A Case for Soft-Libertarian Freedom in Human Beings After the Fall | Part Three

January 19, 2016

Dr. Braxton Hunter | President
Trinity Theological Seminary, Newburgh, IN

**This article was previously posted by Dr. Braxton Hunter on his website www.braxtonhunter.com and is used by permission.

Dr. Hunter is: former president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists (COSBE), professor of apologetics at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana

Learn more about Dr. Hunter, HERE.
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Click HERE for Part One
Click HERE for Part Two

Objections to premise 1

If man has a zero-balance of influence indeterminism would result.
One possible objection to the argument is that a zero-balance of influences would not result in a situation wherein man was free, but rather a situation wherein man’s choices were indetermined. That is to say, in a world in which there is a zero-balance or cause and effect is made null, then there is no causal relationship between events. Yet, if there is no causal relationship between events, then there is no way of knowing what will happen. The individual himself would not even be able to predict what he would do, because there is no “reason” why he chose to do precisely what he did. His “choice” would be random and arbitrary in the strictest sense of the terms. As mentioned above, this may resolve the problem of determinism, but would not deliver free will to the agent.

This, however, would represent a misunderstanding of causal relations. Though I reject what is known as “quantum indeterminacy,” if it were true indeterminacy would only result because of the fact that particles that do not even exist and are about to “pop into existence” do not have causal powers. This would not be true of an existent agent who comes prepackaged with a mind. A mind does have causal powers. Thus, there is no reason to reject the idea that in a world with a zero-balance of influence the agent himself could will to, or cause something that he determines to happen. Thus, this is not a situation wherein cause and effect does not exist, yet man can be said to have transcended cause and effect in that his decision is the cause of the following effect. Only, his cause did not arise coercively because of the cause and effect inherent to the influences he perceives since there is a zero-balance of influence.

If man has a zero-balance of influence there still must exist some external force that propels him to choose x rather than y.
Another criticism might involve the idea that in such a situation as the argument describes, there would still need to be some determined causal reason why the agent chose among his influences to do one thing rather than another. Otherwise, we might imagine that Todd would simply not choose. He would simply exist. For Todd, in a world of zero-balance influence, there would be perpetual indecisiveness.

Yet, this would merely show an a priori commitment to determinism. After all, the very idea that determinism is a fact for human agents in a fallen world is what is up for discussion. A case may exist for assuming determinism in a world without a zero-balance, but in these waters it cannot just be asserted. Moreover, it is not the case that Todd would necessarily be unable to choose among his influences. As was mentioned in the previous objection, Todd has causal powers. Thus, he is unlike all else in creation.

Objections to premise 2

Scripture teaches that man inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin. This means that there is no zero-balance of influence.
As a signer of the Traditionalist Statement on Baptist Soteriology, I affirm that one result of the fall is that man inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is no zero-balance of influence. What this does mean is that man has a great number of influences that are sinful. It would be difficult to overstate the power of these evil influences. Nevertheless, man also has a great number of good influences. He lives in a world of general revelation[7] among many people who are godly influences where God is at work, and has given all mankind moral compasses.[8] For these reasons, though man is inclined toward sin, he is also influenced by God’s redemptive work and good nature. Indeed, as stated in the explanation of the argument, he bears the image of God. Therefore, whatever we may say of what man’s will was like prior to the fall, the nature and environment inclined toward sin contributes to, rather than tipping the scales regarding the zero-balance.

There is no good biblical reason to believe that the zero-balance exists.
Because this argument really serves as a defeter, the burden of proof is on compatibilists and divine-determinists to demonstrate that zero-balance influences are incompatible with the Bible. Although some passages that deal with this issue in a direct way do seem to be hospitable to a zero-balance understanding of influences.[9] In order to defeat the zero-balance argument as a defeater, the determinist would need to show that there is something inherently incoherent in the idea of a zero-balance of influences.

One can imagine other criticisms and complaints regarding this argument. However, I want to say a word to my fellow libertarians regarding concerns they might have. First, any good argument should be made of premises that have plausibility. By this, we mean, more likely to be true than not to be true. One might ask the question, “Do the premises of the zero-balance argument have plausibility?” I see no reason to doubt that premise (1) is plausible. Possible concerns have been dealt with in the objections, and if there is any other good reason to think that (1) is not plausible, I will leave it to my determinist/compatibilist friends to tease it out. Premise (2) is where the issue of plausibility may be most questionable. Nevertheless, for libertarian readers, I would submit that if libertarian freedom exists, as we maintain that it does, then something like a zero-balance must exist also. In other words, though this language may sound foreign, I submit that even if my argument is demonstrated to be false, we must be in the right ball-park.

