Much theological debate centers around the doctrine of election. No one debates whether election is biblical, but they do debate the meaning of election. I believe in what is called unconditional individual election (the Calvinistic understanding). Those who oppose my understanding normally believe in some sort of conditional election or corporate election (or a combination of the two; the Arminian understanding). Corporate election is the belief that God elects nations to take part in his plan, not individuals to salvation. So, when Romans 9 speaks of God’s election of Jacob over Esau, Paul is speaking of God’s choosing the nation of Israel to have a special place in salvation history. They will go on to interpret all of Romans 9-11 in light of this assumption.

However, I don’t believe that Romans 9-11 is talking about corporate election, but individual election. Here are eleven reason why:

1. The whole section (9-11) is about the security of individuals. Election of nations would not make any contextual sense. Paul has just told the Roman Christians that nothing could separate them from God’s love (Rom. 8:31-39). The objection that gives rise to chapters 9-11 is: “How do we know that these promises from God are secure considering the current (unbelieving) state of Israel. They had promises too and they don’t look too secure.” Referring to corporate election would not fit the context. But if Paul were to respond by saying that it is only the elect individuals within Israel that are secure (true Israel), then this would make sense. We are secure because all elect individuals have always been secure.

2. In the election of Jacob over Esau (Rom. 9:10-13), while having national implications, starts with individuals. We cannot miss this fact.

3. Jacob was elected and Esau rejected before the twins had done anything good or bad. There is no mention of the nations having done anything good or bad. If one were to say this is nations that Paul is talking about, it would seem that they are reading their theology into the text.

4. Rom. 9:15 emphasizes God’s sovereignty about choosing individuals. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” The pronoun hon (whom) is a masculine singular. If we were talking about nations, a plural pronoun would have been used.

5. Rom. 9:16 is dealing with individuals, not nations. “So, it does not depend on the one who desires or makes effort, but on the mercy of God” (my translation). theolontos (desire) and trechontos (effort) are both masculine singulars that is why it is translated “the one” rather than “those.” (BTW: I don’t like ESV’s translation of this (man’s) as it is misleading and, ironically(!) supporting of corporate election). It is hard to see national implications at all here. It is about individual desire and effort. The acquisition of God’s mercy transcends the ability of man.

6. Once again, Rom. 9:18, speaking in the context of the hardening of Pharaoh, Paul summaries what he is trying to say using masculine singular pronouns: “Therefore, the one God wishes to have mercy on, he has mercy on. The one he wishes to harden, he hardens” (my translation). It would seem that if Paul was merely speaking about national or corporate election, the summary statement would change from Pharaoh to nations (plural), but the summary here emphasizes the sovereignty of God’s will (theleo) over individuals (singular).

7. The objection in Rom. 9:14 makes little sense if Paul were speaking about corporate or national election.  The charge of injustice (adikia), which much of the book of Romans is seeking to vindicate God of, is not only out of place, but could easily be answered if Paul was saying that the election of God is only with respect to nations and has no salvific intent.

8. The objection in Rom. 9:18 is even more out of place if Paul is not speaking about individual election. “Why does he still blame people since no one can resist his will.”  The verb anthesteken, “to oppose or resist,” is third person singular. The problem the objector has is that it seems unfair to individuals, not corporations of people.

9. The rhetoric of a diatribe or apostrophe being used by Paul is very telling.  An apostrophe is a literary devise that is used where an imaginary objector is brought in to challenge the thesis on behalf of an audience. It is introduced with “What shall we say…” (Rom. 9:14) and “You will say to me…” (Rom. 9:19). It is an effective teaching tool. However, if the imaginary objector is misunderstanding Paul, the apostrophe fails to accomplish its rhetorical purpose unless Paul corrects the misunderstanding. Paul does not correct the misunderstanding, only the conclusion. If corporate election were what Paul was speaking of, the rhetoric demands that Paul steer his readers in the right direction by way of the diatribe. Paul sticks to his guns even though the teaching of individual election does most certainly give rise to such objections.

10. Rom. 9:24 speaks about God calling the elect “out of” (ek) the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, it is hard to see national election since God calls people “out of” all nations, ek Ioudaion (from Jews) ek ethnon (from Gentiles).

11. In Paul’s specific return the the election theme in the first part of Romans 11, he illustrates those who were called (elect) out of the Jewish nation by referencing Elijah who believed he was the only one still following the Lord. The response from God to Elijah’s lament is referenced by Paul in Rom. 11:4 where God says, “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” This tells us two things: 1) these are seven thousand individuals that God has kept, not a new nation. 2) These individuals are kept by God in belief as the characteristic of their “keeping” is their not bowing to Baal (i.e. they remained loyal to God).

12. Using the Elijah illustration in Rom. 11:5, Paul argues that “in the same way,” God has preserved a remnant of believing Israel of which he (as an individual) is a part (Rom. 11:1). This “keeping” in belief of individuals is according to “God’s gracious choice” (11:5).


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. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    438 replies to "Twelve Reasons Why Romans 9 is About Individual Election, Not Corporate Election"

    • wm tanksley
    • wm tanksley

      Forgive me if I seem dense here.

      Good heavens, how can anyone discuss all this philosophy and seem dense???? 🙂

      If anyone seems dense, it’s myself: I’m still not understanding anything about the argument Michael has been patiently presenting. (I hope that recently I’ve managed to strike at the core of the argument, and we can finally discuss something substantial.)

