A Commentary on Article Eight of “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation ”

June 24, 2012

NOTE: a revised version of this article has been posted.


By Braxton Hunter, PhD, Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Newburgh, Indiana, and former President of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists


Of the utmost importance for discussions relevant to the the entirety of the document in question is what is meant by the authors when they use the term “free will.” It is not uncommon for laymen and theologians alike to misunderstand the terminology and philosophical implications of this central subject. As is the case with so many of the elements comprising a proper biblical worldview, one cannot merely rely on the vernacular of the 21st century to grasp the concepts with which thinkers have grappled throughout the ages. Moreover, in an effort to limit one’s own bias, it is prudent to step outside of the understanding of free will that has been fostered by his preferred doctrinal stance. It is also not enough to settle this issue by merely defining terms. The truth of man’s free will and the reality of God’s sovereignty are in symphony with one another in Article 8. The charge that non-Calvinists deny, limit, or reduce the sovereignty of God has been answered. Indeed, if the intention of Article 8’s affirmation is properly understood, the charge has been laid to rest.

Commentaries on previous articles have briefly addressed the question of what freewill actually is, yet here it becomes necessary to flesh it out in detail. Typically, Calvinists deny that they are what philosophers refer to as “hard-determinists.” On this view, most common among philosophical naturalists, free will is merely illusory. One may experience the various events and actions of his life as though they represent genuine choices, however, this is a byproduct of living in a closed system of cause and effect. No choice, of any kind, actually exists. Conversely, many non-Calvinists hold to what is known as “libertarian free will.” According to this model, man has, as a special gift from God, the ability to transcend cause and effect and actually make real decisions. These decisions may be influenced by outside factors, but not to the point of coercion. “Libertarian free will” is consistent with the language of Article 8 in the phrase “actual free will (the ability to choose between two options).”

Nevertheless, it is not our position that man can freely ascend to God without the the offer and work of “the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.” Rather, this offer and work is available to all. The denial “that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person,” means that although God is responsible for the salvific work and offer, man is responsible for receiving or rejecting the gift.

What is often considered to be a middle ground position between these two understandings is known as “compatibilism.” Overwhelmingly, Calvinists understand human freedom in this light. In compatibilism, man is free to do whatever he wants, but not free to want whatever he wants. That is to say, man has freedom to exercise his will in accordance with his desires, but he has no control over those desires. Since man cannot manipulate those desires, and man is not naturally inclined toward God, the compatibilist Christian maintains that man will never freely respond to God on his own. However, it is often maintained by Calvinists that, “There is a mysterious wonder in this truth that the sovereign God effectual brings persons to salvation in perfect harmony with their free will and response to the gospel.” [1]

What is troubling for many non-Calvinists, is that there is no observable, practical difference between determinism and compatibilism. To say that man is free to do what he wants, but not free to want what he wants, is to say that man is not genuinely free to make undetermined choices. It is for precisely this reason that compatibilism is often referred to as “soft-determinism.” On these grounds, William Lane Craig asserts, “Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms. Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency. [2]

Since Scripture so frequently gives the impression that man is not only free, but responsible, the text seems to support some version of libertarian freedom. If this were not the case, then a number of biblical passages (such as those documented in the statement) become awkward. If man is bound by his will to only choose according to his sinful desires, then he simply cannot choose godliness. Worse still, he is punished for choosing “A” rather than “C” when, in fact, only “A, B, and D” were available to him. Such a proposal strikes the thinker as absurd. One might retort that this is precisely the beauty of Calvinism. God breaks in and draws the lost individual out of the bondage of his will and into a grace that is, quite literally, irresistible. This does not resolve the problem.