For my Compatibilist/determinist friends, I want to reiterate that this argument is intended to serve as a defeater. My intention is to show that there is nothing incoherent in the idea of libertarian freedom. This does not mean that I am absolutely convinced that this argument represents the actual state of affairs. Yet, so long as it is even remotely possible that the zero-balance argument is true, then there is nothing logically problematic with the belief in libertarian freedom.

Part Four Coming Soon!

 

[7] Romans 1:18-20
[8] Romans 2:14
[9] Romans 7:13-25

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kyle

It seems that the arguments are primarily, if not completely, philosophical in nature. Rather than starting with what God says (biblical revelation), the arguments start with a observational philosophy of man and work back toward God and salvation. This seems backwards and would not appear to be that of a theologian or pastor. The scriptures are silent of the nature of man having free will. Of course, these who want to be in charge of their own lives, create libertarian freedom in man by pointing to observational experience, which is tainted by sin and a fallen everything I might suggest. To be continued…

    Andrew Barker

    kyle: You say that ” The scriptures are silent of the nature of man having free will.” but that sounds rather like your opinion as opposed to a statement from scripture. There are numerous passages however, which would indicate that God expects man to choose. Are these choices not real? Adam and Eve had a choice, Cain had a choice, the list is not endless but it’s too long to log here!

    Israel wanted a king. It’s clear from 1 Sam 8 that God did not want this, but gave them the option. Was that not a choice? Certainly what I would call a natural reading of the passage makes it look as though Israel exercised choice. If you want to argue along the lines of they were only acting according to their base desires, hence they didn’t really exercise a choice, then you have to establish that it was impossible for them to act differently. The onus is certainly on you to come up with a reason for why this is not a real choice. The record certainly shows that God held them accountable for their choice!

      Scott Shaver

      Another salient point Andrew:

      “According to their base desires” is an assumption made by a novice theologian thousands of years removed from the fact. Such an assumption completely ignores the capacity of the ancient biblical, Semitic cultures (particulary Hebrew) to counsel collectively, reflect, and work according to their own highly established religious rituals, traditions and theology based at least on a partial revelation of the nature and character of God.

      Kyle’s off in the high nettles is what we’d say here in Southeast Texas.

Kyle

However, special revelation (rather than observational philosophy) provides clear evidence of man’s slavery to sin. John 8 is explicit on this point “Truly, Truly (pay attention) everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin”. You refered to Romans 2:14 and described is as “inclined” to sin. Romans 3:9-10 seems to be Paul’s interpretation of the affects of sin “…Jews and Greeks are all under sin…“There is none righteous, not even one: there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless, there is none who does good, there is not even one”. None, Not one, No one understands, none seeks, all turn away, together (all) are useless, none do good, not EVEN one. Genesis 6:5 …”every intent of the thoughts of their hearts are only evil continually” continued later

    Braxton Hunter

    Kyle,

    I have responded to this sort of thinking elsewhere. I did want to clarify that when I used the phrase “inclined toward sin,” I’m not using my own language. That is the phraseology of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Now the BF&M is not inspired scripture, but since this is “SBCToday,” and since I am a Southern Baptist, my terminology will be decidedly Southern Baptist.

    Thanks

Kyle

Lastly, You reference Romans 1:18-20 but seem to miss the clear implication of that passage. You are correct in your statement of mankind living in a world of general revelation but where the exegesis went wrong is in the clear biblical statement of the exchange of truth for a lie and suppression. You state that many have been afforded godly influences and have a moral compass. Both true but missing the clear statement by Paul that all these elements are suppressed so everyone are without excuse or a apologetic. Not sure if you listen to many atheists but there are some who emphatically state that if it could be proven to them without any doubt that the God of scripture exists and the Gospel of Jesus Christ was true, they still would not worship Him. Why? Because, of sin and suppression of truth.What is the problem” They need a new heart. That is a supernatural event and must proceed faith (I John 5:1) for them to change their rebellious slave controlled hearts (Titus 3, John 8, Romans 3, Genesis 6, Hebrews 3, etc)

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Or maybe, just maybe, Dr. Hunter was writing on Christian philosophy and demonstrating from Scripture what you said he got right, and not giving an exegetical paper of Romans 1:18ff that you said was left out which was never intended to be unpacked in the first place.

