There are many words and concepts in theology that suffer from misunderstanding, mis-characterization, and misinformation. “Predestination,” “Calvinism,” “Total Depravity,” “Inerrancy,” and “Complementarianism”, just to name a few that I personally have to deal with. Proponents are more often than not on the defensive, having to explain again and again why it is they don’t mean what people think they mean.

The concept of “free will” suffers no less with regard to this misunderstanding. Does a person have free will? Well, what do you mean by “free will”? This must always be asked.

Do you mean:

  1. That a person is not forced from the outside to make a choice?
  2. That a person is responsible for his or her choices?
  3. That a person is the active agent in a choice made?
  4. That a person is free to do whatever they desire?
  5. That a person has the ability to choose contrary to their nature (who they are)?

Calvinists, such as myself, do believe in free will and we don’t believe in free will. It just depends on what you mean.

When it comes to the first three options, most Calvinist would agree that a person is not forced to make a choice, is responsible for their choices, and is the active agent behind those choices. They would reject the forth believing that a person is not free to do whatever they desire (for example, no matter how much one desires, he or she cannot read the thoughts of another person, fly without wings, or transport from one location to another just by thinking about the desired location).

It is important to note at this point, there is no conflict. No matter what theological persuasion you adhere to, most of historic Christianity has agreed that the first three are true, while the fourth is false.

It is with the fifth option there is disagreement.

Does a person have the ability to choose against their nature?

This question gets to the heart of the issue. Here we introduce a new and more defined term (hang with me here): “Libertarian Free-will” or “Libertarian Freedom.” Libertarian freedom can be defined briefly thus:

Libertarian Freedom: “The power of contrary choice.”

If you ask whether a person can choose against their nature (i.e. libertarian freedom) the answer, I believe, must be “no.” A person’s nature makes up who they are. Who they are determines their choice. If there choice is determined, then the freedom is self-limited. Therefore, there is no “power” of contrary choice for we cannot identify what or who this “power” might be. I know, I know . . . slow down. Let me explain.

First, it is important to get this out of the way. To associate this denial of libertarian freedom exclusively with Calvinism would be misleading. St. Augustine was the first to deal with this issue in a comprehensive manner. Until the forth century, it was simply assumed that people were free and responsible, but they had yet to flesh out what this meant. Augustine further elaborated on the Christian understanding of freedom. He argued that people choose according to who they are. If they are good, they make good choices. If they are bad, they make bad choices. These choices are free, they just lack liberty. In other words, a person does not become a sinner because they sin, they sin because they are a sinner. It is an issue of nature first. If people are identified with the fallen nature of Adam, then they will make choices similar to that of Adam because it is who they are. Yes, they are making a free choice, but this choice does not include the liberty or freedom of contrary choice.

What you have to ask is this: If “free will” means that we can choose against our nature (i.e. the power of contrary choice), if “free will” means that we can choose against who we are, what does this mean? What does this look like? How does a free person make a choice that is contrary to who they are? Who is actually making the choice? What is “free will” in this paradigm?

If one can choose according to who they are not, then they are not making the choice and this is not really freedom at all, no? Therefore, there is, at the very least, a self-determinism at work here. This is a limit on free will and, therefore, a necessary denial of true libertarian freedom.

Think about all that goes into making “who you are.” We are born in the fallen line of Adam. Spiritually speaking we have an inbred inclination toward sin. All of our being is infected with sin. This is called “total depravity.” Every aspect of our being is infected with sin, even if we don’t act it out to a maximal degree.

But even if this were not the case,—even if total depravity were a false doctrine—libertarian freedom would still be untenable. Not only are you who you are because of your identification with a fallen human race, but notice all these factors that you did not choose that go into the set up for any given “free will” decision made:

  • You did not choose when you were to be born.
  • You did not choose where you were to be born.
  • You did not choose your parents.
  • You did not choose your influences early in your life.
  • You did not choose whether you were to be male or female.
  • You did not choose your genetics.
  • You did not choose your temperament.
  • You did not choose your looks.
  • You did not choose your body type.
  • You did not choose your physical abilities.

All of these factors play an influencing role in who you are at the time of any given decision. Yes, your choice is free, but it has you behind them. Therefore, you are free to choose according to you from whom you are not able to free yourself!

Now, I must reveal something here once again that might surprise many of you. This view is held by both Calvinists and Arminians alike. Neither position believes that a person can choose against their nature. Arminians, however, differ from Calvinists in that they believe in the doctrine of prevenient grace, which essentially neutralizes the will so that the inclination toward sin—the antagonism toward Gog—is relieved so that the person can make a true “free will” decision.

However, we still have some massive difficulties. Here are a couple:

A neutralized will amounts to your absence from the choice itself.

Changing the nature of a person so that their predispositions are neutral does not really help. We are back to the question What does a neutralized will look like? Does it erase all of the you behind the choice? If you are neutralized and liberated from you, then who is making the choice? How can you be held responsible for a choice that you did not really make, whether good or bad?

A neutralized will amounts to perpetual indecision. Think about this, if a person had true libertarian freedom, where there were no coercive forces, personal or divine, that influenced the decision, would a choice ever be made? If you have no reason to choose A or B, then neither would ever be chosen. Ronald Nash illustrates this by presenting a dog who has true libertarian freedom trying to decide between two bowls of dog food. He says that the dog would end up dying of starvation. Why? Because he would never have any reason to choose one over the other. It is like a balanced scale, it will never tilt to the right or the left unless the weights (influence) on one side is greater than the other. Then, no matter how little weight (influence) is added to a balanced scale, it will always choose accordingly.

A neutralized will amounts to arbitrary decisions, which one cannot be held responsible for.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that libertarian choice could be made. Let’s say that the dog did choose one food bowl over the other. In a truly libertarian sense, this decision cannot have influences of any kind. Any decision without influences is arbitrary. It would be like flipping a coin. I chose A rather than B, not because of who I am, but for no reason at all. It just turned out that way. But this option is clearly outside a biblical worldview of responsibility and judgment. Therefore, in my opinion, the outcome for the fight for true libertarian free-will comes at the expense of true responsibility!

In conclusion: while I believe in free will, I don’t believe in libertarian free will. We make the choices we make because of who we are. We are responsible for these choices. God will judge each person accordingly with a righteous judgment.

Is there tension? Absolutely. We hold in tension our belief in God’s sovereignty, determining who we are, when we live, where we will live, who our parents will be, our DNA, etc. and human responsibility. While this might seem uncomfortable, I believe that it is not only the best biblical option, but the only philosophical option outside outside of fatalism, and we don’t want to go there.

Acts 17:26-28
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”

Thoughts? Do you believe in free will?

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C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    398 replies to "A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will”"

    • Rey Reynoso

      Got tired of not getting enough comments on your blog posts? LoL, just kidding. I just have a feeling you’re going to hit 200+ comments some time tomorrow.

      Oh and there’s a good article here about this.

    • steve martin

      I like what Luther had to say about “free will” in the work that he thought his best, ‘The Bondge of the Will’.

      He stated that when it comes to the things of God, and faith in God, that our wills are bound in sin, and to reject Him. But God, in His grace and mercy, saves some, anyway.

      ” No one seeks for God” (St. Paul)

    • Salah

      Michael,
      I am glade to find your blog.
      I come from very different view; yes I believe that man has “total” free well. The free will is not in his mind but in his heart. God speaks to the heart of man not his mind. The mind is the “low pass” filter which prevents man from “seeing” God.
      The mind is our prison; and so are Calvinist and most Western Christian Theology.
      The God that Christ reveals to humanity is the God of love. This God is much higher and bigger than the mind. In fact the mind of men never can comprehend the mind of God let alone the heart of God.
      One of the modern Saints in the Orthodox Church once said: “theology without practice (life of holiness) is the work of demons.

      Please forgive if I sound very off from your topic.
      In Christ
      Salah

    • John Lollard

      For the longest time now, I’ve been trying to figure out what on earth the difference is between Wesleyan Arminianism and Calvinism. I’m not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, but I wonder if the idea of prevenient grace is perhaps more complicated than a “neutralization of the will”. I’ve always heard prevenient grace described as an enabling of the heart to receive justifying grace. I suppose this amounts to “neutralization”, but the weight and attraction of the Spirit when presented to a heart prepared by grace hardly amounts to a coin flip. If I am correct in my understanding, then it seems that the only difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is how compelling the Spirit is in the presentation of justifying grace to the unbeliever whose heart has been prepared for its reception. Calvinism, so far as I can gather, believes this compelling pull to be absolute, whereas Arminianism, so far as I can tell, believes this attraction can in some circumstances be rejectable. Perhaps I am mistaken?

    • Michael T.

      Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate or inevitable predetermination. (from Wikipedia).

      Getting outside of everything else Calvinism says that some are predestined to heaven and some are predestined to hell and that such a determination was made long before the individual was made and nothing can change said determination. In addition most Calvinists I know will state that because of God’s Sovereignty over all events everything that happens is the will of God. How is this not fatalism??

      Also I can’t help but feel I am reading a materialistic view of the world here. I find very little with regards to your illustrations about DNA, parents, culture, etc. in determining behavior that an atheist would disagree with. Newtonian cause and effect is basically what your arguing determines our behavior and actions. This would in turn reduce humanity to a bunch of mindless computer programs simply carrying out cause and effect going back to the beginning of the universe. How can God be justly angry at our actions since He is in fact the ultimate cause of the causality string stretching back to the beginning of time?

    • Lisa Robinson

      Interesting, I have been thinking about this as I’m reading through Predestination and Free-Will: 4 Views of Divine Sovereignty & Human Freedom. I think in trying to resolve the issue of reconciling sovereignty with human choice begs the question of how much determinationism is involved with each entity. Reichenbach and Pinnock would say that determinationism on God’s part eliminates freedom on ours, and therefore for us to clearly choose amongst all possible options has to be absent of determinationism. But that presumes we have the same level of freedom as God does of his sovereignty, and have the full range of choosing apart from external influence. That’s comparing apples and oranges. Our freedom is not so free, whereas God’s sovereignty absolutely is. Does that make sense? Dunno, still thinking through this.

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael, the problems you are addressing truly hit the nail on the head with regard to the baggage that Calvinists have to pick up. Well done.

      In answer to your statements, I don’t really know. That is where the tension comes in.

      However, I would say that “fatalism” is normally reserved for a system without transcendence, therefore does not work for Calvinism. “Divine determinalism” would be better. However, there is still the compatibalistic understanding that there is the “self” involved and, therefore, responsible.

      Either way, I do think that the problems with “libertarianism” are not only biblically problematic, but present a philosophically absurd situation. As I outlined above, there is no such thing as the “power of contrary choice” in my opinion since it would either leave the choices without a bearer of responsibility or completely arbitrary.

      Which bullet do you bite?

    • Michael T.

      Also here’s another quick objection that bothered me lately. We can talk all day about God’s justice vs. God’s goodness and His righteousness vs. His love and mercy. Yet what is it that logically here prevents God (assuming He is good and loving) from allowing Jesus’ death to atone for all and then extending that atonement in the form of irresistible grace to everyone? Jesus’ death satiates the demands of God’s righteousness for the elect. Why not provide universal salvation? The only answer I have seen for this that makes any logical sense is that “Wrath” is in fact a divine attribute and God needs to take his wrath out on “objects of wrath” and thus he creates beings so deserving. Of course this view negates talking about God as “good” in any sense that the word is commonly used modern or ancient (or at least so I’ve been told). In fact it would seem to call such a God “good” would be such a violent attack on language as to render language meaningless.

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael,

      You did it again. Although this is much too broad for this current blog post and I don’t want the discussion to go this direction (at least yet!), you have articulated my biggest problem with my own system. I often tell people that that is the biggest question that I will have for God concerning election: Why didn’t you elect everyone? The answers that Calvinists often give are not very good in my opinion.

      However, as I often say, if this is the way things are, this is the way things are. We don’t get a vote in how God does things. He will prevail when he is judged. No matter whether we can put the peices of the puzzle together perfectly, he can. He is righteous, he loves all people, we are responsible, and he has only chosen some. I don’t get it, but I believe it is true.

      (As well, there are not any logical absurdities to this system, while, I believe, other systems attempt to solve this problem and, in doing so, create problems that are much bigger.)

    • Michael T.

      “Either way, I do think that the problems with “libertarianism” are not only biblically problematic, but present a philosophically absurd situation. As I outlined above, there is no such thing as the “power of contrary choice” in my opinion since it would either leave the choices without a bearer of responsibility or completely arbitrary.”

      First off I think William Lane Craig and other Christian philosophers would disagree with this statement. However, I will answer it from my perspective. I don’t think any advocate of libertarian free will would say that we are blank slates. We certainly approach every situation with our prejudices and experiences which will effect our decisions and behavior in those situations. This is not a controversial statement. What is controversial is to extrapolate from this pure determinism where all decisions are a result of a X causes Y causes Z causality chain. I would, and I think most Christians would, hold that there is a metaphysical aspects to the human being which transcend a merely material causality chain. Thus while there are influences on a human being they don’t necessarily prove to be the deciding factor in any single decision.

      In your view I don’t think you can escape that God is the ultimate cause of the causal chain of events leading to every decision you and I make. Since God knew full well what His actions would result in there is no way to escape the charge that God is the author of sin. (You know I should really try this in court sometime – blame God for my client falling asleep at the wheel and causing an accident)

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael,

      Previenient grace is necessary to neutralize the will, not create a blank slat. The problem is that if you have a will that is not predisposed to anything, then no choice will be made. There is no “you” who is making the choice and therefore the person cannot be held responsible.

      With Calvinism, there is a “tension” that exists here between human responsibility and divine sovereignty. Concession is made that it is a mystery, but there is no logical absurdity that is necessarily introduced. As well, I believe, it is much more biblically defensible since it can account for all relevant biblical data without having a system bend what the passage says to fit the system.

      A couple of examples where God bends the will of a person (which evidences that it is not fatalistic at all—God intervenes often) and the person is held responsible is with Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh

    • C Michael Patton

      Having said that I do understand that there are some Calvinists of the Hyper variety that do deny human freedom and some even attribute the ultimate cause of evil to God in order to keep the system consistant. They believe in “meticulous sovereignty”. But this is not normative Calvinism at all and is often used as as straw man representative of the “logical outcome of the Calvinistic system” in the same way that Open Theism is used (unfairly) as the logical outcome of Arminianism.

    • Michael T.

      1. God is fully capable of saving all people.
      2. God chooses of His own free will to instead eternally and mercilessly torture the vast majority of said people who have absolutely no ability to do what is necessary to avoid being tortured.

      3. What conclusion would you suggest I draw?? I don’t see how given these two premises you could speak of anything regarding God being loving or good.

      ____________

      1. God has predetermined through causality and His Sovereign plan all events from the beginning of time.
      2. Human beings have absolutely no choice in what comes to pass or what actions they will and will not take. They are ultimately machines controlled by God’s Sovereign plan.
      3. How am I supposed to conclude from these premises that humans are responsible for their actions? No one gets made at a computer virus for destroying computers, rather we hunt down the viruses maker and put him behind bars.

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael,

      All systems (other than open theism) have these problems. All believe that God loves everyone. All believe that God could save everyone.

      However, how you have nuanced God’s “torturing” people for eternity puts a spin on it that does not do credit to both positions views on hell. He is a punishment for sin and is eternal because people eternally reject God and don’t want to follow him (due to their own responsibility, not God’s active predestination).

    • cherylu

      CMP,

      You say, “With Calvinism, there is a “tension” that exists here between human responsibility and divine sovereignty.”

      Like Michael T, I really struggle with this idea. It doesn’t seem to me that “tension” is the proper word here. How can any human responsiblity begin to balance out, for lack of a better term, the sovereignty of God? When all things are under His control and He determines ever thing, how can there be any real human responsiblity at all? His sovereignty certainly overcomes anything we puny humans can do does it not? I just truly do not see how he can determine it all and truly hold people responsible for what they do at the same time.

      Somehow that seems like having a child and creating a set of circumstances for them that they can only respond one possible way to and then punishing them when they do that very thing .

    • C Michael Patton

      Cheryl,

      “I just truly do not see how he can determine it all and truly hold people responsible for what they do at the same time.”

      I don’t either.

    • Michael T.

      “Previenient grace is necessary to neutralize the will, not create a blank slat. The problem is that if you have a will that is not predisposed to anything, then no choice will be made. There is no “you” who is making the choice and therefore the person cannot be held responsible.”

      It seems that you are saying that the human will must be such that it will always choose God or never choose God. I just don’t see how this must logically be so. Furthermore I think there is a misunderstanding of previenient grace (PG – I hate typing this out). It doesn’t “neutralize the will”. Rather it removes the taint of the fall allowing humans to choose God. We are still filled with the same personality traits etc. we have in the absence of PG which will effect how receptive we are the Gospel. It’s just not God who is the sole determining factor in whether or not one accepts the Gospel as is the case in Calvinism and in the absence of PG. I think another converse way to look at it is this. I think the fundamental question in this is whether or not we are free to reject grace. It’s almost the reverse of Calvinism where grace is offered to a few who can’t reject it even if they wanted. In Arminianism grace is offered to all, but rejected by many because of their personality, upbringing, metaphysical qualities, and other factors.

      Again I also think you take a very materialistic view of the human being as if everything is cause and effect and “neutralizing the will” turns a human being into kind of a blob of nothingness. I just don’t believe this to be true.

      ______________

      He is a punishment for sin and is eternal because people eternally reject God and don’t want to follow him (due to their own responsibility, not God’s active predestination).

      How is this so if God is the cause of the causal chain leading people to reject Him? And how is this their responsibility? They never had a choice in the matter.

    • cherylu

      “Hell is a punishment for sin and is eternal because people eternally reject God and don’t want to follow him (due to their own responsibility, not God’s active predestination).”

      However, your whole argument is that people can’t make any choice other than what their nature is. And we do not have any choice in what that nature is do we? We have the sin nature inherited from Adam and can make no choice outside of this nature according to what you have said? So how can we be held reponsible for something we have absolutely no choice over, specially when we can not chose anything else? Is not that fatalism or whatever the alternate term you used for it above?

    • C Michael Patton

      One other thing to keep in mind that very much supports the Calvinistic understanding of freedom and militates against the Arminian understanding, in my estimation, is the fact of observable experience and history.

      It would be impossible to deny that people who grow up in Christian countries have a greater much likelihood of being Christian and those who grow up in countries of another religion will almost always adhere to the religion of their culture. How does one explain this? The simple fact is that you will have an enormously greater chance of being a Christian if you have a Christian culture and family, both of while are completely out of your ability to choose. God determines the times and places where people are born.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl, you said

      “And we do not have any choice in what that nature is do we? We have the sin nature inherited from Adam and can make no choice outside of this nature according to what you have said?”

      But yet Romans 8:7 and Ephesians 2:1-3 indicate that we are bound to follow that nature. It does not negate our ability to choose but that choices are always tainted and subject to that influence.

    • C Michael Patton

      Cheryl,

      “So how can we be held reponsible for something we have absolutely no choice over, specially when we can not chose anything else?”

      We do have a choice, but we go with the choice of our nature. If we are in the Adamic nature and unregenerate, we follow Adam. If we are regenerated, we follow God. Simply put, it is an absolute mystery why he did not choose everyone. But, the fact is that he was under no obligation to save any of us even though both sides agree that we are born cursed. Here, both sides share equal tension. Pelagius was the only one who escaped this charge, but his remedy was completely unbiblical, though emotionally satisfying.

    • Michael T.

      Pelagius was the only one who escaped this charge, but his remedy was completely unbiblical, though emotionally satisfying.

      Some might argue that Augustine’s answer was equally unbiblical. EO’s for one take this stand.

    • cherylu

      I guess maybe all I can say at this point is that if the Calvinist understanding of things is correct, there has to be a whole different concept of the words “love” and “justice” then any we know of in the English language because they just simply do not fit this scenario at all.

      And they certainly do not fit at all the picture and understanding of God that I have had since I was a small child.

    • C Michael Patton

      New poll is up.

    • C Michael Patton

      While EOs disagree with some of the Augustinian view, they certianly would not agree with Pelagianism. At the very least, they believe that our nature and will are born corrupted, even if we are not born with imputed guilt.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Speaking of Peligius and free will, check out this video

      http://truthonly.com/movies (click on 412 anno domini)

      Just to lighten the mood a bit 😉

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP,

      I believe you had the free will (and exercised your free will) to write the blog post titled: “A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will””

      😉

    • cherylu

      Well, I know how these conversations go! I’ve been involved with several of them on this blog and elsewhere and we can go back and forth with Scripture verses, etc, supporting both sides of this discussion pretty much indefinitely. At the moment it is late, I’m tired, and I’m going to bed! Good night to all.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Cheryl, you said

      “I guess maybe all I can say at this point is that if the Calvinist understanding of things is correct, there has to be a whole different concept of the words “love” and “justice” then any we know of in the English language because they just simply do not fit this scenario at all.”

      But that’s just it, isn’t it? We impose our own sense of “love” and “justice” upon God and then find it irreconcilable when they don’t match up. I side with Michael on this there is a tension that we have to live with.

    • Michael T.

      Oh I agree that Pelagius was wayyy unbiblical. I just think Augustin may have been equally wrong. My point in raising the EO’s is simply that it’s not an either you agree with Augustin or you agree with Pelagius issue. The EO’s don’t agree with either as far as I can tell (I’m not EO btw).

    • bossmanham

      Michael,

      A well articulated explanation of your position. However, three big problems I see with this paradigm, that our nature determines our choices, are why did Adam and Eve and the Devil seemingly chose against their natures, and since we are totally depraved, why do we not always choose evil?

      In this post, you have presented a few problems I would also like to address.

      You said If one can choose according to who they are not, then they are not making the choice and this is not really freedom at all, no?

      Libertarian free will isn’t about choosing against your nature, it’s about choosing things that we could actually choose. It is part of our nature to be able to do this. For instance, I obviously couldn’t choose to speak French right now, because I can’t speak French. But if I could speak French, if it were actually a possible choice, I could actually do it instead of English. Likewise, there are things that we don’t have the ability to choose. One choice we don’t have prior to God’s intervention is to place our faith in Him.

      Therefore, there is, at the very least, a self-determinism at work here. This is a limit on free will and, therefore, a necessary denial of true libertarian freedom.

      This is an incorrect understanding of libertarian freedom. As I stated, it’s not about choosing whatever you want, it’s about choosing or choosing otherwise in any freedom permitting situation. You brought up the term “self-determinism” and seemed to think it goes against libertarianism, but that is the definition of LFW, that the will itself determines what it does, not an outside agent. In all of the situations you listed, it was not possible that we had a choice in those things, but that is not a problem for LFW, since we affirm that we are only able to choose what is possible to choose. It’s not possible for us to make choices prior to becoming aware of our rationality.

      Thanks for hearing me out

    • Michael T.

      “But that’s just it, isn’t it? We impose our own sense of “love” and “justice” upon God and then find it irreconcilable when they don’t match up. I side with Michael on this there is a tension that we have to live with.”

      I agree with this statement and disagree with this statement. I agree that God’s justice and love does not in most cases equate to human justice and love because God is perfect justice and perfect love and we are imperfect. However, (in my mind) the violence the God of Calvinism does to these words is so extreme as to render the words meaningless and in fact language itself meaningless as it relates to God’s self revelation. I have often told people that in order for me to be a Calvinist I would have to be a complete post-modernist. God’s justice, mercy, love, goodness, must in some way resemble the human reflection of these, otherwise they are meaningless descriptors. I don’t think God can call Himself “good” and then behave worse then Hitler and still be “good”. Otherwise the Bible is just meaningless words which have no relation to reality.

    • cherylu

      Lisa,

      Well, I didn’t quite make it away from here yet.

      Michael T said in one of his first comments,”In fact it would seem to call such a God “good” would be such a violent attack on language as to render language meaningless.”

      That is how I feel about the words “love” and “justice” here. Our words for them just don’t seem to work in this scenario at all–they are different concepts altogether. I think our language is utterly meaningless to convey these concepts about God too if the picture of God as understood by Calvinists is the correct one.

    • cherylu

      Michael T,

      We seem to be echoing each other here!

    • C Michael Patton

      Boss,

      I see what you are saying, but this post is not necessarily about previenient grace, but what the definition of “Free-will” is according to the various options out there. In the Arminian scheme free-will must include the power of contrary choice. Calvinists would see this as chosing against one’s nature whereas the Arminian would see it as an aid to determining ones nature. However, the problem is that this “aid” has no owner when the will not determined by the agents current disposition.

    • cherylu

      My current understanding of the Calvinist definition of “free will”…

      Being free to make a choice that has already been made for you by your nature, circumstances, etc. and thus ultimately made by God as He is in ultimate control of all of these things.

    • Jason C

      My two cents worth.

      God calls, we hear, we choose.

      The call of God is generally transmitted by his preachers. Some do not choose to follow Christ because no one has preached to them. Others do hear and choose to reject the call, there our free will is exercised. Others hear and choose to obey.

      In what way is God’s grace revealed? First in the cross, second in the call, third in the acceptance of our choice to obey.

      Even a deist like Anthony Flew regards Jesus as being a person of incredible personal attractiveness, yet he has not obeyed the call.

      I think I would subscribe to Michael T’s understanding of the interaction between free will and grace.

    • bossmanham

      CMP,

      However, the problem is that this “aid” has no owner when the will not determined by the agents current disposition.

      If you could clarify what you mean by this, I’m not 100% sure I’m understanding what you mean here, so correct me if this post is totally missing the point.

      As far as prevenient grace goes, yes that is one necessary condition of being able to choose God or not, but on the question of free will in general I still think that true libertarian free will is not the ability to choose anything, but the ability to choose actual options freely.

      As far as ones disposition is concerned, I think that it may influence a decision, but I’m not sure we can conclude that our decisions are determined, or made necessary, by our dispositions. For instance, I have a friend whose friend has a disposition to be attracted to people of the same gender. This person, however, has chosen not to follow what he seems to be drawn to, but has chosen to get married to a woman and to battle his attraction to other men. Now I would say this person willed to do this out of a genuine contingent choice, but on your model it seems you would have to say that his true disposition was to not act on his homosexual urges, and that determined his decision. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, and, from what I’ve been told, this person is certain about his struggle and his true desires. To me, the alternate position seems less warranted than the libertarian’s position.

    • C Michael Patton

      For those of you who do disagree with the Calvinistic/Augustinian understanding of freedom, I would like to know how you handle the problem I outlined above.

      How do you account for the fact that someone who is born in Turkey to a Muslim family does not have as much a chance to become a Christian as a person who lives in America in a Evangelical family?

      Do you deny that they do have a less of a chance?
      Do you say that God did not determine where they live (a quazi-diestic approach)?
      Do you say that God determined where they live and although they have less of a chance at becoming Christian, God still does not determine it either way?

      If the last (which I think is the only viable option you could choose), you are saying that God has determined some to have a greater chance to become a Christian and others less of a chance. Same principles as divine sovereignty the the Calvinist offers, just in a watered down form. However, if you do choose this, you will see that all of the charges and accusations brought against the calvinistic understanding can now be applied to the Arminian understand, even if they are not to the same degree.

    • Michael T.

      “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”

      I think your right that this is the only viable option, however I’m not sure that it is necessary to conclude what you have from this.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      Hi Michael,

      I think your presentation of the Calvinist understanding is generally good– but I’m not sure that one of the examples you use, that states it is more likely that one becomes a Christian living in a Christian nation, makes good corroboration for the position.

      Our will is free to choose from among various options; however since the will is deeply impaired by the sin that marks all of us, it is hindered from making choices among the available options that are not also tainted by sin. In regard to the choice of whether or not to come to Jesus and be saved, the Calvinist understanding specifically states that in his sinfulness man is not free to choose the gospel or to come to Jesus. He is not seeking God and is in fact bent towards rebelling against God and following his own fleshly desires and being ruled by Satan, though mostly unconscious of this, since sin blinds him to this slavery.

      Paul pointed out that the nation of Israel should have been well disposed to receiving Christ, having been given by God all these advantages, “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ m who is God over all” Romans 9: 4-5

      And yet, most in Israel did not choose Christ, but rather rejected His message.

      Paul then explained how God’s word to His chosen people Israel had not failed, despite the fact that most of Israel rejected the Messiah He sent to them:

      11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

      7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” Romans 11: 1-7

      His explanation is that those who believed were the ones God had chosen, God’s remnant, chosen by grace. And the ones not chosen were hardened. I just point this out to say that the principle expressed here contradicts the assumption in your example. People do not come to Christ/believe in Him because they are born in a Christian nation. They come to faith in Christ because God chooses them. Jesus also taught this clearly, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and d who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6: 37; 44; 63-65).

      An interesting thing in this — neither Jesus nor Paul seems that concerned as to whether the will of man is kept free. Both are stating that were it not for God acting so as to make unwilling hearts wiling to come to him, no one would be willing or able to do so.

    • […] Parchment and Pen: A Calvinist’s Understanding of Free Will […]

    • Jake Blues

      I agree with those who are objecting. As an Arminian, I think of myself as being “free to choose from those options that are not logically impossible.” The boundaries imposed by genetics, geography, etc, influence our choices but don’t equate to a discernable set of shackles that we could call a “nature”. To claim that the essential quality of free will is the “power to choose something contrary to your nature” is to load the conversation so heavily with Calvinism that you commit the very error that you decry in the second sentence of your initial post.

      I will confess my ignorance and say that I have no idea what the idea of an essential “nature” means. Is there a consistent Biblical definition of our “nature”?

      It seems to me — again, pending clarification on what exactly constitutes our “nature” — that you are using our “nature” as an escape hatch to exonerate God: it wasn’t God who caused us to sin, it is our “nature”. But who gave us our “nature” in the first place?

      I think it’s more coherent to see our “nature” as the aggregate of the decisions we make, rather than the root cause of the decisions we make. It’s the destination you arrive at after an extended series of decisions, not the turn-by-turn navigation device that tells us where you must go. If it were like the latter, I just don’t see how we can bear culpability, and I don’t see how there can be judgment without culpability.

    • Lisa Robinson

      “As far as prevenient grace goes, yes that is one necessary condition of being able to choose God or not, but on the question of free will in general I still think that true libertarian free will is not the ability to choose anything, but the ability to choose actual options freely.”

      From our perspective, we are choosing freely. If we think that given a choice of options, the selection of what we choose is not motivated by factors external to us, well I’d say that is a little dishonest. That would deny the movement of Spirit and the impact of the flesh.

    • C Michael Patton

      “From our perspective, we are choosing freely.”

      Exactly Lisa. This is very important. The Calvinist understanding of freedom does say that we choose freely. Those who reject God do so of their own free will. In other words, they are not coerced by some outside agent. The same is the case with those who accept God. They do so freely, God simply opens their eyes to his beauty and they come to him, no matter what. But it is still free.

      We just don’t believe in the innate power of contrary choice. People always choose freely according to who they are. The fallen will always reject God; the regenerate will always accept God.

    • Danquo

      So maybe this is a dumb question, but did Adam (and Eve) have libertarian free will? I am guessing so.

      They, of course, didn’t choose where or when they were “born” — and they had no parents or flawed genetics. From all accounts, their influences in their early life were as ideal as possible, yet when confronted with their first temptation (albeit a strong one by the great tempter himself), they failed.

      It seems to me that even prevenient grace would not place us in the same state as Adam was at the time, because we have much more negative influence and much less positive influence. Or is it that even what prevenient grace is supposed to do?

    • steve martin

      I believe the Lutheran understanding.

      Jesus died for all (yes all – that what the Bible actually says)

      None of us wants Him, but he calls and chooses some of His own volition (we are born not of blood,nor of the will of man, but of God).

      He chooses us, we don’t choose Him (that’s also in the Bible).

      God’s gets all the credit for saving us…and we get all the blame for being lost.

      I do believe that is the way it is.

    • Jake Blues

      “People always choose freely according to who they are.”

      Although I’m still very eager to hear clarification on what “who they are” means in your view (maybe a future blog post?), for the purposes of clarification, could you provide an example of someone’s nature precluding them from making a certain choice, in a non-salvatory context?

