That is to say, there is no chronological or logical priority of election and foreknowledge...In other words, all aspects of the eternal purpose of God are equally timeless. God is a simple Being, all of whose attributes are one with His indivisible essence. Hense, both foreknowledge and predetermination are one in God.” 
Geisler argues that because God's volitions are timeless they have no logical priority or effect on each other. This is utter nonsense. Using the same argument one could say that because God's thoughts (or rather thought) is timeless, his rewards or punishment has no logical connection with our actions.
Arminianism commits a logical fallacy by making predestination based on foreseen faith. This is not logical. How can God foresee our faith unless it is already destined to happen. Why would He predestine faith that is already destined. So you see, the Arminian view falls apart and make predestination meaningless.
Geisler's view is slightly different from the Arminian “foreseen faith” view of predestination. He seeks to resolve the logical fallacy of Arminianism by taking time and logical priority out of the picture. He is correct in taking time out of the picture, since God is outside of time. But, he can not simply right off logical priority. God's predestination is either based on God's will or our will. Geisler still seeks to make our will the logical priority of predestination and thus, he fails to escape Arminianism. His book would be more aptly titled “Not Chosen And Free”.
The preceding sections are enough to show where Geisler is coming from. He is basically a dispensational Arminian with a somewhat novel use of language. In conclusion, I wanted to state my surprise at poor exegesis. For example, in his appendix, “Is Faith a Gift Only to the Elect?”, he states:
In addition, however plausible this interpretation may seem in English , it is very clear from the Greek that Ephesians 2:8-9 is not referring to faith as a gift from God. For the “that” (touto) is neuter in form and cannot refer to “faith” (pistis), which is feminine. 
This is completely unbelievable. How could a Th.D. and seminary president not know what a collective neuter is. What Geisler is hiding is the fact that “grace” is also feminine. Also, if Paul wanted to show that both the grace of salvation and the faith are both a gift (“it is the gift of God”) he would have to use what they call a “collective neuter” pronoun, which he does. Therefore, Paul is showing through the grammar that both the grace and the faith (both feminine) are a gift of God. Either Geisler is ignorant of Greek (highly unlikely from his credentials) or he is intentionally trying to mislead. The later is more characteristic of this book.
Is the issue of God's sovereignty important? Absolutely! A gospel that requires synergism between God and man is a works gospel, falling under the condemnation of Paul in Galations 1:8-9.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
1 Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 20.
2 Note, that Jonathan Edwards tries to salvage the term “free will” be defining it as free to choose according to one's desires. However, I would argue that Edward's definition is not the common use of the term “free will”.
3 If you want an example in the bible of where God causes someone to sin read 2 Chronicles 18:21.
4 Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 29.
5 Ibid., 30.
6 Ibid., 31.
7 Ibid., 31.
8 Ibid., 45.
9 Ibid., 47.
10 Ibid., 47.
11 Ibid., 53.
12 Ibid., 189.