Joshua 24:15: ‘Choose this day whom you will serve’
Spencer D Gear
It is common in online forums for Calvinists to push the line that people do not have the choice to choose to serve the Lord God or Jesus, or to reject him. This happened in one thread where I contribute.
There was this statement by a noted Calvinist on the forum: ‘Israel didn’t choose to be chosen by God. God took it upon himself to choose them’.
My brief response was:
You seem to be overlooking Joshua 24:14-15,
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (ESV)
The reply was: ‘What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?’
I replied: 
What was the list of options Joshua told his listeners to choose between, in that verse?
The text is clear. Please read it: Choose…
‘whom you will serve’;
‘the gods your fathers served’, OR
‘the gods of the Amorites;
‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).
The ability of contrary choice is given by God to all people. And it started in the garden with Adam in choosing to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil OR not to choose such.
Why do you find this so difficult to understand when the Scriptures are crystal clear? Well, they are crystal clear in my hermeneutical understanding.
This fellow came back:
Joshua told them to choose from between their false gods. He never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God.
He didn’t say “choose this day whom you will server, whether the gods of the Amorites, or the gods your fathers served, or the Lord”.
thus, you are using that verse out of context. you are using it in application for something it doesn’t even support.
Is there real choice for unbelievers and Christians in things of God?
I responded to the above person:
That is not what it says in context. Joshua 24:14-17 reads:
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed (ESV, emphasis added)
Note the points in context:
- ‘Fear the Lord and serve him’ (v 14). This is a command to fear the Lord God.
- ‘Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord’ (v 14). So their fathers served foreign ‘gods’ and they were commanded to fear the Lord God and to put away foreign Gods. The choice was between the Lord God and false gods. Your charge against me is thus shown to be false.
- The v. 15 makes the choice clear: Serve the Lord OR the gods your fathers served OR the gods of the Amorites. They were told that they had a choice to make. That’s what this verse states. It’s a similar choice to what Adam had in the garden to choose between the tree of knowledge of good or evil. He chose the evil and we’ve had to struggle with sinful vs godly choices ever since. That’s Bible.
- The people chose to not forsake the Lord and serve other gods (v 16). They had a choice. The ‘choose this day whom you will serve’ was as real for them as it is for us today.
- Then evidence is given for the nature of the actions of the Lord God and how he had acted on their behalf in the past. Interesting, isn’t it?, of God providing evidence of his actions on their behalf.
I find this person’s charge that Joshua ‘never asked them to choose between their false gods, or the Real God’, to be false – based on the biblical evidence from Joshua 24.
There are various other grips in leg spin bowling in cricket (wrong-un, flipper, stock ball) that are designed to deceive the batsman. When people speak spin, they use terminology and description designed to deceive the listener in some way. In my country of Australia it is standard to hear politicians being interviewed and no matter what the question, the standard or populist party line is promoted. When politicians do this kind of thing in interviews, some commentators call it ‘spin’.
Andrew Bolt’s articles often call politicians for the ‘spin’ they use to try to deceive listeners. See:
‘Rudd’s spin just cooks that goose worse’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).
‘Making Indonesia spin Labor’s lines’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).
‘Mundine slams Rudd’s “political negative spin”’ (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun).
See the articles:
Political spin undermines democracy (Sydney Morning Herald);
Political spin: politicians, journalists and spin doctors (BBC interview);
Spin doctor exodus as political wheel turns (The Australian);
Political spin checklist (ABC, The Drum).
Spin doctors in Christianity
This is the kind of thing that some Christians can get up to when promoting a certain theological perspective. And that’s what it is because, no matter what the interviewer asks, the person interviewed gives the same old, pre-programmed answer that the party line requires. It is an unthoughtful response that does not answer the question asked by the interviewed. It simply goes onto the party line and avoids dealing with the issues raised. See:
Christian spin doctors (Know it’s true);
Debunking The ‘War On Christianity’: The Dangers Of Out-Of-Control Spin (Americans United);
A postmodern spin on religion: Pagan Christianity (Albert Mohler, MP3);
Mortification of Spin is the “best Christian Podcast ever” – Frank Turk, blogger and speaker (Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals);
Some can get quite brazen in what they call ‘spin’ in association with Christianity. One fellow who calls himself, SinfulSaint, wrote: ‘Apologetics is the art of reframing a belief so that it becomes believable; it’s spin doctoring for religion. I hate to inform you good folks but you all are tools of the spin doctors’ (Topix, ‘Christian Spin Doctors’, SinfulSaint#1). An immediate response was, ‘Careful, your ignorance is showing:-) I’d verture a guess you are not a member of your local Tea Party:-)’ [BarnsWeb]. SinfulSaint’s reply was:
According to the Bible, the sun revolves around the Earth.(Job 9:7 and Joshua 10:12-13, Psalms 93:1, Psalms 96:10, 2 Samuel 22:16) I’m sorry to disappoint you folks; the sun does not revolve around the earth.