      One example that comes to mind is the idea of someone who comes from a long line of alcoholics, whose family and friends drink to excess, and who himself has drank to excess for many years. Genetically, culturally, and behaviorally, we would say that this person is an alcoholic — that it is “who he is.” It seems that by your argument, this person should be unable to choose not to drink to excess, since drinking to excess is (or has become) part of his “nature”. Yet alcoholics CAN choose not to be alcoholics any longer.

      So it seems that you either put decisions that pertain to salvation in a different category than other decisions, or that you in some way distinguish between immutable and mutable aspects of our “nature”. Or maybe there’s a third option I’m not seeing. In any case, I think you need to flesh out what exactly you have in view as comprising “who a person is” or a person’s “nature”, since your argument leans so heavily upon this concept.

    • Susan

      Wow! Interesting that you would post this immediately following Paul Copan’s thread. Wouldn’t it be fun if he were to jump in and represent the other perspective! If only he didn’t have a day job…..

    • Lisa Robinson

      Jake, “who they are” is the ungenerated person apart from Christ who cannot choose God except for intervention on God’s part. See Romans 8:7 and Ephesians 2:1-3.

      I also think there is a contradiction for those that say prevenient grace is needed to motivate the person to choose God but allows that person to choose freely but denies that regeneration preceding conversion does not allow the person to choose freely. Either way, the person is unable to choose God and therefore unable to respond to him without God’s intervention. If we are unable to choose him, that by definition is limiting our ability to choose.

    • cherylu

      Lisa and CMP,

      ““From our perspective, we are choosing freely.”

      So, if I understand what you are saying correctly, we only THINK we have free choice? But what we THINK we are freely choosing has already been determined by our nature and by all of our surrounding circumstances?

      If that is the case, what we call “free will”, and what you are arguing for here from a Calvinist perspective is really nothing more than a figment of our imagination for lack of a better term. And everything we do is still untimately determined by God. Then we are left again, with the only logical line of reasoning saying God made us to do exactly what we did, then somehow held us accountable for it, and punished us eternally for it. Or the alternate that Michael T brought up in the first couple of comments here that God actually does have to have some people so show his wrath on and punish forever so predestines some from all eternity for this position. And I believe you would say the latter is hypercalvinism and you don’t believe it.

      But it seems to me that given the position you argue, those are the only two choices availabe. And either way, you end up with God being ultimately responsible for a person choosing to reject Him and then still casting that person into hell eternally for it.

    • Rey Reynoso

      Jake Blues (47) has a good point. I think Calvinists would have to put a decision to submit to God in a different category (while citing 1Corinthians 1). It is a category not accessible by flesh alone but needs individual Divine intervention.

      As to Lisa Robinson (48) if the prevenient grace as commonly portrayed by Calvinists (ie: creating a tabula rasa that can therefore choose between to equal choices) is individually oriented, then yes, it’s essentially the same thing as Calvinistic regeneration. If prevenient grace is something else, something corporately oriented (as in toward all humanity as a whole) that is constantly revealing the grace of God without depending on individuals then it wouldn’t be contradictory at all. Nor would it be Pelagian or even Semi-Pelagian.

    • It seems to me that CMP completely bypassed one of the most important objections made in this thread by bossmanham regarding the choice of Adam to sin in the garden. I think it explodes the entire C argument. Adam was created “good’ by nature and yet did something that was clearly not “good” in disobeying God. It seems to me that the only explanation is that the power of alternative choice was basic to Adam’s “nature”. So when we make a free choice we are choosing according to our nature in that part of our nature includes the ability to choose freely. The other explanation would be that God caused Adam to sin and then punished him and his posterity for a sin that God caused him to do and then out of “love” and “mercy” decided to “save” some of those God Himself put into such an unavoidable situation.

      I think one needs to also be aware of the fact that when it is said that free will is incoherent one must even deny God the power of contrary or alternative choice. In that case not even God is free (and truly God is not free to do certain things, like lie for example). If we strip God of all freedom since God cannot do that which is incoherent, then we are faced with some very alarming consequences. God was not free to not create the universe. God had to create the universe (had no choice). He did it of necessity. That means He had to create you and me (talk about man centered!). Worse yet, if you are one of the “elect” then God had no choice but to choose you for salvation! He could not have passed you over instead. He chose you of necessity. If that is the case then the Calvinist notion of grace is exploded too. They can no longer claim that God “didn’t have to save anyone, but was gracious to save a few”. Not to mention how such things threaten God’s aseity.

      So as CMP mentioned, we need to decide which bullet God needs to bite. Are His actions necessitated or arbitrary?

    • Curt Parton

      This is a fascinating post and thread. I really don’t have time to interact much, but I do want to offer a few brief thoughts:

      — The fate of those who seem to never be reached with the Gospel is something that even many Calvinists debate. To assume that Arminians have a problem with God sovereignly determining where someone is born, when they are born, and into which family they are born, is to misunderstand and mischaracterize Arminianism. Most Arminians believe that predestination [often distinguished from election] is based on divine foreknowledge. This is not a problem at all for the Arminian from an Arminian perspective.

      — Our perception of choosing freely doesn’t constitute a free choice. Someone who has been captured, abused, and programmed to act and react in certain ways thinks that they are choosing freely, but their perception is incorrect. That’s why when it can be confirmed that their choices were in fact not free, in a legal sense, they are not held responsible for their actions. We can manipulate children into choosing what we want while thinking they are choosing freely. Is this kind of manipulation and coercion what we want to attribute to God?

      — I think CMP’s post shows a misunderstanding of libertarian free-will, but others are addressing that.

    • For a strong treatment of the typical Calvinist philosophical objections to libertarian free will in defense of LFW, I highly recommend J.C. Thibodaux’s concise five part series:

      http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics/

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • Jake Blues

      Lisa,

      Imagine that you are on a road that diverges. The road on the left is rocky, uneven, passes through mountainous terrain, with many unseen dangers and difficulties. The road on the right is a gentle downhill grade, and is lined with numerous pleasures along the way. The road on the left has, as its destination, the kingdom of Heaven, whereas the road on the right leads to Hell.

      I think we’d agree that no one /could follow/ the road on the left without God’s assistance — it’s impossible for us to walk it unaided.

      I suspect we’d agree that no one /would have any particular desire/ to follow the road on the left — it looks unpleasant, and generally we are prone to prefer comfort, ease, etc.

      I believe that it’s possible to /see/ the road on the left, even if your propensity is to follow the road on the right; ie, you can be aware that there is a road different than the one that you are on. Would you agree with this?

      I believe it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the destination at the end of the road on the right, and to see that it is unfavorable.

      I believe it’s possible to catch a glimpse of the destination at the end of the road on the left, and to see that it is favorable.

      I believe it’s possible to be told that the road on the left is the one that you need to follow.

      Here’s where I bet we diverge (no pun intended) — I believe it’s possible to take a first step along the road on the left. I see no reason why that first step couldn’t be the result of a gentle (or forceful) push, but I also see no reason that it couldn’t simply be a step that you take because of a perceived benefit of that road, a perceived deficit of the end of the other road, a response to the recommendation to follow that particular road, etc.

      I welcome your thoughts on this analogy and whether you think it’s helpful or unhelpful.

    • Jake Blues

      Let me ask my question a different way (and it’s a bit more argumentative, I confess):

      Would you grant that “hearing the Gospel” is in many or most cases a precursor to “having one’s nature changed”? If so, why is that the case? If we can’t act contrary to our nature, then we have a switch that is either set to “following God” or “not following God”. Why doesn’t God just flip the switch for people — eg the people in Turkey that Michael references who are allegedly less likely to become believers by virtue of less exposure to the Gospel? Why don’t believers just pop up everywhere, in totally random places? Isn’t it rather the case that, generally speaking, the expansion of the kingdom follows the preaching of the Gospel?

      This phenomenon makes more sense to me in an Arminian context — if people must make a decision in order to come to faith, then they must be presented with the options of the decision before they can make it. This is the very nature of a decision. If no decision is required — indeed, if no decision is even possible due to the constraint placed on an individual by his nature — then isn’t the process of “hearing the Gospel and responding to it” a charade that God could bypass entirely? Why doesn’t He do so? (Yes, I recognize I’m being unreasonable in asking you to mind-read God).

    • JJ

      We ask, “Does God control the future? Does he control our choices? Does God determine the future?” And when we answer that, as does the Bible, then we have problems. Forget that question for a minute.

      Instead, ask, “Is past history determined?”

      I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t say that history is determined (except sci-fi buffs). I would get quick rebuttal (tho I haven’t made a point yet) that “past history may be determined NOW, but it was freely chosen (or not freely chosen, if you are a strong Calvinist) at the time…. that there may be elements of history that are beyond our control, but that as far as our choices, they were free.”

      In what sense and in what way is past history determined?

      I maintain that history past is determined, and despite some excellent sci-fi to the contrary, can not be changed in any way, other than corrective toward the future. History past, as it were, is set in stone. I think the majority of Arminians and Calvinists would tend to agree with this much.

      “How was history past determined?”

      Well, this morning I chose white and gray socks. I like them. I thought to myself, “I could wear the white ones, but I really like the ones with the gray on it.” And so, I chose. When I did, that choice was determined in all of history. “You could have changed your mind!” Yes, but then both choices would have been determined for all of time.

      If history past is determined, and yet does not violate my choosing, why can not history future be the same?

      JJ

    • Rey Reynoso

      Oh no, I just read the future. Someone is going to decontextualize Paul and quote “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?”

      LOL

    • C Michael Patton

      Am not going to have a chance to catch up here, but I thought that I would add one thing:

      I am sure that someone is going to ask if God himself has true libertarian freedom. The answer is no. There is simply no such thing, as I have argued, since it is a logical impossibility where actual responsible choices are involved. God also chooses according to his nature. God does have a different type of liberty than us, but if you are going to argue that God can choose against his nature, you will be going against the Scriptural witness to the issue.

      For example: God could theoretically lie. But God cannot actually lie because it goes against his righteousness. His immuntability limits what he can do. Yes, it is a self-limitation, but in every given circumstance, God does not have the power of contrary choice when the choice involves an act that violates his nature. And, it must be understood that God’s acts are not arbitrary.

      The same could be said for people. People could theoretically choose B rather than A. But actually, who they are at the time of the choice is going to determine which they choose. Otherwise, who is making the choice. This idea of “will” is not a separate component that has a consciousness of its own. Neither is it an angel sitting on your shoulder. It is YOU and your representative ability to make choices. It is “free” in the sense that you are making the choice.

      There is a mystery as to why and how people are held responsible for their choices even though there are so many outside factors that contribute to who they are at the time of the choice, but this does not alleviate us of the facts that libertarianism is a logical absurdity. Simply put, it produces arbitrary choices or perpetual indecisiveness.

    • C Michael Patton

      Although, again, it must be said… there are a lot of people who are much smarter than me who disagree. AND there are a lot of people a lot smarter than me who agree!

      In the end, this is certainly not an issue of essentiality and is obviously a very difficult one for people.

      Please keep this in mind and be gracious. Keep it safe.

    • CMP,

      Did you see my comment #53? It brings up this issue of God’s freedom and the consequences of denying Him such freedom. Since you deny Him such freedom explicitly in this last comment, could you please address the issues I raised in comment #53? Also, note carefully that I do not deny that God cannot choose against His nature in so far as He cannot violate His own holiness. But that does not speak to all of His choices (e.g. His choice to create the universe or to elect CMP for salvation while passing over his neighbor) so the question is still very relevant. So let’s narrow it down to just one of God’s choices. In God’s choice to create the universe, was that choice random (arbitrary) or necessitated? Or, perhaps, it was something in a category all its own (neither random nor necessitated, but free nonetheless). Did God have no choice but to create the universe?

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • Paul Davis

      CMP,

      I disagree on this one, your example doesn’t hold water for me. If we are nothing more than our influences then how do churches grow in areas where other religions dominate?, there are Christians in the Muslim world. In your scheme that should not happen, because determinism and the external factors would preclude such a drastic choice outside of Divine Determinism.

      My issue with Calvinistic free will is that it’s not free will, it’s an illusion, there is nothing outside Divine Determinism. Because if you don’t have Divine Determinism then Irresistable Grace is simply not possible, I read both Horton and Sproul on this issue and I found their arguments on free will to be full of holes. (Doesn’t mean I’m right, just that I disagree with their conclusions).

      The world is full of people who make choices outside of what we would consider the deterministic factors of their lives. And the stickler here is that not all are Christian or become Christian, it’s hard to see how God would change someone’s habits and not ultimately lead them to salvation which we all know scripture says is his desire.

      -Paul-

    • Paul Davis

      I would also like to add this for both you and Lisa…

      Thank you for not shying away from these types of issues, and thank you for the Irenic approach. It’s incredibly hard to find good honest substantive discussions about topics like this anywhere (that don’t break down into a fire fest), it’s certainly not something you can discuss in Sunday morning bible study 🙂

      I may disagree with your conclusion, but I agree with your approach.

      Thank You!!!

      -Paul-

    • C Michael Patton

      As I said, God has a different type of freedom than us, but this freedom, as you even acknowledged, is not absolute.

      The problem comes when we say that God created the universe out of some sort of compelling necessity. This becomes pantheism. All of us believe that there are choices and these choices are free. The “power of contrary choice”, as I said, when looked at theoretically, is possible for all conscious being. But when you are looking at things actually, everyone is always going to choose according who who they are at the moment. God will be consistantly choosing according to his character, but is not compelled by some outside force or out of necessity. God’s choices are neither arbitrary nor perpetually indecisive. He, like us, is fully responsible for what he does even though his character comes first.

      God certianly could have not created the universe, just like I COULD HAVE not created this blog post. But, as I have said, our choices are based on who we are. And, as Ronald Nash puts it, we will AWAYS choose according to the greatest desire of the moment. Our desires are dynamically changing due to who we are at the moment, due to many, many factors. God’s desires are stable and immutable. His character never changes.

      Free will must be seen differently when it comes to God precisely because he is the ultimate first cause of all things, but not the first cause of himself and there are no outside factors that make God who he is (otherwise he would not truly be God!)

    • C Michael Patton

      You bet Paul. It is nice to have these types of discussions and keep the bigger truth in mind: there is something much bigger and much more important that we all agree about: Jesus Christ!

    • C Michael Patton

      Paul, concerning my example. I think that the exception proves the rule. Why are there only exceptions in these contries if there is true libertarian freedom. Obviously the outside influences proved too much for the mass majority of people living in Turkey. Do they really experience the same opporunity as I did, having a mother who is a very committed Christian, living in a society that is Christian.

      Even the Proverb says, train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Doesn’t this trained child have a greater chance than the one who is not trained? And who determines the parents? Not the child.

      Another example would be the time of Noah. Why, if God is an “equal-opportunity” God did only five people survive the flood? Why where their only five righteous? If you lived at that time, do you suppose you would have been the sixth? Are you not grateful that God did not put you in that situation? Do you really want to argue that they has the same chance to choose as someone living today, in America? Theoretically, yes. Actually, no. The evidence, whether it be now or then, simply will not allow the type of freedom that Arminians need to make their system work.

    • Rey Reynoso

      I should be serious and say that I think there’s some obfuscation of terminology when it comes to matters of libertarian free will. Libertarians aren’t so much Libertarians as they are free willers who believe that free will is imcompatible with determinism. (There are other incompatibalists who are determinists…they just don’t believe in free will.)

      Many Libertarians have no problem with causal freedom; it’s when you say that it’s deterministically causal where the coherence (for them…and me, frankly) breaks down.

      “I will cause you to love me freely.” is incoherent. I (the determiner) am doing something to affect (causality) you (the agent) to decide freely (of the agent’s own volition).

      Someone might say “what about a drug bust set up by the cops” but in such a case, there is still no determinism involved. “I the police officer will establish circumstances in the hopes that you choose to freely sell me the drugs”

      Now someone else might say “Well, we choose because of our greatest desire of the moment” to which one has to ask “so what” and then offer an example.

      A) Let’s say a human, because of their bad childhood of chocolate abuse, now, every time they smell chocolate they desire and act to kill people. Well, okay, their desire was causal, but the agent acted freely. It wasn’t deterministically causal. He gets the chair.

      B) But let’s say this human was hard wired by an evil scientist that every time he smells chocolate, his desire and action is to kill people. Well, now their action is deterministically caused. This guy wouldn’t get the chair; he can say that although it was his hands that did the killing he really couldn’t help it.

      The compatibalist has to figure out some way that the man’s freedom (even if he really really wanted to do the murders in example B) is actually free while doing his actions and culpable. The Libertarian only says “Impossible to reconcile” and that’s it.

    • CMP,

      The “power of contrary choice”, as I said, when looked at theoretically, is possible for all conscious being. But when you are looking at things actually, everyone is always going to choose according who who they are at the moment.

      But this is question begging. It is mere assertion. It also ignores again the problem of Adam’s sin. He was created good and according to you must have chosen according to his nature and who he was at the moment. He was good at the moment he made his choice, so your entire argument breaks down rather badly at this point.

      God will be consistantly choosing according to his character, but is not compelled by some outside force or out of necessity. God’s choices are neither arbitrary nor perpetually indecisive. He, like us, is fully responsible for what he does even though his character comes first.

      So God’s choice to create the universe was a character choice and since God could not choose contrary to His character (which apparently made his choice to create necessary) then God did indeed create of necessity. I don’t see how you have really addressed the question.

      God certianly could have not created the universe, just like I COULD HAVE not created this blog post. But, as I have said, our choices are based on who we are.

      And apparently we have absolutely no control over who we are, so we have no ability to choose or do anything other than what we choose or do. If that is the case then your above assertion that we COULD HAVE done otherwise is non-sensical and seems like plain double talk.

      Our desires are dynamically changing due to who we are at the moment, due to many, many factors.

      True, but irrelevant if our desires do not irresistibly cause our choices, which LFW proponents have always maintained. Much more could be said, but I am almost to the limit.

    • Sam

      Would someone that believes in LFW please prove that they have this power of contrary choice?

      And when it comes to God, do we actually believe that his choices are less than perfect. Why did God create… becasue it was the perfect choice. Saying that God had to create out of necessity misses the boat. God created because it was the perfect choice to make for a perfect being. Why to you impose deliberation to God. Like he would weigh both sides equally. Do you seriously think that he puts together a pros and cons list before deciding?

    • Joseff

      Michael T said:
      ====
      In addition most Calvinists I know will state that because of God’s Sovereignty over all events everything that happens is the will of God. How is this not fatalism??
      ====

      Hey Michael. I wondered this myself too, when I was first learning these things. Here is what I’ve come to understand. Fatalism says that the ends will be accomplished regardless of what happens between now and then. In other words, the “means” to those ends are irrelevant and not factored into the equation.

      But this is not the same as the Reformed/Calvinistic understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty. Good Biblical theology says that God has ordained the ends, but also he has ordained the *means* to those ends. It’s not that people will be saved willy nilly whether they believe or not, or whether we pray or not, or whether we send evangelists or not. But rather, those are all the Ordained means that God has put in place to realize His own ordained ends. That’s not fatalism.

      This relates to your other statement, here:
      ====
      It’s almost the reverse of Calvinism where grace is offered to a few who can’t reject it even if they wanted.
      ====

      See, that’s just it. This is assuming fatalism (ends without a means). Calvinism does not teach that men are dragged kicking and screaming into heaven. That would be considering the ends without the means. What Calvinism says is that God regenerates us, changes our heart, and that new heart is now spiritually alive and has new desires. The new heart desires salvation, and that’s precisely what it gets. That’s quite different than saying salvation is forced upon unwilling people. In short, anyone who is saved does not WANT to reject it. They are saved precisely because they WANT and DESIRE to be saved.

      Which is exactly what the original article is trying to get at. Humans always choose according to their desires. To say otherwise is to say that choice was arbitrary.

    • I think it should be pointed out that Edwardsian compatibilism really amounts to arbitraryness and tautology when crefully examined, as I wrote in a post a while back,

      “This is basic to Edwardsian determinism. The claim is that we always choose according to our greatest desire or strongest motive force. But this claim is not only mere assertion but essentially circular, not really giving us any useful information. How do we know that we choose according to our greatest desire? The Calvinists would say that the proof is in our decision. Whatever we decide is in accordance with our greatest desire or strongest motive force at the time of choosing. In other words, we choose according to our greatest desire and we know that we choose according to our greatest desire because our choice can be defined as that which constituted our greatest desire at the time of choosing, which is plainly circular. Furthermore, such a claim essentially conflates choice with greatest desire or strongest motive force so that we would be right to say that “we choose according to our choice,” which is a mere truism (tautology) and can hardly be denied by either side of the debate. The Arminian does not necessarily deny that one chooses according to his or her greatest desire/strongest motive force, but sees the agent as responsible for determining what that greatest desire/strongest motive force will be. In other words, it is the agent himself that gives weight to one motive over another which constitutes the decision he makes. Nothing irresistibly causes the will to choose one way or another since the will is itself a complete and adequate cause needing nothing outside of its own God given power and capacity to actualize any of several possible volitions in a given situation where alternatives are involved.”

    • Should be “arbitrariness” above.

    • Joseff

      Hey Michael, sorry to address another statement to you, but so far I find a lot of the stuff you say to be interesting and I’d like to respond, lol.

      You said:

      ====
      1. God is fully capable of saving all people.
      2. God chooses of His own free will to instead eternally and mercilessly torture the vast majority of said people who have absolutely no ability to do what is necessary to avoid being tortured.
      ====

      What you must understand about when Calvinists speak of “inabilities” is that there are two types of inabilities that exist. The first kind is a natural inability. For example, I cannot fly, though I may be willing to fly. I lack the ability to do it. So in this case, I cannot do what I would be willing to do, therefore it would be unjust to command me to fly.

      But this is not the kind of inability Calvinists speak of.

      What we are speaking of is what Jonathan Edwards called a moral inability. (Freedom of the Will) A moral inability is that I cannot do something precisely because I am not willing to do it. So while the natural inability is something I cannot do though I’d be WILLING to do it, the moral inability is something I cannot do BECAUSE I am not willing to do it.

      So it’s not that humans are willing to repent and believe the gospel, but unable to. It’s that they are unwilling to do so to begin with. There is no external force from themselves preventing them from repenting and believing. The inability rises from within themselves, from their own will. They are unwilling to do something, so cannot do it. Why? because a person’s will always chooses what it desires to choose.

      If a will has no desire for X, it will never choose for X. It cannot choose for X, because it is not inclined towards X. Hence, has an inability.

    • Paul Davis

      Michael…

      This is hard to articulate!!!

      I see your point, it’s the same point I’ve heard before. God is good if he saves even one, because we all are depraved (The T in tulip). I’ll grant that to a degree, but John 3:36, 1 Timothy 2:4 make me pause on that viewpoint and wonder if Calvinists have it wrong.

      But the core problem is that neither of us know how Noah made his decision to follow God, I don’t know what the external force that caused the agent to make his choice. It was certainly a radical departure for his time.

      But my point is that world history if full of people who have done just that and not in a christian sense either (not denying, just trying to clarify my point). Can you honestly say that across the history of time that the *only* people (was going to say men, but then I’d be sleeping with the dog again) who made radical cultural changes where men of God? and can anyone prove that those men where influenced by external forces?

      I agree with others that we can only choose what is available, but that our choices are truly free and not Divinely Determined. I also don’t see it in scripture, Gen 4:6 is a good example where God gave Cain a choice. And I would say that he took a huge left turn on that one, it could be argued it was already determined by other factors. But I’m not so sure, and it certainly does not seem to make sense in with exhaustive determinism (if that makes sense :).

      Good topic 🙂

      -Paul-

    • jim

      God gives his irresistible call and the elect are saved.

      Lisa, you said”ungenerated person apart from Christ who cannot choose God except for intervention on God’s part”

      A born again chrisitan is regenerated yet we find he still sins and rejects God’s word not to sin. It seems odd that God can accompllish his will to save whom he desires by influence or intervention but THAT regeneration/intervention does not continue through his christian walk. I think because of Free Will. Why bother praying or witnessing if it is all pre-determined. Why as regenerated men & women do we continually make the wrong decisions/choices. If we are truly regenerated by God’s choice then wouldn’t that lead to a perfect sinless life. Why do we continue to battle Satan and his temptations.

      This has been a bit of a ramble on my part….don’t honestly know how to put into words what I’m trying to convey.

      It is a puzzle, thank God it’s not essential!!

      Lord, forgive me, I could be wrong or right or both.

    • bossmanham

      CMP,

      I notice you brought up that “we will AWAYS choose according to the greatest desire of the moment” which I had prepared to address initially until I saw your qualification in the post that you rejected choice 4 (that we choose whatever we desire). However, since you seem to be accepting the Edswardian paradigm I would like to point out that there is no way to show this without arguing in a circle. I could say, “well my greatest desire was to eat an egg this morning, but I chose to eat cereal instead.” The compatabalist would say, “well then your greatest desire was to eat cereal.” You have to assume that Edwards is right directly out of the box, regardless of how adamant I was about wanting to eat an egg. But there’s no way show this, scripturally or otherwise, without assuming his conclusion to begin with.

      Not only that, but Romans 7 seems to explicity argue against this notion. “For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:17b, 19). Clearly, here, his great desire to do good does not determine that he does do good.

    • dac

      from a very recent mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/ post, a quote from TS Elliot play The Cocktail Party

      Unidentified Guest:
      I have come to remind you- you have made a decision.

      Edward:
      Are you thinking that I may have changed my mind?

      Unidentified Guest:
      No. You will not be ready to change your mind
      Until you recover from having made a decision.
      No. I have come to tell you that you will change your mind,
      But that it will not matter. It will be too late.

      Edward:
      I have half a mind to change my mind now.
      To show you that I am free to change it.

      Unidentified Guest:
      You will change your mind, but you are not free.
      Your moment of freedom was yesterday.
      You made a decision. You set in motion
      Forces in your life and in the lives of others
      Which cannot be reversed. That is one consideration.
      And another is this: it is a serious matter
      To bring someone back from the dead.

    • Sam

      LFW is just a circular. Trying proving that you have the power of contrary choice.

      When it comes to Romans 7, why can he not do that which he wants? If he has LFW he would have the power of contrary choice.

      Congratulations you have just defeated LFW with scripture. Awesome!!!

    • Sam,

      Real quick on your use of Rom. 7. LFW maintains that we sometimes have the power of contrary (or better: alternative) choice. That does not necessarily mean that we have the power to act out that choice. Your comment has to do with post-volition action rather than with the volition itself (whether it is free or not). Also, LFW advocates maintain that one’s freedom is limited by circumstances. If Paul is speaking of the bondage of sin prior to God’s gracious enabling, then that would preclude the freedom to fulfill the law since that has not been made an option to that point. Also, I would point out that Paul is not speaking about the inability to put faith in Christ, but the inability to obey the law. The solution comes in Rom. 8 where we find that one can only obey the law as he or she is empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (which one receives through faith). So in that context we can see that no one has the freedom to live for God prior to putting faith in Christ. But once someone puts faith in Christ that person is then empowered to live for God (it becomes a live option), according to Rom. 8 and numerous other passages of Scripture (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).

      All that to say that Rom. 7 does nothing to defeat LFW when properly understood.

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • bossmanham

      Sam,

      LFW is just a circular. Trying proving that you have the power of contrary choice.

      Maybe in trying to prove it deductively, but it seems far more obvious that we do deliberate, weigh options, and make choices. You would need to show that what seems to be the case actually isn’t.

      Also, moral responsibility seems to require the power of alternate choice. Our legal system is based upon the assumption that we actually do have the ability to choose other than to break the law, and in fact that there is a right and correct choice to be made, and can be made. The reason one is punished for breaking that law is the realization that they should have NOT chosen what they did and could have chosen otherwise. This seems to be the premise behind God’s punishment of those who break His law.

      When it comes to Romans 7, why can he not do that which he wants?

      It doesn’t say he can’t do it, it says he doesn’t. You just read your interpretation into the text. Jumped the gun there on congratulating yourself.

      It seems Romans 7 is indicating that prior to regeneration, our enslavement to evil is so great that even though we may desire to do good, we choose evil anyway. There’s nothing about being forced to do evil in the passage, however.

    • […] Twitter buddy, C. Michael Patton, wrote an excellent article on his blog, Parchment & Pen, addressing the Calvinist understanding of the Free Will debate. […]

    • bossmanham

      And I would second Ben’s more in depth interpretation of Romans 7.

    • joseff wrote,

      What we are speaking of is what Jonathan Edwards called a moral inability. (Freedom of the Will) A moral inability is that I cannot do something precisely because I am not willing to do it.

      And you are unwilling to do it because you cannot possibly be willing to do it. So how does your qualification actually amount to anything different from what was already said?

      I will not be able to comment further until at least tomorrow.

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • Sam

      AP,

      Saying that **LFW maintains that we sometimes have the power of contrary (or better: alternative) choice** seems ridiculous. What it practically says is that we SOMETIMES have LFW. That just shows how bankrupt LFW is as a theory.

      I love the point about the bondage of sin and how that would preclude the freedom to fulfill the law, it seems that all men are under the bondage of sin until and unless God graciously enables them.

      The really awesome part though is that since natural man is under the bondage of sin he cannot fulfill the law. So what he effectively has is the power to pick from a variety of bad choices that is, if this is an instance where he has LFW. Seeing as SOMETIMES man may not have this LFW.

    • bossmanham

      What it practically says is that we SOMETIMES have LFW. That just shows how bankrupt LFW is as a theory.

      No this is a straw man because LFW has never asserted that we have the power to actualize infinite possibilities; rather, as I will continue to state until it sinks in, we have the ability to choose from actual possible choices. I can’t choose to stop the earth’s rotation because I don’t have the power to actualize that choice. But what is within my power to actualize in any freedom permitting circumstance I actually can choose between possible alternatives.

      So all you’re doing is viewing a straw-man as bankrupt, which is fine with me.

      I love the point about the bondage of sin and how that would preclude the freedom to fulfill the law, it seems that all men are under the bondage of sin until and unless God graciously enables them.

      This has been the Arminian position from day 1. It doesn’t negate LFW.

      So what he effectively has is the power to pick from a variety of bad choices that is, if this is an instance where he has LFW. Seeing as SOMETIMES man may not have this LFW.

      You actually just articulated an acceptable definition of LFW, aka the ability to choose things that can actually be chosen.

    • bossmanham

      Sam, I would love to see how you think that moral responsibility makes sense in a world where we cannot actually choose to follow the law.

    • Sam

      Boss,

      Trying to equate our legal system with this seems desperate. For instance, would our legal system hold you guilty for thinking of killing someone? You took no action and told no one of it, you just had a thought of doing it. Could you be found guilty in any court of law here?

      Yet even the thought makes you guilty towards God’s law. You would be considered a murderer.

      I think you guys see that LFW is bankrupt, but you just keep clinging to this idol. You come up with ad hoc definitions of **sometimes** having LFW and other times not. You admit that one in bondage of sin cannot do otherwise than sin. You have put so many holes in LFW that there really is no use in having it even if it were real.

      You do not even realize that you drive a death nail through your precious idol by using Romans 7. Sad, that is what it is just SAD.

    • Curt Parton

      Sam,

      What LFW is asserting is that a “choice” where we can not genuinely choose the contrary is not truly a choice. It is a predetermined outcome. If the unregenerate person can do nothing but reject God—because God has determined it to be so—than there is no legitimate choice involved. Arminians would say that we do, in fact, have this choice when God frees the will through prevenient grace. (Freed will is probably a better terminology than free will.)

      To lighten things up a bit (I don’t remember where I got this so I, unfortunately, can’t give credit):

      Franciscus Gomarus
      Was a supralapsarus
      He deigned to give Adam an excuse

      God had decreed
      Fore-ordained Adam’s deed
      God had pre-cooked Adam’s goose!

    • Sam

      Boss,

      I’ve gone back and read my comments and I never equate LFW with being able to do the impossible, like stopping the earth’s rotation.

      The point that seems to be evading you is that you readily admit that a person under the bondage of sin can only sin. In essence that proves that this so called power of contrary choice is not available to him.

      It seems you want to define LFW as having choices, but that is not the standard definition. You have created this ad hoc definition of LFW, not me.