    Think about “scope” for a bit and settle down.

    Also, to quibble about drive-by prooftexting when you wrote “That is a supernatural event and must proceed faith (I John 5:1) for them to change their rebellious slave controlled hearts…” which “regeneration preceding faith” certainly doesn’t follow from that verse, but would be funny if it weren’t so tacky and hypocritical.

    1 John 5:1 says no such thing. It simply says everyone who believes (at the time of that writing) that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God (prior to the time of that writing). That is the plain meaning of the text. Nowhere does this teach anything other than that truism. It is one of the tests of who’s a part of the ingroup in 1 John. There is no regeneration preceding faith found here at all. Don’t read stuff that isn’t there into the passage. Stop making up a Bible and read the one we have.

    Context, context, context. ‘

    If you set a standard, you got to meet it.

      Chris

      Or… Maybe Dr. Hunter is making assertions about the nature of man with scant reflection upon the biblical text. Furthermore…. Maybe… He’s also making anthropology his starting point and not theology proper. It’s easy to make a philosophically bolstered case for libertarian free will when ignoring exegetically grounded propositions formulated from the text.

      Also, curious how you accuse one of drive-by proof texting and then immediately turn around and do the very same thing. Making simple declarations of what a text does or does not teach is not exegesis by any stretch. Cool your engines much?

      John 5:1 is doing the same thing John has been doing all along throughout this letter, I.e. Pointing out the markers of true children of God over against those of the false (cf. 1 John 3:9-10). In this case, faith is a marker of one who is born of God, very simple. Whereas you may be accusing someone of reading into the passage it would appear that you are simply ignoring the grammar. The perfect tense of the verb geggenetai demonstrates exegetically and grammatically an action that has occurred in the past (I.e. New birth) with ongoing results (I.e. Faith). It sounds to me like your problem isn’t with others “making up a bible”, your problem is with the Bible itself.

      Meet that standard sir…

        Andrew Barker

        Chris: You state …..”It’s easy to make a philosophically bolstered case for libertarian free will when ignoring exegetically grounded propositions formulated from the text ” but you provide no “propositions formulated from the text”, exegetical or otherwise!!

        You then state ….. “Making simple declarations of what a text does or does not teach is not exegesis by any stretch.” before going on to say …. “Pointing out the markers of true children of God over against those of the false (cf. 1 John 3:9-10). In this case, faith is a marker of one who is born of God, very simple” and YET if you read through 1 John 3:9-10 there is NO MENTION OF FAITH either explicit or implicit actually in these verses. This is not exegesis but eisegesis on your part!

        In addition to which you conclude with another statement “The perfect tense of the verb geggenetai demonstrates exegetically and grammatically an action that has occurred in the past (I.e. New birth) with ongoing results (I.e. Faith).” which again is another example of you reading into the text something which isn’t there! If you don’t believe me, ask yourself this question. Which of the Bible verses concerning salvation mentions the fact that faith comes about through being saved? If you can find one verse to support this ‘assumption’ then you’ve got a different Bible to me. ALL the verses concerning salvation state that belief, faith precedes new birth, not the other way round. As Paul put it to the Philippian jailer, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” I can’t put it plainer than that! You complain about lack of exegesis in others, while giving a masterclass on how not to do it yourself!

          Chris

          Andrew, with all due respect sir, you’ve clearly not thought out what I said. My point in saying that Hunter is ignoring exegesis is just that; a point that he has ignored exegesis, I.e. To simplify it for you, he’s provided no exegesis. I’m not making the case for libertarian free will, he is. Thus, I call for meaningful exegesis. That’s legit, whether is suits or you or not. Don’t make claims about the nature of man apart from the authoritative text that gives definitive truth on the issue.

          In regards to 1 John 3:9-10, it appears that once again you’ve not read too closely. I simply referenced to the text as a clear indication that John concerned about distinguishing markers between true children of God and those that are false. Assertions that I have committed eisigesis here are unfounded.

          So I provide a brief exegetical point on the text based on the Greek tense and you then feel prompted to accuse me of reading into the text. I’m sorry, but that is astoundingly shallow reflection.