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Of course people in a LFW system can choose to believe things inspite of the evidence. The difference is they do so of their own free will, not because they were destined too.

      That specific exercise of free will, IN FACT, makes their conclusions objectively FALSE. Believing that you exercised LFW therefore doesn’t let you know that you are objectively correct. In effect, LFW uncorrelates you from objective reality, because LFW is utterly subjective. (At least as you’ve presented it; there are versions of semi-LFW which are correlated to truth, but by definition this is a constraint.)

      One can appear to choose while having all the variables that went into that choice predetermined such that they didn’t really choose – they only appeared to choose.

      Be careful — for the sake of this argument you have to assume that “choose” may or may not mean unconstrained choice. I would say that such a person made a real choice that was compatible with determination.

      By trancendent certainty I mean a type of certainty that isn’t simply the subjective experience of certainty within ones determined belief system.

      By your above discussion, you could also mean “unconstrained certainty”. Neither of these definitions helps me, unfortunately. Certainty is an emotion, and thus inherently subjective.

      You also haven’t explained how LFW could possibly acheive it; in fact, your explanation takes it away.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd. 🙂 Don’t mean to be harsh. Just don’t get your reasoning there at all.

      To you all choices good/bad, what we believe, everything, is determined by God. So why eleminate these verses because you say that don’t refer specifically to a choice of good or bad??

      And I do not agree with your interpretation of the Deut verses at all. God did set all of these before them, and He did tell them to chose which they would do as far as I can tell. I don’t think that is a prophecy. The whole discussion was on what happens if they obey and what will happen if they turn away. Then they are told to choose.

      And if I have followed Michael’s reasoning correctly, he believes that the reason that we are seen, (according to you) to have only one choice at the time we make it is because God saw what choice we were going to make–knew the choice we would make ahead of time out of the available choices. Not that there was only one thing we could chose from. Am I right Michael?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. “You keep assuming that your desired conclusion is ineffably true. It’s only true if the reasoning process that God’s determined us to have is inherently wrong.”

      The problem is not whether our reasoning processes are right or wrong, but rather can we know it is right or wrong. We were destined to believe our reasoning processes are right regardless of their being right or wrong. Therefore, we cannot know if our reasoning processes are right or wrong.

      2. “Now, if I were to claim that God was irrational or non-rational, you would be correct to claim that my argument committed suicide: I couldn’t possibly know that, because I couldn’t possibly know anything.”

      The problem is not what you claim, but rather that the belief you have about the nature of God was determined. Thus you cannot know the nature of God because you could have just as easily been determined to believe falsehood about the nature of God. You are going in circles – trying to use determined beliefs about the nature of the determining entity to prove the nature of the determining entity.

      3. “False. Objective truth still exists.”

      I do not think I denied objective truth still exists – just that it cannot be known at all in a deterministic system.

      4. I honestly don’t believe you’ve answered my objections adequately. Specifically you have failed to show how, if determinism is true, one can have any certainty about the nature of the determining entity since ones beliefs about the nature of the determining entity, as well as the process by which they came to those beliefs, were determined.

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      To expound on things a little bit – let’s say you came to believe determinism was true through the following logic (simplified I know)

      1. God exists
      2. Jesus was the Son of God
      3. Jesus treated Scripture as the Word of God
      4. Jesus as God cannot lie
      5. Scripture is the Word of God
      6. Scripture teaches determinism
      7. I therefore believe determinism.

      As soon as one states 7 to be true the whole logic is thrown off because it now becomes this.

      1. I was determined to believe God exists
      2. I was determined to believe Jesus was the Son of God
      3. I was determined to beileve Jesus treated Scripture as the Word of God
      4. I was determined to believe Jesus could not lie
      5. I was determined to believe that Scripture is the Word of God
      6. I was determined to believe that Scripture teaches determinism
      6. I was determined to believe determinism.

    • cherylu

      William,

      I made this comment above, I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd.

      I sincerely wish I could delete that sentence from this thread. Even if it was said with a smiley face, it could certainly come across as inflammatory. I will have to admit it was quite snarky of me to say it. We have all been having a very congenial conversation here and I do not want to see that change. I apoligize for what I said and hope you will forgive me.

      Hodge,

      That apology has to extend to you too as your name was brought up in my comment. I am sorry.

    • wm tanksley

      I find your argument that these verses don’t speak of choice to be (to borrow a word you or Hodge or both have used in referring to something Michael or I have argued) absurd :-). Don’t mean to be harsh. Just don’t get your reasoning there at all.

      I understand completely, but this will be tested by your rebuttal of my interpretations, not by your broad claims about ALL the verses. (I smiled at your word ‘absurd’ also — I have a sense of fair play, and you’re playing fair.)

      So why eliminate these verses because you say that don’t refer specifically to a choice of good or bad??

      I’m not eliminating anything. I’m reading them in context and looking at exactly what they say. Challenge any of them.

      And I do not agree with your interpretation of the Deut verses at all. God did set all of these before them, and He did tell them to chose which they would do as far as I can tell. I don’t think that is a prophecy. The whole discussion was on what happens if they obey and what will happen if they turn away. Then they are told to choose.

      Yet the first verses of the chapter explicitly say that they WILL turn away and they WILL be punished, and it promises that after they turn away they WILL turn back and be gathered. How can you say that’s not a prophecy?