      By admitting that man in bondage to sin can only sin you have defeated LFW. Congratulations!!! Give yourself a big bear hug and go have a beer.

    • bossmanham

      Trying to equate our legal system with this seems desperate.

      I’m not seeing how this hurts my argument. Of course our legal system isn’t exactly like God’s. That doesn’t mean there aren’t acceptable enough parallels to form an analogy.

      For instance, would our legal system hold you guilty for thinking of killing someone?

      Irrelevant. God’s does. If we are morally responsible for breaking God’s law, and His law includes that the prohibition of the thought of killing someone, then it seems ridiculous to hold someone morally accountable for something they couldn’t not do. How can you account for moral responsibility if we can’t not do what we are necessitated to do?

      Yet even the thought makes you guilty towards God’s law. You would be considered a murderer.

      Agreed. If we can’t not do that, how can we be held morally responsible?

      I think you guys see that LFW is bankrupt, but you just keep clinging to this idol.

      You haven’t been able to show that it is bankrupt. You haven’t even been able to account for moral responsibility on your view.

      You admit that one in bondage of sin cannot do otherwise than sin.

      Just because we lack the power to actualize sinlessness in this life doesn’t mean that we don’t have LFW. It is within ones power to choose not to sin, but ones depravity distorts their whole existence and they choose to sin. Jesus knew the heart of all men, and even the most pious will sin because they will choose evil. I already explained this.

      You do not even realize that you drive a death nail through your precious idol by using Romans 7.

      Show me how I did that, because I remember clarifying that for you. This lazy assertion isn’t adequate.

    • Michael T.

      CMP,
      ArminianPerspectives wrote this earlier,

      “Adam was created “good’ by nature and yet did something that was clearly not “good” in disobeying God. It seems to me that the only explanation is that the power of alternative choice was basic to Adam’s “nature”.”

      I think you really need to address this because to me AP is making an excellent point that if not addressed is fatal to your argument. Did Adam have the power of contrary choice?

    • Sam

      CP,

      Thank you for bringing sanity back- when you said that a choice that one can not genuinely choose the contrary is not truly a choice. Now that is a good standard definition of LFW. You should share that with the other LFW advocates on here.

      Do you see how the admittance that man under bondage to sin can only sin is a problem for LFW? You see if you are correct and not having this power of contrary choice means that there is no legitimate choice involved then how can God judge us under LFW theory on what we do? Unless you mean to imply that all mankind has now been freed from this bondage to sin?

      LFW as a theory is bankrupt and completely against the bible.

    • Curt Parton

      Sam,

      You obviously don’t hold to a LFW position, yet feel qualified to dismiss as incorrect the definition of LFW by those who do. That’s similar to Arminians telling CMP he really doesn’t understand Calvinism! Since you do claim this though [of the definition for LFW], how would you define LFW, and what is your source for your definition?

    • C Michael Patton

      You must remember that most Calvinists are compatibalists, meaning that the believe that there is both divine determinalism and self-determinalism at work. These two combine and give people responsibility at the same time as understanding there are many factors that go into the choices they make that come from the outside, including God’s sovereign choice.

      I don’t believe that God is the active agent in every action. In other words, I don’t believe in meticulous sovereignty where God is determining the action of every moleclule in existence. I do believe that there are many things that are incidental to his plan. In this, there is freedom. However, this freedom is always going to be limited to who we are. There is no outside agent called “libertarian free-will” who is controling our choices. Again, the “will” is simply you. It is the decision making aspect of who you are. It is not a separate mechanism that is transcendent to you and your passions, personality, and experience. It works in and with those things because it is based on those things.

      Therefore, whoever you are at the moment of the choice determines who choice is being made. This should not be to outstanding for people to recognize. Who you are at the moment is based on many things. Personality, culture, DNA, circumstances, and family. As I said before, this is evidence that those at the time of Noah had less of a chance at accepting the truth than we do today. Why is that if we had equal opportunity? (one of the primary motivating factors behind Libertarian freedom.)

      Influences need to be considered as well. We need to understand how powerful they are. Take Eve in the garden. Why did she sin? The text seems to imply that it was the temptation and arguments of the snake that led her in that direction. Adam then blamed Eve. God seems to acknowledge all these factors, even though he held both Eve and Adam responsible for their actions.

      Remember, the potter shaped both the vessels in Rom. 9. One for honorable use and one “prepared for descruction.” This evidences quite a bit of divine determinalism. The objector in Rom. 9 says, “Why does he find fault. For who resists his will?” The very question that many of you are asking (and me too!). In the end, the answer is not given. All we know is that God does still hold them responsible.

      At this point you can either reinterpret many many things to make it more palatable (which is very understandable) or you can say it is a mystery: God is good, sovereign, just, and we are responsible. We simply don’t know how they all work together. We just know they do. I think that this accounts for the biblical data the best. As well, it is consistant with a philosophical necessity with regard to freedom (i.e. true libertarian freedom cannot exist).

      Could I be wrong. Are you kidding? Absolutely. It is simply the best way I know how to explain it right now and all other options, in my opinion, don’t work and create more problems than they solve.

      However, some of you guys are much smarter than I am. You may just know something I don’t!

    • Michael T.

      Joseff
      Re: 74

      I almost laughed when I read your post because you state emphatically that Calvinism is not fatalism and then go on to argue that God has determined the “ends as well as the means” which is a textbook definition of fatalism. Of course God doesn’t save people willy-nilly because He has determined long beforehand who he will save and has ordained that those people will behave in a certain way. For instance John Piper once stated that when we pray we are praying because God has ordained us to pray and has predetermined what those prayers will be and how he will respond to them. Your actions whether they relate to being saved or going to the bathroom have been predetermined and ordained by God from the beginning of time thus making any appearance of free choice an illusion. This IS fatalism by definition.

      As to inability I am in fact speaking of the type of inability Calvinists are speaking of, not the type that says I can’t fly. The type of inability I refer to is the same type that keeps the robot I programmed from turning left at the intersection when it theoretically could have turned right. It’s programming wouldn’t let it. Which is why I say humans in the Calvinist worldview are essentially glorified computer programs.

    • C Michael Patton

      With regard to Adam, people are divided. Even in the Arminian camp. It is one of the biggest theological mysteries as to why Adam sinned. No one knows what his moral disposition was before the fall. Some say that he had true libertarian freedom and was the only one. However, this suffers from the same fate that was discussed above. Some would say that Adam was morally nutral without libertarian freedom. In other words, Adam had no past or genetic disposition toward either good or evil. Therefore, outside influences were the primary factor in determining his direction.

      Some say that he was a “vessal of wrath” that God created and allowed to fall (hense the allowance of the snake in the Garden) so that God’s redemption could be accomplished through Christ. In this, we would take a definite step away from moral nutrality toward being children of God in a way that Adam was not.

      Does anyone know? No.

      The biggest question (mystery) for BOTH sides (with regard to our current conversation) is why did God allow the snake to be in the garden influence man. Again, the narrative suggests that the snake provided the turning point in Adam’s morality.

    • Curt Parton

      Thanks, Sam. (Although I think the others were doing just fine without me 🙂

      It all depends on what you mean by God’s judgment. For instance, under the Old Covenant, a person would be judged for murder or adultery. Can an unregenerate person choose not to commit murder or adultery? Of course. But can they free themselves from sin? No. Jesus showed this decisively in the Sermon on the Mount.

      If we’re speaking of God’s ultimate, eternal judgment, I believe that we are judged for our refusal to believe. And I also believe that God, at some point, frees our will to embrace the truth or reject it. If we reject Him, we condemn ourselves.

      I don’t see how what you’ve said calls LFW into question at all.

    • C Michael Patton

      Michael,

      Falalism, by definition, does not have any outside determining factors. The introduction of God and his plan into a worldview makes fatalism impossible. Fatalism only works in an atheistic worldview.

    • Joseff

      Jim, you said:

      ‘I think because of Free Will. Why bother praying or witnessing if it is all pre-determined”

      Consider the opposite brother. Turn the question back around on yourself. Why bother praying to God about men’s salvation if men have final self-determination?

      John Piper words it this way:

      If you insist that this man must have the power of ultimate self-determination, what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him? You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he act so as to change the man’s heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

      Will you pray that God enlighten his mind so that he truly see the beauty of Christ and believe? If you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man’s will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man’s mind (or heart) so that he will surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man’s decision to trust Christ is God’s, not merely his.

      What I am saying is that it is not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners. On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ. For “no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father” (John 6:65,44).

      Only the person who rejects human self-determination can consistently pray for God to save the lost.

    • Curt Parton

      Hey CMP,

      I just want to echo the thanks of others for being willing to address these kinds of topics (free will and gender roles within a week or two?!) in an irenic manner. It’s great to be able discuss these things without it devolving into a virtual slugfest. This is the way Christian blogging should be.

    • Michael T.

      “Influences need to be considered as well. We need to understand how powerful they are. Take Eve in the garden. Why did she sin? The text seems to imply that it was the temptation and arguments of the snake that led her in that direction. Adam then blamed Eve. God seems to acknowledge all these factors, even though he held both Eve and Adam responsible for their actions.”

      Could you extrapolate the reverse of this then? That the positive influences of Christians (whether through scripture, reasoned arguments for Christianity, exemplary living, etc.) could convince some one to accept God? I really don’t think you have answered AP’s objection here. Since ultimately what Arminian’s argue is that Prievenient Grace puts us back in the position of Adam in terms of being able to accept or reject the grace offered to us you need to show that Adam did not have the power of contrary choice in the garden and in fact was predestined to eat the apple. Of course proving this is going to raise all sorts of other theological and philosophical questions I’m not sure you want to get into.

    • Joseff

      Michael T, you said:

      “I almost laughed when I read your post because you state emphatically that Calvinism is not fatalism and then go on to argue that God has determined the “ends as well as the means” which is a textbook definition of fatalism.”

      Actually brother, I carefully pointed out that my understanding of fatalism is that the ends happens regardless of what happens between now and then (the means). 🙂 I was careful to say that God uses means to reach his ends, as opposed to simply bringing about the ends with no means. Therefore, that is not fatalism.

    • cherylu

      CMP,

      Regarding your last comment, I would still really like to know how any definition of “loving” and “just” can fit the Calvinist understanding? Are these words poor choices of translation perhaps? Because no understanding of those words that I know of can call it either loving or just to hold people responsible for doing something that they really had no choice but to do but were determined by God Himself because of the way He made that person. Specifically when holding them responsible for what they had no choice but to do means they will be sent to hell eternally. How do you explain that–to me it seems to be a total and complete contradiction of the very meaning of those words. It is why I have such a very hard time with Calvinism as a whole. It seems to teach a picture of God that is quite contrary to those very attributes.

    • Michael T.

      CMP
      You are redefining fatalism since fatalism is viewed from the perspective of the individual. If there is a irresitible force outside of myself which predestines me to act a certain way then this is fatalism clear and simple. I am a robot.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Curt.

    • Sam

      How does what I say call in to question LFW???

      By admitting that man under bondage to sin can only sin shatters the LFW theory. Unless you want to say that man under bondage to sin does not get judged on those sins committed while in bondage to sin. Otherwise LFW is dead, thanks to Boss we can all breathe a little easier tonight

    • Rey Reynoso

      Fatalism is just we can’t to do anything other than what we actually do. It doesn’t have much to do with causal determinism unless you add foreknowledge to it.

      Theological Fatalism would just appeal that this is so because God knew it would be happen beforehand.

    • Joseff

      Ben, you said:


      And you are unwilling to do it because you cannot possibly be willing to do it. So how does your qualification actually amount to anything different from what was already said?

      Ben, assuming you’re an Arminian who affirms Total Depravity, I’m not sure what you are opposed to here. Saying that a person cannot possibly be willing to repent and believe is simply the definition of Total Depravity. So clear this up for me: Are you opposed to, or for, Total Depravity?

      If I were to take a guess, what you’re opposed to is not Total Depravity in and of itself, but Total Depravity *without* Prevenient Grace.

      So are you saying that God is obligated to give prevenient grace, because without it, leaving men in their Totally Depraved state would be unjust of Him?

      So…obligatory grace? *scratches head…*

    • Richard

      Thanks, again, Michael for reminding me of Calvanism’s…elegance, and the freedom I enjoy from not having to will notions like “prevenient grace” into existance.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      This is the fundamental question. Can God’s Will be thwarted? Can you choose to do something that God does not will? If the answer to these is no then it is fatalism. You are compelled actively or passively to follow a force outside of yourself and ultimately have no choice in the matter.

    • Sam

      Good point Richard. It seems people jump from on un-biblical idea, LFW, straight into another un-biblical idea, prevenient grace.

      Of course if this magical fairy dust of LFW were true there would be no need for prevenient grace, but that’s neither here nor there.

    • Joseff

      Michael T,

      Ah, perhaps you are referring to determinism, and not fatalism. I think those are two different things. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      We can talk about determinism.

      You see, non-Calvinists are quick to charge Calvinism’s view of God’s sovereignty as determinism, as if determinism was unique to Calvinism. The truth is, the Arminian or non-Calvinist does not escape determinism. If God knows the future perfectly, and if God foreknows X, then X, in time, cannot run the chance of being anything other than true. Otherwise God knew wrongly. If God foresees that Bob will accept Christ, and Joe will deny Christ, then in Bob’s life, when it finally comes to pass in time, is fixed in such a way that Bob cannot do anything other than accept Christ. Same for Joe. Their lives cannot possibly turn out different.

      That is determinism. But if it’s not God that is determining things, who or what is? Arminianism does not escape determinism, it only avoid *theistic* determinism.

      This means the Arminian’s accusation against the Calvinist is simply that the Calvinist says God determines what happens in His own universe. But this is hardly an accusation at all!

      This means that only Open Theism consistently and truly allows for the concept of Lib.Free Will.

    • Joseff

      Michael, you asked:

      “Can God’s Will be thwarted?”

      Doesn’t the Bible answer that question in more ways than one?

      Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

      Dan 4:35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

      Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

    • Michael T.

      An interesting side note. In Law School I oddly enough studied Calvinism (Calvin btw was by training a lawyer) in relation to the law. The thinking of the Reformed Movement was actually the last major theological movement which has had a significant impact on Western legal thought. It’s impact moved us from the Natural Law thinking of the Scholastics which had dominated Law for hundreds of years to the positivist view that is prevalent today. This happened because while theologians and philosophers of the past had focused on God’s essential essence as being Reason, Calvinists focused on God’s essential essence as being Will and Power. Thus in the legal arena, influenced by Calvinist thinking and increasing secularism, we moved from a system where the law was determined by reason according to Natural Law to a system that focuses simply on whether or not the law was put in place by a body having the authority to do so and the power to enforce it.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      But if God foreknows, knows ahead of time, that something will happen simply because he knows the future–knows the end from the beginning–then he will know what X is going to do–that X is going to CHOOSE that particular thing. That is different than saying X will do a particular thing because God has made the decision that is what he will do and he can not change it because you can’t go against God’s will.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, thank you for that.

      So are you saying that it’s ok for events in God’s creation to be determined by the creation itself. But it’s not ok for God to determine the events in his own creation?

      Why is it wrong for God to be the determiner of things, but it’s right for creatures to be the determiner of things? I don’t understand.

      Also, Isa 46:10, when it says that God declares the end from the beginning. That is not saying that God merely foresees the end and then states what it will be. That’s not what declares means. It means that God has decided the end, from the beginning. Not merely that he foresees the end, at the beginning 🙂 Otherwise, why would He randomly then say “my counsel will stand, I will do all my pleasure”.

      In other words, it would make no sense for God to say “I foresee the end…therefore my counsel shall stand and I will do all my pleasure, I have spoken it and will bring it to pass, I have purposed it and will do it” (the next verse, Isah 46:11)

      See what I’m saying?

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      That claim has been made against Arminian’s by many Open Theists and I just don’t buy it. To me it would only be an accurate claim if we somehow understood God as existing in time. Since God exists outside of time and sees time in the same way we see three dimensions I just don’t see his knowing what is going to happen as predestination or determinism. It is a hard concept to even begin to grasp, but think of it this way. When you walk outside you see all the scenery at one in three dimensions. Think of seeing time in the same way, all at once. Seeing that X is going to do Y at Z time no more predestines the event (unless you assume the entire universe is run by Newtonian cause and effect – which i largely disproved by Quantum Mechanics) then me walking outside and seeing a plane at a point in the sky predestined it to be there.

      Also to definitions. Fatalism is the most extreme form of determinism where EVERYTHING is predetermined to happen. Even Arminian’s believe in some limited forms of determinism (for instance the death and resurrection of Christ). Maybe you are a different type of Calvinist, but most of the ones I know will admit that God has predetermined and ordained all that comes to pass, not just some things. This is fatalism.

    • cherylu

      It seems to me like it would be more honest for Calvinists to stop trying to argue that there is free will when on the other hand they say that we are not free to choose anything different then what the nature God has given us, the circumstances around us, etc, allows. That is not very “free” at all. And then a bunch of quotes are given that say that God determines EVERYTHING with no mention of any verses that seem to give a balance to that.

      All I can honestly see in this is that we are in the Calvinist view of things, God’s puppets with no real choice in the matter but are still punished because He chose to make us the way He did. I don’t see any other honest way around that conclusion myself.

    • Michael T.

      As to Isaiah 46 it is a great convincing verse for Calvinism until one looks at the context and language. God in this passage is drawing a stark contrast between Himself and the dead idols which the Israelites had come to worship. In this particular verse He is pointing out that He has acted in history, will act in history, and will carry out His plans. There is nothing in this verse that an Arminian would find damaging to their position. An open theist wouldn’t even have much trouble explaining this passage. The .NET Bible from Bible.org which is a very very good translation edited in part by Daniel Wallace, a regular contributor to this site, puts the verse this way.

      46:9
      Remember what I accomplished in antiquity!
      Truly I am God, I have no peer;
      I am God, and there is none like me,

      46:10
      who announces the end from the beginning
      and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred,
      who says, ‘My plan will be realized,
      I will accomplish what I desire,’

      Also you butcher the context of 46:11 which states this

      From the east I summon a bird of prey;
      from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
      What I have said, that will I bring about;
      what I have planned, that will I do.

      No Arminian believes that God doesn’t act in history and doesn’t predestine and ordain certain events. We simply don’t believe all is predestined and determined, especially on issues of salvation. God here is simply prophetically saying that he is going to raise up someone to fulfill his purpose.

    • cherylu

      By the way, how do the OT Scriptures in Ezekiel 18 that speak of a man turning from wickedness to righteousness and a man turning from righteousness to wickedness fit with the idea that he can only do according to his nature? It seems to me that there are some choices going on here that may be against his nature, don’t you think?

    • Sam

      Cherylu,

      Feel free to quote verses that give a balance to God determining EVERYTHING.

    • Sam

      BTW, Cherylu can a leapard change his spots? Can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit?

    • Paul Davis

      I have to ask because google has no idea, what is LFW?

      We should build an acronym dictionary on this site and your not allowed to use them unless they exist first 🙂

      ACNA took me 10 minutes of googling to figure out what it meant… (Anglican Chrurch North America) arg…

      -Paul-

    • Michael T.

      LFW = Libertarian Free Will

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      Any verse that speaks of man having a choice. If God has determined everything and there is no balance to that at all, there is no honest choice–only a taking up of what God has already determined we must do. That is not choice for us–the only real choice there is the choice that God made for us.

      Welcome fellow puppets!

    • Michael T.

      Deut 30:19
      This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

      To all you Calvinists is this a genuine invitation?? Or had God already predetermined (which is more then simply having foreknowledge) that the Israelites would not choose life.

      The only solution I have seen to these verses and others like “God wills that none shall perish and all shall come to eternal life” is to turn God into a being with multiple personality disorder having “two wills” one willing for salvation and one willing for destruction. It’s a interesting solution, although isn’t it a little disturbing how often the destruction will wins out over the salvation will???

    • Sam

      Equating choice with LFW is careless. LFW is an action theory on how one makes choices. Why do you conflate choice with LFW.

      Again you brought up that only verses mentioning God determining EVERYTHING were being presented and that is why I said feel free to quote verses that you feel balance the scale in the other direction.

    • Richard

      cherylu,
      Perhaps I’m missing something, but why isn’t our God–whose thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8)–big enough to determine plans that take into consideration our free choices?

    • Michael T.

      “Equating choice with LFW is careless.”

      Only in a materialistic Newtonian Universe

    • Joseff

      Chery, you have some very fatal and frightening flaws in your understanding of Calvinism.

      You said:

      ===
      All I can honestly see in this is that we are in the Calvinist view of things, God’s puppets with no real choice in the matter but are still punished because He chose to make us the way He did. I don’t see any other honest way around that conclusion myself.
      …..
      It seems to me like it would be more honest for Calvinists to stop trying to argue that there is free will when on the other hand they say that we are not free to choose anything different then what the nature God has given us
      ===

      You’re mistaken. Calvinists do not argue that God “made us” this way, with our fallen natures. Calvinism begins in Gen 1 with God making us upright, not in Gen 3 with man being fallen.

      Your argument implies that God gave humans a fallen nature and them blames it for it. This is not Calvinism. Calvinism says that God gave humans an upright nature, and man fell by his own fault. So you see, you are arguing against a strawman, a misunderstanding.

    • Michael T.

      Perhaps I’m missing something, but why isn’t our God–whose thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8)–big enough to determine plans that take into consideration our free choices?

      This is exactly what Arminianism posits though. Especially the Molinisitic interpretation of it. God’s plans include human free choice. He knows all of history at once and can intervene in such a way as to ensure his plans come to pass. That isn’t at issue. Causality is the issue. Does God CAUSE some people to go to heaven and some to go to hell? Is he the only factor in making this decision or does human free will play a role? Calvinism is monergistic which is simply a big word which means that God’s choice is the one and only deciding factor in who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Once someone has been chosen to go to heaven they will be irresistibly drawn in such a way that they cannot refuse God’s grace. Arminianism is synergistic which means we believe (at least most of us do) that God offers resistible grace to all people and that people can refuse or accept his offer.

    • cherylu

      Richard,

      Sure He is big enough to determine plans that take into consideration our free choices. That is not my point. The argument seems to be, unless I am missing something, that we can only choose what he has already determined for us since he is totally responsible for everything that happens. And I, and others here are saying that choosing something that has been determined for us by God and we can do nothing about is not free choice in any way, shape, or form.

    • Michael T.

      “Your argument implies that God gave humans a fallen nature and them blames it for it. This is not Calvinism. Calvinism says that God gave humans an upright nature, and man fell by his own fault. So you see, you are arguing against a strawman, a misunderstanding.”

      Did God ordain the fall? John Piper, John Edwards, and most other popular 5 pointers think so.

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      I am not eqauating choice with any particular idea other then the fact that it is not choice if it is already completely predetermined what the so called “choice” will be.

    • Sam

      What is good about foreknowledge? I mean really, if all I know is because I’m outside of time and I see it happening what use is it to me in actuality. I can’t change it because it’s already happened.

      As for LFW equaling choice, let’s try again-

      LFW is a specific action theory on how one makes choices. To say that that is the same as LFW is choice is careless.

      Now I should not be surprised, after all, if one truly believes in this magical fairy dust called LFW then being careless is the least of the problem:)

    • Joseff

      Chery, you said:
      —–
      And I, and others here are saying that choosing something that has been determined for us by God and we can do nothing about is not free choice in any way, shape, or form.
      —-

      Let’s say for the sake of the argument that we do choose things that are determined for us by God. What then? Could you worship a God that works that way? Could you accept that? You must, for this is exactly what we find in several stories in the Bible my friend!

      Acts 4:27-28:

      Act 4:27-28
      (27) for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
      (28) to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

      Notice that the evil, wicked actions that Pilate, Herod, and others did to Christ was them simply doing “whatever God’s hand and plan predestined to take place”. That’s a prime example of men choosing to do simply what God determined for them.

      Joseph was sold into slavery, and yet he tells his brothers (Paraphrased of course) “God sent me here, to Egypt, with a purpose, to save many lives. He did so through your actions. It was his plan all along. My saving of lives was not His “plan B”. You meant it for evil, God meant it for good.

      Again, we see that Josephs’ brothers actions were simply the result of God determining to use them to send Joseph to Egypt for a purpose.

      There are many more examples I could take you to, but you cannot deny that two things are true:

      1) God determines everything
      2) Men make free choices that are in accordance with God’s plan and purpose

      So….do you have a problem with that, even though it’s in the Bible?

    • Paul Davis

      I’m with cherylu on this one, I don’t find determinism in the bible, the sections that are normally reference simply don’t make a solid enough case (to me that is).

      If Adam was created in God’s image and we are sons of Adam and God has free will, then why would we not have free will?.

      What point is a creation where Divine Determinism rules the day, Divine Intervention makes more sense, but why would God ‘reason’ with men who are at their nature not free to make choices in the first place.

      For me this is the core of Sovereignty, for some it’s that God has to be in control, Deterministic (sometimes exhaustive and sometimes not) that free will when understood in this context is an illusion. Horton and Sproul both go down this road, I couldn’t follow.

      I disagree with Michael that it creates tension, I believe it creates a dual nature, controlling on the one hand and desiring mans salvation on the other.

      But a God who creates man in his image and then starting with Adam allows him full free will, is far more Sovereign than one who has to be in control. Some will say that determinism came into play after the fall, but then how you explain Gen 4:6?, one generation removed and God gives Cain a choice and then punishes him for that choice.

      For me I just can’t make it fit, maybe someday I’ll figure it out. But for now the Arminius view seems a better fit to a very difficult problem, but I reserve the right to change later 😉

      -Paul-

    • Michael T.

      “I can’t change it because it’s already happened. ”

      Again your thinking here is constrained by time. “Already happened” is a meaningless term to God as our future, past, and present. Speaking of God in terms of time is futile. I don’t want to get into counterfactuals and all sorts of other philosophical garble. It will suffice to say that God is fully aware of every possible action that could occur in a given universe as well as what the consequences of those actions are and what His interactions with the universe will have on the timeline. So for instance God is aware of what would have happened had Lee Harvey Oswald missed JFK.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      God is the one however, that determined that every person following Adam would be a sinner because of Adam’s sin, did He not? Or do you not believe in original sin and that we only become sinners when we sin ourselves?

      If God made the declaration that all would be sinners because of Adam’s sin, we are all born in sin–with that nature and there is nothing we can do about it–we have no choice in the matter. Therefore, if we can only act according to that nature and can not make any other choice–how can we be held responsible for something we have absolutely no control over? Yes, it was Adam that sinned, but also it was God that determined that everyone one from there on was born in that cursed sin nature.

      Besides, there are certainly Calvinists that would say that God determined from all eternity who would be elect and likewise who would be damned. John Calvin stated so from what I have read and I believe John Piper also believes the same way. He is the one that make the determination–not only by passing over some by activels determing that they will be reprobate according to some.

      And CMP spoke of the “determinism” in Romans 9 where some people are made as vessels of glory and some as vessels of wrath. With that kind of determinism and no balancing Scriptures given, how can we say that God didn’t make us be the way we are?

      I don’t see how that is a strawman argument I am trying to defeat.

    • Sam

      Cherylu,

      Was it predetermined when you would be born? How about when you die?

      Was Christ predetermined to die before the foundation of the world? Why? If Adam was not even around yet to use his magic fairy dust of LFW then why would there have to be a predetermined plan for Christ do die for our sins?

      You see if LFW were true then there could be no predetermined plan for Christ before the foundation of the world because Adam had not yet used his magic fairy dust to sin. Since LFW stipulates that nothing can be known about a given choice until it is actually actualized by said person, because remember if LFW were true only the actual agent could bring about the event. Since there was no agent before the foundation of the world to actualize the choice to sin, then there would be no need to have a predetermined plan for Christ to die for mankind’s sin.

    • Joseff

      Great points Chery.

      I do believe in original sin. You are correct that God made Adam, Adam fell, and God decided to put us all under the headship of Adam, coming into the world as fallen. I totally agree.

      You ask “Therefore, if we can only act according to that nature and can not make any other choice–how can we be held responsible for something we have absolutely no control over?”

      Is that a rhetorical question? It sounds like, on the surface, you have a problem with original sin. If not, let me continue:

      Let me give you an analogy.

      A dad asks his son to clean the garage. But the son gets so drunk that he passes out and is not unable to clean the garage. Is the son then removed from his responsibility to clean the garage? Is it unjust for the dad to stand firm in his command for his son to clean the garage – and then hold him responsible for not doing it since he’s passed out and unable to?

      The idea is, it’s the son’s fault he’s passed out and unable to obey the dad. In like manner, it’s humanity’s fault that we have the natures we have. It’s not unjust for God to expect things from us even though we cannot meet his expectations, in the same way that it’s not unjust for the dad to expect his son to clean the garage, because its the son’s own fault that he is unable to not do it.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      Your conclusions to 137 are both non-sequitar and commit the proof by example logical fallacy.

      No Arminian believes that God doesn’t act in history so appealing to events in the Bible where God does act in history and predestines certain things to happen is unconvincing. It would be the same as me showing you and Apple and saying that because that Apple is red ALL apples are red. There is no Bible verse that supports the preposition that God determines everything. It is only a conclusion from unnecessary, though possible, inferences.

    • Joseff

      “There is no Bible verse that supports the preposition that God determines everything.”

      You would be wrong my friend, for the Bible tells me that God decides everything down the smallest detail, even seemingly random or insignificant events like the casting of lots (dice)

      Pro 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

    • Michael T.

      A dad asks his son to clean the garage. But the son gets so drunk that he passes out and is not unable to clean the garage. Is the son then removed from his responsibility to clean the garage? Is it unjust for the dad to stand firm in his command for his son to clean the garage – and then hold him responsible for not doing it since he’s passed out and unable to?

      Let me give you another example. A dad tells his son that he must fly (without any assistance) off the Empire State Building. Is it the sons fault he can’t fulfill his father’s orders?

    • Joseff

      And it is not a non-sequitur, because the issue at hand is whether choices by individuals are freely made in light of God’s sovereignty.

      I argued that both are true, not “either/or”. Two things are true:

      1) God determines everything
      2) Men make free choices

      I concluded that yes, it is true that individual’s choices are free. But it’s also true, at the same time, that God determines everything. In other words, #2 is not false simply because #1 is true, or vice versa.

      It’s something the human mind cannot reconcile, I believe.

    • cherylu

      “Again, we see that Josephs’ brothers actions were simply the result of God determining to use them to send Joseph to Egypt for a purpose”

      1) God determines everything
      2) Men make free choices that are in accordance with God’s plan and purpose”

      Can’t any Calvinist see that your statments here seem to totally contradict each other? If what they did was done simply because God determined it, there doesn’t seem to me at all that there is any free will involved.

    • Joseff

      Michael, your latest analogy has confused what Edwards calls the difference between natural and moral abilities.

      I’m assuming what you’re getting at is that since fallen man cannot repent and believe, God is unjust in asking him (commanding him) to do so, correct?

      This is why your analogy fails. Your analogy is an example of natural inability: (ie, a person is unable to do something though he may be willing to do it)

      But what Total Depravity teaches is that man has a moral inability (he cannot do something in the sense that he is unwilling to do it, because it is necessary to be willing to do something in order to choose to do it.

      In other words, it’s not that fallen, unregenerate man is willing to repent and believe, but cannot due to some kind of natural inability, but that he’s unwilling to do it from the very outset. it is in this sense he is unable to do it.

    • Joseff

      “Can’t any Calvinist see that your statments here seem to totally contradict each other? If what they did was done simply because God determined it, there doesn’t seem to me at all that there is any free will involved”

      Chery, what I’ve explained here is what is called compatibliist free will. Your mistake is assuming that the only definition of “free will” is libertarian free will.

      Compatabilist free will says two things are true:

      1) God determines everything
      2) men make free choices based on what they desire to choose

      Both are true. #2 being true does not eliminate #1 or vice versa. This is compatiblist free will.

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      Again, I am not aruging for all the points of LFW. That most definitely is not my purpose here! For instance I in no way believe that nothing can be known about a given choice until it is acutalized by a person. I think you may be arguing a strawman in this situation.