First, while this does sound quite pleasing with respect to the new believer, it does not avoid the logically awkward situation of the sinner being punished for choosing one of his only sinful options, “A.” Secondly, the result of this problematic understanding of biblical freedom is compounded by the questionable separation of the “general” and “effectual” calls of God. Article 8 denies this distinction because many non-Calvinists read scripture with a “libertarian” view of free will. This is not to say that they assume libertarian free will a priori. Instead, they see it as the view of the biblical authors for the reasons detailed above. Furthermore, the purpose of the general call is hard to locate on any other view. If the effectual call goes out to only the elect, and only the elect can respond to it, then what of the general call? Two possible reasons for the general call come into view. It could be that the general call is merely the byproduct of the preaching of the word for the elect. In attempting to spread the gospel so that the elect might respond, the message spills over into the ears of the unelect. They hear, but cannot respond to the message. After all, Calvinists agree that they should evangelize every person because of our ignorance of who is and is not elect. Still, on this view, the general call did not even actually go out to every man. It went out to the elect and was heard by others. Perhaps, the general call exists so that the guilt of those who do not respond to it is made even more apparent. However, if this is the case, we must loop back to the problem previously mentioned. They are still being punished for choosing “A” rather than “C,” when “C” was not available to them. Either way, what is the purpose of the general call? The division seems to be a strange byproduct of a compatibilistic view of biblical freedom. Such a division is not necessary for those who see biblical freedom as libertarian, and thus its denial.

Ultimately, God is sovereign over man in that he is in control and could have acted otherwise. As the affirmation clarifies, man has libertarian free will because it was endowed to him by God, “as an expression of His sovereignty.”


[1] Daniel Akin, “How to be a Slave,” http://www.danielakin.com/wp-content/uploads/old/Resource_595/Jude%201.2%20Happy%20To%20
Be%20A%20Slave%20manuscript.pdf
, (accessed June 11, 2012).

[2] William Lane Craig, “Molinism vs. Calvinism,” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism (accessed June 11, 2012).


Today’s Discussion Topic:
Article 8: The Free Will of Man
in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist
Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation

A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of the Plan of Salvation,” authored by Eric Hankins and others, has drawn strong interest in many social media and news outlets. The statement and the discussion of it have been accessed over 60,000 times and over 120,000 pageviews in SBC Today the last few weeks, and have evoked thousands of comments. At this point, over 800 persons have signed the document, including some key leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life. You cansign it also by following these directions.

To structure the discussion, we are focusing the comments on the affirmation and denial statement of one article of the statement at a time. Today’s discussion will address the Southern Baptist doctrines of grace in Article 8: The Free Will of Man. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, just as they do in the Together for the Gospel statement signed and/or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views.

Please confine your comments to the article being discussed each day, not general comments about the statement. If you want to comment on other things, follow the links to other discussion threads:

Thank you for your comments on these theological issues!

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Click this link to see the full statement of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
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A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology SBC Today.pdf
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or
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We will be glad to add your name to this list of those affirming the statement!


Discussion of Article Eight: The Free Will of Man in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Note: As we discuss each article of the statement, today’s comments should focus on the affirmation and denial in Article 8. Please limit your comments here to Article 8.

Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.

Genesis 1:26-28; Numbers 21:8-9; Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 8:1-22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; Esther 3:12-14; Matthew 7:13-14; 11:20-24; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 9:23-24; 13:34; 15:17-20; Romans 10:9-10; Titus 2:12; Revelation 22:17

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Joshua

Dr. Hunter,

I notice there is not a single Bible verse mentioned in your article while the document does cite several. Will there be an actual exegetical argument given for Article 8? I would love to see your assertions backed by biblical exegesis.

Thanks!

    John

    Joshua,
    You are missing the point of Traditionalist Free Will. It is the ability to choose between two options in accepting or rejecting not by being limited by biblical exegesis. The beauty of Traditional Soteriology is in the ambiguity.