      Now, the rest of the chapter is true as well — the terms of the law are clear, and set out before them where they can touch them. We’ve all obeyed the Law at some point in our lives. When they obey, they receive life; when they disobey, they receive death; and in accordance with the declaration at the beginning of the chapter, they as a society will prove God right by doing both.

      It is indeed a choice; but it’s a choice compatible with God’s prophecy at the beginning of the chapter, and hence it’s a compatibilist choice. (That doesn’t REQUIRE that LFW isn’t true, by the way; it merely means that neither one…

    • wm tanksley

      So God has determined one set of Christians to know the truth about Him and one group of Christians to know a falsehood about Him?

      How should I know what God has ordained? All I can say about that is what I see: there are many Christians (including people who have endured in the faith to death!) who hold contradictory opinions to one another.

      I can also see that God says that no man frustrates God’s will. Are you suggesting that this fact is against the will of God?

      I don’t know whether God “ordained” this in the sense that He wanted this result and smiles as He sees it. I rather think that as with the crucifixion, He looks past it to see an ultimate purpose for which it’s only the means. But I don’t know; I don’t see into the mind of God.

      But yet you say God calls us to know Him. Or is He giving us all just a glimpse of the real Him even if our glimpses seem to be totally opposed to each other?

      Yes. That seems to be a paraphrase of 1 Cor 13, for example: “we know in part…”

      Seems to me that Michael’s whole point here is, how do you know if the way God has determined for you to know Him is the truth, or if the truth is the way God has determined me to know Him, […]

      We don’t have direct access to objective truth. Our knowledge is mediated through our senses, through the physical world, through written revelation… We can investigate; but we can’t KNOW in the way you’re implying.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      I see more fully what you mean now about the prophecy part of the Deut chapter. The first part of the chapter is certainly a prophecy. I was speaking of the context from about the middle of the chapter on. And however you want to define the choice there, it still seems to me they were given a choice between two options, to choose life or to choose death. Yes God knew they would choose both at times and said so, but He did tell them to choose between the two. Is that not a choice? When God told them to choose, was He not really offering them a choice?

    • wm tanksley

      The problem is not whether our reasoning processes are right or wrong, but rather can we know it is right or wrong. We were destined to believe our reasoning processes are right regardless of their being right or wrong. Therefore, we cannot know if our reasoning processes are right or wrong.

      Maybe I have a couple of different approaches to this.

      First: Remember CS Lewis, in the Abolition of Man (I think) making reference to the fact that there is a distinction between thinking about thought, and thinking by means of thought? This isn’t exactly his point in his elegant and facinating essay <a href="http://www.pseudobook.com/cslewis/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/meditation.pdf, but it’s beautiful and reminiscent. In short: you’re confusing the means by which we think with the thoughts we’re thinking. We can’t believe that our thoughts are true or false at the same time we believe that something else is true. We have to first believe about the thing, then switch topics to thinking about our thoughts about the thing. And the activity we perform when thinking about and judging our thoughts is the same sort of activity we perform thinking about the thing!

      Second: suppose I write a logical argument on paper. I determined every proposition and evidence. Is the argument on the paper false merely because I wrote it on paper? Then why is an argument written on my mind by someone else false merely because He wrote it? Yes, some arguments people write on paper are false. Does that mean they’re false BECAUSE they’re predetermined? You actually have to study the argument before assuming it’s false, regardless of whether it’s in a human brain or on a paper.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      You said (about the presence of determinism): “Objectivity of any kind cannot exist.”
      I responded: “False. Objective truth still exists.”
      You answered: “I do not think I denied objective truth still exists —just that it cannot be known at all in a deterministic system.”

      But “objective truth” isn’t the same as “reality”. Objective Truth is a quality that a proposition may have. A proposition may be held in a human mind, and if so, is called “known”. If the value of the proposition for all values of all free variables matches reality for the equivalent variables, the proposition is objectively true, whether it’s held in a human mind or not.

      Determinism doesn’t enter into it.

      Specifically you have failed to show how, if determinism is true, one can have any certainty about the nature of the determining entity since ones beliefs about the nature of the determining entity, as well as the process by which they came to those beliefs, were determined.

      Yes, I’ve explained. You become certain by examining your thoughts very closely to see how well they conform to the laws of logic and the rules of evidence. Even better is having other people examine them so that the examination is independant of your personal desires; better yet is examining them with new data; better yet is having hostile witnesses examine them…

      This has nothing to do with determinism or LFW.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      To expound on things a little bit – let’s say you came to believe determinism was true through the following logic (simplified I know)

      This is simply the genetic fallacy. Because the argument came from a determined mind, you simply discount it; no argument given. You might as well discount all arguments you read on paper.

      Furthermore, you not only discount the argument, you discount all the propositions, automatically attaching the disclaimer “I was determined to believe that” as though that disclaimer affected the truth of the thing being disclaimed.

      No, you can’t do that; you still have to think about the argument as such.

      Now, if you can show that the argument commits suicide, that’s perfect. An argument with the hidden premise “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the meaningless interplay of atoms in motion” commits suicide — not because atoms in motion cannot contain true propostions, but because there is no grounding for us to be able to use the rules of logic, since atoms in motion don’t care about logic. But God does care about the rule of logic; by making a statement “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the deliberate plan of God” I do not commit suicide, because the grounding for the meaningfulness of logic is located in God.

      You claim that I only believe in God because I’m determined to do so; but that doesn’t refute my argument, because my argument DOES include God. You’re refuting a completely different argument from mine; you’re refuting an argument that’s self-refuting because it excludes the possiblity of truth being grounded in ultimate reality (God).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      When God told them to choose, was He not really offering them a choice?