      I am simply arguing that if all things are predetermined by God, there is no such thing as real “free choice, I believe the Bible speaks of men having choice, and I can in no way see how we can be held responsible for something that we have no choice about.

      I agree that the Bible teaches determinisn–I also believe it teaches that man has choice. I don’t know how it all fits together. But to negate choice to saying that have the choice to choose something that we really have no choice about is not the answer as far as I can tell.

    • Sam

      God did indeed determine Joseph’s brothers to sell him, the difference is in intentions. His brothers’ intentions were evil and God’s intentions were good.

      Theirs was evil because they were evil and in bondage to sin. Yes God put them in bondage to sin because they were of the line of Adam.

    • cherylu

      I am not getting all of these posts read before I make this comment, so if I am repeating someone, I apologize.

      The analongy above about the drunk son being held responsible by his Dad for not cleaning the garage being the same as mankind being held responsible by God in the face of original sin just doesn’t work at all for me. The son had the choice right there on the spot to obey or to go and get drunk and not obey. I have no choice at all in the matter of being credited with Adam’s sin and it’s consequences–I can’t go back in history and redo that situation. I think you are comparing apples and oranges.

    • Sam

      If under LFW man is a self determining agent, then how can a choice be known before said agent even exists. No matter how you slice and dice it LFW is bogus and should be abandoned.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      It is non sequitar because you are saying some A are B therefore all A are B. It does not follow that because God ordains some events he ordains all events.

      On Proverbs 16:33
      Good proof text. Let’s talk about it. One has to understand this verse in context and I admittedly can’t read Hebrew (or Greek for that matter), but have read a number of commentaries and individuals write on this verse because it is often cited by people for the idea that God determines everything. However, from everything I can tell the context and language used in this verse do not support this conclusion at all. Furthermore, one must understand the genre of literature that Proverbs is (Wisdom literature) and not treat it like one would Historical Narrative or Epistles. The point of this passage has nothing to do with God determining everything. The .NET Bible contains these notes on the passage

      “The proverb concerns the practice of seeking divine leading through casting lots. For a similar lesson, see Amenemope (18, 19:16-17, in ANET 423). The point concerns seeking God’s will through the practice. The Lord gives guidance in decisions that are submitted to him.”

      “In other words, it’s not that fallen, unregenerate man is willing to repent and believe, but cannot due to some kind of natural inability, but that he’s unwilling to do it from the very outset. it is in this sense he is unable to do it.”

      I disagree man does not have the ability to repent because God ordained him to fall and then cursed man to not have this ability. It is in essence no different then God not giving man wings.

    • Michael T.

      “Compatabilist free will says two things are true:

      1) God determines everything
      2) men make free choices based on what they desire to choose”

      By it’s very nature something that has been predetermined by an outside entity is not a free choice. If God has predetermined that it will snow on Monday next week and at 3:30PM I will shovel my driveway then I have no choice but to do so. I cannot choose on Monday to not shovel my driveway because I am compelled to do so by God. It may appear that I am “choosing” to take this action, but this appearance of choice is merely illusory.

    • Joseff

      Michael, are you a Pelagian, then?

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      You do not believe that God can know all things even before they happen even if He didn’t specifically plan them that way? In other words you think that God can only know the future because it will happen as He planned it, not that He can know what a person will do at any given time even if He didn’t directly order that would happen? That seems to me to be seriously limiting God’s abilities and knowledge. After all, we live in time, He lives in eternity. Why can He not see what will happen one day, month, or year from now even if He didn’t decree that it would happen precisely that way?

    • Joseff

      “By it’s very nature something that has been predetermined by an outside entity is not a free choice.”

      So, because God predestined them to do so, Herod and Pilate can’t be said to have freely chosen to do wicked things to Christ?

      (Acts 4:27-28)

    • Michael T.

      “Michael, are you a Pelagian, then?”

      Nope if you can’t tell a lot of my arguments are reductio ad absurdum.

    • Joseff

      Michael, I asked if you were a Pelagian because you seem to think it unjust of God to ask man to repent and believe while man is in his fallen state. You likened this to commanding a person to fly without wings.

      So can you clear this up for me. Do you deny original sin? Do you deny that men cannot, in of themselves, with their own natural powers, come to Christ, despite John 6:37 and 44 stating such?

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      I realize this does need some explanation and I would like to, however the length required and the tangent it would take to this thread would probably not be a good idea. To simply give simple answers yes, I believe in original sin, but I (along with the Eastern Orthodox among others) deny the Augustinian conception of it. No I do not believe men can, of their own natural powers, come to Christ, but yes I believe every man has the ability to come to Christ through Christ’s atoning work on the Christ.

      As far as this post is concerned though my chief objection is the idea that God ordained the fall and then gave man this curse, not that man is cursed. That idea that man is cursed gets into preveinent grace and other issues. The issue for Calvinism is how man became cursed.

    • Sam

      Cherylu,

      You miss my point, its not that God cannot know what He did not plan, He most certainly can. My point is that if man has LFW then man must exist. Like you said man is in time and God is out of time so no big issue there. The issue arises when we see that it was predetermined for Christ to die for man’s sins before man existed. Why?

      Again if LFW were true then there would be no reason before the foundation of the world because there was no self determining agent to have actualized a sin. Again the death knell of LFW is scripture itself.

    • C Skiles

      This is simply and age old prolbem that will never be solved this side of eternity. Either side you choose you will find problems with the system. It’s an unsolvable equation (humanly speaking)…. but it is not a contradiction. This is why when I read God’s word and try my best not to have any preconcieved opinion about the meaning of a particular passage (especially related to this issue) (and btw , no matter how i try i still have preconcieved notions) I can’t help but lean strongly in the Calvinistic direction.
      The great thing is that I don’t have to solve all of the tention. To me, if i could,that would not allow God to be God.
      We must at some point realize that just because a particular postion can’t be fully explained we are not therefore relieved of our responsibility to believe the truth……regardless of which side you take on this issue.

    • Michael T.

      “So, because God predestined them to do so, Herod and Pilate can’t be said to have freely chosen to do wicked things to Christ?”

      I think it depends on how one understands predestination in this verse. However I think it is certainly one of the possibilities. However I don’t think that is a necessary interpretation of this verse. Another translation renders the passage this way

      4:27
      For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed,

      4:28
      to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen.

      It is possible to interpret this in a collective and event predestination rather than an individual predestination. God had certainly predestined Jesus to die. Yet maybe he placed Jesus at this point in history knowing through Middle Knowledge how Pilate, Herod, the Jews, and the Gentiles would react. Thus well their actions weren’t predestined in a causative sense God predestined Jesus’ death and knew the role they would play in bringing it about.

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      I don’t see why man having a choice eliminates the need for Christ to have been predetermined to die before the foundation of the world. So long as God knew it was going to happen, there was still the need to plan for man’s salvation.

      Did you read my comment where I made this statemnet: “Again, I am not aruging for all the points of LFW. That most definitely is not my purpose here! For instance I in no way believe that nothing can be known about a given choice until it is acutalized by a person. I think you may be arguing a strawman in this situation.”

      You keep saying I am arguing points that I am in no way even trying to make. I went into some pretty fine detail above about what I was and was not trying to point out here.

    • Joseff

      Thank you for clarifying that Michael.

      I am led to believe that yes, God ordained the fall. Why? Because it seems to me that glorifying His mercy, grace, wrath, and justice was God’s plan from eternity past, not simply a byproduct or a “Plan B” of creating a universe that ended up falling.

      In other words, God’s creating was for the purpose of glorifying himself and His attributes. In order to be have mercy and grace be glorified, there needs to be sinners. So God created the a universe knowing there would be sinners. He also needs sin to exist or he can’t glorify his wrath against that sin, and his justice.

      He could have created any number of possible universes, even ones that didn’t have the slightest possibility of sinning. He could have prevented the devil from talking to Eve in the Garden. He could have given Adam and Eve no restricting commands so there would be no possibility of commands that could be disobeyed.

      But he created this universe. He wasn’t caught off-guard when the devil was tricking Eve. He put the tree there, knowing full well what would happen. He let the devil in. He let the conversation happen. He could have immediately come in and said “whoa whoa whoa, what are you guys talking about?” and prevented the whole thing. The Bible is clear that God has the power to prevent sin (See Gen 20:6) If he has the power to prevent sin, why didn’t he prevent the first sin (and every single sin afterwards?) Obviously that means, in a sense, God wants sin to exist in His own created universe.

      Does this all sound like a plan to you? It does to me. Surely God is not so stupid that he was taken by surprise that sin entered the world with so many factors that made it easy for it to do so.

      If he intended to create a universe that was sinless, surely he would have locked the devil up, not put a tree there, and not created creatures with curious personalities that are intrigued by the idea of disobeying a limiting command.

    • Joseff

      Or, to wrap up everything.

      “He works all things according to the counsel of His own will”

      Does the Fall fit into the category of “all things?” I say yes.

      God is absolutely sovereign, down to the smallest details, including the fall.

    • Michael T.

      “Does this all sound like a plan to you? It does to me. Surely God is not so stupid that he was taken by surprise that sin entered the world with so many factors that made it easy for it to do so.”

      Yes it does sound like a plan, but not of a God who can in any way be referred to as loving, merciful, or good without doing brutal violence to language. I’m fine with Calvinism as long as it will admit that God is a sadist who gets off on sending billions and billions to hell and eternally tormenting them there. It would seem that you agree with the like of R.C. Sproul Jr. and others who believe that that wrath is a divine attribute and not simply a outflow of God’s righteousness and thus He NEEDS objects of wrath in order to satiate his wrath.

      A God who ordained man to be the way man is and then gets angry at him for being that way to the extent that He decides to send the vast majority of men to suffer eternal conscious torment cannot be said to be good in any way shape or form.

    • Sam

      Cherylu,

      Again man having choice is not the same as man having LFW. My main point of concern is that under LFW the agent is the self determining cause and if you do not have an agent you do not have a cause. So to the person that believes in LFW the question is how and why was Christ predetermined to die for sins of man?

      The problem I see is that most people cannot defend LFW so they come up with all these ad hoc definitions and turn it into their own personal idol. We see clear examples of this on this thread.

      Amway’s, I will leave it at that and wish you good luck.

    • Joseff

      Michael, the way you use descriptive, pejorative language when discussing hell leaves me no choice but to ask you the next obvious question:

      Do you deny the orthodox, classical position on hell being eternal conscious torment? It must be the case for one to use such theatric emotionally charged language.

      Can you clear this up for me?

    • cherylu

      Sorry Sam,

      I didn’t know we had only two choices (no pun intended!) here. I thought we were discussing our understanding of freewill, not necessarily the Calvinist versus the LFW positions.

      (Pun intended this time.) Seems you have tried to predetermine the precise arguements under disucssion on this thread for each of us!

    • Joseff

      To answer your question, it seems clear to me that wrath is an attribute of God.

      Rom 9:21-23
      (21) Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
      (22) What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
      (23) in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–

      It clearly says in v22 that God is desiring to show his wrath. He makes different pots, like a Potter, for different purposes. Some exist to glorify His mercy, (v23?), some exist to glorify His wrath and “to make known his power”

      Though it may be a hard pill to swallow initially, I have no problem with this. Do you? It seems like you do.

      Again, please clarify.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      The answer is I struggle with it. I’m a believer in Eternal Conscious Torment who wants to be an Annihilationist.

      However, this is a tangential issue to what is being discussed. Whether or not I believe in the traditional views of hell has no bearing on whether or not my objections to Calvinism are valid. To suggest so would be to commit the ad hominem fallacy.

    • Joseff

      You’re right, it is tangential to the actual topic. That what makes it strange that you chose to go off on it 🙂 It seemed like your strategy was this:

      “If I paint a bad enough picture of hell, that would make Calvinism look worse, because Calvinism says that God lets people go to hell by not electing them!”

      Isn’t this also some sort of logical fallacy? I believe it could be filed under any number of them 🙂

    • Michael T.

      Ahh good ole Romans 9. The good ole trump card in the Calvinists arsenal. This passage has been discussed ad nauseum on this site and many others as well as book after book for the past 300 years. I think there are a couple quick points I will make rather than typing out 20 pages of junk.

      1. The Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 is far from the only interpretation.
      2. The traditional view even among most Calvinists has been that wrath is NOT a divine attribute, but rather a outflow of God’s attribute of righteousness.
      3. I actually agree that the easiest way to interpret Romans 9 is the Calvinist interpretation. Likewise there are numerous other verses which are much easier to interpret in the Arminian system. I reject the Calvinist interpretation based upon the logical inferences that must flow from the interpretation and the violence that such inferences do to language. As I said in an earlier post to accept the Calvinist God as the real God and then to read the attributes ascribed to him in the Bible as being true would do such violence to language as to render language and the entire Bible with it meaningless and unintelligible. If God can behave like Hitler and still be “good” then I can’t tell you what the meaning of a single word in the Bible is.

    • Michael T.

      Isn’t this also some sort of logical fallacy? I believe it could be filed under any number of them 🙂

      It would be if 1) the description was inaccurate, or 2) the description wasn’t followed by the assertion that God is good. Simply painting a picture of the God of Calvinism to suggest Calvinism was false would be a logical fallacy. Suggesting that such a picture is accurate and incompatible with a God who is good is a argument, not a logical fallacy.

    • Joseff

      Michael, I never argued for certain interpretations of the entirety of Romans 9. I simply pasted 3 simply verses. Regardless which overall hermeneutic to apply to Romans 9, the fact remains that verses 21-23 say what they say.

      The principle remains the same, does it not? Whether a person is an Arminian or a Calvinist, God creates vessels for different purposes. God desires to display His wrath and power.

    • Richard Coords

      It’s a well written article, except that I didn’t see any explanation about how your view fits within the context of Adam & Eve, pre-Fall. It’s not a real simple issue, from the standpoint of Calvinism, as the following quotes reveal:

      John Calvin writes: “But now, removing from God all proximate causation of the act, I at the same time remove from Him all guilt and leave man alone liable. It is therefore wicked and calumnious to say that I make the fall of man one of the works of God. But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.123-124)

      Calvinist. R.C. Sproul, states: “But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.” (Chosen By God, p.31)

    • Michael T.

      I know it looks like I’m dodging the question and the truth is that I am dodging the question, not because I don’t have an answer, but because I simply don’t want to make this debate about Romans 9. CMP did a post on this passage a few weeks ago and there are 100’s of responses to it there. The Arminianperspectives blog also has numerous articles on this passage. Suffice to say I (along with almost all Arminians) reject your understanding of those verses.

      Also the “three simple verses which say what the say thing. Wouldn’t say that – sounds like you’re proof-texting. I can find three verses in the Bible to support just about anything. One must understand the whole counsel of Scripture as well as the context of the passage being cited. It is from a different understanding of the context and point of the entire passage of Romans 9 from which the Arminian objection would arise. Not just looking at those three verses exclusive of anything else.

    • Michael T.

      Here let me give a syllogism which may help you with one of the arguments I’ve made earlier

      1. Romans 9 means God created billions of sentient beings solely for the purpose of displaying his wrath by subjecting them to eternal conscious torment
      2. God is spoken of many times in the Bible as being “love”, “merciful”, “good”, etc.
      3. To describe the God in premise 1 by the adjectives in premise 2 stretches these adjectives so far beyond their ordinary meaningthat they often mean the opposite of their ordinary meaning.
      4. This in turn renders the very language God uses to reveal Himself meaningless and unintelligible.
      5. This in turn renders Romans 9 itself meaningless and unintelligible

    • Ron

      Joseff:

      I would agree that at face value, out of context, the three quoted verses in Romans 9 lend to an interpretation such as the one you offered.

      Allow me to mention a few verses of my own:

      Genesis 18:20-21

      Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” (note: this is a record of what God himself said)

      These verses “say what they say”. Do you interpret these at face value? If not, why do you not believe what the Bible clearly teaches?

      Let’s be honest; there are many individual verses and passages in Scripture that nobody takes at face value, because doing so will contradict everything else the Bible says on the matter. If the doctrine you pull from those three verses was found in various other places throughout the Bible, there wouldn’t be a problem. It isn’t. That’s why extreme Calvinists (I won’t say hyper) constantly and predictably run back to these three verses.

    • Danquo

      With regards to being credited with Adam’s sin, even though we had no choice otherwise, I believe the simple truth is that even if we were all given the “Eden-state” of Adam, we would all choose sin regardless.

      If a person has the ability to sin, he will sin. Maybe not as quickly as Adam (though we really don’t know how quickly that was), but eventually, given the temptation, he will.

      God knows this. That is why he’s just in affiliating us all with Adam and his sin.

      The only way that a person can avoid sin is to (a) be regenerate (in which case the ability to sin still exists and is always warring) or (b) have a glorified body that is unable to sin. (quick question here…in glorified state do we actually have the inability to sin or just the unwillingess?)

      I believe Joseff’s garage cleaning analogy stands up, at least in this way. If the son, who at the beginning had the choice of cleaning the garage or getting drunk, chose to get drunk, then that was his choice. We, in that same position, may have cleaned part of the garage, but eventually we would have been tempted by the drink and fallen in the same way (especially if we were told by the father not to drink it and we really had no idea what it would do to us — and some less-than-honest neighbor told us it was totally safe to drink). So it doesn’t really matter if we are born “drunk” from the outset or not, either way the garage does not get clean.

      I do think the analogy has some issues with inability vs. unwillingness, but those were already addressed. (Replace getting drunk with “distracting, attractive bright and shiny object that is more interesting than garage-cleaning” and it may work a little better).

    • Rick Wadholm Jr

      Great post Michael….though I was wondering what “antagonism towards Gog” looks like. 😉

    • Joseff

      Morning everyone!

      Yo Michael!

      You said:


      1. Romans 9 means God created billions of sentient beings solely for the purpose of displaying his wrath by subjecting them to eternal conscious torment
      2. God is spoken of many times in the Bible as being “love”, “merciful”, “good”, etc.
      3. To describe the God in premise 1 by the adjectives in premise 2 stretches these adjectives so far beyond their ordinary meaningthat they often mean the opposite of their ordinary meaning.
      4. This in turn renders the very language God uses to reveal Himself meaningless and unintelligible.
      5. This in turn renders Romans 9 itself meaningless and unintelligible

      First I think I should clarify something. In Romans 9 it clearly says “out of the same lump” some vessels were created for mercy, others for wrath.

      Calvinists understand this “lump” to be fallen, sinful, guilty humanity. That is, out of the mass of fallen sinners who all deserve hell, justly, some are given mercy, others are given justice and wrath.

      Perhaps this clears things up. It seems like you think Calvinists understand this to simply be saying “God created innocent human beings and then assigned some to heaven or hell without regard to them first being, in His eyes, deserving of either”

      In other words, God didn’t make vessels of mercy and wrath out of simply “the human race”, he made them out of the lump of “the fallen human race”.

      Therefore, there is no possible way you can convince me that this does damage to God’s loving, merciful character. For He saves, out of the fallen mass of hell deserving humanity, billions and billions, when he SHOULD send them to hell to receive justice.

      Giving justice to criminals is not an act that somehow diminishes ones “love”. Justice and love are not enemies of each other. Some guilty sinners receive mercy (Saved by grace alone), some guilty sinners receive justice. Nobody receives injustice at the hands of God.

    • Alex Jordan

      In response to those who are relying on their “free-will”– one thing I’m thankful for every day is that my destiny is not dependent upon my own will (one that is rather weak and sinful), but rather, has been taken charge of by One powerful enough to protect and guard it and bring it to a good outcome.

      Ron, you said about Romans 9: 21-23, “If the doctrine you pull from those three verses was found in various other places throughout the Bible, there wouldn’t be a problem. It isn’t. ”

      The doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election– and in all things for that matter—that is clear in Romans 9:21- 23, is also supported throughout Scripture. There isn’t a thing that occurs that is not within God’s knowledge and control. Did God create a world and creatures and leave it to run itself? Scripture answers no. There is a destiny for this world and a reason why He has created all things. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1: 7-10, see also 1 Cor 15:28).”

      Jesus said that we ought not to worry about what we shall eat or what we shall wear, because God feeds the birds every day and clothes the grass of the field (Luke 12: 22-31). So in the matter of the eternal destiny of each individual, does God not also exercise control? He will feed and clothe us but leave our eternal destiny alone? Now as even the ones chosen by God continue to war within themselves, as someone above mentioned, then all would surely lose their salvation if salvation was based upon performance.

      God is loving, compassionate and merciful yes; He is also holy, righteous and just. He has chosen to be merciful and save some out of a mass of people who were neither deserving nor worthy of His mercy. Our fallen state Scripture describes as being self-inflicted therefore culpable. As Danquo points out, “With regards to being credited with Adam’s sin, even though we had no choice otherwise, I believe the simple truth is that even if we were all given the “Eden-state” of Adam, we would all choose sin regardless.”

      I would add that if we really desire fairness, and think that being credited with Adam’s sin and guilt is unfair, we should also object to Jesus’ righteousness and perfect spotlessness being credited to us despite the fact that we have not and could never have earned it.

    • There have been quite a few comments since yesterday and I am at a disadvantage since my access to the internet is extremely limited (I do not have the internet at home). I will try to address a few of the objections I have noticed that have been directed towards me.

      Sam wrote,

      Saying that **LFW maintains that we sometimes have the power of contrary (or better: alternative) choice** seems ridiculous. What it practically says is that we SOMETIMES have LFW. That just shows how bankrupt LFW is as a theory.

      I don’t see that it makes the theory bankrupt, though it might reveal your understanding of it to be bankrupt. All I am saying is that choice is only meaningful when legitimate options are present. You can choose something if you have nothing to choose from. LFW says that when there are legitimate options present the will has full ability to choose either of two or more existing alternatives. If there are no alternatives there can be no choice. The inherent power remains but cannot be employed when there are no alternatives. That seems rather basic to me and hardly makes free will a “bankrupt” theory.

      Also, I would be very careful about calling LFW bankrupt without addressing the serious problems that arise from your own position. Patton has already appealed to mystery twice in order to defend his compatibilism (which I assume you also hold). For several strong refutations of Edwardsian compatibilism, see here.

      The work by Whedon is especially devastating in my opinion.

      I think you guys see that LFW is bankrupt, but you just keep clinging to this idol. You come up with ad hoc definitions of **sometimes** having LFW and other times not. You admit that one in bondage of sin cannot do otherwise than sin. You have put so many holes in LFW that there really is no use in having it even…

    • steve martin

      I believe St. Paul when he says that “no one seeks for God.”

      I believe Jesus when he says that “we don’t choose Him, but that He chooses us.”

      I believe Holy Scripture when it says that “we are not born of blood, nor the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

      God is not some sort of puny god that comes to the door like a mendicant begging for us to make a decision about him.

      He is a real God who acts. He makes the decisions.

      To me, it looks like that death on the cross was the decision.

      When we come to faith, God ought get ALL the credit. When we don’t…we ought get ALL the blame.

    • Sorry, cut off part of my response above…

      I think you guys see that LFW is bankrupt, but you just keep clinging to this idol. You come up with ad hoc definitions of **sometimes** having LFW and other times not. You admit that one in bondage of sin cannot do otherwise than sin. You have put so many holes in LFW that there really is no use in having it even if it were real.

      You are still missing the point. The Arminian position says that God enables the sinner to put faith in Christ while not rendering it impossible to reject Him. So at that moment a real choice can take place since it creates a framework of possibilities where one can truly choose between genuine alternatives. Again, just because you do not understand LFW doesn’t mean it is “bankrupt”. And I would also strongly caution your rhetoric in calling it an idol. No one here is claiming to worship free will. We only affirm it because we believe it is Biblical and comports with reality. We could just as easily say that your views are driven by a commitment to the idol of determinism.

      Would someone that believes in LFW please prove that they have this power of contrary choice?

      I would appeal to Scripture where I think numerous passages force the issue. Also, I believe the burden of proof rests on those who want to say it does not exists since we all intuitively sense that we have this power. Even Calvinists tend to admit this. So the one who wants to object to what is such a common experience needs to shoulder the burden of proof in my opinion. I would also appeal to the normal use of words like “choose” which are rendered rather meaningless in a deterministic framework.

    • steve martin

      The Scriptures make it quite clear that we are born dead in our sins and trespasses. We can certainly choose…but all our choices (concerning God) are bound in sin.

      We reject God by nature.

      God gives us the gift of faith totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

      Revisit Jesus’ conversation with Niccodemus.

      We could no more choose to be born again, than we could choose to be born the first time.

      What was St. Paul doing when he made his decision for Christ?

      Like the rest of us, God made GHis decision for Saul (Paul) while he was in active rebellion to Him.

    • Sam wrote,

      And when it comes to God, do we actually believe that his choices are less than perfect. Why did God create… becasue it was the perfect choice. Saying that God had to create out of necessity misses the boat. God created because it was the perfect choice to make for a perfect being.

      God is perfect but that doesn’t mean that a certain choice is the only “perfect” choice. Are you saying that it would have been imperfect for God to not create? That seems to suggest that God needed creation in order to be perfect somehow, which threatens His asiety. Also, you would then saying that God’s choice to “elect” you was the only “perfect” choice He could have made. That must make you feel pretty special. Must be hard not to boast in the idea that God’s election of you was necessitated by His perfection.

      The really awesome part though is that since natural man is under the bondage of sin he cannot fulfill the law. So what he effectively has is the power to pick from a variety of bad choices that is, if this is an instance where he has LFW. Seeing as SOMETIMES man may not have this LFW.

      Right, but this is not to say that we can not make “good” choices in a relative sense. But even those good choices would fall short of God’s holy standard since they would not proceed from an attitude of faith or a right relationship with God.

    • Joseff

      Thank you Arminianperspectives with your statements above.

      I personally reject the idea of prevenient grace, and I think I speak for many people here, because if the will is simply “freed up” and able to choose for Christ, it doesn’t really matter. The person still has a stony, unregenerate heart, and is still hostile towards God, he still finds the gospel foolishness, he is still in the category of “Nobody seeks God”.

      So to simply give him the choice between God and sin is not going to do anything for him. Given what we know of the biblical picture of fallen, unregenerate man, we can say with confidence that the man will always consistently choose to reject the God he hates and remain in the sins his loves.

      I am firmly convinced that God needs to do more than offer a choice – he needs to change the heart. He needs to implant the desire for Christ, because by nature, it is not there. He needs to make the gospel appeal as beautiful to the person, because by nature, it is foolishness. He needs to make Jesus look wonderful, because by nature, he is the enemy of Jesus.

      I say, unregenerate fallen man (even with prev. grace) seeks for God about as much as a criminal seeks for a police officer.

      If God gives prevenient grace, and then sits back to see what happens, without actually coming in to do CONVERSION, the entire human race would perish into hell, willingly.

    • Alex Jordan

      (Tried posting this earlier but don’t think it came through– hopefully this won’t be a double post)….

      In response to those who are relying on their “free-will”– one thing I’m thankful for every day is that my destiny is not dependent upon my own will (one that is rather weak and sinful), but rather, has been taken charge of by One powerful enough to protect and guard it and bring it to a good outcome.

      Ron, you said about Romans 9: 21-23, “If the doctrine you pull from those three verses was found in various other places throughout the Bible, there wouldn’t be a problem. It isn’t. ”

      The doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election– and in all things for that matter—that is clear in Romans 9:21- 23, is also supported throughout Scripture. There isn’t a thing that occurs that is not within God’s knowledge and control. Did God create a world and creatures and leave it to run itself? Scripture answers no. There is a destiny for this world and a reason why He has created all things. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, n according to his purpose, which he w set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1: 7-10, or see 1 Cor 15:28).”

      Jesus said that we ought not to worry about what we shall eat or what we shall wear, because God feeds the birds every day and clothes the grass of the field (Luke 12: 22-31). So in the matter of the eternal destiny of each individual, does God not also exercise control? He will feed and clothe us but leave our eternal destiny alone? Now as even the ones chosen by God continue to war within themselves, as someone above mentioned, then all would surely lose their salvation if salvation was based upon performance.

      God is loving, compassionate and merciful yes; He is also holy, righteous and just. He has chosen to be merciful and save some out of a mass of people who were neither deserving nor worthy of His mercy. Our fallen state Scripture describes as being self-inflicted therefore culpable. As Danquo points out, “With regards to being credited with Adam’s sin, even though we had no choice otherwise, I believe the simple truth is that even if we were all given the “Eden-state” of Adam, we would all choose sin regardless.”

      I would add that if we really desire fairness, and think that being credited with Adam’s sin and guilt is unfair, we should also object to Jesus’ righteousness and perfect spotlessness being credited to us despite the fact that we have not and could never have earned it.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      Obviously all Calvinists do not look at Romans 9 the same way you do.

      Here is an article by John Piper:

      http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/84_Predestination/125_How_God_Makes_Known_the_Riches_of_His_Glory_to_the_Vessels_of_Mercy/

      In it he says:

      “Paul has portrayed God as absolutely sovereign. He decides who will believe and undeservingly be saved and who will rebel and deservingly perish. Before they were born or had done anything good or evil, he loves Jacob and gives Esau over to wickedness and destruction (9:11-13). He is free and unconstrained from influences outside himself when he decrees who will receive mercy and who will not (9:15-18).”

      Notice he says that God decides who will rebel and perish. Not simply that God passes over some of the already disobedient ones.

      And then he goes on to quote from Jonathan Edwards and uses his statement to buttress his position. This quote is under the heading: “Edwards on Why God Ordained That Evil Be”

      “Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.”

      God actively ordained evil and that some should be rebellious in this belief system that is a part of Calvinism.

    • Sam wrote,

      Do you see how the admittance that man under bondage to sin can only sin is a problem for LFW? You see if you are correct and not having this power of contrary choice means that there is no legitimate choice involved then how can God judge us under LFW theory on what we do? Unless you mean to imply that all mankind has now been freed from this bondage to sin?

      No. But God ultimately judges us based on our faith in or rejection of Christ. Even if we could not help but to eventually actualize sin due to the pull of our sinful natures and numerous temptations we face daily, God can hold us accountable for our sins based on the fact that we reject the way of escape and resist the grace and kindness of God that would lead us on to repentance (had we not resisted it). Ultimately, that is what characterizes our sin, a continual resistance of God’s grace and mercy.

    • Joseff

      Chery, I think you are confusing two things.

      In the one case I was defending that the “same lump” was sinful humanity, not “innocent humanity”. In other words, the difference between infra/supralapsarianism.

      But in the other case it is not unbiblical to say that God ordained that people be rebellious. You see, fallen people are rebellious by nature. God doesn’t have to “do anything” to get people to be rebellious. They are already like that.

      It is in this sense that I believe Piper and Edwards can say with Biblical authority that God chooses who will rebel and perish.

      You cannot deny the plain words of Paul on this matter. God raised up Pharaoh for the purpose of displaying his power and wrath in him. To make an example out of him.

      Every prominent Calvinist believes in “double predestination” my friend, but what you must understand is double predestination is not symmetrical. It is not two sides of the same coin.

      All humans due to the fall are rebellious and reject God. Out of that larger group, God saves some of them. The rest remain in rebellion, not because God is actively preventing them from coming to repentance. But he acts passively to let them remain in the state they desire to be in: rebellion.

      All humans, by nature, desire to be in a state of rebellion against God. The question you must ask yourself is, if that is true, how is it that you are saved, then? Because you chose to come out of rebellion? Or because of God’s grace? If the former, how is that possible if the statement is true that all humans desire to be in a state of rebellion against God and find Christ foolishness? Calvinists have no problem answering: because of grace.

    • CMP,

      Your comments in #97 seem like a dodge to me. The free will position makes complete sense of Adam’s sin. Adam freely chose between alternatives that were presented to him (to obey or disobey). The question of Satan is not that hard to answer either. God wanted to provide an environment where Adam and Eve could face a test and prove what they valued more (God or some alternative). They feely chose to value the alternative according to the God given capacity to make a choice. Did they have reasons for doing so? Absolutely. Were there influences at work? Absolutely. But it begs the question to say that these things irresistibly caused their decisions. I find it strange that you are willing to appeal to mystery in so many realms in order to preserve determinism but will not allow for any mystery in the inner workings of the human will. Instead of allowing it to be a unique category or power, you say it must be either determined or random. But in so many other either/or scenarios raised against your own view, it just becomes a matter of “mystery”. Maybe this is just a case of “pick your mystery”. But in such a case we cannot call an opposing system incoherent if we simply appeal to mystery when our own system is shown to be incoherent.