          Again, you’ve totally missed the implication of the passage and the exegesis provided. The text is painting new birth (geggenetai) as the cause and faith as the effect. Unless you want to make some bizarre claim that there are two kinds of faith in Christ, they which is before new birth and that which is after, you must submit to the glaring thrust of the text, viz. faith is the sign of new birth not vice versa.

          You said: “If you can find one verse to support this assumption then you’ve got a different Bible to me.” There you have it, if I can support this doctrine exegetically, then you simply deny the truth of Scripture, sounds like your problem is that of Jonathan’s. Your problem is with the Bible, not me. Btw, quoting Acts 16:31 is more of that drive-by proof texting your friend was talking about. You’ve unfortunately conflated the term “saved” with that of “regeneration”; a quick glance at any systematic theology will explain that these terms are not identical. Regeneration is not the sum total of salvation and you can’t find one Scripture or Reformed theology that says otherwise. Regeneration precedes faith which is the basis for justification in Christ which ultimately results in one being saved. So yes, is you believe in Jesus you will be saved; and I light of 1 John 1:5 and other texts (e.g. John 1:12-13) if you believe, it is because you are born of God. Now, I feel that this discussion has run its course; I can only appeal to you to let Scripture and sound exegesis, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel, shape your theology. Regards.

            Andrew Barker

            Chris: Braxton Hunter has already explained the reason why he wrote this article, so your persistent gripe that he is not ‘exegeting’ correctly is irrelevant. Not that you appear to understand what exegesis means any way!

            You appear to believe that you can state things such as “The text is painting new birth (geggenetai) as the cause and faith as the effect” and refer to this as exegesis! Since the word faith does not appear in this passage, I fail to see how this can be construed as anything other than reading things into the text.

            Regarding the terms saved and regeneration I certainly would not want to conflate the two. In fact, I would prefer not to use the word regeneration at all. It’s also quite telling that you think “regeneration is not the sum total of salvation”. Having interacted with Ronnie Rogers on this point, (who spends more of his time talking to Calvinists than do I) I can confirm that he is careful to define his terms when discussing this subject with them. Theologically, regeneration has to be the whole process of salvation from new birth to final glorification. This is because scripturally, there is very little support for the use of the term at all. Reformed theology may give the impression that it is there, but in truth there are only two instances of the word ‘regeneration’ in the whole of the New Testament. The only one which is somewhat relevant is in Titus 3 and the word used there paliggenesia means ‘new birth’.

            So Chris, your bold assertion that “Regeneration precedes faith which is the basis for justification in Christ which ultimately results in one being saved.” is nothing more than a load of hot air! Regeneration cannot precede faith, primarily because it’s not a scriptural concept in the way that you’re trying to use it and more importantly, you have not a single verse of scripture which uses the word regeneration in relation to it preceding faith, do you!

        Jim P

        Jesus therefore answered and said to them ,”Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…”

        This sounds like elementary logic. No one would exclude anyone.

          Scott Shaver

          Jesus therefore answered them “No can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him….

          Jim P, obviously you’re incapable of exercising even “elementary” logic until you answer the question about Abraham.

          How was he counted “righteous” being thousands of years removed from Christ?

          Additionally, what was the status of God’s progressive revelation between the time of Abraham and when Christ uttered the words you’ve quoted (for what purpose still escapes me)?

        Scott Shaver

        “Meet that standard sir”…

        You’ve not met the standard yourself Chris.

        Yes, we do have problems with the bible when it’s handled by novice exegetes.

JIm P

Kyle, you helped explain some of the ideas in the articles.

I’d like to add this: John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

That verse corresponds to your 1John 5:1 verse. ‘Seen’ is equivalent to ‘know’ and if no one really ‘knew’ God until the coming of the Son then freedom may have been an allusion.

John 8:36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

The meaning of terms like ‘free’ get out of control very quickly.

Braxton Hunter

Kyle,

You seem to be basing your understanding of the way I view scripture entirely on this post (which, by the way, is only one part of several). I do view scripture as authoritative. In both of my debates on Calvinism (available on my website) I begin with a biblical case and it comprises the majority of my opening statements.

