Perhaps we argue about Calvinism/ Arminianism because we don’t understand time as God does

Imagine a world that is flat like a piece of paper. Two-dimensional characters live there. They can go forwards and backwards and left and right, but not up or down. They don’t have any words for “up” or “down.”

Flat world1


You are standing close to the edge of their world at one corner, looking at 2 inhabitants named Pancake and Paper. You start talking to them. All they see is your waist. You describe to them your head and feet and general shape, and how your waist is at the edge of their planet. Because they don’t understand up and down, they imagine you lying down flat in their world. Pancake believe, by the explanation you gave, that your feet is closest toward them and your head furthest. Paper believe the opposite. They start arguing about your position.

Flat world


The problem is that Paper and Pancake don’t understand the up-down dimension you also live in.

I think the problem with Calvinism/ Arminianism can be solved in a similar way.

Time is a dimension in which we can only walk one way – forward, but can only see one way – backward. We know the past, not the future. We go towards the future, not the past. We cannot see or go to any era we choose.

But, by what is said in the Bible, God knows both past and future. He is omnipresent, and without beginning or end. As such, God was/will be present in both the past and the future. This diagram shows, in light yellow, where God sees, and where God is, in time. It shows, by contrast, a human being walking towards the future too.

god sees and is

How does this relate to the Calvinism issue? Well, according to Calvinism, God elected some people before the foundation of the world. From our human perspective, that means God chose some people – and neglegted to choose others – without them even existing yet.

But within this perspective He could have chosen us before the foundation of the world – while actually looking at us, while seeing us respond to God’s message.

Basically, Calvinists say it happens in the order of: 1) God saves you. 2) The world began. 3) You were born. 4) God worked in your heart to accept him, and you did.

Many other believers say it happens in the order of : 1) The world began. 2) You were born. 3) God worked in your heart to accept him, and you did. 4) God saves you.

But if God is not limited to our time, then he could save in His time, a time which we cannot figure out if it is first or last, the same way the Flat World inhabitants cannot figure out if your feet is closer or further than your head from them.

Most objections to Calvinism seem to be meaningless when we understand that God don’t see time as we do:

Two objections to Calvinism, and how God seeing all time and being in all time seem to answer them:

Objection 1: What is the point in evangelism, if God already decided who will be saved?* God may have decided to save Sipho and Fatima and Hans and Elma and Juan because he saw Sipho and Fatima and Hans and Elma and Juan responding to evangelism.

Objection 2: Election makes God cruel and arbitrary. Not so, if He elects while seeing and knowing, and being in, the past and present and future, if He elects those who chose Him.

My conclusion

Calvinism/ Arminianism is probably not worth debating over. There is not a right or wrong answer here. Where a belief or nonbelief in election leads to wrong actions, then it becomes a problem. But election itself, if God knows and sees past, future, and present, should not be the problem it is. It should not cause church splits.

At least this is how I see it.



*Before making the argument above, I used to answer “What is the point in evangelising, if God already decided who will be saved?” this way:

It matters a lot to the elect. Knowing Jesus is it’s own reward in this life, and it inspires a meaningful life of “loving others as yourself” and making a difference in other lives by the power of God. It makes a difference to the life of the elect on earth if he is saved just before dying or live his life for God. Similarly, to the elect it makes a difference how much they walk, day by day, with God. Christianity also has an effect on the lives of others among whom the Christians live – Christians introduced literacy to most languages on earth, started hospitals, etc.

So yes, the gospel do make a difference in this world -directly to those who accept it, indirectly to others – whether people can go to heaven without hearing it or not.


About Retha Faurie

Attempting to question everything, reject the bad and hold fast to the good.
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2 Responses to Perhaps we argue about Calvinism/ Arminianism because we don’t understand time as God does

  1. Don Johnson says:

    Have you read Flatland? If not, you should and also its followup by a different author Sphereland.

    Physics used to say there was 3 dimensions in space and 1 dimension in time. Now it says there are 4 dimensions in spacetime and there may be more dimensions.

    My take on the verses is that sometimes we doubt and need assurance we are in his hands and sometimes we get ahead of God and need to be slowed down. In other words, the different verses are addressing different mental states and we need to read the right ones for the one we are in while still knowing the others exist.

    • Retha says:

      I read Flatland about 2 decades ago and sort of remembered it when writing this, Don.

      It sound right – God probably wanted people to know he chose them before the world began, at a time when the thought would console to know we are safely in His hands. It is very unlikely that he said it so it could come up in a logic argument about “do we still need to evangelize?”

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