Does Calvinism Teach Puppet Theology?
I own the cattle on a thousand hills,
I write the music for the whippoorwills,
Control the planets with their rocks and rills,
But give you freedom to use your own will.
And if you want Me to, I’ll make you whole,
I’ll only do it tho’ if you say so.
I’ll never force you, for I love you so,
I give you freedom – Is it “yes” or “no”?”
“God’s a gentlemen; He would never force his affections on us. No, that would be indelicate. He wants us to choose to love Him, to choose to handover the love-strings of our heart. Don’t you want your loved ones to choose to love you? God’s not a cosmic masher.”
Sound familiar? (Probably not the “masher” part unless you’re an octogenarian.) Anyone who has been a Calvinist for any length of time has been confronted with the charge that we believe in a God who is nothing but a puppet master, an evil Jim Henson; and furthermore that man is nothing more than an un-responsible automaton. . . .
And yet, that’s not at all what Calvinism teaches. At least, that’s not what we should be teaching. It’s true that Calvin, like Augustine before him, believed the will of God to be the necessity of all things. But the Church’s leading theologians have always carefully distinguished between different kinds of necessity. Calvin, for example, though he held to the highest view of God’s sovereignty vehemently rejected any notion of necessity which entailed external coercion or compulsion. In this matter he was simply following Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and the entire tradition of Christian orthodoxy.
This is why the puppet and robot analogies don’t work, and no Calvinist should own them. While we believe that God’s grace is irresistible and flows from his electing love, we must be clear that this grace renews us from within. It does not coerce us from without. God is not a puppet master pulling on our strings so that we do what he wants apart from our own willing or doing. His will precedes our will, but it does not eradicate it.
You can read the rest of Kevin DeYoung’s comments here.