    Braxton Hunter

    My commentary centered on the understanding that many of us hold of the relevant scripture and on the basis of that scripture. There are many Old and New Testament passages which describe God’s punishment of sinners in various contexts and for various reasons such as the well known Matt. 23:37-39 text. Moreover, the warnings of God, indeed Jesus, are plentiful too, such as Luke 12:4 and Mark 9. These descriptions and warnings are awkward if not senseless on compatiblism. You’re right, I could have mentioned them. However, the viewers of this site, I believe, are knowledgeable enough about the Word to be aware that God warns of, and pronounces judgement throughout scripture.

      Joshua

      From the comments below, I see we have much different understandings of how we arrive at doctrine.

      I will bow out and stop asking for biblical support of libertarian free will.

      Grace and good night gentlemen.

        Braxton

        So no answer? I have to believe that you are aware that the Bible teaches that God punishes sin, and explains in many cases explains that it is because man made the wrong decision. I also cannot believe you really mean to say that you believe that we traditionalists do not arrive at doctrine on the basis of Scripture.

    Godismyjudge

    Josh,

    Here are a few texts on LFW:

    Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

    Notice Moses dealt with both alternatives, by refusing one and choosing the other. Moses could have stayed in Egypt and enjoyed the pleasures of sin, or he could suffer with God’s people and he chose to suffer with God’s people. He saw two possibilities and picked one and refused the other.

    Ex 16:4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.

    The test is if we will keep God’s laws or not, so God treats us as if we can choose either option.

    Is 5:1-4 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
    A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
    My Well-beloved has a vineyard
    On a very fruitful hill.
    2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
    And planted it with the choicest vine.
    He built a tower in its midst,
    And also made a winepress in it;
    So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
    But it brought forth wild grapes.
    3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
    Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
    4 What more could have been done to My vineyard
    That I have not done in it?
    Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
    Did it bring forth wild grapes?

    God owns the vineyard, which is Israel. Justice and righteousness are good grapes and oppression is bad grapes. God had provided for Israel (dug it up, cleared out stones, planted it with the choicest vine, built a tower in its midst, and made a winepress) with the expectation that it would bring forth good grapes, but it didn’t. God calls the Israelites to judge themselves and presents His evidence against Israel by asking what more He could have done and says He looked for good grapes but got bad ones. God expected the opposite to happen. Not only was it possible, God asks what more He could have done.

    1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

    Paul’s statement on God’s faithfulness is in light of what some Jews did, such as grumble in the dessert. Not all the Isrealites fell into sin, but many did, even though God always provides His people with an exit path. That God does not allow unbearable temptations is a reflection on His faithfulness. The implication for Paul’s audience and for you, dear Christian, is that every time you go through a temptation, God gives you the ability not to succumb. Sadly we sometimes do give in to temptation, even though we are able to do otherwise.

    Ez 12:2 “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not, for they are a rebellious house.

    The Jews had eyes but don’t see and ears but don’t hear meaning they have abilities they don’t use and God holds us accountable when we don’t use the abilities He gave us for Him!

    God be with you,
    Dan

Jeremy Crowder

I’m enjoying these great posts on this miracle of a document. I’m thankful that someone saw me as something other than fire wood and took me to Church. I’m thankful that someone at that Church the Pastor gave an invitation and offered me the choice to say the Sinners Prayer. This issue is important to many of us and I pray that God will bless and be with those speaking out on these issues which are overdue.

    Joshua

    Jeremy,

    As a United Methodist Church member, do you find it odd in joining with Southern Baptists who constantly denounce Wesleyan theology?

    Also, what do you find “miraculous” about the document?

      Jeremy Crowder

      I was saved in a Southern Baptist Church that was for many years in union with the United Methodist Church I later joined. The congregation was for decades Baptist one week and methodist the next just switching preachers. I’m soon going to be back in Ministry at a SBC Church and out of the UMC. In fact I’m still a member of a SBC Church as they never removed me from membership which I attend fairly regularly likely more often then most of the membership.