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • Sam

      AP,

      ME The really awesome part though is that since natural man is under the bondage of sin he cannot fulfill the law. So what he effectively has is the power to pick from a variety of bad choices that is, if this is an instance where he has LFW. Seeing as SOMETIMES man may not have this LFW.
      YOU Right, but this is not to say that we can not make “good” choices in a relative sense. But even those good choices would fall short of God’s holy standard since they would not proceed from an attitude of faith or a right relationship with God.
      So man in bondage to sin can do nothing but sin. Even this “relative sense” that you wrote about still amounts to nothing more than SIN. I’m struggling to see how LFW is of any use to this man. Sure he can help an old lady cross the road and maybe in a “relative sense” that is “good”, but even this is still SIN. What exactly does LFW accomplish or do for this man? Sure he can go through life doing “good in a relative sense”, but it still amounts to SIN.

    • steve martin

      Nice one, Sam!

      “All our righteous deeds are filthy rags.”

      (and that includes OUR decision for Christ)

    • Alexander M Jordan

      (I tried posting the following comments earlier but I think the comment was too long and therefore got deleted or never posted- so I will separate my comments into separate sections and re-post)…

      In response to those who are relying on their “free-will”– one thing I’m thankful for every day is that my destiny is not dependent upon my own will (one that is rather weak and sinful), but rather, has been taken charge of by One powerful enough to protect and guard it and bring it to a good outcome.

      Ron, you said about Romans 9: 21-23, “If the doctrine you pull from those three verses was found in various other places throughout the Bible, there wouldn’t be a problem. It isn’t. ”

      The doctrine of God’s sovereignty in election– and in all things for that matter—that is clear in Romans 9:21- 23, is also supported throughout Scripture. There isn’t a thing that occurs that is not within God’s knowledge and control. Did God create a world and creatures and leave it to run itself? Scripture answers no. There is a destiny for this world and a reason why He has created all things. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, n according to his purpose, which he w set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1: 7-10, or see 1 Cor 15:28).”

    • Hodge

      Wow, where to begin…

      1. What man is unable to do is override his love for himself. He cannot choose to place God as lord over him because of his self worship, not because God is restraining him from doing so. What man cannot conquer, therefore, is his love to shove God off the throne and rule himself instead. This is his choice, and left in it, he is determined to one fate.

      2. Adam wasn’t made morally good. Moral goodness is something one gains from what decision one makes in a moral dilemma. The “good” in Gen 1-2 are not talking about Adam’s moral state, but the reversal of chaos into order that will perpetuate human life. When the Bible talks about man being made upright, it is referring to the fact that God did not make him (i.e., morally will him in his creation) to do evil, but to do good; but man sought out the evil instead.

      3. I have no problem with God ordaining the Fall, therefore, since His ordination is not forcing the man to choose, but an organization of the events that He knows will lead to man choosing one way, even though He morally wills that the man choose the other. God is not forcing him to choose. God does not make someone do evil; but He may organize the events and influences that cause it in order to do good through it (Gen 50:20).
      Therefore, saying someone is robot because of this is just not true. We are finite creatures in a box, and we are influenced by what is in that box, and our previous choices, both individually as people and collectively as the human race.

      4. The idea that God is simply seeing eternity all at once instead of seeing in time does not pan out. God is able to see eternity all at once, but clearly also sees in time. Otherwise, Ezekiel 18 would be quite confusing for God who sees both the evil and the good of the same individual at the same exact time. Does He kill or spare the man’s life then?

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      Did you notice the line in Piper’s aritcle, “Why God ordained that evil be”?

      This position seems to be definitely stating that God not only dealt with sin after it existed but that He ordained that it had to be in the first place. If you read the whole article, that becomes even more clear.

      In another part of the quote from Edwards he says: “If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it.”

      Note: Edwards said that God DECREED sin to be.

      So now we have God decreeing that sin be, and that some will be rebellious and perish.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      Jesus said that we ought not to worry about what we shall eat or what we shall wear, because God feeds the birds every day and clothes the grass of the field (Luke 12: 22-31). So in the matter of the eternal destiny of each individual, does God not also exercise control? He will feed and clothe us but leave our eternal destiny alone? Now as even the ones chosen by God continue to war within themselves, as someone above mentioned, then all would surely lose their salvation if salvation was based upon performance.

      God is loving, compassionate and merciful yes; He is also holy, righteous and just. He has chosen to be merciful and save some out of a mass of people who were neither deserving nor worthy of His mercy. Our fallen state Scripture describes as being self-inflicted therefore culpable. As Danquo points out, “With regards to being credited with Adam’s sin, even though we had no choice otherwise, I believe the simple truth is that even if we were all given the “Eden-state” of Adam, we would all choose sin regardless.”

      I would add that if we really desire fairness, and think that being credited with Adam’s sin and guilt is unfair, we should also object to Jesus’ righteousness and perfect spotlessness being credited to us despite the fact that we have not and could never have earned it.

    • Rey Reynoso

      CMP, I was wrong. Not about my philosophical statements up top, but about my prediction. I thought this would hit 200 posts yesterday but it hit it today. Sorry about that, brother.

    • CMP wrote,

      Michael,

      Falalism, by definition, does not have any outside determining factors. The introduction of God and his plan into a worldview makes fatalism impossible. Fatalism only works in an atheistic worldview.

      I don’t think this is necessarily the case. The early Greek Fathers often wrote against the heretics and their “fatalism”. However, such fatalism was often tied to a controlling deity (or deities). For example,

      The Banquet of the Ten Virgins xvi: Now those who decide that man is not possessed of freewill, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate…are guilty of impiety toward God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. (emphasis mine)

      Methodius of Olympus (c260-martyred 311)

      For many more quotes of early Christian fathers who stood against the determinism of the Gnostics and heretics, often using the exact same passages that Arminians appeal to, see here.

      There is much more that I would like to address, but I am out of time for now. I am not sure if I will be able to return to this discussion. May God bless you all as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

      Ben

    • Hodge

      5. I also don’t think that the idea of God watching the universe happen, as though it can just run on its own without God. God is the director of what occurs, not a passive agent watching the world go by and responding to it. And I think this causes a problem for the idea that God only chooses to predestine some history and not all of it. How exactly does that happen? How do you have billions of free agents, all determining their own actions, and yet God able to simply make a few changes here and there without affecting the whole? I think the butterfly effect negates this idea.

      6. One’s disposition to choose his own rule over God’s is not given by God or forced upon the individual by God. Instead, God has determined that some criminals remain in their treacherous sin to usurp God’s authority over themselves, and others are changed by God, so that they desire His loving care and lordship to rule them instead. One is not comparable to the other. In one, God controls the environment that will control the agents making the choice, and in another, God is directly affecting the agents to make a choice.

    • Hodge

      19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord . I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. 20 “And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 21 “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 “And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice [him] and also prevail. Go and do so.’ 23 “Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”

    • Joseff

      “So now we have God decreeing that sin be, and that some will be rebellious and perish.”

      Would you rather have God not decree sin but that it take him offguard? Something crept into his own universe that he didn’t – in any sense – want?

      That’s absurd to me! It is clear that God ordains sin:

      acts 4:27-28 they did whatever God’s hand and plan predestined to take place

      Gen 50:20 – you meant it for evil, God meant it for good
      Notice, God ‘meant’ it. He brought it to pass. God’s “meant” is active, not passive, in the same way the brother’s “meant” is active, not passive.

      1 Kin 22:23 – the Lord put a lying spirit in the mouths of prophets

      Exo 4:21 – God tells Moses that He plans to harden Pharaoh’s heart through the events that will be taking place soon

      Is there evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it? – Amo 3:6

      Finally, we see in Gen 20:6 that God can prevent sin. If he can do that, why didn’t he prevent the first sin, the fall (and every sin after?) Obviously, because he didn’t want to. That’s ordaining sin.

      You speak and build arguments as if God ordaining sin and evil is an erroneous, unbiblical thing, but it is not!

    • Hodge

      The Fathers are addressing Gnostic determinism, not enslavement to sin or total depravity due to separation from God. That’s why Augustine agrees with all of them, and makes these same kinds of statements when referring to material determinism, and other statements concerning the enslavement of humans to rule over themselves instead of Christ. Context is key there.

    • Hodge

      “We are finite creatures in a box, and we are influenced by what is in that box, and our previous choices, both individually as people and collectively as the human race.”

      This should be “We are finite creatures in a box, and we are influenced by what is in that box, and our previous choices, both individually as people and collectively as the human race, determine our choices.”

    • Just noticed this and thought I should quickly address it:

      Sam wrote,

      So man in bondage to sin can do nothing but sin. Even this “relative sense” that you wrote about still amounts to nothing more than SIN. I’m struggling to see how LFW is of any use to this man. Sure he can help an old lady cross the road and maybe in a “relative sense” that is “good”, but even this is still SIN. What exactly does LFW accomplish or do for this man? Sure he can go through life doing “good in a relative sense”, but it still amounts to SIN.

      LFW accomplishes much with regards to the opportunity to freely choose Christ (through divine enablement) in order to enter into a genuine (rather than artificial) relationship with God (which God apparently values). Free will also preserves our personhood, which God also apparently values. But even more I would contend that the Bible gives sufficient evidence that God has endowed His creatures with a measure of free will and for this reason alone we can conclude that it is important and valued by God.

      I am a little amazed with your “help the old lady” example. There is a sense in which all we do prior to conversion is sin since it does not proceed from faith and a loving relationship with God. But it is ridiculous to suggest that there is no difference to be noted between and unbeliever who molests children and one who does not, or an unbeliever who is faithful to his wife and one who commits adultery. Neither is living up to God’s holy standard, but do you really want to suggest that the unbeliever’s ability to refrain from such heinous acts is good for nothing? I should hope not.

      Oh, and regarding the follow-up comment saying that our decision for Christ is but filthy rags, we might conclude that there is nothing inherently righteous about putting faith in Christ. Yet God freely credits it as righteousness according to the Scriptures.
      I really need to bow out at this point.

      God…

    • steve martin

      Faith in Christ is enough…

      but it isn’t OUR DOING!

      Faith is a gift of God.

      Folks who believe that they have some role to play in their coming to faith, are delusional and have a higher view of mankind than they ought…and a lower view of God than they ought.

      Sorry if that offends…but it’s just the plain truth.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      There is nothing fatalistic in trusting God to run the universe as He sees fit, including the ordaining of all that happens. It simply means we are not God and that He is control.

      It seems free will theorists would rather have man in charge of his own destiny yet seemingly forget that when man did take charge of his destiny (back in the Garden) he fell grievously into sin and so injured himself and his posterity that he no longer desires God nor can even come to God.

      If the charge of fatalism is leveled at Calvinists it’s equivalent to saying that God may not determine what happens in His own universe since this would be a kind of determinism that takes away free will from men. No matter that this deterministic scheme is one caused by a good God.

      Supposedly God is no longer good if by acting sovereignly he somehow impinges on the free will of humans. But Scripture portrays us as sheep gone stray– creatures lost and stumbling, without God, without hope, dead in sin, under the control of the evil one, under wrath and destined for judgment. It is such that God acts upon to rescue them from their wretched condition, a condition that originated in the first place from humanity acting according to its own free will.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      You are missing the point. This has nothing to do with decreeing sin versus it slipping in and taking God by surprise! The Piper article clearly states that there (caps for emphasis) HAS TO BE SIN IN THE WORLD. In other words, it isn’t that God is dealing with something that happened or that He decreed would happen because He knew it would, but rather, it is that to have things the way God wanted them THERE HAD TO BE SIN and that SOME PEPLE THEREFORE HAD TO BE SINNERS and receive the punishment for it.

      From the Edwards quote again, “There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from….so evil in necessary,”

    • Oh, just one last comment as I think this question by Joseff really needs to be addressed.

      Ben, assuming you’re an Arminian who affirms Total Depravity, I’m not sure what you are opposed to here. Saying that a person cannot possibly be willing to repent and believe is simply the definition of Total Depravity. So clear this up for me: Are you opposed to, or for, Total Depravity?

      Yes, I affirm total depravity, but this does not present a problem for me with regards to accountability since I affirm that God enables us to put faith in Christ. But the appeal to natural vs. moral ability is a distinction without a difference that really solves nothing and says nothing. That is all I was pointing out.

      So are you saying that God is obligated to give prevenient grace, because without it, leaving men in their Totally Depraved state would be unjust of Him?

      First, prevenient grace does not lift someone from his totally depraved state, but gives him ability he would not have of himself in that state. It does not change his nature. But God is not obligated to give such aid unless he wants to judge us as free moral agents, in which case to be just He needs to afford us the means to act as free moral agents. But God is not bound to treat us as free moral agents. He is our Creator and can do anything he wants with us as mere creatures of his. But since God freely decided to judge us as free moral agents and on the grounds of faith or rejection of Christ, then God has freely obligated Himself to be gracious to us by making such a choice possible. This is similar to God giving us grace as Christian believers. He has promised us all sorts of things on the condition of faith. He has freely obligated himself to bless us in various ways if we believe. But this is still grace because we don’t deserve it and God freely promised and obligated himself despite us not deserving it. Similarly, we don’t deserve his help to believe. But because he has freely…

    • Last sentence got cut off above,

      “But because he has freely chosen to treat us as free moral agents, he has also freely obligated himself to enable us to act as free moral agents.”

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • Sam

      AP,

      How does LFW preserve our personhood???

      If man is in bondage to sin and can do nothing other than sin than he is not free in the standard LFW view and that is why I asked what exactly does it do for this man?

      For some reason you go off on some tangent about degrees of sin and how some are more heinous than others, but if even a non heinous sin condemns you I fail to see the point.

      What you seem to be saying is that LFW gives man the ability to SIN, he can either commit heinous sin or just run of the mill kind of sin. The one thing that he cannot do is NOT SIN. Yet for some strange reason this preserves man’s personhood???

      I just don’t get it, maybe I need to be in the LFW club and be initiated into its sacred rites and have this fairy dust sprinkled all over my personhood.

    • Jake Blues

      Hey Sam,

      So I’m not AP and I don’t know if I’m part of the “LFW club” or not but I do think that your complaints about “fairy dust” are misplaced. In the article you linked to that purportedly explained Adam’s fall, Adam sinned because Adam had a nature that was capable of sinning. While undeniably true, this is the sort of vague and unhelpful statement that could justifiably leave those of us on the other side with the impression that you do a healthy bit of magic wand-waving yourself.

      While I don’t have any great investment in prevenient grace, I think it’s a red herring in this discussion; it focuses too much on the mechanics, and misses the most important question of who ultimately made the decision.

      If you argue, as Michael P has, that we always choose whatever our greatest desire is, then your position must be that in order for a person to choose to follow God, God must “reprogram” that person’s likes and dislikes so that he suddenly “likes” God even though he didn’t before.

      The reason that Arminians like me object to this is that it looks like tampering on God’s part. God has to compel people to get people to love Him. But love given freely is better than love given under compulsion, for the same reason that Susie choosing freely to go to the Prom with you is better than Susie going to the Prom with you because her Mom made her. I think God always chooses the best. Can you really argue that the “mental rewiring” is “better”?

      And Calvinism doesn’t stand or fall on this, but it certainly makes better intellectual sense of why so many people are unsaved. If all that is required for us to follow God is for God to rewire our preferences, and if God doesn’t desire that any should perish, why doesn’t He just rewire /everyone’s/ brain? But if some choose him and some don’t, the phenomenon of many remaining unsaved makes perfect sense with no need to appeal to a mystery. That doesn’t make it true, but certainly it’s a more…

    • Sam

      What you call “reprogram” I call rebirth.

      Even under your view God knows who would choose for and against, why make the ones he knows will choose against?

      Also, are you saying that the people who choose against God would always 100% of the time choose that way? Or would there be a scenario where they would choose God? If so, does God know what scenario they would choose yes too and if yes why does God not do that.

      Again, neither you nor AP can give reason how this LFW that AP has defined preserves personhood.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      AP writes,

      “But because he has freely chosen to treat us as free moral agents, he has also freely obligated himself to enable us to act as free moral agents”.

      This sounds like a philosophical statement, rather than a Scriptural one. Please provide the biblical evidence that God has obligated Himself to enable us to act as free moral agents. It seems to me rather that although man is responsible to obey God’s law and to repent of His sin and to believe the gospel of Christ, yet God does not free all from their self-imposed and culpable bondage to sin.

      Scripture tells us that there is a right and wrong in the universe which people know by conscience (Rom 2:15), and that moreover God has revealed more specifically what He requires of man by the giving of the law. The gospel also goes out as a call to repent. At the same time Scripture tells us that unregenerate mankind is dead in sin (Eph 2:1), evil (Matt 7:11), enslaved by sin (Rom 6:17), under the sway of Satanic influence (Eph 2:2), sinful by very nature and also habitually (Eph 2:3). Because of this, none can perfectly obey the law and thereby find justification before God (Rom 7:14-25). Also, none is seeking God (Rom 3:23), and none will freely come to Christ apart from God drawing them (John 6:37, 44, 65).

      Arminian thought however points to universal prevenient grace as the enabling agent that makes it possible for us to act as free moral agents and choose to accept or reject the offer of Christ. So it seems to be a linchpin in their argument.

      Yet the doctrine of prevenient grace as Arminians understand it does not seem to be taught in Scripture. I wrote an article on this on my blog sometime back, Arminianism vs Reformed Theology (Universal Prevenient Grace vs Total Inability, Part I), if anyone is interested in reading a more detailed argument against Arminian prevenient grace.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      You said earlier

      “First I think I should clarify something. In Romans 9 it clearly says “out of the same lump” some vessels were created for mercy, others for wrath.

      Calvinists understand this “lump” to be fallen, sinful, guilty humanity. That is, out of the mass of fallen sinners who all deserve hell, justly, some are given mercy, others are given justice and wrath.

      Perhaps this clears things up. It seems like you think Calvinists understand this to simply be saying “God created innocent human beings and then assigned some to heaven or hell without regard to them first being, in His eyes, deserving of either””

      I think a couple things need to be said about this.

      1. As pointed out by Cheryl this is not what the majority of the popular level five pointers think on this issue. You can try to find loopholes to avoid the conclusion, but logically one must conclude that God from the beginning of time destined and determined by his sole choice that individuals would sin for the sole purpose of displaying his wrath against sin.

      2. Even if true my syllogism still holds since according to you (and almost all 5 pointers) all that happens was ordained and determined by God including the original disposition of the “lump” as sinful and fallen.

      3. Although I obviously don’t hang my case for Arminianism on a syllogism I made up 24 hours ago I’m interested if anyone can point out which of my premises is incorrect. As is it seems to me that if Calvinism is true then language is meaningless and unintelligible. In what way is the God of Calvinism good, loving, merciful and how do these adjectives in any way resemble the ordinary meaning of these adjectives?

    • cherylu

      Sam,

      I have a question for you. You said, “What you call “reprogram” I call rebirth.” Do you and other Calvinists see rebirth in this context as a separate thing from receiving eternal life? In other words, are we “reborn” twice–as in converted, reprogrammed or whatever you want to call it–and then at a later time receive eternal life? How many infusions of life are you understanding there to be here?

      I honestly don’t know what your understanding of this matter is.

    • Michael T.

      “The Fathers are addressing Gnostic determinism, not enslavement to sin or total depravity due to separation from God. That’s why Augustine agrees with all of them, and makes these same kinds of statements when referring to material determinism, and other statements concerning the enslavement of humans to rule over themselves instead of Christ. Context is key there.”

      You know I’ve heard Calvinist after Calvinist claim this and I just don’t buy it. Having actually read most of the ante-nicene fathers it seems brutally apparent to me that 1) the were appealing to the same verses Arminian’s appeal to to defend their case, 2) their opponents were appealing to the same verses Calvinists appeal too and they were responding with interpretations of those verses similar to what Arminian’s respond with, and 3) the beliefs of the Gnostics with regards to fatalism are eerily similar to Calvinisitic beliefs though Calvinists try to find loop holes to dodge the label.

    • Joseff

      ““But because he has freely chosen to treat us as free moral agents, he has also freely obligated himself to enable us to act as free moral agents.””

      This makes absolutely no sense to me, with all due respect. Let me give you my analogy again.

      A dad asks his son do a particular chore. The son is able to do it. But the son chooses to disobey and get drunk, so he is now passed out, incoherent, and unable to obey the dad’s command.

      What you’re saying is that the dad, at this point, must lend help to the son and re-enable him to do the chore. Otherwise, the dad would be unjust in standing firm in his command for the son do to the chore.

      This makes no sense to me. The dad is under no obligation to lend help to the son. The son disobeyed and gave up his freedom. He rebelled. He didn’t want to obey the dad. He was irresponsible. The son’s own self-inflicted inability does not place the dad under any sort of obligation to help the son become “able” to obey. The son’s own self-inflicted inability does not suddenly change the rules of fairness and justice.

      You’re saying that God, in order to be just, MUST give prevenient grace or else he cannot (justly) command men to repent and believe.

      Adam was in a perfectly good relationship with God, then Adam disobeyed and Fell. You’re saying that it would be UNJUST of God to continue to expect/demand that fallen Adam still remain in that good relationship with God, since Adam cannot anymore, due to sin. So to remain Just, God must help Adam out and give him the ability again.

      I do not buy this. It makes no sense biblically or judicially. It is against reason.

    • Joseff

      “Sam,

      I have a question for you. You said, “What you call “reprogram” I call rebirth.” Do you and other Calvinists see rebirth in this context as a separate thing from receiving eternal life? In other words, are we “reborn” twice–as in converted, reprogrammed or whatever you want to call it–and then at a later time receive eternal life? How many infusions of life are you understanding there to be here? ”

      That’s simply biblical language, Chery.

      The new birth is being “born again”, which is mandatory for a person to even perceive, let alone enter, the kingdom of God. Paul says “you were dead, and God made you alive, by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2).

      Regeneration is what changes our stony, rebellious hearts into hearts that are alive and desire to obey God. It is mandatory for anyone to embrace Jesus Christ, for a person cannot do that with a stony heart that hates Christ!

      Regeneration leads to faith, faith leads to justification (eternal life).

      This all happens simultaneously, not at different moments in time. Like a pool ball striking another pool ball. They strike each other at the same time, but the one moving has causal priority. When a person is regenerated, they believe in Jesus Christ. That’s the natural result of a heart that goes from spiritually dead to spiritually alive.

    • Sam

      If you want to understand my view then just look to the WCF, either the long or short one will suffice and it will give you a good idea of what I believe.

      I really do not have the foggiest idea what your question about number of infusions of life means or why you think it pertinent to this thread or discussion. Needless to say I was arguing against LFW, mainly as expressed by AP. You seem to back away from the outright embrace of LFW so I see no need to continue down these many rabbit trails that some want to take this thread.

      If you do want to understand “what my understanding on this matter” is or any other theological matter then WCF is the place to go.

    • Jake Blues

      Hi Sam,

      I don’t think it matters whether you call it “reprogram”, “rebirth”, or anything else. The question is whether being “reprogrammed” or “reborn” is coercive or not. Under your view, it’s coercive.

      “Even under your view God knows who would choose for and against, why make the ones he knows will choose against? ”

      Let’s say (hypothetically) that someone in your ancestry was a non-believer. But without that person having existed, neither would you have existed. God had sufficient desire that you, who would choose Him, should exist that He was willing to tolerate the existence of your ancestor who rejects Him (although He’d of course have preferred that your ancestor chose Him as well).

      “Also, are you saying that the people who choose against God would always 100% of the time choose that way? Or would there be a scenario where they would choose God?”

      I don’t know the answer to this with certainty. I’d be inclined to believe, based on my understanding of God’s mercy, that no one who would be inclined to choose God would be denied the opportunity to do so simply because “the appropriate circumstance never came up.” At the same time, I think we’re obligated to spread the Gospel and insure that people DO have the opportunity to hear and respond to it. These don’t harmonize perfectly, but then Calvinism is subject to a pretty similar incongruity.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      The point is, we are NOT the original Adam. We never had the choice to obey or not to obey. The issue here seems to be that we can not choose to do anything but sin because it is our nature. In your analogy the son COULD choose to obey and not to get drunk but chose to disobey. Or at least that is the way I understood the analogy. That is why I don’t see the analogy as working.

      The point that I have been trying to make is that since we have no choice about the kind of people we are, how can we be held morally responsible for something we can not help but do because God has decreed that is the way it will be and that we will indeed rebel? How is it fair, or just, or good, or loving, or merciful in any normal sense of the word to those people to hold them eternally responsible for something He said they had to do and therefore they could not do otherwise? And not only does He hold them eternally responsible, but punishes them eternally in a very horrible way for it? (A punishment, by the way, that He has told us we are to avoid at all costs. How are we to avoid it if He has made it so that we have to go there and can not escape it?)

      Or is God, in your understanding, only interested in being merciful and good and loving to a small portion of humanity and the rest, the great majority, He is only interested in showing justice for sin and wrath to?

      That later view flies in the face of so mush of the rest of Scripture that I can not understand that is what God means in Romans 9 even if the “clear reading” of that portion does say that. Taken within the context of much of the rest of Scripture, it seems to me that there must be another understanding.

    • Sam

      Tell Lazarus that Jesus was coercive when he brought him back to life. lol

      You want me to believe that God can turn rocks into children of Abraham, but he needs an un-repentant sinner to bring about a believers existence. Really, this thread has gotten sillier and sillier.

    • Jake Blues

      I don’t see why LFW precludes personhood, but perhaps it might exclude static personhood. I have no problem with personhood — the essence of “who we are” being dynamic; I suggested earlier that it makes sense to think of it as in some sense the destination your choices lead you to, rather than the navigation device that exhaustively determines your choices.

      At the same time, my favorite book is Lewis’ Great Divorce and I love the final scene of that book where…well, I won’t spoil it if you haven’t read it. But suffice to say, it suggests a way of looking at things whereby there is some “eternal” or “immutable” part of ourselves. It would be tough for me to go against Lewis if it came down to it, so I guess I’m at least sympathetic to Michael’s view of personhood, even though I still think it’s inadequately explained at present.

    • Sam

      Seems you all cannot accept the fact that because of Adam you are what you are because “whah, whah” that would just not be fair. How could you hold me accountable for what someone else did?

      How can God justify you because of what someone else did? Or are you all against imputed righteousness as well.

      This is what happens when someone speaks against the idol of free will. Man gets all flustered and whiny, oh how could it be that’s just not fair.

      What’s not fair is that Christ took the penalty rightly due you and washed away your sins by becoming sin. What’s not fair is that the only man without sin was made sin so that you could be justified by a holy God. What’s not fair is that the only man that obeyed all of the law was counted guilty by God.

      The truth of the matter is that you all don’t want what is fair; you only want to have power. You want to be “as gods”, so you cling to your man centeredness.

    • Jake Blues

      “Tell Lazarus that Jesus was coercive when he brought him back to life. lol”

      I don’t think you owe me the courtesy of engaging my remarks intellectually, but I hope you at least recognize that with snarky comments like this, you show no evidence of having done so.

      “You want me to believe that God can turn rocks into children of Abraham, but he needs an un-repentant sinner to bring about a believers existence.”

      Perhaps not to bring about any believer’s existence, but to bring about your existence, specifically? Yes, absolutely (at least, if we are speaking of your existence coming about via the ordinary mechanisms that God put into place at creation, as opposed to creating you ex nihilo, which I don’t think you’re alleging happened in your case!). You yourself think that, if you agree with Michael’s opening post, which states quite unambiguously that “who you are” is determined to large degree by your genetics, country of birth, etc.

      Your question, “why make the ones he knows will choose against?”, has been answered. Of course, my answer isn’t the only one that’s available, it’s just the easiest. I’m not sure how many it would take to satisfy you.

    • Joseff

      Chery, are you saying you reject the doctrine of Original sin, that say we are born as sinners and in a totally depraved state?

      If so, I wonder if you reject Paul’s statements that we cannot obey God’s laws? That we are, and I quote “unable to” (Rom 8:7-8). You must, to be consistent. Because you must find it unjust that God would ask us to do what we cannot do.

      Yet isn’t this the very heart of the gospel? The gospel is that I acnnot obey God, therefore I need a Saviour. If i were to line up with your thinking, I would change the gospel to say “I can obey God, but i accidentally messed up, so I guess I’m lucky that Jesus is there to benefit my situation”

      You said:
      Taken within the context of much of the rest of Scripture, it seems to me that there must be another understanding.”

      I must translate this as “Well I don’t know how to reconcile that with what I believe about God, so there MUST be some other explanation”

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      (First of all, small point here–my name is not Chery, it is Cheryl)

      Secondly, this is not a rabbit trail nor an inconsequential point, nor am I arguing that a person does not have to be reborn.

      The point is that non Calvinists see faith as coming before regeneration, not after it. So for you to say to us that we have to be regenerated before we can have faith is backwards in our understanding. That is why I asked what I did. I did not understand how your system worked.

      In our way of thinking, being reborn or born again, is the same as having eternal life. And the Bible makes it very clear that eternal life comes as the result of faith. We see rebirth, justification, and intitial sanctification as being something that all comes at the same time as the result of faith.

      So you see a person as being reborn, what I called one “infusion of life”, and then receiving faith by which you receive eternal life. (The second “infusion of life”.) This whole process is seen quite differently by the two sides of this issue.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, thank you. I must point out that I added to my comment. Could you re-read it? It seems you were writing a response at the same time I was adding to my comment, lol

    • Jake Blues

      Sam, you are as lousy an interpreter of motives as you are a proponent for Calvinism. (*)

      This has nothing to do with wanting to be the center of the universe. Rather, I think God’s glory is more clearly displayed when He receives love that is freely given, then when people love Him simply because He has compelled them to do so. Love freely given is better than love given under coercion. Do you agree or disagree with this?

      This discussion has nothing whatsoever to do with sanctification or justification. The fact that I accepted God’s gift says nothing about me. He deserves all the glory for extending the offer, for paying the cost of my sin on my behalf, for cleaning me up from a worthless sinner into a vessel fit for his use. He gets all the glory; I deserve and desire none of it.

      (*) I probably deserve to get whacked by a mod for that one.

    • cherylu

      Please folks, the snarky comments and accusations here are starting to get a bit out of control. Remember the blog rules state that tact and respect are to be used at all times on this site.

      C Michael Patton has been known to shut down discussions here when things start to get too nasty. Let’s not go there, o.k.?

    • Jake Blues

      I’m trying to at least be playfully snarky. But maybe that doesn’t come through very well over the internet.

    • Sam

      JB,

      Do you deny that God could have made a world where no one sins?

      When it comes to personhood, let’s try one more time. The agreement was that natural man in bondage to sin CAN ONLY SIN. That being so then what good is it to have LFW? An unbeliever is in bondage to sin, all he can do is sin. How exactly is this different from the Calvinistic view?

    • Joseff

      Jake, I am not sam, but I would like to respond if you would have it.

      you said:

      This has nothing to do with wanting to be the center of the universe. Rather, I think God’s glory is more clearly displayed when He receives love that is freely given, then when people love Him simply because He has compelled them to do so. Love freely given is better than love given under coercion. Do you agree or disagree with this?

      Friend, saying that Arminians want to be the center of the universe is a terrible way of saying it. Even pejorative. But really, isn’t that what’s going on here? We all agree that determinism happens in the universe. Either God determines something, or creatures determine something. Why is it that Arminians argue in defense of the creatures, but Calvinists argue in defense of the Creator? Given the choice between the two, it would seem that Christians would immediately seek to defend God and His determination, etc. In other words, why take the side of the sinner over the side of the Holy Creator who plainly says in scripture that it is always just of him to “do what He wills with His own”. It just feels so unnatural to choose the side of B over A, when A is God.

      Second, who says that Calvinists say that love for God is not freely given? Don’t you understand the doctrine of regeneration? When a heart of stone is turned into a heart of flesh, it is spiritually alive and in tune with the things of God, therefore freely loves God. Regeneration is a taking OFF of the chains of sin’s enslavement, not adding new chains that “forces us” to do something.