Per the Bible, the Earth is flat (Job 28:24, Matthew 4:8, Daniel 4:10-11). The last time I looked, it was round.
Per the Bible, the Earth has pillars (Job 9:6, 1 Samuel 2:8, Job 26:11, Psalms 75:3). Pillars? No comment needed; speaks for itself.
“And the hare, because he cheweth the cud he is unclean unto you.”(Lev. 11:6). Okay, maybe Rabbits evolved a bit since then. Rabbits do not chew their cud. They “re’chew” partially digested droppings in the early morning hours to get more nutrients out of them (SinfulSaint#4).
If you read these verses in, say, the English Standard Version, you’ll find that they do not say what SinfulSaint claims. So SinfulSaint is really using a straw man logical fallacy.
However, I find Calvinists and Arminians can use ‘spin’ on Christian forums. They can give the pre-programmed position of their theological positions to put on an acceptable face for the reader, without engaging in a reasoned response. Thoughtful Christians requires Christians to be renewed in their minds so that they can think Christianly. This also means giving a fair and reasonable interpretation of the biblical text. This is best done when the interpreter has a knowledge of the original languages of Hebrew and Aramaic for the OT and koine Greek for the NT. However, a comparison of excellent modern translations can help to gain the possible differences of interpretation from the original text. I recommend:
New King James Version (unfortunately it uses the Textus Receptus for the Greek text);
Christians not only have a new spiritual heart because of their regeneration in Christ, but also they are called upon to have a renewed mind. Here is a sample of NT and OT verses from the ESV to encourage us to ‘think about these things’:
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things’.
Romans 12:1-2, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’.
2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day’.
Psalm 119:11, ‘I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you’.
Ephesians 4:23, ‘And to be renewed in the spirit of your minds’,
1 Peter 1:13, ‘Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ’.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ’.
John 8:32, ‘And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (emphases added in the above verses).
Thoughtful Christianity includes increasing and growing in renewing of the mind,. This is required for all Christians who want to mature in the faith. I find it helpful to have a person with whom I can be accountable to cause me to think about my faith. Be warned! They are as scarce as hens’ teeth to find. Most of the time I have to rely on solid evangelical apologists, theologians and exegetes to help me with the renewing of my mind! My experience is that thinking Christianity that learns to articulate the faith as it relates to issues in our world, is in short supply.
I read both friends and enemies (including religious opposition) of the faith. The enemies include the fellows of the Jesus Seminar, including John Dominic Crossan and Robert Funk. Other opponents of the faith are Albert Schweitzer, Paul Tillich, Rudolf Bultmann, Sir Lloyd Geering, Barbara Thiering, Marcus Borg and John Shelby Spong. I read them all, plus many more opponents of Christianity or modernist and postmodernist theologians or pastor-teachers.
These Christian scholars have been of considerable help: Paul Barnett (history), N T Wright (historical Jesus), D A Carson (exegesis, postmodernism), R C H Lenski (NT exegesis), Ravi Zacharias (apologist), Henry C Thiessen (theologian), William Lane Craig (apologist), Norman Geisler(theologian, apologist), Anthony Thiselton (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Kevin Vanhoozer (historical Jesus, postmodernism), Ben Witherington (historical Jesus), Craig Evans (historical Jesus), Gordon Lewis & Bruce Demarest (integrative theology), and other thoughtful evangelicals.
 OzSpen#67, ibid.
 Skala#76, ibid.
 OzSpen#79, ibid.
 Skala#83, ibid.
 OzSpen#99, ibid.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 August 2018.