      Jeremy Crowder

      As to why I believe the document is a miracle is because it is giving many of us hope that we can in a concrete way share what we believe in this area. Many people me included have gone back and forth trying to get labels to fit us because we weren\’t taught either the Calvinist or Arminian points of view. I don\’t shy away from the Arminian lable but since I am not comfortable with many of the things put out by Arminians at least I now have a choice. With the tradionalist I have a real alternative one that is what I was taught growing up and I myself taught I just didn\’t put it together as a cohesive statement.

        Godismyjudge

        Jeremy,

        I can really relate to that. As a Baptist, I struggled to define myself once I realized I was not a Calvinist nor was I comfy with everything going on in Arminian denominations. This TS statement is helpful.

        God be with you,
        Dan

Ron Hale

Thanks Dr. Hunter …for especially dealing with Compatibilism. Non-Calvinists generally believe the sinner has the freedom to do otherwise. Compatibilists believe the sinner acts on his or her greatest desire and that desire is more or less determined. Until we understand this great gap …we are just talking past each other.

Ross

Of Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness,and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power,without the Holy Ghost,to work the righteousness of God,that is,spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,1 Cor. 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon,Book III: We grant that all men have a free will,free,inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable,without God, either to begin,or,at least,to complete aught in things pertaining to God,but only in works of this life,whether good or evil. “Good” I call those works which spring from the good in nature, such as,willing to labor in the field,to eat and drink,to have a friend,to clothe oneself,to build a house,to marry a wife,to raise cattle,to learn diverse useful arts,or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea,of Him and through Him they are and have their being. “Evil” I call such works as willing to worship an idol,to commit murder,etc. They condemn the Pelagians and others,who teach that without the Holy Ghost,by the power of nature alone,we are able to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as touching “the substance of the act.” For,although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work,9] (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions,such as the fear of God, trust in God,chastity,patience,etc.

Leslie Puryear

Joshua,

You seem to want to argue about everything published here. We understand that you are a Calvinist and will never agree with non-Calvinist belief. Your comments appear to be made only in order to win a debate. You may cheer when you make a point in which no one can reply to your satisfaction. You may think that means that in some strange you that you win. This is not a debate in which one wins or loses. This is a discussion of convictional beliefs based on biblical principles.

Why does it bother you so that we have published what we believe in regard to soteriology? It’s obvious that you don’t agree. It’s also obvious that nothing anyone says is going to convince you of our position, so there is no use in our wasting time discussing these issues with you. You already know everything.

It’s a sad thing to be so unteachable in one so young. As a pastor with a few years on you, let me say that the years have taught me that I don’t know everything and never will. And guess what, neither will you.

I pray that you will learn some humility before God has to humble you. I have been and continue to go through God’s humbling process and it isn’t fun nor is it easy. Try to be a little more teachable before it’s too late.

Speaking the truth in love,

The Original Les

    Joshua

    Les,

    “You seem to want to argue about everything published here”

    No, just desiring to see biblical support of this document which claims to speak for the majority of Southern Baptists who profess to be “people of the book.”

      Braxton Hunter

      Once again, as I posted above, unless youre unaware of the fact that scripture repeatedly describes God’s punishment or blessing on the basis of what kind of actions one takes (whether freewill exists in this respect or not) this commentary should not be difficult for you to understand. We’re you unaware that God allows the list to go to hell?

      Bob Hadley

      Joshua,

      When anyone can read John 3:16 and come away saying Jesus died for a select group of people called the elect as opposed to the whole world and that only those “chosen individuals” can believe and be saved, it seems to me that an exegetical presentation on Dr. Hunter’s part would probably not satisfy you any more than his attempt to explain the article that he was specifically addressing .

      I might also add that it seems a little disingenuous on your part to criticise this article without any comments on what he did say as opposed to simply complaining about what he did not say.

      Just my thoughts…

      ><>”

        Matt

        Hey there Bob,

        You said, “When anyone can read John 3:16 and come away saying Jesus died for a select group of people called the elect as opposed to the whole world and that only those “chosen individuals” can believe and be saved, it seems to me that an exegetical presentation on Dr. Hunter’s part would probably not satisfy you any more than his attempt to explain the article that he was specifically addressing.”