In fact, I handle all of the prooftexts that you mentioned above. Further, I see nothing wrong with Philosophy. Calling it “philosophy of man” to try to demonize the application of clear thinking to theology has become tiresome in this debate. After all, you agree whether you realize it or not. Why do you not conclude that both Calvinism and other non-Calvinists views are correct at the same time? Philosophy. Why do you suppose that your interpretation of the passages you mentioned results in determinism? Philosophy. You cannot even think about what the Bible is telling you without some philosophical principles. Philosophy is a good thing, and any attempt to demonstrate that scripture is opposed to it is a misunderstanding of scripture.

Lastly, the remark that this appears to be more the work of a philosopher than a theologian or pastor is interesting. I don’t happen to be a pastor, but I fail to see why one can’t be all three.

Thank you for commenting.

Jim P

Having the opportunity to be free and having the capacity to be free are two completely different perspectives. A person can have every opportunity to fly but that is completely different from having the capacity to be able to fly.

Prior to Christ’s work, failure after failure after failure was what communicated people’s capacity to follow God. After Christ’s coming there are glimpses of hope of those who have the capacity and have used that capacity to follow after God. Before and after His coming the opportunity to follow was always present but the capacity was not always present.

There is freedom available and then there is the capacity to live the freedom. These are two perspectives that are 1,000’s of miles apart. Ignoring the two perspectives by making them the same confuses God’s work and what His intention for the giving that capacity is all about.

These two perspectives are what should be articulated here. The difference is as night and day, as different and Old Testament and New Testament, as different as this ‘present evil age’ and the ‘age to come.’

    Scott Shaver

    “Having the opportunity to be free and having the capacity to be free are two completely different perspectives….Before and after his coming the opportunity to follow was always present but the capacity was not always present”.

    Don’t know I can swallow what you’re attempting to serve up with that Jim P. I guess from your perspective the righteous standing of old Testament (pre-incarnation) believers was a figment of their imagination in tandem with subsequent assurance via the writer of Hebrews…for one example.

    I have a feeling this is about to get complicated if not verbose. :)

    Andrew Barker

    Jim P: Your comment …. “Prior to Christ’s work, failure after failure after failure was what communicated people’s capacity to follow God. After Christ’s coming there are glimpses of hope of those who have the capacity and have used that capacity to follow after God. Before and after His coming the opportunity to follow was always present but the capacity was not always present.” …. is not supported in scripture is it?

    Perhaps you could explain just what was different before as you put it “Christ’s work”?

      Scott Shaver

      Good point Andrew.

      I’ve always been of the conviction that Old Testament “believers” are/were saved by faith just like their predecessors.

      Those pre-dating Christ on the pre-incarnate side of the cross, the rest on the other.

      Devil is in the difference, I’ll guarantee you.

        Scott Shaver

        Correction: should have been “antecedents” as opposed to “predecessors”.

      Jim P

      Andrew,

      I will put an attempt to answer your question. But please, my attempt is sincere, you agree of not, know it’s sincere. I’m not trying to be difficult. My motive is to edify the Church. This will be of worth to everyone, myself included.

      God’s work through Christ separated History. Yes? Yes! Pre-resurrection, Post-resurrection.
      Christ’s work defeated one of man’s greatest enemy, death. One day death will be cast into the lake of fire but a precursor to that day was the display of God’s Son to the world, His death and resurrection. History can’t get anymore dramatic than that.

      Dispensationalism is a huge theological wrestling match but the Jews, in their minds, simply separated history into two general ages. This ‘present evil age’ and the ‘age to come’. That age to come was inaugurated by Christ and His work. That changed everything. Nothing like it in the past, nothing will match this in future.

      Prior to Christ, man’s knowledge of God was only from the perspective of the age prior to His coming, the evil age. That knowledge was a shadow of things to come. His coming opened the door for Men to know God in the Light. You can name Abraham, Moses, David, anyone in the OT. They only vaguely had a grasp of Who God was. And even this knowledge was on God’s initiative. Look at the stories.

      “No man has seen God at any time, Only the begotten of God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

      Jesus said this, “This is eternal life (really, this should be translated, This is the age to come) that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.” This is the future world that the Church is suppose to be laboring toward.

      There is no way anyone in the OT anyone could have grasp the true Character of God. It took the coming of Christ to reveal His Character.

      What ruled over man prior to Christ? Was it God? Only is a cursory way. It was the elemental principles that God put in place so that God and man’s true enemy wouldn’t have complete reign. That enemy is Sin. Sin and Death are the last two enemies of God destined for the lake of Fire.