      Yes, exactly; it’s a choice that’s compatible with predetermination.

      You’ve got to understand: even hard determinists don’t disbelieve in choice. They disbelieve in the ideas (1) that human choices are uncaused and (2) that human choices destroy potential realities. They believe that humans make choices!

      Most people who believe in LFW find this incomprehensible; they use terms like “REAL choice”, as though someone were proposing “fake choice”. The problem isn’t real choice versus fake choice; the problem is to figure out what “choice” actually is.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      ” the problem is to figure out what “choice” actually is.”

      And I have been trying to figure out just what you guys mean by “choice” and how it all fits in with what the Bible means by choice for quite some time now!

      Like I said before, and as Michael too has said in the past I believe, your understanding of choice is certainly not any usual understanding of the word or the dictionary definition either for that matter. That I don’t suppose necessarily makes your understanding wrong–but it certainly makes it much more difficult for any one else to grab a hold of it or to accept it as the valid one!

    • cherylu

      William,

      Could you maybe define “choice” as you understand it in the Biblical sense? Put it down as plainly as possible here in black and white in one place?

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      1. On C.S. Lewis. First let’s note that C.S. Lewis was a strong believer in the existence of LFW and I think this essay reflects that perspective.

      2. Second I think the reasoning when applied to a deterministic system is circular. One uses determined reasoning processes to come to a determined conclusion. One then uses yet more determined reasoning processes to criticize and evaluate that conclusion. Now these reasoning processes could be accurate in the sense that they reflect ultimate reality, but they could just as easily be wrong and your determined thoughts make you believe it conforms to ultimate reality.

      3. “Does that mean they’re false BECAUSE they’re predetermined?”

      Absolutely not, however one has no way of knowing that they are false. I have never claimed that a belief is false simply because it is determined and if I have said something that lead you to believe that I was careless. One can still come to beliefs that are true in a deterministic system, it’s just from the perspective of the person they should have no reason to think that they have the true beliefs as opposed to someone else. That is the very nature of a suicide argument.

      4. “But “objective truth” isn’t the same as “reality”. Objective Truth is a quality that a proposition may have.”

      You really are nitpicking here. There is a difference between objective Truth existing, one holding that objective Truth, and one knowing that they hold objective Truth. The argument of a post-modern for example is (in most cases) not that Objective Truth doesn’t exist, not that some people don’t hold to beliefs that are objectively True, but rather that one can’t know with any degree of certainty that the beliefs they hold are objectively true. This really isn’t that hard.

    • Michael T.

      5. “You become certain by examining your thoughts very closely to see how well they conform to the laws of logic and the rules of evidence.”

      Yet the laws of logic one believes are equally determined, as are the rules of evidence (and there is significant disagreement among humanity as to what should count as evidence), as is the way in which you weigh the evidence. When someone looks at what you believe and finds it unconvincing what is the factor that lead to the difference? There may be more, but I can only think of a few. A) They were externally determined to ignore the evidence. B) The were externally determined to accept evidence you rejected or reject evidence you accepted. C) They were externally determined to weigh the evidence differently then you weighed the evidence. D) least likely I admit – they were externally determined to use different logic processes then you used.

      5. The genetic fallacy is committed when one claims a belief is false because of how it was formed. Again read William Lane Craig’s argument because he is careful not to do this. If I have done this at some point I didn’t intend to. The argument is not that Calvinism is false, but rather that if it is true one cannot have any certainty about its truth value. This is different then saying it is false.

      6. “But God does care about the rule of logic; by making a statement “Everything, including all logic, is a result of the deliberate plan of God” I do not commit suicide, because the grounding for the meaningfulness of logic is located in God.”

      Grounding in a belief in a God who cares about logic does not matter if determinism is true. Sure that God “could” care about logic, but the only way one has come to believe that is through determined beliefs. One cannot be sure they are right and those who say God doesn’t care about logic are wrong. Again I’m not proving Calvinism wrong here just stating that if it is true one cannot know its truth.

    • Hodge

      LOL. Cheryl, no problem. I laughed at the comment. I take no offense, for that would be absurd. 🙂

    • wm tanksley

      your understanding of choice is certainly not any usual understanding of the word or the dictionary definition either for that matter

      You posted a dictionary definition, and I explained how my definition was EXACTLY that (remember: “which item is preferred”). Your definition also matches — the dictionary is intended to give common ground, not a means of settling philosophical debates once and for all.

      As a matter of fact, and I know you deny this, but in order to distinguish your definition of “choice” from mine, you have to say a LOT more than you think. In your imagination, every time anyone (including the Bible) says the word “choice” they’re supporting your definition. In reality, all they’re doing is saying the word, and may or may not support your definition. In reality, a person who’s supporting LFW has to define choice as “the power of contrary choice”, or “choice not determined by history”. Most people don’t think about choice that way, and in fact most people would find it absurd because they know that their choices ARE assisted by history (of course, I concede that they’d find ANY philosophical definition of choice absurd, so I don’t count that against you).

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Could you maybe define “choice” as you understand it in the Biblical sense? Put it down as plainly as possible here in black and white in one place?

      Prior to making a choice, we have a purpose (many purposes, actually). I often refer to these as “desires”, and the strength of the desire is related to how much the person wants the purpose. When we see things, we evaluate them according to how well they’ll help us meet our purposes. Sometimes in order to get one thing, we’ll have to reject some other thing (possibly forever, possibly just for now). That’s a “choice”: accepting one thing and rejecting all others.