        At least Joshua read John 3:16 and also read Dr. Hunter’s article. When you walked out on David Platt’s sermon at the pastor’s conference, not giving him an opportunity to defend his position to you, did you put your fingers in your ears and say, “nanananana I can’t hear you.”?

        Honest debate with any chance of coming to an understanding requires listening without bias, or at least just listening at all.

        Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Just my thoughts……

        Shane Dodson

        “When anyone can read John 3:16 and come away saying Jesus died for a select group of people called the elect as opposed to the whole world and that only those “chosen individuals” can believe and be saved,”

        NOBODY “can believe and be saved” apart from God granting the person repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

        Calvinism does not propose that “only chosen individuals can believe and be saved.”

        “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:29)

        Please characterize Calvinism with accuracy.

        BroKen

        Well, just for the record, I do appreciate the author’s explanation of Libertarian Free Will, although I personally don’t agree with it. I tend to take a compatiblist view of Free will. However, Dr. Bob, it seems to me you have taken the “combatible” route with your latest comment. If you care to read John 3:16 with your eyes open you will discover that everlasting life is not available to all without distinction, but is restricted to those who believe. Just my thoughts . . .

    Chris Roberts

    Is conviction a sign of pride? Is arguing a belief based on Scripture a sign of pride? Is disagreeing with an elder a sign of pride? Then we are all guilty of pride and in need of humility. Or, perhaps, we are exercising that time-honored tradition of being convictional theologians: taking up our Bibles, studying them, believing them, and holding firm to what we believe unless someone convinces us that we are wrong.

Steve Lemke

Joshua,
Article 8 lists 58 verses in support of its affirmations and denials. Is there something about those Scriptures that you don’t understand or have a question about?

Meanwhile, why don’t you stay on subject and address what Dr. Hunter said in commenting on the article, not what he didn’t say. As you write, please keep in mind the spirit of the Unity resolution about unity and allowing for diversity of beliefs on salvation, which (I believe) you supported.

    Chris Roberts

    Unity and diversity do not negate disagreement and debate. I am thrilled my unity resolution passed, but simultaneously a bit dismayed that people think the Unity resolution takes away the right to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

      Donald

      Chris,
      I agree that unity and diversity do not negate disagreement and debate. I don’t understand what that has to do with what Steve just wrote. He merely asked you to keep these things in mind as you respond. Perhaps you need to read a bit more carefully before you start pecking out your responses.

      Tim Rogers

      Chris,
      You say

      “…a bit dismayed that people think the Unity resolution takes away the right to say “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

      So, your understanding is that we had every right to release this statement of our beliefs? Thus, if that is correct and you believe this along with the rest of the New Calvinists, they why the push back? If it is ok for you to say; “I’m right and your wrong” concerning Calvinistic Soteriology, then why isn’t it ok for a Baptist to say “Neither Calvinism nor Arminianism represent our soteriological understanding? Why are we called dividers and you feel that a resolution on Unity is the call for the day?

        Chris Roberts

        Tim,

        Nothing at all wrong with the release of a statement of beliefs which is consistent with the BF&M yet goes beyond it and also disagrees with Calvinism. And there’s nothing wrong with people observing similarities between the statement and other historic positions. Nor is there anything wrong with people debating the claims of said statement.

        The greater problem of the statement is that it also claimed the existence of Calvinists trying to take over the convention, etc, and also presented a form of Calvinism that is no Calvinism, and there has yet to be any acknowledgement that what the document presents as Calvinism simply does not exist.

        Related, and the reason the Statement is divisive, is that it goes beyond a simple position paper and by its very name calls for Southern Baptists to identify themselves: are you a traditional Southern Baptist or are you one of those New Calvinist interlopers? Fortunately, most people have not fallen for that.