      If ‘soft-libertarianism’ means they had some freedom fine. But apart for God’s initiative there is no hope.

        Andrew Barker

        Jim P: Well, I’m glad we can agree on something ….”But apart for God’s initiative there is no hope.” Our salvation is certainly not down to anything we have done or initiated. But the central basis of anybody’s salvation has and always will be faith. We are certainly in a privileged position as Christians but I find comments like “There is no way anyone in the OT anyone could have grasp the true Character of God. It took the coming of Christ to reveal His Character.” as rather dismissive of the OT saints. How many times have you heard preachers turning to Psalm 51 when talking about repentance? I think David had quite a grasp on it. Of course Job had no idea did he?! Yet he was able to write that “in his flesh he would see God” and ever since then we’ve sung the Hallelujah chorus! Try as you may, but I think you severely underestimate the old saints if you think they didn’t know a thing or two about the nature of God.

        What is different about our position today is the Holy Spirit. That is the single one major difference between the them and us. Jesus himself put it this way. He is with you, but will be in you. I can find no other difference in scripture between any of those who were true believers in God and what we might term us as modern day Christians. The Holy Spirit came upon the OT saints for specific purposes but he did not remain in them all the time. To cap it all, Moses came face to face with God didn’t he! Are you seriously saying that Moses didn’t have a good idea of who God was and what he was like. When was the last time you talked with God face to face?

        Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever. God is the same and doesn’t change his modus operandi. The OT saints were saved through faith on the basis of the cross as a future event even though they didn’t understand that part of it. We are saved through faith on the same basis, except that we have a greater and more full revelation. Salvation is and always has been made available freely to mankind but God has never imposed it on people and has always given people the choice. Look and live; choose you this day; if my people. None of this should be used to wrongly imply that God’s people saved themselves, they didn’t. Salvation if always of the Lord.

        By the way, Paul is quoted as saying “now we know in part ……” so we don’t know all there is to know and I’m thankful for that. :)

          JIm P

          Andrew,

          We disagree. Your take on the OT down plays God’s work in Christ, this in turn down plays the further revelation of God when Christ came into the world, this in turn detours the church from knowing God as they should.

          I’m not going to fault find your comments. There are there though. The greater fault is your overall picture of who Christ is, in His Person, and What He did, in His work, that is at crux of that fault.

            Andrew Barker

            Jim P: Not sure who this ‘we’ is Jim. What I’m saying is that a person’s knowledge of God is not limited by there place in history but by their own desire to know him. I think we have much to learn from the OT characters, many of whom actually wrote down the inspired word of God for us. Don’t get me wrong, we are privileged as Christians, that’s a given, but with that comes responsibility. There is no automatic gnosis or experience whereby those who are saved are suddenly given great enlightenment. Just doesn’t happen that way. Yes we have the Holy Spirit who will ‘guide’ but he does not force us into truth. We learn about God just the same way the ancients did, which is often through our mistakes, it would appear! :-O

              Scott Shaver

              I’m curious Andrew:

              Are Calvinists in England as biblically disjointed as those in America?

              Based on what you’ve read here?

                Scott Shaver

                One more question Andrew, a litte off-topic….

                Do Christians in England point fingers at one another for being “less-than-Christian” based on their votes in a political election?

                Are they any bigger cry-babies than politically vocal “Christians” over here?

                  Andrew Barker

                  Scott: In answer to questions, Calvinism is a little different in the UK although it’s still very much there. We are after all responsible for the Westminster Confession! There’s not so much neo-Calvinism although there are certain sections of the community who would like to go that way. Everything is on a smaller scale so there’s no room for entities like the SBC but people stay more within straight denominational boundaries. The Anglican communion is in one sense Reformed, but it’s nothing like the hard line Reformed you are used to encountering. It’s a much wider church. For example NT Wright calls himself Reformed, but you wouldn’t recognise his theology as being Reformed in the same way as Piper!

                  Politics is also very different in the UK. The church stays out of it most of the time although the C of E has a funny knack of being either ultra conservative or very left wing. There’s no one person who stands out as being a political person of any real weight and most politicians keep their faith a bit more to themselves, or as it was once put “we don’t do God”. Certainly if a church leader started to preach that his ‘flock’ should vote for one particular party, I don’t think generally that would go down very well, although you might get some localised exceptions.

