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.

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15 Comments

Filed under Dr. Norman Geisler, limited atonement

15 responses to “The Farmer, the Boys, and the Pond

  1. That is truly a revolting image.

  2. 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?

  3. 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)

  4. 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 :)

  5. SLW

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

  6. Kevin,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,Ben

  7. Hi Ben, I’m not familiar with White’s “counter parable”. What is the gist of it? Thanks,Kevin

  8. Kevin,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,Ben

  9. 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.

  10. Pingback: An Examination of James White’s Parable: The King and the Castle | Society of Evangelical Arminians

  11. Jason Powell

    Kevin, would I be correct in saying that if the farmer had offered the rope to the other boys, and they refused the offer, that this would be in line with the Arminian view of salvation. God desires for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Their rejection of the offer of the rope is the problem with many unbelievers today who hold to their own works to get them out of the pond. Also, the boy that was saved had to lay hold to the rope, something the farmer from the other side of the fence could not make him do.
    Thank you, Jason

    • Hi Jason, Yes, if the farmer offered the rope to the other boys, that would present a pretty good analogy of the way Arminians see salvation. Thanks for the comment.

  12. Ramengliana

    With all respect, your answer to Tony-Allen still is not satisfactory to me. I always find it difficult to settle which is more difficult understand – the God who predestined some people for salvation and some other for damnation, or the God who foreknew that some people are going to hell because they do not use their freewill to choose Christ, yet still gave them that freewill knowing that they are going to hell on the basis of that. Isn’t that a kind of predestination too? The crux of the problem here, I think, is the biblical fact that some people are not going to be saved, and the omnipotent God knew it even from before the foundation of the world. The possible way is universalism, which is not accepted either by arminians or calvinists if they trust their Bible. Please reply again. Also, do you think that all people have equal opportunity to freely respond to the Gospel, in order to settle their eternity.

    • Hi Ramengliana,

      Thanks for stopping by and good question. I’ve actually been intending to do a post on the Arminian understanding of the nature of God’s foreknowledge. Maybe this will motivate me further. :)

      Arminians believe God’s foreknowledge is contingent on our existence. God knows what we will do because we will do it. We believe that it is meaningless to talk about God knowing the free actions of creatures that never exist. If God didn’t create, there would be nothing for him to know. It’s like saying God knows what will happen after I steal the leprechaun’s pot of gold tomorrow. God doesn’t know that “fact”. It is meaningless idea, because there is no leprechaun.

      God made a decision to create the world (This was a logical order, not a temporal one, because God is timeless). Prior to God’s decision to make the world, there was nothing for him to know about what the free creatures of the world would do because he hadn’t yet decided to create them. After he decided to create the world, then he knew everything that would happen – sin, some people believing in him, others rejecting him. But at that point the world was already actualized. That is to say, God knew what we would do at that point, but only because we already logically existed.

      So the logical order of God’s foreknowledge in Calvinism and Arminianism work something like this:

      Calvinism
      1) God decrees what will happen in the world he creates.
      2) God creates

      Arminianism
      1) God creates
      2) God now knows what will happen in the world that he created.

      For a thorough explanation of this view, see the article “God and Time” by theologian Jack Cottrell. Link HERE

      Regarding your last question, I believe that God wants all people to be saved. He gives every person a genuine opportunity to be saved, because he loves that person and wants to be in relationship with him. I’m not sure if the opportunity is equal or not. If it’s not equal, it’s because of Christian disobedience in sharing the gospel, and not due to a lack of love by God.

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