    Joshua

    Steve,

    I honestly have no desire to interact with mere assertions regarding libertarian free will. I would love to interact with the exegesis of Scripture, but that seems to not be forthcoming. In light of this, blessings on your endeavors here.

      Donald

      Joshua,
      You have been asked to bring up what you disagree with, or to pick one of the listed supporting verses and demonstrate how it does not support the statement. Why is it that you have not taken either opportunity to enter into profitable discussion? These little drive-bys of yours are of questionable value.

        Joshua

        Donald,

        If we are going to discuss doctrine, we must discuss Scripture. Since the author and others do not want to give a positive presentation with Scritpture, there is nothing for me to engage with. I’m sorry you feel as though my request for biblical exegesis is an unprofitable “drive-by.”

William Leonhart

Dr. Hunter,
I’m confused. Did God sovereignly choose to give the authors of the Bible libertarian free will, or was He free in that instance to resort to compatibilism? How does this view of God’s interaction with mankind not open the door for theological liberalism and the ultimate downfall of the verbal-plenary view of inspiration?

    Braxton

    It is not the position of any libertarian free will advocate I know that God cannot inspire free creatures by the Holy Spirit to write as he leads if they submit to his leadership. Moreover, you asked if in the instance of inspiration God was free to act in a compatibilistic way. I have yet to meet any traditionalist who would maintain that God is not free to do as he pleases. Most non-Calvinists are often up front that if God had chosen to function as the Calvinist claims he does then he could have done so (although I think we would then have serious questions to answer with respect to arguments from evil), but instead he freely chose to give man the gift of free will. If men of God who freely embraced the leadership of God were obedient (under the inspiration of the Spirit) in recording the Word of God I cannot see how either God’s sovereignty or innerancy is damaged. Hope this helps.

      Matt

      Dr. Hunter,

      You say, “Most non-Calvinists are often up front that if God had chosen to function as the Calvinist claims he does then he could have done so (although I think we would then have serious questions to answer with respect to arguments from evil), but instead he freely chose to give man the gift of free will.”

      I don’t want to get too far off the intended topic of your article, but I see non-calvinists as having the most trouble with the argument of evil. Can you give an explanation of how you handle this question without writing a book on here, which could easily be done?

      William Leonhart

      Thank you for answering my question in such a timely manner. If you will bear with me, I just have a few more. Please, be patient with me.

      My question is not whether men are obedient to record the word of God. That is a statement that liberals and neo-orthodox alike can affirm. One could easily make such a statement and then turn and affirm, with Barth, that the word of God is in Scripture, while denying that Scripture is the word of God. The question is whether or not the words recorded were actually God-breathed.

      Were the very words recorded the words that God Himself had predestined would be recorded at the time they were to be recorded by the people He had determined would record them? Were the words written precisely in congress with the will of the man writing them AND the will of the God writing them? Furthermore, if God can work in a fallen man in such a way as to cause him to write precisely what He desires to be written, is He not already operating in such a (compatibilistic) way as to demonstrate that His will is of far more importance to Himself than the will of any creature?

      I had a second question as well, if you will bear with me further. If God does not so work on men as to sovereignly change their wills so that they will necessarily desire to repent and place their full trust and allegiance in Him, how is it that He keeps us from falling away? Do Traditionalists argue that God will take away your libertarian free will only once you have used it? If so, where do we see this in the Bible?

      I apologize for asking so many questions. I just have so many difficulties I need to wrestle with in what you have laid out in your article. God bless you.

      In Christ,
      Billy

        Bob Hadley

        Billy,

        I am not qualified to speak for Dr. Hunter but I would like to comment on your questions here that are well worded. First of all you asked, “Furthermore, if God can work in a fallen man in such a way as to cause him to write precisely what He desires to be written,”

        As I see it, it is absolutely essential for God to work in the hearts of those who are writing His story to us, since I believe that is exactly what the Bible is; I believe it was Adrian Rogers who said the Bible is the Word of God written by the hands of men with words from the heart of God. I like that. It would be impossible for men to write the Bible apart from the effectual working of God in their hearts.