                  I grew up in a very Bible based orthodox Brethren Assembly and what Calvinism was there was more like the Criswell version. I didn’t much care for it, but it wasn’t hard line, wasn’t preached from the pulpit and it never caused any problems. There are what I would term hard line churches who preach a more Reformed Calvinism which copies much of the American style of doing things and groups like Acts29 are trying to get a foothold, but these type of churches never have the facility for balanced teaching, so you won’t get disputes like that within the SBC over doctrine. Could say more, but perhaps no need to. Hope that helps! :)

                    Lydia

                    “For example NT Wright calls himself Reformed, but you wouldn’t recognise his theology as being Reformed in the same way as Piper!”

                    Or even Reformed as in “determinism”.

                    The UK counterpart that seems to be part of the Neo Cal movement and has had a large web presence for years is Adrian Warnock. Are you familiar?

                    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/about/

                Lydia

                Scott, your question makes me think of John Knox and his “monstrous regiment of women” . What interesting history the UK has. they have also produced some great scholars.

                  Andrew Barker

                  Lydia: Thanks for the info. A mine of information as ever. :) I was not aware, but then I haven’t gone looking either!

          Lydia

          “We are certainly in a privileged position as Christians but I find comments like “There is no way anyone in the OT anyone could have grasp the true Character of God. It took the coming of Christ to reveal His Character.” as rather dismissive of the OT saints.”

          I totally agree. And if we take a birdseye view of direct interaction with God in the OT, we see it progressively distancing as sin becomes more and more ingrained and God speaks through Prophets who listened and obeyed, etc, until He came as a human.

          Jim is describing a God who distanced Himself and access to Him from His creation on purpose. It is the unknowable, secret will God of Calvinism that is really scary.

          And right on about the Holy Spirit. The lowliest member of the Body has access to the same Holy Spirit as the great ones on stages.

        Scott Shaver

        Congrats Jim P.

        That has to be the most twisted logic through proof-texting I’ve ever seen in my life.

        Calvinist church Sunday Schools must, no doubt, have to do three-hour sessions to cover and explain the extra-biblical content :)

        Lydia

        “What ruled over man prior to Christ? Was it God? Only is a cursory way. It was the elemental principles that God put in place so that God and man’s true enemy wouldn’t have complete reign. That enemy is Sin. Sin and Death are the last two enemies of God destined for the lake of Fire.”

        Note how you are totally immersed in “rule”. It does not even occur to you to speak of the possibility of relationship with Yahweh in the OT. There is the irony is that the Isrealites begged for a king like the Pagans had. This made God angry because HE was their King. But He allowed what they asked for. A human ruler. God wanted His creation to look to Him for wisdom and guidance which they continuously refused to do. Sin as in our actions are a choice. That is the part I don’t think gets enough discussion.

Jim P

Gal. 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world.

The word ‘bondage’ sure sounds like it means bondage and bondage doesn’t sound like freedom.

Gal. 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

If They were ‘made free’ then if 2 + 2 = 4, they weren’t previously free.

Rom. 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
Rom. 7:20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
Rom. 7:21 ¶ I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

Freedom was a pitiful illusion in the OT. The Apostle Paul woke-up to that illusion.

1Tim. 1:12 ¶ And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has ENABLED me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry,
1Tim. 1:13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it IGNORANTLY in unbelief.
1Tim. 1:14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.

He needed to be ‘enabled’ serve God. He was ‘ignorant’ of what drove him before knowing His Savior. Ignorant means he was ignorant. When He met His Savior He became wise to what he was ignorant of.

    Scott Shaver

    For all the verses you’ve thrown out Jim P, I still have one question.

    How was Abraham “enabled” to serve God?…..hmmmm?

      Andrew Barker

      Scott: I think Abram was enabled to serve God because he acted in faith. He believed God and acted. This correlates with the intuitive freedom we have to exercise the ability to make a choice which Braxton has been covering in part four.

        Scott Shaver

        I see it the same Andrew. Faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

        Jesus, barreling right by the limitations of his humanity, ful-filled the righteousness of God on earth by FAITH.

    Don Johnson

    Jim,

    Paul wasn’t “enabled” to be faithful. He was “enabled” because he was faithful. He was however, enabled to be an apostle because he was already faithful (1 Tim. 1:12).

ScottShaver

Excellent point Don

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