      I wonder, what is your understanding of this verse: We love him because he first love us.

      Do you know that the word “because” is not a word of motives, but a word of causation. In other words, the verse is not saying “I am freely motivated to love God because God first loved me”. Rather, it is saying “The REASON, the cause, of my love for God, is that He first…

    • Sam

      JB,

      What makes you different than your unbelieving neighbor? You cannot say God, so it must be something or someone else. Can’t be grace either because your unbelieving neighbor has that too, so tell me what makes you different?

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      Sorry, wrong translation!

      And yes, I do believe in original sin. That is not my point at all. I have explained what I am questioning and the objections I have repeatedly here and I simply do not have the time or energy to try to do it one more time.

      But I think one point I may not have made before is this one. Let’s just lay aside the idea that God decreed that sin and evil had to be in the world to make it the way He wanted it to be and then decreed that certain people would be rebellious like was discussed above regarding Piper and the belief of some Calvinists.

      Let’s take it from the other perspective that God is only dealing with this from the perspective of the “lump” of people that have already become rebellious. How is God showing His love to those people that He is ignoring–passing over–and sending to hell? How does that fit with, “God so loved the world”, “He is not willing that any should perish”, “choose you this day whom you will serve,” and the verses where Jesus tells His listeners to avoid hell at all costs? These are some of the verses and words in the Bible that seem to become utter nonsense in light of even the mildest Calvinist understanding. And, incidentally they are some of the ones that I spoke of when I said the context of the whole Bible makes me think there must be some other way to understand these things.

    • Jake Blues

      “Do you deny that God could have made a world where no one sins?”

      No.

      “When it comes to personhood, let’s try one more time. The agreement was that natural man in bondage to sin CAN ONLY SIN. ”

      That isn’t how I’d put it; or at least, I wouldn’t draw the conclusions from it that you are drawing. If that’s your starting point, I’ll bow out and let you have out that discussion with those who do affirm this but also hold that we have LFW.

    • Jake Blues

      “What makes you different than your unbelieving neighbor? You cannot say God, so it must be something or someone else. Can’t be grace either because your unbelieving neighbor has that too, so tell me what makes you different?”

      I don’t understand the importance of the question, or at least why it seems to you more important than responding to the many questions that are already on your plate.

      I will again give an entirely speculative answer and say that it’s simply that I said yes to God’s offer of salvation and that the neighbor has not said yes to God’s offer of salvation. I don’t think there’s all that much more to it than that. There’s certainly nothing special about me.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, hehe, that’s sort of the translation I meant. Let me explain.

      I said it sounded like this “My understanding of God (God’s love) is X, and Romans 9 doesn’t fit well with X, so there must be some other explanation.

      And what you’ve done is point out several scripture references where you draw “X” from, such as John 3:16, and 2 Peter 3:9. This is exactly what I mean. I would love to take the time and talk about those individual verses with you. You see, you are reading Romans 9 in light of what you THINK is the meaning of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9.

      Well, what if you could be convinced, through a study of those verses, that they don’t actually MEAN what you THINK they mean? Then you would read Romans 9 in a different light because your presuppositions about God and God’s love would be drastically different, right?

      So I think my interpretation of what you said pretty much hit the nail on the head!

    • Danquo

      I still thing the garage-cleaning analogy holds up pretty well, except that there’s no tempting agent to set the set the sin in motion.

      We have no timeframe on how long Adam tended the Garden before Eve was created, nor any timeframe on how long they were both living in the Garden until the serpent came to disrupt things.

      What we do know is that some time passed (Adam was able to name all the animals at least, which must have taken some time). In all of their time in the Garden prior to the serpent’s actions, they did not sin, even though the opportunity was there to do so.

      Now we can’t assume that they would have gone on forever and never sinned. But we know that the serpent was instrumental in sparking Eve’s desire for the fruit (with a lie). But the serpent isn’t responsible (solely) for Eve’s desire turning into sin. As was mentioned previously, I think, Eve’s desire was not sinful (desire to be like God and/or desire for a good looking fruit to eat), but her action was. Adam’s desire was not sinful (not given specifically but possibly the same as Eve’s as well as desire to be like his mate), but his action was as well.

      I still think that the “we are not Adam and never had the choice” defense doesn’t work. Even if we had “the choice” we may choose correctly for some time, but whenever the tempting agent (serpent) came along and lied to us about something, we’d certainly fall into the same trap.

      I think it’s an inevitability of humanity — our representatives were created with the capability to sin (Adam-state) but had no predisposition to do so. But when an outside agent interfered, it “tipped the scales” so to speak and since they had the ability to sin, they did. Since we are of the same stock, we would inevitably do the same even if we were born in an Adam-state. But we aren’t. Adam’s fall changed his very nature, and thus the nature of all his progeny.

    • Joseff

      Jake Blues, he asks a legit and fair question.

      If God is graciously tugging all people equally with prevenient grace, then it cannot be grace that makes person A (who believes) differ from person B (who rejects).

      So it’s not grace that made the difference, it’s something else. And since your theology says that persons A and B have final, self determination of whether or not they will be a believer, then the difference lies within the people.

      So the ultimate reason person A is in heaven and person B is not, is not God’s grace (for God’s grace was given equally), but something about person A.

      Person A was either smarter, less prideful, more spiritual, more humble. SOMETHING. There was SOME difference, some intrinsic good quality or factor about person A.

      This is why Spurgeon (I think) said Arminianism was salvation by works dressed up in evening clothes. When something self-wrought (in this case faith) is meritorous for salvation, it’s essentially works.

      I did X to get into heaven. = I’m saved by what I did.

      But Calvinism says X is something God does, in that faith is a gift from God and result of regeneration and was purchased by Christ on the cross then applied to me. Not something I conjured up. Not my contribution to my own salvation.

    • Jake Blues

      Joseff,

      Sure thing, I appreciate your response!

      “Why is it that Arminians argue in defense of the creatures, but Calvinists argue in defense of the Creator?”

      I don’t intend to be taking the creatures’ side as opposed to God’s. Rather, it’s just my understanding that God has extended an offer to us — the blood of Christ — and that He asks us to respond to that offer. He won’t force us to accept it, /even if it would be to our benefit and enjoyment were He to do so/, because compulsion, while (maybe) not incompatible with His nature, is at a minimum incompatible with His priorities and preferences.

      “Don’t you understand the doctrine of regeneration? When a heart of stone is turned into a heart of flesh, it is spiritually alive and in tune with the things of God, therefore freely loves God.”

      I don’t mean to be argumentative, really and truly — but, how is this process different from brainwashing, in your view? Is brainwashing permissable as long as the person being brainwashed will like the outcome?

      “I wonder, what is your understanding of this verse: We love him because he first love us.”

      Very quick response when you deserve a much more thorough and thought-out one, but I’d simply say that God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. If God hadn’t shown us His love to this degree, we should never have responded to Him, but because I (for example) saw that He loved me, I loved Him in return. I think the verse shows that God’s love is proactive and ours is reactive. I certainly agree His love is causative, but perhaps not that it is irresistable.

      Hope this helps. I appreciated your observations and questions.

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,

      We all bring our presuppositions to anything, you have your’s and I have mine. CMP has his and willingly admits it as do I.

      You wrote

      “And what you’ve done is point out several scripture references where you draw “X” from, such as John 3:16, and 2 Peter 3:9. This is exactly what I mean. I would love to take the time and talk about those individual verses with you. You see, you are reading Romans 9 in light of what you THINK is the meaning of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9.

      Well, what if you could be convinced, through a study of those verses, that they don’t actually MEAN what you THINK they mean? Then you would read Romans 9 in a different light because your presuppositions about God and God’s love would be drastically different, right?”

      The question is why not read Romans 9 in light of John 3:16 etc.? There has been no good reason presented to apply the hermeneutic you suggest and I believe there has been a fairly good reason to read it with the hermeneutic suggested by myself and Cheryl. You simply can only stretch the meaning of words so far before they become meaningless. Saying “God is good” may not be a one to one correlation with the human conception of “good”, but it must resemble the ordinary understanding of what good is if the word “good” is to be of any meaning.

    • cherylu

      Well Joseff, hehe, I have been down that road multiple times with other Calvinists on other threads and they have yet to convince me that those verses don’t mean what I think they do.

      And can you please tell me how I am to know that your whole understanding of this situation isn’t simply based on what YOU THINK these verses mean??

      Please Calvinists, try to stop the belittling of others here. We know you are super convinced that your position is the right one. We do not need snarky and belittling comments to prove that fact to us.

    • Sam

      So if God could have made a world where no one sins then what implications can we draw from that? You do not have to answer; it’s more of a rhetorical question.

      As for personhood and LFW, just read the thread. Again though it just goes to show how bankrupt LFW is as a system. Even so called adherents to it do not agree with how they define it and what it does and does not mean.

      As for why you accepted and your neighbor didn’t, it shows that salvation is not all of grace; that God “elected” you because he saw that you would accept and if you do not see the clear un-biblical ramifications of that well then so be it.

      As for questions on my plate, I have addressed the most pertinent ones

    • Joseff

      Thanks Jake.

      You said:

      I don’t intend to be taking the creatures’ side as opposed to God’s. Rather, it’s just my understanding that God has extended an offer to us — the blood of Christ — and that He asks us to respond to that offer.

      I wonder if you would go back and re-read post #192, as a response to this statement here? What do you think about what I’ve said?

      Also, you quoted Rom 5:8 which says “God demonstrated his love for us, in that while were yet sinners, Christ died for us”

      I wonder what you should say if I asserted that Paul was speaking exclusively of believers? Because in the very next verse he says “we have been justified by His blood, and we shall be saved from wrath through him”

      In other words, the “us” whom God showed his love towards, is not (in the context of this particular verse, anyways) 100% of humanity, but believers only. So you cannot really use that particular verse to speak of God “giving a choice to us”.

      Finally, I am curious why you think the doctrine of regeneration is brainwashing?

      Eze 36:25-27
      (25) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
      (26) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
      (27) And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

      I see that as nothing less than salvation by grace!

    • Joseff

      Ah, Cherylu and Michael, I will be the first person to admit that i have presuppositions. Please don’t misunderstand, I was not trying to argue that YOU have them, but I don’t. That wasn’t my intention at all. I’m sorry if it came out that way.

      I surely have my presuppositions. I’m firmly convinced that 2 pet 3:9 and John 3:16 have certain meanings, and they affect my interpretation of other areas of scripture 🙂

      I am willing to openly discuss what I believe about those verses and why. I can go into the context, the grammar, and the Greek. I can provide definitions of words, etc. In other words, I can offer contextual and grammatical reasons for my interpretations of John 3:16 and 2 Peter 3:9. I must note, these are actually part of the reason I’m a convinced Calvinist now, after much struggling!

      For example, what would you say if I told you 2 Peter 3:9 was referring to the elect only? 🙂 Would you be willing to hear me out?

    • Alexander M Jordan

      Jake,

      You wrote,
      “I think God’s glory is more clearly displayed when He receives love that is freely given, then when people love Him simply because He has compelled them to do so. Love freely given is better than love given under coercion. Do you agree or disagree with this?”

      I understand your point– if I tried to force someone to love me, by threats and at gunpoint, so to speak, then they might be frightened into saying they care for me, but it wouldn’t really be love.

      Perhaps we might attempt to view this from God’s vantage point.

      Suppose people hate me for the reason than their hearts are so depraved that they see me not as worthy of their love, but only as one whose existence reminds them of their guilt and moral failure. They are completely dead in their sin and have no spiritual life in them, no ability to understand the truth about me. The only way for them to love me and see me as the loving God that I truly am is to touch their hearts by the power of my supernatural love and grace, causing them to see me as desirable and lovely.

      Without this touch they continue to be blinded by their own sin and by the deception of the enemy, and will never turn to me. With this touch, their eyes are opened to the truth that Jesus Christ died to take away their sin and guilt and become able to see it and receive it. They come to understand that Jesus died in their place and gives them His righteousness in place of their guilt and condemnation.

      “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor 5:21

      Now regarding why God doesn’t do this for all, it seems the answer Scripture gives is that He leaves some to perish in their sin, which is no injustice. As quoted earlier, in Romans 9: 22-23 Paul presents his inspired speculation, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared…

    • Alexander M Jordan

      What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared beforehand for glory” … (the verses were partly cut off).

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      “For example, what would you say if I told you 2 Peter 3:9 was referring to the elect only? Would you be willing to hear me out?”

      I kind of figured that is what you believed since I have heard the same argument many times before. But I am certainly willing to hear how you came to that conclusion.

    • Michael T.

      “For example, what would you say if I told you 2 Peter 3:9 was referring to the elect only?”

      I would, except that I’ve been over this a dozen times before. Even CMP (the writer of this blog, and obviously a Calvinist) will not agree with you on this one. In fact I’m pretty sure that John Piper would not agree with this one (I could be wrong here – the stuff I’ve read by him is kinda fuzzy on this one – maybe you know a specific quote that answer it). This is why he believes in the “two wills” theory.

      Also this has nothing to do with my syllogism as that concerns the attributes used to describe God in the Bible, not what His will is concerning who should perish.

    • Jake Blues

      “As for personhood and LFW, just read the thread. Again though it just goes to show how bankrupt LFW is as a system. Even so called adherents to it do not agree with how they define it and what it does and does not mean.”

      I am satisfied that by and large, my own beliefs are internally consistent, but that doesn’t mean that I have the same exact beliefs as those who profess similar beliefs. The fact that you and I disagree on the particulars of soteriology doesn’t render Christianity as a whole, which we do agree on, bankrupt. You are relying too heavily on hyperbole.

    • steve martin

      “Free will” is not the solution to the problem…it IS the problem.

      God’s will is the antidote.

    • Jake Blues

      Josef (post 247)

      “Person A was either smarter, less prideful, more spiritual, more humble. SOMETHING. There was SOME difference, some intrinsic good quality or factor about person A.”

      Why must needs this be the case? I don’t contend nor do I necessarily believe that decisions must all be explicable in terms of cause and effect. I think we can identify /boundaries/ present in any decision (eg can’t choose to fly, or to not have been born, etc), and we can identify influences (eg he was broke when he chose to rob the bank), but what is it that “flips the switch”? I don’t know.

      “I did X to get into heaven. = I’m saved by what I did.”

      I don’t see it this way at all. I don’t see any incompatibility between being “saved by grace through faith” and the view I espouse. We’re not saved by what we did, in the same way someone rescued at see wouldn’t extol himself for all the work he did in grabbing hold of that life preserver — no! The person who threw the life preserver and pulled the person to safety did all the work and gets all the credit.

      I see this as something of a straw man; have you ever heard an Arminian boast about how his acceptance of Christ’s salvation is in some way noteworthy? I never have.

    • Jake Blues

      Joseff (post 252),

      “I wonder if you would go back and re-read post #192, as a response to this statement here? What do you think about what I’ve said?”

      Interesting thoughts! Thanks for directing my attention to that. I’m not partial to the idea of prevenient grace, but I’ll think about whether your observations would influence the view that I do hold.

      “In other words, the “us” whom God showed his love towards, is not (in the context of this particular verse, anyways) 100% of humanity, but believers only. So you cannot really use that particular verse to speak of God “giving a choice to us”.”

      My view would be that even before salvation, it’s possible for someone on the outside looking in to perceive that God /offers/ the gift of his love to all humanity.

      “Finally, I am curious why you think the doctrine of regeneration is brainwashing?”

      I guess I’d simply say that God’s regenerating us in response to a specific request to be regenerated seems more compatible with the idea of a God as loving. Look at how many times Jesus said “repent!” (literally, “change your mind”) — why would He say this if the only people capable of complying with this exhortation would require God’s fiat decision to elect them to regeneration?

    • Jake Blues

      Alexander (post 254),

      I like the way you expressed your position. It definitely gives me something to think about. Thanks for the contribution!

      I would modify things slightly and say that I don’t think the Calvinist view amounts to a conversion at gunpoint, ie that people are given a choice but it’s not a real choice. I would say rather that it reads to me like people being robots, and God simply changes their software for a new and improved model. But I still think your post addresses this view, as well. Just wanted to clarify how I’m looking at it.

      Thanks again.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu and Michael, thank you for hearing me out.

      You are correct, John Piper adheres the idea that God, in some sense, truly desires to see everyone saved. I believe this idea is a viable idea, but not a viable interpretation of THIS particular text (2 Peter 3:9)

      To reiterate, I think it’s perfectly fine for Calvinists to hold to the idea that God, in some sense, has a desire to save everyone, but that He lets other factors come in and intervene to prevent that desire from coming to pass. (As Piper argues, the “intervening” factor for Arminians is free will, for Calvinists it’s “Because God saves freely”) I personally do not hold to this idea.

      However, I do not think grammatically, and contextually, THIS particular text (2 Peter 3:9) lends any support to that particular idea.

      If you read 2 Peter 3:1-8, you will see Peter continually address “you” and “them”. Who is the “you”? Well, Peter says at the beginning of the chapter “This is the second letter I am writing to you, beloved”. If it’s the second letter, who is the first letter written to? First Peter 1:1-2 says “Peter writing…to God’s elect”.

      So, 2nd Peter, which includes chapter 3, is being written to God’s elect. So when Peter keeps saying “you”, he’s talking to God’s elect, right? When he says “them”, he’s talking about the scoffers (v3), those that overlook (v5), the ungodly (v7).

      Verse 8 says “but do not overlook this fact, beloved…”. So he’s speaking directly to “the beloved”, or the “you”, or “God’s elect”

      The very next verse is verse 9. Peter says “He is patient towards YOU” (not wanting any to perish). Patient towards YOU. “you”, who? Is the pronoun “you” suddenly not a reference to the people ti has been a reference to throughout the entire chapter? Do we throw grammar away?

      It is simply following the pronouns my friends. God is patient towards YOU not wanting any (by implication) of YOU, to perish. (cont)

    • Joseff

      (part 2)

      So the verse is not a verse about salvation, but a verse about Christ’s second coming. Peter is explaining why God is delaying the end times. Because he is patiently waiting for all of “YOU” to repent. In other words, God is waiting until his last “sheep” in human history enters the Shepard’s fold, and then Christ will return. He is waiting for them all, because he’s not willing that any of them perish. This is exactly what Jesus says all throughout John’s gospel. “I will lose none of them”, etc.

      Please, grab an easy to read translation, such as the ESV, and go back and read all of chapter 3. Don’t just read verse 9 in solitude. That is to read it out of context.

      As RC Sproul says, far from being a verse that does damage to Calvinism, it in fact is one of the strongest verses in favor of it! God is not willing that any of His elect should perish, so he delays the 2nd of coming of Christ, he is patiently waiting, before He destroys the earth (very next verse, verse 10)

    • Joseff

      Jake, you said:
      —-
      “I guess I’d simply say that God’s regenerating us in response to a specific request to be regenerated”

      I understand what you are saying. But if it is true that Bible tells us that all unregenerate, fallen men are completely hostile towards God and find the gospel of Christ foolishness, why would any of them request to have a heart change?

      For example, I hate abortion. I am hostile towards it. My heart and mind is against it. So why would I ever request that my heart and mind be changed so that I could be in favor of it?

      Makes no sense.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

      Obviously the above verse isn’t a blanket statement indicating that since God wishes all to reach repentance, all will be saved (unless one is arguing the universalist view that all will be saved). But since all are not in fact saved, then 2 Peter 3:9 must either be addressed to the believer only, or must be stating a desire of God that is not fulfilled in actuality.

      Interestingly Calvin actually understood it as the latter, “But it may be asked, If God wishes none to perish, why is it that so many do perish? To this my answer is, that no mention is here made of the hidden purpose of God, according to which the reprobate are doomed to their own ruin, but only of his will as made known to us in the gospel. For God there stretches forth his hand without a difference to all, but lays hold only of those, to lead them to himself, whom he has chosen before the foundation of the world.”

      I think Calvin’s interpretation makes a certain amount of sense. In 2 Peter 3:9 we see God’s revealed will– the gospel– His desire that all receive Christ and escape condemnation. Yet since God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, and all are not in fact saved, we must conclude that it is not His secret purpose to save all (though we see in this verse that His heart is that all would be saved).

      Yet a less problematic explanation might be to take Peter’s “you” as addressing the believer, as Joseff, and apparently R. C. Sproul too, interpret the verse.

    • Joseff

      Thanks Alexander. I stand firm by the grammatical flow of the pronouns. 2 Peter is a very real letter written from a real person to other real persons.

      Writing involves grammar. Grammar cannot be avoided, lest we make language meaningless. We MUST assign the right meanings to pronouns. I think Peter has done this for us. Just follow the pronouns “you” all throughout the chapter. It is clear that Peter is addressing the fact that God is patient towards “you”, not “you and them”

      He has strived for the last 8 verses to show the difference between the “you” and the “them”.

    • cherylu

      But I see a problem in thinking that the you in II Peter 3:9 is only addressed to the elect. After all, all of the elect that Peter is referring to in these two books are already saved. So if we follow the pronouns as you say Joseff, are the you or us as some versions say, not speaking only to the elect that are already saved? If that is the case, how does it make any sense to tell saved people that God is waiting for them to repent?

    • Hodge

      “You know I’ve heard Calvinist after Calvinist claim this and I just don’t buy it. Having actually read most of the ante-nicene fathers it seems brutally apparent to me that 1) the were appealing to the same verses Arminian’s appeal to to defend their case, 2) their opponents were appealing to the same verses Calvinists appeal too and they were responding with interpretations of those verses similar to what Arminian’s respond with, and 3) the beliefs of the Gnostics with regards to fatalism are eerily similar to Calvinisitic beliefs though Calvinists try to find loop holes to dodge the label.”

      I can’t begin to comment upon how wrong this statement is. Every historical theology professor I’ve ever known acknowledges this. I can’t believe that you’ve read them too extensively in context if your ignoring this. Context is everything, and they are fighting against material determinism. That’s a fact. Read them when they comment upon our enslavement to sin, and see if they don’t think we’re slaves to it.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      Chreryl,

      I’m sure Joseff will answer for himself, but my quick answer would be that Peter is not in this verse telling these particular believers that God is waiting for them to repent, but he’s saying they must be patient as they await the 2nd coming of Christ. Since all of the elect are not yet gathered in, Peter says the 2nd coming of Jesus is mercifully delayed, until all who would reach repentance (the elect) have been gathered in.

    • Joseff

      I see what you are saying Cherylu, but look at the verse:

      2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness,…

      What “promise” is Peter referring to? It’s his promise to return. Not the promise of salvation.

      For example, if I hold a meeting for accountants, and 50 accountants show up, and I keep saying “you”, I am directly speaking to those 50 accountants. But what I say also applies to all other accountants in the world that didn’t show up. Because what I’m saying applies to “accountants in general”, not just those 50.

      Peter could have been writing to “some elect that were already saved by faith”, but what he is saying still applies “to God’s elect” period, regardless where they are in their salvation. This is precisely why peter is stressing that God is slow to fulfill his promise. He’s waiting for all of them to repent (though some of them receiving the letter may have already done so)

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I think the bigger problem is with taking that passage as referring to everyone. If God is waiting for all of the elect to be born and be brought to faith by Him, which is answering why Christ may be waiting as long as He is to return, then that makes sense.
      But if God is waiting for people to repent because time somehow may open people’s hearts and minds, then why doesn’t He wait forever, since He wants everyone to be saved? If time is the factor, then why not give more time? Why not lengthen everyone’s life, and refrain from coming back until all people have been born and lived out their million year lifespans? If He really wants them all to be saved, and time has something to do with their decision, it makes no sense to shorten life or return before this has happened.

      Furthermore, I would like to know how time itself turns a slave to self into a servant of Christ?

    • Joseff

      Alex makes a good point.

      The point is, there’s no possible, grammatical way that Peter is addressing, in verse 9, “you” and “them”. He’s only addressing “you”. And Peter himself establishes who the “you” is, in the very prior verse (verse 8), as well as the intro to Book 1, chapter 1, verse 1-2, and the intro to Book 2, Chapter 3.

      2 Pet 3:8-9
      But do not overlook this one fact, ***BELOVED***, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
      The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward ***YOU***, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      If (and I am not saying at this point that I am) I were to agree that this verse speaks only of the elect, can you eliminate every other verse in the Bible that makes similar statements or that says Jesus died for all–is the Saviour of all?

      There are quite a few out there that all have to be shown to not mean what my understading is before I could accept your position on this.

    • Hodge

      BTW, the tension and mystery of which Michael speaks isn’t simply a Calvinist understanding. Even Irenaeus held that both were true and to be held equally in tension with one another.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, I would never eliminate them my friend! They are scripture! Nor would I pretend they don’t sound univerasalistic. Nor would I foolishly try to argue that “world” only means “the elect”. That’s grammatically impossible as well (except some cases which I could show you)

      The truth is, there are plenty of articles and books out there, and well written articles that deal with the “problem texts”. John Owen’s book is full of them. He is very sound.

      Some other considerations for you is that you need to acknowledge that sometimes phrases are figures of speech, and that the authors’ intent was not to say anything profoundly theological about the elect or every person individually. As you may or may not know English “world” is the Greek word “kosmos” which has not one, but around 15 definitions!! “all men” is generally the greek word “pas” which has several definitions, and more often than not it means “all colletively” (or in other words, all of whom I’m referring to)

      Another consideration for you is that sometimes the authors and speakers were constantly trying to fix the Jewish mindset that the messiah was only for the Jews. Remember, the Jews were obsessed with their race, they thought Christ was coming for them only. So constantly the authors and speakers were saying “No, Jesus has come for the whole world – not just Israel”. In other words, “whole world” often times mean “Jews and gentiles” as opposed to “Just jews”

      A statement like that isn’t necessarily telling us the extent of the atonement or Christ’s intentions in who he will save. We must go to other passages of scripture that are more clear where the speaker is actually seeking to address those questions, and there’s many of them.

      In other words, those broad, universal, sweeping statements shouldn’t be where we put all of our eggs. A universal statement doesn’t immediately de-limit a limiting statement. I would argue though, that the opposite is…

    • Michael T.

      Joseff,
      Here is the notes on the verse from the .NET Bible. Figure they might interest you as they do me. I of course don’t completely agree with what is said – but it is good information.

      “He does not wish for any to perish.”

      This verse has been a battleground between Arminians and Calvinists. The former argue that God wants all people to be saved, but either through inability or restriction of his own sovereignty does not interfere with peoples’ wills. Some of the latter argue that the “any” here means “any of you” and that all the elect will repent before the return of Christ, because this is God’s will. Both of these positions have problems. The “any” in this context means “any of you.” (This can be seen by the dependent participle which gives the reason why the Lord is patient “toward you.”) There are hints throughout this letter that the readership may be mixed, including both true believers and others who are “sitting on the fence” as it were. But to make the equation of this readership with the elect is unlikely. This would seem to require, in its historical context, that all of these readers would be saved. But not all who attend church know the Lord or will know the Lord. Simon the Magician, whom Peter had confronted in Acts 8, is a case in point. This is evident in contemporary churches when a pastor addresses the congregation as “brothers, sisters, saints, etc.,” yet concludes the message with an evangelistic appeal. When an apostle or pastor addresses a group as “Christian” he does not necessarily think that every individual in the congregation is truly a Christian. Thus, the literary context seems to be against the Arminian view, while the historical context seems to be against (one representation of) the Calvinist view.

      CONT…

    • Michael T.

      CONT…

      The answer to this conundrum is found in the term “wish” (a participle in Greek from the verb boulomai). It often represents a mere wish, or one’s desiderative will, rather than one’s resolve. Unless God’s will is viewed on the two planes of his desiderative and decretive will (what he desires and what he decrees), hopeless confusion will result. The scriptures amply illustrate both that God sometimes decrees things that he does not desire and desires things that he does not decree. It is not that his will can be thwarted, nor that he has limited his sovereignty. But the mystery of God’s dealings with humanity is best seen if this tension is preserved. Otherwise, either God will be perceived as good but impotent or as a sovereign taskmaster. Here the idea that God does not wish for any to perish speaks only of God’s desiderative will, without comment on his decretive will.

      Me Talking – and thus we have the “two wills” theory.
      BTW my point in sharing that was simply to point out that things aren’t as cut and dry with regards to this verse as you would like to make them. It is at best unclear.

    • Joseff

      Thanks Michael, those are good points.

      That reminds me, RC Sproul pointed out that God’s “willing” in this verse could possibly be either his “desire” or his “decree”.

      I’m convinced that it’s actually a reference to God’s “decretive” will. (decree) Therefore, it’s actually saying that God is literally decreeing/willing that all of whomever Peter is referring to will be saved and cannot run the possibility of being anything other than saved.

      If that’s true, and Peter is saying that God is patient towards 100% of humanity because he is patiently delaying Christ’s return because he’s willing that all of them be saved, then the verse actually teaches universalism, not Christianity.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      It would seem Norman Geisler would disagree with you as pointed out earlier by AP.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      When Jesus said He would draw all men to Him, did He only mean the elect?

      When He wept over Jerusalem and spoke of how often He “longed to gather her but she would not” (my paraphase by memory) did that mean He only wanted to gather the elect but they wouldn’t let Him?

      When he told Israel that He took no pleasure in the death of the wicked and pleaded with them to turn instead of dying was he only speaking to the elect? Why would He have to plead with the elect to turm to Him if He will just at some point regenerate them so they will follow Him?

      Etc, etc.

      Why do you think we have to interpret all of these verses in the light of Romans 9 instead of interpreting Romans 9 in light of them?

    • cherylu

      You know, Michael T and I have both repeatedly made reference to the fact that Calvinism, as we understand it seems to do violence to the normal understanding of language.

      If anyone here has addressed that point, I have missed it. I know Lisa and CMP did way back at the start of the thread, but what we are referring to goes way beyond their answer.

      Would someone please try to address that concern? As you must be able to tell from our repeated comments, it is a rather large issue for both of us.

    • Michael T.

      To echo what Cheryl said, language is a huge issue for me. For instance John Piper once said that saying “God is good” simply means God does whatever brings Himself the most glory. I could only conclude from this that Piper was saying that God could essentially behave however He wants to and so long as doing so glorifies Himself he is “good”. Now that’s a great explanation, only problem is that the word “good” in the Bible would then have absolutely no connection whatsoever to how the average person now or then understands the word “good”. Thus defining good in this manner undermines the very language we claim God has used to reveal Himself and renders it meaningless and unintelligible.

    • Hodge

      Thanks Cherylu, I forgot to address that point.

      The concepts of love and good and justice and whatever are often going to mean something different to those who hold different presupps. For instance, if “love” always means acceptance to the average American, then any act that rejects someone who practices a destructive behavior toward either self or others would be unloving. However, according to Scripture, “love” and “good” have to do with glorifying God by seeking to preserve His covenant children. “Love” for God and His children has to do with exalting Him appropriately and displaying His character as God. Therefore, love also has to do with the suppression of chaotic agents that seek to destroy His image and covenant community, at the same time existing to display His power over those chaotic agents in their rebellion. Hence, love and good must be displayed both through the merciful preservation of those who He chooses to adopt as sons, as well as punishment of those who He chooses to leave in their rebellion as chaotic agents. “Love” and “good” cannot be accomplished without this, since both are needed to exalt God (who is Triune BTW, so it’s not simply one person self serving), and for the preservation of His adopted sons.
      Furthermore, If “love” and “good” must be bound to the Arminian concept, then it is simply begging the question to speak of their definitions, since any discussion that would suggest that their definitions conflict with what they are assumed to mean are dismissed at the get-go.
      So it’s not really that one group is distorting the meanings of the words. It’s rather that one group is assuming that they concepts X must imply Y or they are no longer X. The other group just doesn’t grant this assumption.
      Finally, God can’t do whatever He wants. He has to act according to love and good as defined above. Hence, to not convey His full character to His people to not exalt Himself, nor to complete His people.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I must have missed the Norm Geisler quote. Geisler, of course, would disagree, since I don’t think he’s very familiar with the historical issues as much (he’s not an historical theologian). I only say that after being aware of his understanding of the Reformed historical issues. I would simply keep going back to Augustine to understand the Fathers (materially free to make any possible choice, spiritually bound by the love of self to choose one’s own lordship over oneself).