        Now to the second part of your question: is He not already operating in such a (compatibilistic) way as to demonstrate that His will is of far more importance to Himself than the will of any creature?”

        These two statements are not at all logically connected so the inference you suggest in the former does not necessarily apply to the latter, as I see it. I think this is a problem with the calvinistic look at God’s sovereignty. I would say that God’s will may be of the least importance where conversion is concerned; if it were then would not all be saved? It would seem to me the more deterministic one gets where the sovereignty of God is concerned, the more problematic things become where God’s will would come into play.

        It seems to me God has chosen in His sovereignty to make man sovereign over his own choices. God is sovereign over the consequences of men’s choices but His choice to make me choose does not relegate His sovereignty at all. So instead of God’s choice being more important than the choices men make, seems to me an individual’s choice to choose God’s choice takes the matter of one’s eternity out if God’s hands and puts it in ours. He is still completely sovereign and will keep His promises to do as He has said He would do; choose Christ and live. I do not see any contradictions nor do I see any problems with His sovereignty.

        Your second question is also based on an illogical premise as I see it. The answer to your question is simple. Eternal Security is not a by-product of Divine election or irresistible grace; it is a promise of God to the believer who by faith trusts the finished work of Christ and is converted and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his heart and that indwelling becomes the guarantee of redemption for that individual. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of an individual has absolutely nothing to do with HOW that person got saved.

        Thank you for your questions and your gracious spirit.

        ><>”

          Randall Cofield

          Bob,

          You said:

          It seems to me God has chosen in His sovereignty to make man sovereign over his own choices. God is sovereign over the consequences of men’s choices but His choice to make me choose does not relegate His sovereignty at all. So instead of God’s choice being more important than the choices men make, seems to me an individual’s choice to choose God’s choice takes the matter of one’s eternity out if God’s hands and puts it in ours.

          God’s Word says:

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

          Soli Deo Gloria

          Bob Hadley

          Randall,

          Thanks for the Scripture passage; it most certainly confirms God’s sovereignty to do what He has purposed to do. God’s choice to make me responsible for my own choices is the essence of covenants and He is perfectly just in doing what He does the way He says He is doing it!

          Soli Deo Gloria

          ><>”

          JoeJ

          Bob,
          I agree with how you addressed William’s question about inspired scripture. Your response to his question about falling away does not seem to go far enough. Clearly, if the Holy Spirit is dwelling within a person, he would be on the path to salvation. If the Holy Spirit only entered that person after he made a free will choice to invite Him in, would the Spirit remain in a person if that person chose to reject Him? Many of us know people who appeared to be saved who subsequently fell into serious sin and refused to repent of it. Are we to assume that he was never saved? That brings everybody’s salvation into question. My question is: what happens to that free will after a person believes himself to be saved? Is William right in proposing that we use our free will once, in accepting Christ, and then have our wills overcome by the Spirit?

          Johnathan Pritchett

          The problem with Da. 4:35 and other texts that Calvinists have is that the verses that follow don’t say “and God’s will is to create an exhaustively deterministic cosmos.”

          My problem with determinism “soft or hard” is that it is not taught in the Bible. Now free will may not be either…but Scripture suggests that we are volitional creatures presented with genuine options. God Himself presents them.

          No proof-text in the Scriptures will resolve the issue, as Calvinist Paul Helm stated in a four views book on the topic, and hurling proofs back and forth will only look to observers, Christian or otherwise, that the Bible is a convoluted mess.

          My other problem is that determinism undermines God’s sovereignty (the latter does not entail the former) because it makes God less wise and powerful to accomplish his purposes and more lone a cosmic weenie who can’t accomplish anything unless he programmed his creatures independent of His knowledge of them and their contingent actions prior to creation.

          So, Dr. James White would then want to know how God knows future contingents unless He programmed them in the decree (which in Calvinism comes prior to God’s knowledge of the future in the logical sequence.)

