Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Farmer, the Boys, and the Pond

In his book "Chosen but Free", Dr. Norman Geisler* gives a illustration that vividly explains the problem with the Calvinistic teaching of Limited Atonement. Here is a paraphrase of the story:

There was a farmer who owned a pond. He did not want anyone to go swimming in it. He built a fence around the pond and posted a sign that said: NO SWIMMING ALLOWED.

One day three boys came upon the pond. They saw the sign, but decided to go swimming anyway. They climbed the fence, and jumped into the pond. After jumping in, they realized that there was no way to get out. They began to drown.

The farmer came to the pond, and saw that the three boys were drowning. He said to the boys, "Didn't you see the sign? You have broken the rules. But I am a kind and loving farmer, so I will let one of you out." The farmer then proceeded to throw a rope to one of the boys, and pulled him to shore. Then the farmer folded his arms and watched the other two boys drown. (The End)

If you met this farmer, would you say that he is a kind and loving man? Or would you perhaps describe him as heartless?

In the story the farmer represents God. The boys are humanity. The way the farmer behaves is exactly the way that Calvinists describe the behavior of God in regards to humanity. He has thrown a rope only to one of us (the elect). The rest of us (the reprobate) are left to drown.

One one point (God's justice) the Calvinists are right. None of us deserve to be saved. Yet on the second point (God's love), they are terribly wrong. They paint a distorted image of God. Like the farmer, He could save all. Yet He has capriciously and arbitrarily determined to save only a few. Calvinists say this gives God glory.

In reality, the Bible teaches that God has provided a way for all to be saved. He loves all. He is not willing for anyone perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not for only our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. Some unfortunately reject the "rope" that God has provided in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus will perish. However, it is a travesty to lay their rejection at the feet of God who has provided a means for all to be saved.

*Dr Gesiler does not consider himself to be an Arminian. He attempts to split the middle between Arminianism and what he calls "extreme Calvinism". He refers to himself as "Moderate Calvinist". Nevertheless, he makes some excellent points against classical Calvinistic doctrine.


Jc_Freak: said...

That is truly a revolting image.

Pizza Man said...

Yes it is.

Tony-Allen said...

I have a question:

A common argument I've heard from some Calvinist apologists is that in Calvinism God "saves completely" - in other words, He saves all the elect. They argue that non-Calvinists see a God who wants to save everyone, but is too weak to.

How do you respond to this?

Pizza Man said...

Hi Tony, that is a good question. I would answer as follows:

God does indeed want everyone to be saved. It is not a matter of him being "too weak" to accomplish this, rather, He is a respecter of persons, and chooses not to force himself on others by means of violating their freedom. Simply put, from God's view, it is not that he "can't" force salvation on anyone, it is that he "won't", if they don't consent.

A couple of references on this, first I really like what John Wesley has to say in Predestination Calmly Considered. Here is a quote:

I appeal to every impartial mind...whether the mercy of God would not be far less gloriously displayed, in saving a few by his irresistible power, and leaving all the rest without help, without hope, to perish everlastingly, than in offering salvation to every creature, actually saving all that consent thereto, and doing for the rest all that infinite wisdom, almighty power, and boundless love can do, without forcing them to be saved, which would be to destroy the very nature that he had given them.

Also, here is an excellent article by Jack Cottrel that deals with the same issue: LINK (see section III: God's Control)

Tony-Allen said...

John Wesley's writing is amazing, I read it a long time ago from a link to a website you linked to. His use of the parable of the final judgment is astounding.

And thanks for the response :)

SLW said...

That's a great illustration. Wish I had written it! ;-)

Anonymous said...


Have you read James White's "refutation" of Geislers illustration? I think White's counter parable is very problematic but it should be pointed out that he attempted to refute Geisler on this. Maybe you could do a post on why White's counter parable falls short?

God Bless,

Pizza Man said...

Hi Ben, I'm not familiar with White's "counter parable". What is the gist of it?


Anonymous said...


Do you have the Potter's Freedom? You can find it in there (pp. 306-312). He also does a U-tube bit on it [link].

The gist of it is to try to point out certain details of the parable that he says misrepresent the C position (surprise, surprise), but in doing so White also omits certain reformed presuppositions that makes his version ridiculous (e.g. eternal decrees/exhaustive determinism).

God Bless,

Pizza Man said...

Hi Ben, Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. I haven't read the Potter's Freedom. I'm not a big White fan (Calvinism notwithstanding), but probably should read the book since he interacts so much with Geisler's arguments.