      We perform a choice according to our “desires” or “purposes”.

      Consider that another word for “choose” is “decide”; the two are almost synonyms. A choice made with thought and wisdom is a decision, one might say. But thought requires prior premises, so it’s not libertarian; therefore a good decision is not an exercise of LFW. You (by your definitions) would therefore have to say that every good decision is not a choice, which most people would find absurd.

      Now, look how important words like ‘purposes’ and ‘desires’ are in the Bible. Here’s a search for ‘purpose’ and/or desire that goes across versions (so verses show up if they’ve ever been translated as “purpose”; awesome study tool, by the way). I think you’ll have to agree that in the Bible, one’s purposes are more important than one’s choices; after all, one’s choices may fail to acheive one’s purposes, but God sees what you intended. And one does not choose one’s purposes in the same way one chooses between items — after all, one’s purposes are the very grounds of one’s choices!

      (One more search for you… Out of space…)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hi William,

      Thank you for that.

      Not sure that I will be interacting here much at all today or even really digesting what you just said for what I consider a very wonderful reason. I am waiting to hear from my son that my new grandaughter has arrived! So my thoughts are pretty much elsewhere.

      OTOH, maybe continuing our conversation here will become a way to ease the tension of the wait! But right now I can’t seem to get into this conversation at all.

    • wm tanksley

      Here’s a search for ‘choice or choose or willing’.

      Compare this search to the previous one. The majority of uses of ‘choose’ or ‘will’ are either in histories (where the use is simply common, no hint whether libertarian choice is intended); or about how God’s choices always come to pass; or about how man’s choices are limited. There are very few that even appear to suggest that man can simply choose anything, and as we’ve seen, the best one you found turns out to be directly associated with a specific prophecy of failure in that choice (and a promise of redemption by God).

      What you should be looking for especially is universal statements, like “all My purposes will come to pass”, rather than particular histories, like “Judah chose the mountainous land” (sorry if I made that last one up).

      What do you think?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      Your first link does not work.

    • wm tanksley

      I am waiting to hear from my son that my new grandaughter has arrived!

      Yay! Congratulations!

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Odd… It looks like a link but doesn’t click. Wonder what I did. Sorry!

      Here’s try #2. Should find purposes and/or desires.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      1. On C.S. Lewis. First let’s note that C.S. Lewis was a strong believer in the existence of LFW and I think this essay reflects that perspective.

      I don’t recall Lewis’ perspective, but in this essay he’s clearly talking to a physicalist and pointing out that even if they’re absolutely correct they’re still not thinking about thought correctly. So no, it deliberately doesn’t reflect his LFW perspective (which I don’t recall but see no need to argue).

      2. Second I think the reasoning when applied to a deterministic system is circular. One uses determined reasoning processes to come to a determined conclusion.

      You seem determined to say things like that. Will you please address my actual arguments, in order to show that they are invalid without first assuming that they are invalid?

      Now these reasoning processes could be accurate in the sense that they reflect ultimate reality, but they could just as easily be wrong and your determined thoughts make you believe it conforms to ultimate reality.

      We could indeed be fooled by a careful puppetmaster. That would be a deterministic system. But it’s not the only type of deterministic system! The system my argument proposes and requires is completely incompatible with that, because it’s a compatibilist system. Specifically, it’s compatible with human free choice in the sense that human choice is performed by evidence, reason, and sin. In short, we are ‘determined’ only in the sense that we act according to our nature. Our minds follow their own natural law just as much as the rest of creation follows its natural laws.

      -W

    • wm tanksley

      And here’s the kicker. You’re claiming that merely because SOME deterministic models can result in suicide arguments, they ALL must: but be consistent: there’s a LFW model that commits suicide as well. It’s the ‘brain-in-a-jar’ model, where the free spirit is trapped inside a body whose senses are lying to the spirit (possibly under the influence of a malignant power).

      With consistently incorrect information, your freedom of will can’t help you.

      If ONE deterministic model poisons all the deterministic models (which is logically wrong, but presuming that for the sake of argument), then this ONE LFW model must poison all the others.

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      You just made this comment, In short, we are ‘determined’ only in the sense that we act according to our nature. Our minds follow their own natural law just as much as the rest of creation follows its natural laws.

      In an article that I linked to above that it sounded like you basically agreed with, the following statement was made:

      In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism

      Here is the link to that article again: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/08/compatibilistic_determinism.php

      You have stated before unless I don’t remember correctly at all after all of these hundreds of comments, that everything comes back to God–that He is the determning factor in all things. Correct?

      So how do you reconcile your statement quoted above from your recent comment and the quote from that article and what I remember you having said here in the past? It seems there may be a contradiction here. Or are you saying that God only determines our desires or actions for us according to our nature?

      If the later is the case, I will ultimately have to come back to the statement that we did not determine our nature or have any influence on it–we were born with it. So everything is still determned for us.

      By the way, our girl arrived late yesterday afternoon, a healthy and alert little one. Praise be to God!

    • wm tanksley

      One can still come to beliefs that are true in a deterministic system, it’s just from the perspective of the person they should have no reason to think that they have the true beliefs as opposed to someone else.