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      You just did nothing more then explicate the Piper quote I mentioned. I submit that defining love, good, mercy, etc. to mean God glorifying Himself renders these words absurd. I know you don’t concede that point. However, if your view is the case then no one should, in our society, use the word God, and merciful, loving, good, etc in the same sentence and I suspect this to be true in just about every other society in history. We should also seriously consider translating these words differently.

    • Alexander M Jordan

      Michael T and Cheryl,

      I think the only way to see & define the goodness of God is to view goodness as part of His total personality. The Bible describes God as completely holy, perfectly righteous, omniscient, all-powerful, absolutely sovereign, slow to anger, full of mercy and compassion, righteous in His judgment, angry at sin, at times mysterious and incomprehensible, among other things. And in Jesus, God in the flesh, we get further clarification of what God is like– full of grace and truth, humble, long-suffering, patient, One who came to serve not be served, without sin, compassionate, passionate against sin, sacrificial. Again these lists are incomplete.

      But this is the God described as good in Scripture– One who possesses all of these qualities and others besides, and holds them all together in a kind of tension. I say tension because sometimes it may be difficult to see how the mercy, compassion and love of God harmonizes with His absolute commitment to perfect, holy justice. The same Jesus who willingly died an ignoble death and did not resist evildoers, who washed His disciples feet to show them the full extent of His love, was also One who was fiercely angry at the sin of those who made His Father’s house into a market and at the religious leaders who self-righteously led their followers away from God by their false teachings. He warned of an eternal hell where those who rejected His Good News message would be punished forever. He warned of the wrath of God that remains on sinners who do not obey Him. So what does it mean to be good? Jesus has said, “no one is good except God alone (Mark 10:18)”. This complex God, perfectly holy and just while at the same time loving beyond all our comprehension, is a good God. So then what the Bible describes God doing– sovereignly ruling the universe and predestining some to salvation while passing over others, must be viewed as good, for these actions arise from the God who alone is good.

    • cherylu

      Hodege,

      If I am following what you said correctly, you are saying that love and good from a Calvinist perspective only pertains to the elect and that the non elect are not included in it? Am I reading you correctly here or am I totally misunderstanding you?

    • cherylu

      I guess my major question here is this: How can God who said He is love be showing love to one that He either deliberately passes over and does not grant any chance to be saved, or even, in the more extreme forms of Calvinism–like Piper as discussed above–even actively decree to rebel because he says there has to be evil in the world? How in the world is there any love shown to that person? Or for that matter, any goodness either?

      Somehow, I don’t think a person that has been decreed to be a rebellious one so that evil and punishment can exist in the world and then gets sent to hell because of that would think that God was either good or loving.

    • Michael T.

      Alexander,
      You haven’t raised any objection to my contention here other than to concede my point. You seek to redefine “good” and “love” and “mercy”, and “grace” in terms that are so foreign to the ordinary meaning of these words that it is completely ridiculous. I might as well say Hitler was good since he was acting according to his nature. God’s goodness must be related to what goodness is understood to be by humanity otherwise Him describing Himself as such is disingenuous and a brutal assault on language. I could just as easily say being “predestined” means having the ability to choose whatever you want to without any outside influence whatsoever and no outside entity knowing the result of the decision. The words themselves have meanings that are so twisted that we can’t know what they mean.

      As to reconciling God’s goodness, wrath, justice, righteousness, etc. this is a whole different issue and one to which your answers to the question of Arminianism vs. Calvinism at hand will play a role. Suffice to say I have very little trouble reconciling these attributes with one another. The problem is not whether or not God is just in punishing sinners. The question is whether or not He is just in doing so when He is the ultimate reason they are sinners

    • cherylu

      “The problem is not whether or not God is just in punishing sinners. The question is whether or not He is just in doing so when He is the ultimate reason they are sinners”.

      My problem/question in a nutshell. Only I would probably say “just and loving”. This is certainly not any normal understanding of just or loving either one. It is a totally foreign concept to the usual meaning of either of those words.

    • Michael T.

      Here let me explicate this a little bit more. The moral argument for the existence of God goes as follows.

      1. If God does not exist objective moral values do not exist.
      2. Objective moral values do exist
      3. God exists.

      Most Christians would accept this to be true and would further believe that the God of the Bible is the foundation for our moral values. In the Bible God has used the language of humanity to reveal Himself to us. In revealing Himself he has often described His nature using human moral terms. Now either language is an adequate tool for God to reveal what needs to be revealed (though certainly not to completely reveal Himself) or it isn’t (as suggested by Post-moderns). My contention here is that the way you are describing God’s goodness or love is so foreign to how humanity throughout human history has understood these moral terms and to call into question whether or not we can know God at all.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      “However, if your view is the case then no one should, in our society, use the word God, and merciful, loving, good, etc in the same sentence and I suspect this to be true in just about every other society in history. We should also seriously consider translating these words differently.”

      But why? Because the actions of God don’t meet what you think these words imply? God must be the grounding for all love and good, Michael, or the words truly have no meaning. You seem to want to say that good and love exist apart from their glorification of God. Michael, to be honest with you, you seem to default to this ghost standard whenever you want to say that something is extreme or warped. The fact of the matter is that you are assuming what love and good mean and then saying that we are redefining it. No, you and your culture have redefined it. How does God sending people he knows will sin to hell accord with Him being loving and good? Christ said that it would have been better if Judas had never been born. Why did God let him be born if it was better for him not to be born, when in fact God knew what he would do? Arminians don’t escape your redefinition argument. How is it loving to send people to hell? How is it loving for God to make them in the first place, knowing that they will be in torment forevermore? Answer: love and good has to do with His glory and His people. The eternal suppression of chaotic agents who attack both of these and would destroy the universe is good and loving because it glorifies who God is and displays His mercy for His children. So if I was an Arminian, how does the making of these people accord with good and love? The same as above. How else would you answer it without becoming an Neo-Theist?

    • Hodge

      Cherylu,

      God has love and does good to all people, but He only gives His eternal love and doing of good to His people. This is a special love that only people in covenant with Him receive. Your objection is addressed by what I said to Michael above. I could make the same argument about God’s foreknowledge and hell.

    • Hodge

      “In the Bible God has used the language of humanity to reveal Himself to us. In revealing Himself he has often described His nature using human moral terms.”

      The problem is that language exists in larger contexts, not individual words. We get the concepts from the theology of the Bible as a whole. So it is through human language, but the concepts of love and good in the context of the Bible, and within that of the 21st Cent postmodern are two different animals.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,

      1. Define love and goodness for me. Not as it applies to God, but as it applies generally. Your definition of goodness for instance seems to be “acting in accordance with ones nature in order to display ones greatness and bring glory to themselves”. I don’t know of any culture which would define “good” that way, but maybe I’m just ignorant.

      2. How is it loving to send people to hell? Very simple. They chose of their own free will to be there. It has nothing to do with love or hate, in fact I along with all Arminian’s I know of believe that God loves those in hell and wishes they would have repented. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”

      3. “Answer: love and good has to do with His glory and His people. The eternal suppression of chaotic agents who attack both of these and would destroy the universe is good and loving because it glorifies who God is and displays His mercy for His children.”

      Back to a wayyy earlier statement. Why not save all then?? I mean is God incapable? He surely could turn all these chaotic agents into friendly ones. Furthermore, it seems improper to term these agents “chaotic” since in the Calvinist worldview they are simply carrying out God’s plan and doing what He had predestined and ordained for them to do from the start. In fact I don’t see how the Calvinist system allows for true evil.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      Also would you agree that the English word “Good” has a certain meaning to it? I don’t think the way you have described God’s goodness is in anyway compatible with any of the standard definitions of this word (feel free to prove me wrong). Therefore God should not be referred to as “good” and passages in the Bible describing Him as such should be translated using something more appropriate. This really shouldn’t be the controversial. As you yourself claim words are subject to their context and culture. In our context and culture the word “good” cannot describe the God you have described.

    • Michael T.

      One more thing, I am not appealing to some vacuous made up standard here and then saying you are redefining the terms. Rather I am appealing to the common moral experience of all of mankind in the same way that the moral argument for the existence of God does that I gave earlier does. I would like to know of one culture where a person would be considered good and loving for torturing another person for actions he caused him to do.

    • cherylu

      The points I was going to bring up in reply to Hodge have already been covered by Michael T. So I will save all of us the time of repeating it all again.

    • cherylu

      Just one more thought. Supposing people somehow are really free to choose to rebel in Calvinism–that they really do have a choic–even though in every form of Calvinism every thing is ultimately controlled by God so I simply don’t see how any true free choice can be made by a person. IF that is the case, it could be argued that God is just to send them to hell.

      But how can it be argued that it is loving of Him to do so? It is loving of Him to choose to save some and to give them “irresitible grace” so they have to come to Him. But how is it showing love in any way to the rest to refuse to offer any of the same type of love to them when He obviously could?

      Again, I can only see as an answer that God has to have someone to show His wrath too so that He will be glorified by what He does which seems to be the answer given by Calvinists here.

      However, as Michael T says, that is certainly no way love is understood anywhere else and doesn’t seem to be a proper way of translating the word so that anyone in our culture today will understand it.

      If an earthly father treated their children in this way, chose to grab one rebellious child and love that one and freely forgive them and pour out everything good on them, while deliberately choosing to punish terribly the rest of his rebellious children for the rest of the time they were in his household and withhold all forgiveness from them, that person would most certainly not be considered as a loving father.

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, perhaps a different understanding of God’s love will help. I don’t think it can be proved from the Bible that God loves all men equally. That is, he has love for all men, but not the same kind of love for all men.

      For example, I am commanded to love all of my neighbors, yet I am also commanded to have a special love for Christians, and my wife, etc.

      Amazingly Paul compares the love Jesus has for his church to the special love a husband has for his wife in Eph 5:25. Jesus always makes special references to “My sheep”, “my friends”, “my brethren”, etc. These are references to believers, aka, the elect.

      I ask you, if you would agree that God would be perfectly just, fair, and good to send 100% of humanity to hell, how can it be argue that God is LESS loving to actually come in and save a great multitude of humanity and let the rest perish into the hell you already agreed they deserve?

      That sounds extremely loving and gracious to me. To say that God is obligated to give a “chance” is to say that the bottom line is that men do NOT deserve hell. But if hell is owed, a chance is not obligatory. Chance can be withheld without a loving character being compromised.

      As for the Bible verses you pointed out, much could be said about all of them my friend, but I assure they do nothing to damage the Biblical doctrine of election. For example, “I wish the wicked would turn from his ways” (Ezek). This is a verse speaking about God wishes men would do, not what God Himself will do. A verse saying what God wishes men would do does not suddenly destroy all of those verses about election that speak of God actually decrees to do (save a people for himself)

      None of those verses do any violence to Calvinistic election. Nor do they shape God’s “love” in such a way that he would never mercifully elect a people for Himself for His own glory.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      Was the earthly father in my analogy loving to the children he refused to help and forgive? Not in any way I can see. What I am saying about God is the same thing.

      Besides that, I still do not see in any way how people in the Calvinist system are free to make their own choice when God plans all of the details. It is certainly not true in the forms of Calvinism that John Piper seems to believe from what was written in the article discussed above. (I kind of remember reading another article by him where he didn’t say the same thing. However the article above was extremely strong that God had to have evil in the world and there had to be punishment etc. or it wouldn’t be the kind of world that God wanted. I don’t know the dates of either–maybe his views have changed one way or the other).

      So how is it just or loving either one to put a group of people in a place where they deserve hell and then give it to them? If these were not people, sentient beings that we are talking about here that will suffer terribly forever in this situation, this would be a different story all together.

      I didn’t even try to put that last element into my analogy of the earthly father. I assumed all of the children had the choice to obey or not and it wasn’t in any way forced upon them by their father.

      I simply can not wrap my mind around choosing to place some people in a no win situatation where they can only sin and then refusing to offer them the remedy for it while freely offering it to others.

    • Joseff

      I would say it is a mistake to use that sort of an analogy to understand God’s relationship with creatures. It’s one thing to picture a humanly father figure with his human children. It’s another to picture the thrice Holy God, the Creator, who is Holy and infinitely separate from creation, with his creatures.

      You can’t draw a picture of creature vs creature, and then compare that to Creator vs creature.


      So how is it just or loving either one to put a group of people in a place where they deserve hell and then give it to them?

      But Cherylu, you don’t escape the dilemma here. For you admitted you affirmed original sin. In a sense you DO believe that God put people in a place where they deserve hell and then gives it to them. I’m not sure how this dilemma is unique to the doctrine of election.

    • Joseff

      “I simply can not wrap my mind around choosing to place some people in a no win situatation where they can only sin and then refusing to offer them the remedy for it while freely offering it to others.”

      I know how you must feel. I was there too. But there’s no getting around the texts of the Bible that affirm such a thing Cherylu.

      Consider the entire Old Testament era. Every nation on earth was left in darkness by God. He only revealed himself to Israel. He didn’t give promises, prophets, the law, or scripture writers, or men with great spiritual gifts (Samson, etc) to any other nation in the entire earth. Paul tells us that the gospel we know today was “in other times not made known to the sons of men”

      There are thousands of years of human history in which God left the great majority of mankind in complete darkness. . This explains why Paul said the Jews had a great advantage over the Gentiles (Romans 3:1-2). They were graciously given access to the truth of Scripture while millions of Gentiles around them were perishing, “having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). “[God] declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 147:18-19) Yes, the psalter tells us to praise the Lord for His exclusive, particular grace. Yet you are wanting me to praise the Lord for a universal, omnibenevolence!

      If you’re willing to admit that God worked this way in the OT, only revealing himself to some, but not all, why do you suddenly expect him to work different in the NT? The same is true Cherylu, God is saving elect people from all people groups on earth, but not all people head for head on earth. That’s the God of the Bible. We need to bow down to this and not question His decisions.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      As Michael T has said, it is vastly different if you believe that people have a say in the issue, a choice to refuse to accept God’s offer of salvation, then it is to say they are never given an offer of salvation at all. That is the difference–and in my understanding, it is a huge one.

      I am now 60 years old. My very earliest memories of learning about God from the time I was a very young child was the basic, “God IS love”. I grew up being told that Jesus died for all and that He wants to save all although not every one will accept that offer. I remember singing “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the world” from the time I was probably 4 years old or younger. Do you have any idea how impossible the tenents of Calvinism appear to me and to my very basic understanding of who God is, what He is like, and how He relates to His creation? They are almost a 180 degree shift in thinking!

    • Joseff

      I totally understand Cherylu. But you must have been raised in an Arminian church!

      Consider the scenario from someone else’s shoes, being raised in a reformed church learning of God’s covenant love and promises to save a people for himself out mercy and grace. And then entering the world and being exposed to modern day arminianism. It, too, would be a shock!

      You can’t let your traditions determine your beleifs. We must check everything against the Bible. The truth is, most Calvinists today are converted Arminians. We’ve all had to deal with those issues. But at the end of the day, when you go to the Bible, you learn Calvinism. That’s pretty much the bottom line. I know it sounds biased, and don’t take my word for it, study it yourself. What you hate now, you may fall in love with.

      I noticed you totally avoided the facts from the scripture I presented in that God freely dispenses his grace and mercies on particular people. Even in the Old Testament he did this. Your reply was that you still want to cling to “God loves ALL”, even though that is an impossible conclusion if you read the Bible!

      God loved Israel. How much did he love Egypt? Or any of the other pagan nations on earth?

      Jesus plainly told us that he spoke in parables to reveal the truth for those it was intended and conceal it from those it was not meant for.

      Jesus told us that nobody can know the Father except that He Himself reveals the Father to them. Tell me, why doesn’t He reveal the Father to all of humanity head for head?

      Faith can only come from hearing the gospel. Tell me, why does God let billions of people throughout human history perish in complete ignorance of the gospel, never hearing the name of Jesus? God could easily send angels, or write the gospel in the clouds, or send missionaries, but he doesn’t.

      Tell me, why in John 17 did Jesus outright say “I am NOT praying for the world, but only for those you have given me”.

    • cherylu

      . I have to be gone for most of the rest of the morning, so have no time for further interaction now.

    • Joseff

      Tell me, why did Paul endure all things for the elect only if he was trying to get everyone saved?

      2Ti 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

      Christ makes clear that if the works he did in Capernaum would have been done in Sodom, it would have never been destroyed. If the works done in Tyre and Sidon would have been done in Chorazin and Bethsaida, they would have most assuredly repented. (Mat 11:21-23). If Christ was so certain that these towns would have repented if mighty works had been done in them, why didn’t God do them? Doesn’t God want all men to repent and be saved? Tell me, why didn’t God do the work that he KNEW would result in repentance?

      Over and over again we see God’s Sovereign decision to reveal His truth to some and withhold it from others. We see that God gives the gifts of repentance and faith to some, but not all. Christ prays and mediates as High Priest for some, but not all. This is His decision. He gives mercy to whom he will, and He passes over – as a form of justice – others.

      For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
      So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.
      (Rom 9:15-16)

      I ask, how much does God’s mercy depend on the human will? Paul says, zero %. None of it. It DOES NOT DEPEND on human will, but on God who gives mercy, freely, to whomever He desires 🙂

    • Alexander M Jordan

      The objections MichaelT and Cheryl raise seem especially to have to do with whether God is just and fair and loving in sending people to hell who apparently have no other choice than be sent there, given God’s sovereign control as described by Calvinists.

      Yet as Joseff points out the free will or Arminian view does not solve this dilemma, since God still created a hell to punish people He knew in advance would reject Him. As has been asked, why not save all then, or why create people predestined to hell? If by their own free will men send themselves to hell (thus relieving God of responsibility?), yet this doesn’t negate the fact that God created a hell where people he created will be punished, and that He knew in advance they would never repent and thus end up there. So does a free will view really mitigate this problem of hell? It does not seem so.

      As I see it the Bible indicates that man makes genuine, free choices that have eternal consequences, and at the same time affirms God’s sovereign control over all things. Others provided some examples of this earlier in the discussion– Judas acted evilly in betraying Jesus, an act for which he is described as being fully responsible. He is judged by God for it. And yet the Bible says that Judas acted according to the purpose of God and fulfilled what God ordained to happen.

      The common view of what good means is not contradicted in most of what God continually does by His giving countless blessings– health, talents, ability to earn a living, food, clothing, friendships, family and life itself. These are of course often given to people in rebellion against Him, who don’t even acknowledge Him. But when it comes to predestining some to hell or some to heaven, the objection is raised that this is not good, that good is being redefined. But if it is acknowledged that mankind is totally depraved and that all have gone astray and are by nature objects of wrath (as asserted in scripture), (continued)

    • Alexander M Jordan

      then God has no obligation to save any, and in saving only some is displaying His mercy and goodness. Again, if it is unjust that all are implicated in Adam’s sin, then it is also “unjust” that the sins of men are forgiven through no works of their own but completely in Jesus, who pays for them on our behalf. God did not leave the world in misery and sin, but made a way of escape and salvation.

      Understanding how God is sovereign while at the same time man still responsible is difficult to wrap one’s mind around, I agree, but it is certainly biblical.

    • Susan

      And, at this time God is being incredibly good and merciful to all wretched sinners as He withholds His wrath. The vast majority of sin will go completely unpunished in this here-and-now world as we now know it….sometimes we experience ‘natural consequences’ but that’s a far cry from the punishment we deserve. God is good to all in this life, though we don’t deserve it.

      I finally started reading what’s been coming into my inbox from this thread. Excellent discussion!

    • Joseff

      Excellent posts Alexander M Jordan!

      I couldn’t help but be reminded, and then deciding to post, this Spurgeon quote relevant to our discussion:

      ——————-
      The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

      I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism.

      (cont)

    • Joseff

      That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring!
      —————
      end quote

      I think this sums it up nicely. We cannot reconcile the two truths that 1) God is sovereign and yet 2) Man makes choices and is held responsible for them.

      We cannot understand this with our finite minds. We simply must believe them because it’s what the Bible teaches.

    • cherylu

      Not quite gone yet!

      Thanks for that Spurgeon quote. I think maybe part of the problem, as I see it is exactly what he spoke of–the Arminian side does emphasize the free will side. On the other hand, the Calvinist side seems to emphasize the other side almost exclusively. You seem to acknlowledge that there is a free will involved–as we acknowledge God is sovereign–but then emphasize the sovereignty to the point where the “free will” seems to become totally eclipsed. On the other hand, you I am sure, would say the reverse to be true about the other side! I think at this point in time I am going to leave it all as a mystery I can’t begin to wrap my mind around and not even try to figure it out anymore. I really don’t think either side of this issue has it all figured out!

      Thanks all for the discussions!

    • cherylu

      I remember someone–don’t know if it was on this site or another–that referred to themselves as a “Calminian”. Maybe that isn’t such a bad term!

    • Jugulum

      Cheryl,

      I do think that Calvinists are often very bad at communicating what they think about “choice” and “will”.

      You might check Dan Phillips’ series on “communicating better”, aimed at clearing up such things. It has a couple entries on “choosing”. (You might also check the first entry in the series, for an explanation of how it works.)

    • Joseff

      Hehe, Cherylu, I would argue that it’s Calvinism that is the middle ground!

      Calvinism is the middle ground between hyper Calvinism and Arminianism. So a Calminian is not a middle ground position!

      1) God is sovereign and determines everything
      2) man is responsible for his actions

      Hyper Calvinism adheres to #1 to the exclusion of #2
      Arminianism adheres to #2 to the exclusion of #1

      As someone said once, “Hyper-Calvinism is all house and no door; Arminianism is all door and no house.”

      It is Calvinism, not Calminanism (lol), that fully adheres to #1 and #2 simultaneously and admits that it’s a mystery. As you can see for yourself, the Arminian gentlemen in this very discussion found fault with Calvinists affirming the mystery behind these things.

    • Susan

      There are however dangers in seeing ONLY one of those two parallel lines without being able to receive the other. Armenians will fear the possibility that although they were once an adopted child of God they might one day be un-adopted because of some particularly ‘bad’ sin. On the other hand, if one believes that since God sovereignly determines who is predestined then He can’t hold men accountable for their choices…and we don’t need to share the gospel, that is also going to affect how we live.

    • Hodge

      Michael and Cherylu,

      I think you guys missed half of what I said and just kind of picked out what you wanted to address. Maybe that’s my lack of communication skills.

      1. I cannot define “good” apart from the exaltation of God and the preservation of His people. My definition of “good” comes from the Bible, where that is displayed time and time again in the exodus and the wars, where God is exalted in preserving His people and destroying the enemy (chaotic agents that bring chaos to God’s people instead of order and life preservation). “Good” reflects the entire nature of God, not just a distortion that emphasizes a single attribute (thus creating a false god), and it is also in relation to the preservation of the righteous, not the wicked. Hence, all would be destroyed, but God then would not exalt His whole nature. Hence, the power, justice, holiness, and goodness of God is displayed in His destruction of the wicked, and His mercy, love, compassion, grace, and goodness is displayed in the salvation of His people. “Good,” therefore, relates only to God and what He does with the righteous and the wicked.

      2. “How is it loving to send people to hell? Very simple. They chose of their own free will to be there.”

      But this misses the point. All Calvinists would agree with this statement. This is not the point of departure. I said before, God doesn’t force anyone to reject Him. People do that of their own accord. God has created the circumstances that indirectly influence the person, but does not directly do so. The person’s problem, then, is that when God creates a circumstance where a person will be tempted to do Wicked Action A instead of Good Action B, the wicked person will always choose Wicked Action A, not because God is forcing Him to do so, but because the person really wants to do Wicked Action A, and the circumstance provides the vehicle through which his wicked desires, and God’s holiness through judging them, can be displayed…

    • Hodge

      Both of you seem to miss this point. God is not forcing anyone to do evil. God does not tempt any man. God creates the world and directs it influences and circumstances, but not the wicked decisions of men directly. He is able to control their wicked desires, however, by knowing what they will do in this circumstance versus that one. So He isn’t placing an evil nature in them. They chose it and it is already there. The question for God is what to do with it in a world where He must display who He is in truth and save His chosen people in that truth.

      3. So I’ve already answered objection 3. If God were to save everyone, then He would distort who He is. Hence, He would convey a false god to His people; and if their knowing the true God is eternal life, then ironically, in a world that God would save everyone, He would save no one.

      Finally, I do think that your definitions are arbitrary and really just based on your own concepts. The concepts of both “love” and “good” each have so many definitions even within our own culture that to try and fit them to the Bible is inappropriate. To give you an example, hell itself, even if one deserves it, is seen as unloving and evil. So our culture does not think God is good and loving by sending people there. Another example is the homosexuality debate. Anyone who says that it is wrong is automatically unloving and not good, regardless of how loving and good one might be in seeking to turn people away from a heinous sin. I could go on and on, but our culture does not get to define goodness, even though it tries to center all things around itself (and of course it would as an atheistic society). The definitions that we gain from God’s existence must come from God Himself and through His revelation. So I would agree that calling God good and loving with the definitions our culture give to those terms may not be a good thing without defining them appropriately, as perhaps our problem has been in evangelical culture that…

    • Hodge

      distorted the attributes of God.

    • Hodge

      I also just wanted to clarify that Wicked Action A has to do with an action that does not exalt God as Lord over one’s life. I’m talking about helping old ladies across the street, etc.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      As much as you think we miss the point, we think you completely and utterly miss the point as well. Trust me when I say whatever you are thinking about us, our motives, our intellect, our presuppositions, we think about yours. I simply cannot understand how you cannot see the contradiction in terms you are creating. Love and good aren’t defined by God, they are defined by Websters. If God’s actions and nature is not congruent to these words then a new word must be used to describe Him.

      “God has created the circumstances that indirectly influence the person, but does not directly do so. The person’s problem, then, is that when God creates a circumstance where a person will be tempted to do Wicked Action A instead of Good Action B, the wicked person will always choose Wicked Action A”

      Again you completely miss the point. First off there is little difference between active and passive predestination. Secondly the only reason that person really wants to do Wicked Action A is because he has a fallen nature as the result of event God ordained and orchestrated. It doesn’t solve your problem, just moves it up a step. It’s like someone in a debate over the cosmological argument for God who suggested aliens as the creators of the universe rather than God. Great now the question is who created the aliens. God is still the ultimate cause.

      In response to what you said in number 3 and the last part of number 1. It seems to me you are creating a “needy” God who has to display all aspects of His nature equally. Similar to R.C. Sproul Jr. when he indicated that God needs objects of wrath in order to exalt His eternal attribute of wrath. It would also seem to me that God’s desire to glorify His wrath is much stronger than His desire to glorify His love just given the percentages. CMP did an article on this awhile ago. Just search for R.C. Sproul and “evil creating”.

    • cherylu

      Susan,

      You mentioned that a problem with Arminianism is that people fear they may become “unadopted”.

      A similar problem is true with Calvinism–people can have a very real fear that they are not part of the elect and there is nothing they can do about it.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge,
      Basically what it seems your saying is that God needs to be glorified. First off why?? Why does God need glory?? Isn’t there a few theological concepts which this violates? Secondly your saying that in order to be glorified God needs to put on full display all His attributes. Again why?? Does one have to put on display all of their attributes all the time in order to fully be who they are? I hope not, because I have a lot of evil things inside of me. Not putting these on display hopefully doesn’t mean I’m not being true to myself or that I’m living a lie.

      I see no logical reason why what you are saying here must be true. Furthermore He already did in fact display His wrath against sin to us on the cross when He took it out on Jesus Christ. So your assertions don’t answer the question why all aren’t saved. At least CMP is intellectually honest in admitting this is a tough question for Calvinists to get around rather than just giving tired ole pat answers right out of the playbook that no Arminian has found convincing for 100’s of years. We are a rebellious bunch aren’t we…..

    • Jugulum

      Michael,

      “At least CMP is intellectually honest in admitting this is a tough question for Calvinists to get around rather than just giving tired ole pat answers right out of the playbook that no Arminian has found convincing for 100’s of years.”

      Sure, I agree that it’s good to say “this is a tough question”.

      On the other hand, I don’t think the answer that Arminians give to universalists is any more convincing to a universalist than us Calvinists’ answer is to you. Everything that you’re saying about redefining words, they will say to you. Their intuition about the word “love” is as strong as yours, when they reject the idea of hell.

      We shouldn’t toss out your argument. If we see an apparent inconsistency, that should make us double-check whether it’s really what the Bible is teaching. But we should also be humble enough to say, “I don’t see how this works together, but I trust You enough to be confident that it does—I’ll find out some day.”

      Another place that Calvinists and Arminians in the same boat (as far as needing to explain or accept hard-to-understand things) is reflected something you said:
      “First off there is little difference between active and passive predestination.”

      With everything that happens—every act of evil, every natural disaster, every event of suffering—God has the ability to stop it. It can’t happen with at least his assent. (And that’s true even for open theists!) I can sympathize with what you just said about active & passive predestination. But I equally sympathize with someone struggling with the problem of suffering, and the question “Why did God allow this?”, and their thought that allowing something isn’t any better than “passive predestination”.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      We’re at an impasse, as I think God defines good and love in the context of Scripture and you think Websters does. I agree that Websters may pick up on cultural definitions, but they need to be corrected by Biblical ones. Otherwise, the term “man” is meaningless as well to describe the Bible’s concept of man, and we should therefore call man something else. That would go for all language that conflicts with the Bible. So according to you, we should have a separate language for Christianity or concede to cultural definitions that redefine the Biblical intent of those words. I don’t agree with either one of these options.

      “First off there is little difference between active and passive predestination.”

      Actually, there’s all the difference in the world. One incorporates the choice of a human from his own nature and one changes his nature so that his decision will be different.

      I frankly don’t see how you escape this. You do believe that God put the forbidden tree in the garden, knowing that Adam and Eve would choose to eat of it, don’t you? So, whether you think it is for the purpose of free choice is irrelevant. The question is whether God made the environment that would cause them to sin. Your view does NOT escape this.

      Michael,

      I don’t agree with Sproul that God’s attribute is wrath. I said His attribute is good, and that is displayed both in His justice, holiness, and power as well as His mercy, love, and grace. God doesn’t need to create the world, so He doesn’t have a need to do this. But in order to create the perfect world that will both exalt Him as God, thus placing the world in the right order, and save His people, who must know the true God in order to have eternal life, He must display all of His attributes to both wicked and righteous. Both are needed for the perfect world, so both are in the world He created, since He only created the best possible world.

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      “3. So I’ve already answered objection 3. If God were to save everyone, then He would distort who He is. Hence, He would convey a false god to His people; and if their knowing the true God is eternal life, then ironically, in a world that God would save everyone, He would save no one.”

      I don’t at all understand your last sentence–the part that says, ” in a world that God would save everyone, He would save no one.” Could you explain that to me please? I’m just not following you at all.

      Michael T,

      You said, ” It would also seem to me that God’s desire to glorify His wrath is much stronger than His desire to glorify His love just given the percentages” That is also something that I have thought about. It says several times in the Word that “God IS love”, hence the emphasis that has been placed on love down through the years. While the Bible certainly makes it clear that God has wrath against sin, I don’t believe He has ever revealed Himself as “God IS wrath”.

    • Hodge

      Finally, I would argue that God needs to be glorified in order to communicate His true nature to His people, and set the universe in order. If He is not above creation, creation is chaos, and thus He has neither created nor saved the humans He intended to create and save. God’s glorification is tied to His true nature as God and the communication of the one true God through which people are saved.
      To not communicate who He is fully is to not communicate who He is, period. If I say that God is love and do not believe in a God of justice, I have the wrong God, and thus, the true God is not exalted and I am not saved. If I say that God is justice and not love, the true God is not exalted and I have the wrong God, I am not saved. Heresy is in the emphasis of one attribute of God to the exclusion of another. God is not a heretic.

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I mean that if one is saved by knowing God, and God does not reveal who He is through both love, mercy and grace AND holiness, justice, wrath toward evil, then He is not revealing Himself to His people. If they don’t really know the true God, then they are not really saved. Hence, if God saves everyone, showing only His love and not His justice, power, holiness, etc. then He is in essence saving no one.