      But they DO have reasons to think they’re true: specifically, the reasons they think they’re true! The evidence they’re holding may be wrong, but it’s the best evidence they were able to get, and it’s the same evidence they’d get if they had LFW. The laws of logic can’t be different in an LFW universe, so that hasn’t changed. You can’t claim that the corrupting nature of sin is different without denying a fundamental Christian doctrine.

      So they can examine these reasons, and they can search their heart for sin… They can even step back and look at their reasoning process, or write it down and have someone else do it for them.

      That is the very nature of a suicide argument.

      That’s not how a suicide argument works. A suicide argument happens when if it’s actually true, it’s CERTAIN that an assertion of truth has no value. This isn’t true with compatibilist determinism; it’s only strictly true with hard fatalism (not even hard determinism neccesarily works that way, since we can be hard-determined to work logically, as a computer can be). Now, you want to deny me the compatibilsm I assert, but when you do that you’re merely rejecting my argument and substituting a strawman, NOT making it commit suicide.

      Non-compatibilism commits suicide if it says that we reach decisions independently of the laws of logic and/or evidence. If it claims that, there’s no logical reasoning that you can show to convince anyone of your “conclusion”, since you admitted that it’s reached independently of reasoning. Note that “non-compatiblism” includes both varieties of determinsim AND non-determinism. (LFW doesn’t usually make that assertion, so it doesn’t commit suicide.)

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Wm,

      I don’t know that I will have much time to give to this discussion any more. I am not ignoring the links or questions you left yesterday. Just don’t have what it takes to “go there” right now.

    • wm tanksley

      You have stated before unless I don’t remember correctly at all after all of these hundreds of comments, that everything comes back to God–that He is the determning factor in all things. Correct?

      Correct.

      So how do you reconcile your statement quoted above from your recent comment and the quote from that article and what I remember you having said here in the past? It seems there may be a contradiction here. Or are you saying that God only determines our desires or actions for us according to our nature?

      God only determines our nature and our environment (and He does so as our creator, not as a intervening meddler); our nature then determines our acts. God designs and creates our natures (and all the inputs that go into them) so that our decisions will be in accord with His plan.

      If the later is the case, I will ultimately have to come back to the statement that we did not determine our nature or have any influence on it–we were born with it. So everything is still determned for us.

      Yes, this is true by the definition of “nature”. It’s also true by definition of “environment” (or “evidence”, same thing). God creates our nature, and we cannot change it (if we could, it wouldn’t be a nature).

      LFW’s claim is that there’s something _else_ in us, something that doesn’t follow any nature at all; something that God created, but without any design and without any constraints. The Reformed view (Calvinist, Lutheran, Reformed Baptist, etc.), in contrast, says that everything created was designed by God, including our wills, and everything is governed by Him.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      By the way, our girl arrived late yesterday afternoon, a healthy and alert little one. Praise be to God!

      How wonderful! Train her well!

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      “You really are nitpicking here.”

      No, I’m not; I’m responding directly to your objection to me, so I can’t be nitpicking (although I may have missed the point of your objection). But let’s move on.

      The argument of a post-modern for example is (in most cases) not that Objective Truth doesn’t exist, not that some people don’t hold to beliefs that are objectively True, but rather that one can’t know with any degree of certainty that the beliefs they hold are objectively true.

      (That paragraph seems to me like a non-sequitur, but I’ll use it to continue the discussion.)

      Okay… But are they wrong, and why?

      I think they’re wrong because their demand for certainty is unreasonable and ill-formed. But I think you’re wrong for the same cause.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      I think you must still be misunderstanding me or something because you continue to make the absurd statement that God cares about reason etc. etc. I will simply pose some questions because that’s about all I can other than simply repeat what I have said. Your objections just seem hopelessly circular to me.

      1. If everything is determined (including our thoughts, logic, reason etc.) how can we know that these things were determined to accurately convey to us reality??

      2. If we were determined to believe that God cares about logic, reason, etc. how do we know that this belief reflects reality?

      Now here is what I see. You assume that God cares about logic and use this to prove that logic and reason accurately represent reality. You then use logic, reason, evidence etc. to bolster the claim that God cares about logic. I can’t help but find this circular. All these thing were determined. In your system IF God cares about logic, how would one know they were right and those who claimed that God is a illogical sadist are wrong??

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m unclear about something you’re presenting. I was reminded of it when Wm said this: “With consistently incorrect information, your freedom of will can’t help you.”

      Do you believe that the will must be transcendent, above creation? If so, is God not the only transcendent being we know of? Are humans transcendent, and how exactly is that possible? Is there transcendence connected to God to where he makes it possible for them to transcend their cultural biases, love for sin, lack of education, lack of understanding the information they do learn, mental deficiencies, etc.? If their transcendence is reliant upon God, are they not determined?

      I was just curious how you would answer these questions without falling prey to your own objections.

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      Springing off of my last comment: I think if you view reason and God’s choices this way, it might help understand one model:

      A marble is set on a slated surface and begins to roll. A glass is placed at the end of the room by the individual who placed the marble where he wished. The marble begins to take its own course set by variations in the flooring, debris, etc. and steers “off course.” The individual then cups his hand in the path of the marble so that it goes in the other direction. Then it begins to overcorrect and he must cup his hand again and it ricochets off and again begins to go in the direction of the cup’s opening. He is able to direct it into the cup, even though outside forces to him directed it, including the nature of the marble itself.