      The phrase “God is love” is in reference to believers. That’s the context. I don’t mean to suggest that He is only love to believers, but that His nature as love is emphasized to believers, because that is what He communicates to them. I doubt “God is love” is emphasized in contexts where He is killing the wicked and sending them to hell. So I think that you are emphasizing what is emphasized to Christians in their relationship with God and each other to the point of universalism.

    • cherylu

      So Hodge, it seems to me that you are back to saying with Piper that God did decree good and evil both in that they both have to exist. And that He did decree that people would sin so that He could punish them. Am I correct in my understanding of your comments here?

      Even if you say that He only created people that He knew would sin if given the right set of circumstances, are you still not saying that it was His ultimate purpose that people sin so that He could display His wrath–if indeed He does have to display it in order for people to know Him correctly?

      So, does that then not leave us in the very difficult or downright impossible position of saying that ultimately God is the author or cause of all sin, if indeed He has to have sin in the world so that He can display His wrath? I can’t see it any other way.

    • Joseff


      A similar problem is true with Calvinism–people can have a very real fear that they are not part of the elect and there is nothing they can do about it.

      I must disagree with this. The Bible teaches perseverance of the saints. If one has ongoing faith and trust in Jesus Christ our saviour, we can be assured we are the elect. In fact, Peter commands us to make sure we are elect – that is, to make sure we have the assurance of salvation

      “make your calling and election sure…[by doing these things]” (2 Peter 1:10) If you read the prior 5 verses, you will discover that faith is one of those things.

      I must also take issue with the statement “and there is nothing they can do it about”. Again, this is wrong. There is something we can do if we fear we are not saved – we can repent and believe. The question is, are we willing to do that? If not, then the fault is ours. If yes, then God must get the credit, in order to be able to consistently say “Soli Deo Gloria” and “Sola Gratia”

    • Joseff

      Cherylu, I don’t think anyone really escapes the dilemma of “why is sin and evil in the universe?”

      Either God purposes that they be here, or he doesn’t.

      If he doesn’t, then sin and evil are of a higher power than God and we have much to be afraid of, for sin and and evil are running rampant and God is helpless!

      If he does, then Christians can take comfort in God’s sovereignty and promises that “all things work together for our good”

      See, Calvinists say God purposes it to be here, ultimately by His own sovereign, wise, decretive will.

      But really, the Arminian escapes no dilemma. Why? Because before creating, surely God could have contemplated any number of possible universes to create. But He chose to create this one – the one with sin and evil.

      At the end of the day, we all must face the fact that sin and evil are here because God decreed that they would be. To simply say “God only passively permits sin and evil” doesn’t solve the problem. Because when God permits something, he always permits it willingly, not unwillingly. To willingly permit something is to will, or decree, that it be so.

      Further, as is clear from the Bible, God has the power to prevent sin from happening. If so, why didn’t God prevent the first sin, or every sin after? The only honest answer I can think of is He because desires – at some level/sense – for it to be here. It is serving a purpose. He is receiving glory by it, somehow. In ways we can’t understand.

      I have no problem saying that God created a universe with sin and evil and put sin and evil to work for His own purposes. Why would any Christian have a problem saying so?

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      I don’t think I necessarily agree with your statement that people have to see every attribute of God displayed in order to know Him truly so that they can be saved.

      One attribute comes to mind immediately–His glory. Only a very few humans on this earth have ever seen His glory. A few come to mind: the disciples that were with Him when He was transfigured saw it at least to some degree, and John when He had the vision on Patmos. But generally speaking, His glory is something that is hidden to most men. It is not something that there is a general revelation made of at all.

      Also the fact that He is eternal is not something that we can readily see. The Bible teaches it and we believe it. Just like the Bible teaches about His glory and we beleive it.

      Why couldn’t it likewise be the way we know about His wrath?

    • Hodge

      Cheryl,

      I didn’t say we have to see His attributes (although it depends upon how you are defining glory in order to consider it an attribute). In any case, one does not see eternity, etc. One, however, can understand through communication. We understand that God is through what God says, not by seeing Him. You just told me that He is glorious and eternal without seeing Him. My point is that God displays His eternity through various acts. He displays His glory through various acts. He displays His justice through various acts. He displays His love through various acts. We don’t need to see God in order to see these things displayed. We don’t need to experience eternity in order to see it displayed. In fact, we will never see the full attribute, but the attributes fully displayed is important because it tells us that our relationship is with the right God, and that the true God is A, B, and C in a world of false gods that are A and C only, or A and B only, etc. Hence, it saves us and glorifies the one true God rather than some false one.

    • Michael T.

      “We’re at an impasse, as I think God defines good and love in the context of Scripture and you think Websters does.”

      Which basically concedes my point. According to you God can take a word and make it to mean essentially anything he wants too. Hypothetically speaking God could be a complete sadist and still be good simply because he describes himself in such a manner. I submit that this is absurd. Think about it this way. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush did He invent the language, or did He use a preexisting human construct with preexisting meanings to reveal Himself?? I submit that when God speaks through language He is using a preexisting human construct to reveal Himself and is therefore to a extent bound to the preexisting meanings of that construct. If God we’re to speak to 21st Century American’s today directly He would be largely bound to the meanings of words contained in Webster’s dictionary. I don’t see how it could be any other way if language is in any way going to be a meaningful way for God to reveal Himself.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      I said, “A similar problem is true with Calvinism–people can have a very real fear that they are not part of the elect and there is nothing they can do about it.”

      You disagree with this. I have read statements of people that have struggled long and hard with this very thing.

      And on another thread, I think it was on this site, it was brought up that there is also another Calvinist belief, (held by at least some, I don’t remember exactly), that teaches that God can give a person a temporary grace that makes them and the ones around them believe that they are among the elect. It was said to be so close to the real and permanent thing that it was very difficult to tell them apart. But that this grace was at some point removed by God and the person would find out they were not among the elect after all. How do you all deal with that kind of thing? Just sit around and wait till your death bed to see if you have persevered or if you have only been tricked into thinking you are one of the elect and then the rug swept out from under your feet?

    • Hodge

      “I submit that when God speaks through language He is using a preexisting human construct to reveal Himself and is therefore to a extent bound to the preexisting meanings of that construct.”

      Of course it is, but it isn’t in English and words are defined by context. They don’t define large concepts by themselves. I feel like I’m talking to Sue again. See that discussion and apply it to this one.

      “If God we’re to speak to 21st Century American’s today directly He would be largely bound to the meanings of words contained in Webster’s dictionary.”

      Really? So if God were to communicate using the Websters definition for “man,” then He would not be able to define it differently than Websters by adding context to it? We really are at an impasse.

    • Michael T.

      Hodge and Joseff,
      With the regards to God placing the tree in the garden etc. you are referring more or less to the problem of evil. Many philosopher’s much smarter then myself believe the free will defense adequately answers this question. We aren’t addressing the problem of evil so much as what defines “free will” and whether or not Adam had a true choice in whether or not to eat the apple. Arminian’s contend that because (as Joseff states) God actively decreed the fall there can not be any true “free will”. Thus the blame for the string of bloodshed and disaster which has been human history falls on God, not us. We were just robots doing what we have been programmed to do.

    • Hodge

      I appreciate, once again, being able to partake in a good discussion, but I do need to get some work done, as I do know that this conversation could last awhile. Thanks to all for the congenial conversation.

    • Hodge

      Just to clarify before I go, Michael. I said before, it does not matter the reason (i.e., because God wanted humans to be free) God set up the environment that He knew would be a temptation for humans. It only matters that He did. Hence, we’re in the same boat.

    • Michael T.

      “Really? So if God were to communicate using the Websters definition for “man,” then He would not be able to define it differently than Websters by adding context to it? We really are at an impasse.”

      Man
      an adult person who is male
      the generic use of the word to refer to any human

      I fail to see the issue. The nature of man on the other hand is a philosophical construct which would use many other words, also contained in Webster’s, to flush out. Words such as “fallen” or “evil” may be appropriate which also have their own meanings. The point is that God couldn’t use the word “good” to describe humanities current state because the meaning of the word “good” cannot possibly describe a people who regularly lie, steal, cheat, kill, and use one another for profit. Hypothetically God could not come down to day and state that Hitler was “good” without rendering language absurd.

    • Jugulum

      Michael,

      I think Hodge made an excellent distinction that you overlooked, and I’d like to point it out by paraphrasing your last comment.

      “According to you a culture can take a word and make it to mean essentially anything they want it to.”

      I find it strange that you would respond to Hodge’s comment the way you did. You quoted one sentence of his, but the very next sentence had the important distinction. And I can’t imagine why you would reply without addressing it.

      Hodge said:

      We’re at an impasse, as I think God defines good and love in the context of Scripture and you think Websters does. I agree that Websters may pick up on cultural definitions, but they need to be corrected by Biblical ones.

      If our culture has a definition of “love” that excludes all possibility of hell, then according to your standard, God cannot use the word “love”. You’re saying that God isn’t allowed to correct our definitions when he communicates with us.

      Do you really disagree that Biblical definitions may sometimes need to correct our cultural definitions, reflected in Websters? Do you really think it’s appropriate for you to describe that idea as, “God can take a word and make it to mean essentially anything he wants too”?

    • Joseff


      It was said to be so close to the real and permanent thing that it was very difficult to tell them apart. But that this grace was at some point removed by God and the person would find out they were not among the elect after all. How do you all deal with that kind of thing?

      Cherylu, isn’t this nothing less than the parable of the sower? I’m not sure why this is a problem for the doctrine of election. If one finds fault with this concept, their contention is with the parable of the sower.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      No, I don’t think this was like the parable of the sower as I remember reading it. In the parable of the sower, it says the problem was with the type of soil that there was in each individual case. In the instance I was talking about it said God deliberately gave grace–although not a true grace-that looked like the real thing and then that God deliberately removed that grace again. That doesn’t seem like the same thing to me. I can’t find anything about it now, was hoping to check to see that I remembered it correctly.

    • Joseff

      “In the instance I was talking about it said God deliberately gave grace–although not a true grace-that looked like the real thing and then that God deliberately removed that grace again”

      If it’s a grace that isn’t a “true grace”, how can it be grace?

      Here’s what I think – the Bible states that God can (and does) “Send strong delusion so that people believe a lie”

      The reprobate, those that are not truly born again and at heart are God haters, sometimes they think they are saved. They are outwardly religious. Then they fall away when trials come. Can’t this be a sort of “hardening” work that God does? The Bible plainly says that He hardens whomever He desires.

    • Michael T.

      “According to you a culture can take a word and make it to mean essentially anything they want it to.”

      You got it. Think about it. The word “good” did not even exist when Bible was written as the English language didn’t exist. We have translated a Greek word to mean “good”. Now what the words used in the Bible mean in the culture in question is for people far more educated in that matter than myself to debate, though many of them seem to agree that there is a disconnect between the word in ordinary usage and the word as used by Calvinists in relation to God. However, the word “good” as understood in modern English is not related to how Calvinists view the word “good” as it related to God and therefore God should not be referred to as “good” in the Calvinist understanding (and though I dispute Hodges conclusions if he were correct the Arminian understanding too).

    • Michael T.

      If our culture has a definition of “love” that excludes all possibility of hell, then according to your standard, God cannot use the word “love”. You’re saying that God isn’t allowed to correct our definitions when he communicates with us.

      If that was true I would agree that “loving” would not be the proper way to describe God in the same way that the Greek word “eros” would probably not be appropriate in describing the way God loves individual Christians (my understanding from others is that this word is “love”, but has a sexual connotation to it). Some other word would have to be used to describe Him. Now I dispute that this is the case. First off we have to understand the essence of hell. While fiery lakes and burning sulfur are the imagery used in the Bible to describe hell this is almost certainly not literal (even the words used for hell are figurative in nature – Hades, which is a Greek conception of the afterlife, and Gehenna which is a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem). The essence of hell is eternal separation from God according to ones own choice to be separated from God. I think C.S. Lewis had a lot of great things to say about this subject part of which is quoted above. In a very real sense hell is God giving people not only what they deserve, but what they want. Now I know of very few people who would say that it is a loving act for someone to force someone to be with them who does not wish to be with them. This is in fact a crime, false imprisonment. In the same way God forcing those who reject Him to be with Him for eternity would not be a loving act.

    • Joseff

      “The essence of hell is eternal separation from God according to ones own choice to be separated from God”

      I don’t understand hell as SEPARATION from God. God is not absent from hell. God is very much in hell dealing out justice.

      That’s what makes hell so scary – not that God is absent – but that God is there!

    • Michael T.

      “I don’t understand hell as SEPARATION from God”

      While then we have another issues here, but it goes beyond the scope of this thread. Suffice to say that many theologians past and present have thought of hell as separation from God. For instance William Lane Craig recently explained it as such in response to a question during a debate on theism.

    • cherylu

      However we may understand the reality of hell, it certainly sounds to me like separation from God: “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” Mt 25:11

    • Alex Jordan

      Michael,

      In an earlier comment I said that “the common view (or definition) of what good means is not contradicted in most of what God continually does by His giving countless blessings– health, talents, ability to earn a living, food, clothing, friendships, family and life itself… But when it comes to predestining some to hell or some to heaven, the objection has been raised that this is not good, that the word good is being redefined.”

      I was proposing that the definition of good is not completely revamped by those who hold a Calvinistic viewpoint, though perhaps it is being stretched or expanded. Maybe one is not able to readily see the good in God predestining the eternal destiny of people, or in His not saving all people, or in His allowing sickness and suffering and death, or in His permitting the Fall and evil to enter into human experience. But what I am arguing is that all of these are performed by a God who the testimony of Scripture and experience demonstrates is good. So perhaps then we need to have our definition of good, not made incomprehensible as you suggest Calvinism does, but expanded, so that good includes things we wouldn’t have readily seen as good from our own limited viewpoint.

      As an aside, I notice that in comments people sometimes say, “well, you guys are a lot smarter than I am, so I could be wrong,” or “people much smarter than I have come to this conclusion, therefore…” I contend that being smart in an intellectual sense is not the key to biblical wisdom. Doesn’t God seek obedience and humility and teachability? Not that we shouldn’t exercise our minds– on the contrary– we are to develop them to the best of our ability and give our best thinking to Scripture and to our doctrine. But I think we should be careful not to equate intellectual gifts with true and accurate apprehension of spiritual truth. Brilliant men are sometimes more deeply deceived than simpletons. The pathway to wisdom is the fear of God and a reverence for His word.

    • […] A Calvinist's Understanding of "Free-Will" 352 comment(s) | by C Michael Patton […]

    • Michael T.

      Alex,
      1. I simply don’t see how the Calvinist description of predestination can be ascribed to a God who is good period. Maybe it’s a personal fault on my part or something, but I just can’t do it. No way no how. It’s not that saying this view of God as good is an expansion of the word “good”. I would be ok with this and in fact believe that the Arminian view of God requires an expansion of the word “good” in order to properly use the term. The problem is that the God of Calvinism completely obliterates the ordinary meaning of the word good and often means it’s opposite. To me this is really as absurd as saying Hitler was good. It’s incomprehensible. Now you can appeal to “mystery” the otherness of God to explain how a good God can predestine and ordain people to hell, but to me this seems like a cop out. It doesn’t answer the very real and legitimate questions people are asking other than to say “there’s nothing to see here – move along”.

      2. As to referring to people “much smarter then myself” I am simply referring to those who are much more educated then me and recognizing the limits of my knowledge in this area. I am a lawyer and an armchair theologian, not a professional one. As the author of this blog will openly admit their are many educated, god fearing, Bible believing theologians out there who would disagree with his position and it is those to whom I am referring. In addition I don’t think he (CMP) would say that they don’t have good reasons for disagreeing with his position. Paul Copan for instance who posts on this blog quite regularly is, I believe, an Arminian.

    • Susan

      Cheryl, Ps. 139:7-8 “Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be.”

      I’ve heard Dr. Sproul use this passage to say that God is everywhere, even in hell.

      Michael, Do you consider a ‘good’ parent to be one who never punishes his child?

      As an Armenian you feel that God can only be good, and believable, if he only sends a person to hell because they willfully reject Christ? But even so, if such a person really KNEW what they were in for do you think that they would choose hell rather than Jesus?

      So, what is loving then…in order to make it fair? In order to call God good by your terms I would think that God would have to give everyone a real-live sneak preview of Hell, otherwise they are choosing it in ignorance, right?…which I don’t think would be good by your definition, would it?…just to explore the Arminian perspective on Hell a bit…

    • Michael T.

      Susan,
      I don’t think Psalm 139 can be used to prove the existence of God in hell. Couple points. 1) Psalm, not Epistle. The Psalms are full of hyperbole and figures of speech that are not literally true. David here is simply using hyperbole to show that there is no place where we can run from God. Think about what he is saying literally. Can you run to hell?? Of course not and thus I would favor a figurative interpretation of this verse. 2) One must also be aware that the Israelites conception of the afterlife at the time of David was quite different then the conception among Christians or even the Pharisees at the time of Jesus for that matter. Sheol and hell certainly have some resemblance, but ultimately Sheol has more in common with the Catholic concept of Purgatory then Hell.

      You asked,
      “Michael, Do you consider a ‘good’ parent to be one who never punishes his child?”

      You do realize this is one of the primary arguments for annihilationism right? A good parent most certainly punishes their children. Yet a “good” parent has a purpose in their punishment in that they are seeking to instill wisdom in their children such that they will not do wrong in the future. What God is doing here is akin to shooting a child as punishment for something the child had no control over. It is permanent and irrevocable. No one would call such a parent “good”.

      Now given that I do not believe in annihilationism I of course have some issues that need to be answered too. And I think Lewis concept of Hell being locked from the inside explains a lot. To answer the question you asked, “But even so, if such a person really KNEW what they were in for do you think that they would choose hell rather than Jesus?” The answer from my perspective is that even if they knew what they were in they would still choose hell. By this I don’t mean that they want to go to hell, rather that the are unwillingly to do what is necessary to not go there (humble…

    • Michael T.

      got cut off. Should have read (humble themselves and repent) at the end. There is a great C.S. Lewis quote about this after the part about hell being locked from the inside that I can’t seem to find at the moment.

    • Joseff

      Hehe, even though it’s an offtopic, there is much in Edwards sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” that inclines me to believe that hell is not separation from God in the sense that God is completely absent.

      Separation from God’s love, mercy, and grace, and riches, maybe, but not God himself (completely) His wrath is very much present in hell.

    • cherylu

      Joseff,

      I have a question for you. I am trying to understand what you are conveying with your use of “hehe” in this thread. I have seen it several times now. Since much is conveyed about a person’s thoughts and where they are coming from by their tone and by such comments, can you please let me know what you mean by this?

    • Susan

      Michael, Ps. 139 is a praise of David’s highlighting two attributes of God: His omniscience and His omnipresence. Certainly this is a poetic psalm, and David is delighting in understanding that God is absolutely everywhere….that there is in fact no place where God is not! ….even the most extreme of places where one might tend to think that God might not be. Do you think that David got it wrong about God being even in hell? Why would you say that? Is it because it fits better with your concept of hell being separation from God rather than a literal place of torment? David’s expressed desire was far from contemplations about running from God, he was rejoicing in the fact that God is everywhere.

    • cherylu

      Just to clarify, I believe hell to be a place of torment too–not just a separation from God as the verse I quoted earlier seems to indicate.

    • Ron

      Michael T: The quote you are looking for is in The Problem of Pain, I believe.

    • Michael T.

      Ron,
      Yeah I know what book it is in, just can’t find it.

      Susan,
      Has nothing to do with believing David got it wrong as I don’t believe he is intending to say what you imply. He is being hyperbolic and figurative. Furthermore, please read my earlier statement. If you had asked David about “Hell” he would have no idea what you were talking about. The concept simply didn’t exist at David’s time. So to say David is saying God is in hell is absurd.

      Also a thought if David is delighting in the fact that God is everywhere, think of the horribleness of somewhere God is not. Seems like hell to me at least. Think of how bad the world is now, and then try to even imagine the orders of magnitude worse it would be if God just abandoned it.

    • […] I think one of my favorite articles at Patton’s site was his on a Calvinist understanding of free will. […]

    • […] Parchment and Pen » A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will” […]

    • Random Arrow (Jim)

      Michael, great blog. Engaging buoyant style. Interlaced optimism and criticism. Fair nods to your critics. Nice touch.

      You wrote – “I don’t believe that too much information can destroy the Christian faith …. Christianity does not need to fear the rise of information, but to learn with it, integrate it, and to teach people how to process their faith (and on).”

      I agree. At least with this verbal formulae. Your nod to cognitive dissonance plays to factual/empirical questions about how and whether believers really do (or do not) integrate new information into existing convictions.

      My comment here (next) is not adversarial. Nor argumentative. It’s descriptive.

      Empirical/clinical studies of active, practicing, confessing Calvinists (just one e.g.; could apply to Arminians too) reveal no correlation (no effect) between theological conviction/confession and real-life attribution to God’s action. Theological convictions (i.e., for Calvinists, God’s sovereignty) which should commit Calvinists to assert God’s direct control in real life attributions are simply not upheld. A slew of studies upholds the trajectory of such findings (for one e.g., see Miner, M. H. and McKnight, J. (1999). Religious Attributions: Situational Factors and Effects on Coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 38(2), 274-287).

      I’d suggest the reasons for this failure of the “integration”of life into theology are as numerous as the purposes of Ecclesiastes 3 multiplied to their own power. On orders of magnitude. There is no single reason.

      But again, cognitive dissonance is a factual matter. Not a theoretical nor theological one.

      The father in your hypothetical above may not be making any strategic move at all. Nor even responding. Merely exhibiting the already-existing internal state of the non-sequitur between theology and real life.

      Cheers,

      Jim

    • Random Arrow (Jim)

      Ack!

      Mis-posted: #66 should have been under: “Warning: Too Much Information May Destroy Your Faith.”

      Forthwith.

    • Jonnathan

      If we’re comparing apples to apples (scripture to scripture) we come to a disturbing scenario. 2 Peter 3:9 says that “it is not God’s will that any man should perish.” He has the power to make this will possible. Yet we also know from Romans/Paul that He has in fact hardened people in the past for what reasons seemed good to Him as “vessels of wrath” (if we’re following Paul’s argument correctly and as inerrant–which I have reason to doubt). So then, we have God who has all-power to perform what is explicitly stated as his will (save all men) choosing against his own will (destroying Pharaoh, hating Esau). Fine. But Calvinism would go on to say that ALL the lost are basically the “unelected” (to put it bluntly NOT chosen for salvation). But this would put God in the position of CONSTANTLY choosing against his express will. That seems very suspect to me; nevertheless, far be it from me to understand the mind of God. However, isn’t it more coherent that there is an alternative explanation and that is simply that if 2 Peter 3:9 is God’s will and yet many still perish…there exists the possibility that man’s will can thwart God’s EVEN AS God intervenes to harden some (but not EVERY single person that perishes)? It’s the only reasonable view. Why must God either elect or harden? He is certainly free to do both (as he told Moses and as Paul illustrates) but it doesn’t necessarily follow that this kind of direct intervention is ALWAYS what happens (vs. indirectly where will can act, e.g.) …otherwise you have God inflicting pain to his own self by always causing the thing he MOSTS wants to avoid–man perishing. And though the divine mind may have his very good reasons to directly harden a few (which is still perplexing but obviously within his right and power) it doesn’t match his character and express wishes (again, 2 Pet 3:9) for him to do this ad nauseum, even for all time, for all persons who choose against him (perish), in my view.

    • […] Calvinists to do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibalists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time as holding to a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here.) […]

    • […] 5. Calvinism is not a denial of freedom. Calvinists to do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibilists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time as holding to a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here.) […]

    • Matthew in TX

      Is it possible to have a biblically sound position that maintains savation is predestined, while free will functions simultaneously in all other aspects of life? This is the position I currently hold, but I get so lost in the implications that I’m not sure it’s even biblical, or possible. Anyone can chime in cause I’m lost.

    • Steve Martin

      Matthew,

      You have it right.

    • Steve Martin

      There’s free will in the things below, but not the things Above.

      God calls and chooses us. This is ALL OVER the Bible.

    • […] completely pigeon hole Libertarian Free Will so that they can tackle it. They say things like “Libertarians believe that Free Will is the power of contrary choice” then easily dismantle that position by showing that sometimes we can’t make another […]

    • Michele

      I believe that although God places a person where he wants him, when he wants him, it would seem that He also places in mankind an inherent concsience likely due to the presence of His Holy Spirit in the earth. We are all subject to a sense of right and wrong. I believe that those who are truly evil, make deliberate choices for evil against that conscience. Knowing full well that the choice they make is wrong and it is evil. I think that is where the will of mankind lives. In the ability to choose deliberately and knowingly between good and evil. In this case, it is not deception or a bad choice or a mistake that is repented of. It is the deliberate choice of evil over good against a man’s conscience. No matter what the circumstance that put a man in the position to make that choice, the choice is still a choice and a knowing one.

    • […] A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will” | Parchment and PenMar 1, 2010 … There are many words and concepts in theology that suffer from misunderstanding, mis-characterization, and misinformation. “Predestination … […]

    • […] Patton tries to explain how a Calvinist understands LFW. Writing against LFW, Patton explains that there are numerous factors in your life that factor into […]

    • […] simply embrace this tension between determinism and free will with hands over their mouths, and yet Mr. Patton holds to compatibilism which plainly “redefines” freedom so that it is no longer freedom in any real sense at all, […]

    • […] there is no mystery.  If “human freedom” is to be understood in a compatibilist sense (which Mr. Patton holds to), then there is still no mystery.  The mystery is removed by redefining “human freedom”.  The […]

    • […] A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will” | Parchment and Pen __________________ To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. You currently have 0 posts. – "If damnation be justice, then mercy may choose its own object." – Jonathan Edwards […]

    • […] God himself. So you say that you, a Calvinist, believe in free will. Are you taking the line of Michael Patton, as a Calvinist? Do you […]

    • […] Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in free will. They just define it differently. Here you go: A Calvinist’s Understanding of “Free-Will” | Parchment and Pen __________________ To view links or images in signatures your post count must be 10 or greater. […]

    • […] mismo tiempo sosteniendo un alto concepto de la soberanía providencial de Dios. (Más sobre esto aquí […]

    • […] mismo tiempo sosteniendo un alto concepto de la soberanía providencial de Dios. (Más sobre esto aquí […]

    • […] Calvinists do not believe that people are robots or puppets on strings. Calvinists believe in freedom and, properly defined, free will. While Calvinists believe that God is ultimately in control of everything, most are compatibilists, believing that he works in and with human freedom (limited though it may be). Calvinists believe in human responsibility at the same time that they hold a high view of God’s providential sovereignty. (More on this here.) […]

    • […] mismo tiempo sosteniendo un alto concepto de la soberanía providencial de Dios. (Más sobre esto aquí […]

    • Neal

      Michael Patton

      You ask, Does a person have the ability to choose against their nature?

      Matthew 7:11 (NKJV)
      11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

      Here Jesus reveals two simultaneous truth, 1) people are in essence evil (sinners). 2) They are capable of doing good.

      Does the Calvinist view teach that fallen human beings (sinners) can only choose to sin?
      Isn’t it true that sinners still retain the attributes they were created with?
      Isn’t these attributes expressed and acted on by humans after the fall?
      As sinners, can’t we choose to do the moral thing, the right thing, to do good and not evil in a given situation?
      Aren’t you acknowledging that we are able to suppress sin even before conversion in this statement, “Every aspect of our being is infected with sin, even if we don’t act it out to a maximal degree.”
      I assume from this statement that you believe that fallen humans can suppress sinful tendencies, being they don’t act it out to a maximal degree. Which means they don’t always act on sinful tendencies.

      My own view has two important predicates as far as human essence, 1) We were created in the image of God, thus we have attributes that give us moral ability. 2) We inherit sin from our greatest ancestor (Adam), which in itself is subversive, acting within us to make contrary choices to Gods will. These two truths should cause us to conclude that although sin does subvert, it didn’t eradicate God given abilities.

      You write, “If you ask whether a person can choose against their nature (i.e. libertarian freedom) the answer, I believe, must be “no.”

      Your answer seems to be based in the belief that a sinner will always act sinful. This I believe to be a weakness on the Calvinist view. Humans are able to make contrary choices other than that which sin inspires.

      We who are evil are capable of good, therefore…

    • Dave Emme

      Freewill is the sin nature

    • […] mieux étudier cette cinquième rubrique, je vais devoir faire référence au billet additionnel que mentionne l’auteur.  Il propose cinq questions par lesquels il tente de trouver […]

    • mosquito

      I believe in libertarian free will. Unless one is always free to choose either good or evil, no matter what state one is in, either before the fall or after the fall, one can not be held accountable for one’s choice of either good or evil. If one is necessitated to choose evil, then one can not be held accountable for choosing evil. This was the uniformly held view of Christians before Augustine.

    • free thinker

      I will give this to Calvinists, they at least go a lot further than most other Christians in attempting to make logical sense of the contradictory assumption of free-willed creatures existing in a universe made by an omniscient deity. However, the mental contortions they go through only to wind up with even more absurd contradictions such as, “Yes, they are making a free choice, but this choice does not include the liberty or freedom of contrary choice,” illustrates clearly the inevitable result of applying logic to an idea or belief that’s not founded in it to start with. And they have the nerve to criticize solipsists for being crazy for proposing “brain in jar” thought experiments? Apparently they can’t hear themselves talk.

    • Steve Martin

      Luther was right when he wrote , “I believe that I cannot believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, or come to Him.”

      “But that He has chosen me, through the gospel…”

    • John Reese

      You assume that when Adam sinned his nature fell into depravity, then you argue man just makes the choices based upon his nature.

      Adam had a nature to sin before Satan approached him and Eve. Adam did not fall into depravity. He could choose Good and bad from the beginning. His nature never changed. What changed was Satan’s voice being interjected into his thinking.

      So Calvinism uses a different principle for Adam Pre and post sin. Very bad logic. Very short-sighted. In one you say Adam sinned against his nature and then post sin you say Adam’s race sinned because of their nature.

      Please visit my website.
      https://sites.google.com/site/faithonlyreviewed/home

      Calvinism is simply twisted logic.

    • Shawn

      I have one question…how did Adam & Eve come to decide to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge? You stated that we don’t become sinners when we sin but we sin because we are sinners, which in my mind is nothing more than the chicken vs egg which came first argument. You can put that argument to anybody that followed Adam, but you cannot say that about Adam & Eve. They BECAME sinners because they SINNED. How would they have come to that decision without a sin nature? Free will, plain & simple. And we are no different. If Adam & Eve chose to sin when it wasn’t within their nature to do so then we can equally make a decision to choose God even when it’s not within our nature.

    • Steve Martin

      Our wills are bound to sin.

      We choose to sin. But we do not choose God not the things of God…without Him choosing us first.

    • Dan

      I would like to know your rebuttal to the idea of free will. It seems to me that a man or woman’s free will is a non-issue to the Calvinist’s doctrine. In other words, to the Calvinist, a person is predestined to either salvation or eternal damnation. This seems fatalistic in nature.

      To be sure, God is sovereign. Indeed, He is. However, did He not allow mankind the ability to choose?

      How does a Calvinist reconcile the notion of “free will” against the backdrop of predestination to either salvation or damnation? The answer would not be in regard to man’s nature.

      “Free will” is the ability to choose even contrary to one’s nature. E.g. Adam and Even had sinless natures from the very beginning. They didn’t even know what a sacrifice was and therefore, had never seen the blood of lambs. This was because the need for a sacrifice as atonement for sin did not exist until they fell to sin.

      In spite of their originally sinless nature, they fell to sin by choosing contrary to their nature. It was not in their nature to sin from the beginning of their life on earth. Yet, contrary to their pure sinless nature, they sinned.

      The potential to sin existed regardless of their sinless nature.

      Therefore, I ask you…how do you as a Calvinist regard free will?

      God is sovereign yet, He opted to risk His very life in creating mankind replete with the free will to deny His Lordship.

      God bless,
      -Dan

      God bless,
      -Dan

    • Michael

      How do you explain Ephesians 5:7 and other verses that give COMMANDs if Monergism is correct? Would’nt that make commands redundant or useless?

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