      Now, imagine the marble had a mind and also chose where it wanted to go based on the debris, curvatures in the flooring, etc. Is God not able to hedge the marble from going off course without being accused of taking away its free will? Obviously, it cannot go wherever it wants; but you don’t believe that man is able to go wherever he wants either, do you? You do believe that God prevents him, either by the nature He gave to him, or by limiting his circumstances and means, right? So if the marble with a mind is free within certain boundaries, then it is still free. I am free to go outside if I wish. I am not free to go to the Bahamas right now. I wouldn’t claim that my freedoms have been ripped away and that I am hopelessly a puppet because I have been limited.

      So does your view of LFW allow for limitations, both external and internal, placed there by God, either directly or indirectly via circumstance, or do you believe that man must be free from all limitations, external and internal, in order to be truly free?

    • wm tanksley

      Yet the laws of logic one believes are equally determined,

      Are you saying there’s as much variation in belief in the three laws of logic as there is in belief in which false God one worships? Even granting your premises, this isn’t true.

      as are the rules of evidence (and there is significant disagreement among humanity as to what should count as evidence), as is the way in which you weigh the evidence.

      That’s more fair of you than the last one, but observation shows that some methods are more effective in the real world than other methods. Again, examination of one’s methods, whether in light of one’s own ideas, or in light of the results of applying them, or by other people, clarifies one’s sense of confidence in the ideas reached by those methods.

      When someone looks at what you believe and finds it unconvincing what is the factor that lead to the difference? There may be more, but I can only think of a few. A) They were externally determined

      You’re looking only at the indirect, remote causes. You might as well say that the cause is “they speak the same language” or “they were born”. The DIRECT cause is that they found it unconvincing because of some perceived defect in your logic or conclusions.

      And here’s the stumper for you: to get the to agree, you don’t try to make them exercise LFW. Instead, you attempt to correct their logic! Why would you do that if you thought that all truth hinged on LFW?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Hodge,

      Obviously we are coming at things from such a differnce of perspective here that I doubt we are ever going to agree.

      But frankly, I fail to see how your hypothetical marble above had any “choice” at all. It was placed on the slanted surface by an outside force, at precisely the place the outside force wanted it to be. It’s course is determined, at least in part, by the circumstances (debris, etc) it is placed in. And if it actually had a mind and decided where it wanted to go based on the circumstances around it, that would be at least partial choice. But then you hasten to add that the one who placed it there kept redirecting it’s course to the exact spot he wanted it to go until it arrived there.

      So as I see your analogy, the only choice the marble had was to TRY to go somewhere else then where it was directed. An effort that was completely stopped and it was promply redirected to go where the one that placed it there wanted it to.

      Where exactly was it’s choice or where did it chose where it wanted to go? (Other then to try and not succeed because of outsider redirection.) I just don’t get it at all.

    • wm tanksley

      I think you must still be misunderstanding me or something because you continue to make the absurd statement that God cares about reason etc.

      You’ve just refuted an argument which explicitly specifies that God doesn’t care about reason. Congratulations. Meanwhile, my argument specifies that God does care about reason.

      This means that you’ve refuted a strawman.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      I thought of a better refutation.

      1. If everything is determined (including our thoughts, logic, reason etc.) how can we know that these things were determined to accurately convey to us reality??

      We can be CERTAIN, because (get this) any argument that assumes that the conveyance from reality to us isn’t reliable, immediately commits suicide.

      So understand clearly: my argument proposes that reality is predictable and understandable. In that I agree with you.

      2. If we were determined to believe that God cares about logic, reason, etc. how do we know that this belief reflects reality?

      Because if we assume the contrary we find that the argument commits suicide.

      Now here is what I see. You assume that God cares about logic and use this to prove that logic and reason accurately represent reality. You then use logic, reason, evidence etc. to bolster the claim that God cares about logic. I can’t help but find this circular.

      No, I’ve never used the one to support the other. I’ve advanced them as two distinct points: I might add that they’re two distinct points that you yourself accept unconditionally, so it’s especially strange for you to claim that I can’t.

      All these thing were determined. In your system IF God cares about logic, how would one know they were right and those who claimed that God is a illogical sadist are wrong??

      In any system of any kind, anyone who claimed that God is illogical would find his opponents pointing out that his argument committed suicide, because supposing that it were true, we could never know it or anything else.

      This is a concrete inability to know, not your mystical claim of a lack of “transcendent certainty”.

      -Wm

    • Hodge

      Apparently my first comment ended up in the desert with that plane from “The Event.” Oh well. 😉

      Cheryl,

      My question was whether you guys believe that someone does not have any boundaries to his free choice. If he does, then I fail to see how your view of LFW is different than mine or William’s. Does God decide where and when a person is born? Does He put them in places where they will not hear the gospel? Does He put others in places that they will? Does He do everything He can to give them the most accurate information possible, or does He leave so many in darkness in regard to both knowledge and understanding the knowledge they acquire? In essence, I don’t see how your or Michael’s views don’t require a part of man to be infinite, and if so, reliant upon God, which then, again, has God as the determining factor of what they will choose.

      BTW, the most common form of LFW does not believe that an individual is bound by anything internal or external, but must have a transcendent choice at all times. Hence, it was more popular in the modern age when people were inclined to buy into objectivism, etc.

    • Hodge

      BTW, I’m just jumping back in because I’m bored, as my book is in typesetting and I am in a state of limbo. I threw that shameless plug in just for you, Cheryl. 🙂

    • Michael T.

      WM,

      All I could gather from the reply above is that you assert that God MUST care about logic, because if the opposite were true one would commit intellectual suicide by admitting it.

      So what?? Asserting a priori that God is logical and cares about logic does absolutely nothing to prove that He actually is logical, nor does it establish how we can know that He is logical. Your simply making a bald assertion in an attempt to avoid comitting a suicide argument without actually showing how we can actually know that God is logical when all our beliefs about the nature of God have been determined. As I’ve stated earlier in a determined system your assertions and beliefs are POSSIBLE, the question is how would we know it to be true if our beliefs, logic, reason, evidence, and weighing of the evidence by which we arrived at that conclusion are all determined.

    • wm tanksley

      All I could gather from the reply above is that you assert that God MUST care about logic, because if the opposite were true one would commit intellectual suicide by admitting it.

      No. The _argument_ commits suicide only if the argument itself relies on the claim that God is irrational. My argument does not rely on that claim; on the contrary, my argument doesn’t mention it at all. If you could show that my argument implicitly required it, I’d have to admit that my argument committed suicide (by undermining all logical grounds).

      But the undisputed fact is that my argument does NOT require God’s irrationality. Therefore your insistence that I allow it is completely beside the point.

      Asserting a priori that God is logical and cares about logic does absolutely nothing to prove that He actually is logical

      Correct. But I know you’re not ignorant of suicide arguments, because you’re attempting to use one on me. You’ve not proven that determinism eliminates confidence; rather, you’re trying to prove that assuming determinism eliminates the ability to rely on our conclusions. Unfortunately, you’ve merely said that without showing it, and it’s not in fact true.

      You admit that believing in an irrational God eliminates logic. I don’t have to prove it. From there, by a standard suicide argument, I point out that you can’t argue that believing in an irrational God is as good as believing in a rational God. It’s not; because the moment you do that, you undermine the logic of your own argument.

      THEREFORE, in a deterministic world, an argument in which one side had to suppose an irrational God would be over immediately.

      Your argument style has been weak; you’ve been attempting to “tar” my argument with weaknesses from a position that I don’t even _have_ — and that you admit all along isn’t true. If you can’t prove that my argument is weak based on its own assumptions, you’ve failed to prove…

    • wm tanksley

      …If you can’t prove that my argument is weak based on its own assumptions, you’ve failed to prove that it’s weak.

      -Wm

    • Michael T.

      WM Tanksley,

      1. A position which simply assumes a priori that God is reasonable is not enough to make it better then a argument which holds that God is illogical if one has no objective way in that system of determining that one is more likely then the other. In other words if one has a system of belief in which epistemically the belief that God is reasonable is just as likely to be true as the belief that He is unreasonable, then this belief system is equally as untenable as a system in which He is outright unreasonable.

    • Michael T.

      WM

      What happens when I can’t sleep…Of course af 4:40am I don’t claim sanity so I’ll check this tommorrow.

      1. Everything is determined including our reasoning capacities (you said this not me)

      2. People who believe truthhood and people who believe falsehood (from the perspective of ultimate reality) have been equally determined to believe what the believe. (again you said it not me)

      3. People who believe the truth and people who believe falsehood both think they have come to to their beliefs through reason (simple observation that most people believe they are sane and have sufficient reasonable grounds to believe what they believe)

      4. People would change their belief if they thought that the belief was brought about through erroneous reasoning (Simple observation that people don’t believe that which they belief is erroneous)

      5. Ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted if those skills are incapable of recognizing an error in reasoning

      6. If ones reasoning skills cannot be trusted one cannot trust the conclusions reached by those reasoning skills

      7. People who believe falsehood have committed an error in reasoning (implication of 3 and the fact that people believe mutually exclusive beliefs)

      8. People who believe falsehood have been determined to commit an error in reasoning. (from 1 and 7)

      9. People who have been determined to believe falsehood will not recognize that they have committed an error in reasoning. (from 4 and 8

      10. Our reasoning skills cannot be trusted (from 5 and 9)

      11. Our conclusions reached through reason cannot be trusted (from 6 and 10)

    • Hodge

      Michael,

      I’m again unclear in what you’re arguing (and I’ve followed the conversation). Are you saying that you can trust your reasoning and have certainty apart from God in a LFW system? If this is what you are saying, how does this accord with the biblical ideas that man’s reasoning leads him in the wrong way because of his 1. limitations as a human being, 2. limitations as a sinner, 3. ability to be deceived by outside forces, 4. ability to be deceived by internal desires, 5. presuppositions that may be false and govern his arguments?

      I’m again just not sure how your system escapes anything you desire it to escape.

    • wm tanksley

      1. A position which simply assumes a priori that God is reasonable is not enough to make it better then a argument which holds that God is illogical if one has no objective way in that system of determining that one is more likely then the other. In other words if one has a system of belief in which epistemically the belief that God is reasonable is just as likely to be true as the belief that He is unreasonable, then this belief system is equally as untenable as a system in which He is outright unreasonable.

      If I take this as written, it sounds like you’re saying there’s no such thing as a suicide argument: that you have to exhaustively prove all facts, never being able to dismiss an argument merely because it relies on the truth of a proposition which would make all reasoning impossible. This is a very strange thing for you to say, since you’ve been attempting to frame a suicide argument against me.

      However, I see a tiny phrase in there which hints at an interesting belief. Are you suggesting that the belief that God is unreasonable is differently acceptable under determinism than under LFW? You don’t clearly say… It doesn’t make any sense to me, but can you elaborate on whether you actually believe that?

      -Wm

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