          The response is this. God need not “DO” in eternity in order to “KNOW” in eternity and from eternity. If this were true, then this is simply a mother brand of Open Theism, except in a logical moment in eternity. That is hardly good. So God must know all an omniscient being should know prior to creation, and it must be completely independent of action (decree) in eternity. Otherwise, this creation is as necessary as God Himself and God is not free and had to create this world in order to know future contingents which an omniscient being should know anyway without doing anything in eternity by definition.

          So, how then does God know what He knows? I don’t know how He does, but I do know how He doesn’t (by having to DO prior to having free knowledge).

          What I can say is God knows all that He will and won’t do and all creatures will and won’t do in any and every logically possible world and God can pick any He wanted.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        So far as I know, we all believe God breathed out the Scripture. You know we affirm it…so most of your further inquiries are off target.

        Liberals and Neo-Orthodox also say things like “God exists”, does this mean we shouldn’t?

        Sigh…

    Johnathan Pritchett

    That compatiblism/free will is mentioned in a context of inspiration is clearly a demonstration of confused thinking on both issues. Inspiration is a separate thing, and requires neither free will or determinism to be true in order for inspiration to occur.

    I am guessing the assumption here is
    that if John is free, while carried along by the Holy Spirit, to change or err in transmittin the text, therefore he will or must. That is a total non-sequitur.

    As such, inspiration is unrelated to the issue.

Randall Cofield

Dr. Hunter said:

To say that man is free to do what he wants, but not free to want what he wants, is to say that man is not genuinely free to make undetermined choices.

The Apostle Paul said:

Ro. 3:10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”,
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

A quick inventory of what all men do and do not “WANT”:

1) None “want” to be righteous
2) None “want” to understand God
3) None “want” to seek God
4) All “want” to turn aside from God
5) None “want” to do good
6) All “want” to deceive
7) All “want” to curse
8) All “want” bitterness
9) All “want” to shed blood
10) All “want” the path of ruin
11) All “want” the path of misery
12) None “want” the way of peace
13) None “want” to fear God

The problem with this entire Traditional Statement is that it elevates man infinitely higher than does the Word of God.

And, contrary to Dr. Hunter, Calvinists do not contend that man cannot “want what he wants.” Nay! It is precisely our free will that condemns us.

Lest any of us think for one moment we are better than this, note Paul’s conclusive punctuation of this devastating indictment:

Ro 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

We must put our hands over the very mouths that are stubbornly proclaiming our freedom of choice, confess our utter and absolute guilt, beg God to crush our “libertarian free will,” and plead for redeeming mercy.

Those who are thus drawn by the Father will find Christ to be a ready and a willing Savior!

Oh, beloved! I implore you! DO NOT DARE come before the Infinitely Holy God trumpeting your wicked and damnable free will!

Soli Deo Gloria

    Braxton

    With all respect, I think you are unclear on what is meant by the statement “man is not free to want what he wants.” It is not to say compatibilists believe man does not do what he wants, which is what you seem to think I was saying. Thus, the work you put into this post is somewhat unnecessary and misdirected. Furthermore, you said you want God to crush our libertarian free will. Are you saying you actually believe man does have libertarian free will? If so, I think you will find that this is in conflict with your Calvinism. If not, then why ask God to crush man’s non-existent libertarian free will? Thanks.

      Randall Cofield

      Dr. Hunter,

      You said:

      With all respect, I think you are unclear on what is meant by the statement “man is not free to want what he wants.” It is not to say compatibilists believe man does not do what he wants, which is what you seem to think I was saying.

      Brother, I framed the entire post around what the Apostle Paul said all men “want.” Not sure how I could have been more clear.

      The problem lies not with man having the freedom to “want what he wants.” He clearly has that freedom. The Apostle Paul said the problem lies precisely in what all men “want.” The text I cited is clear.

      I’m not at all unclear about what you meant, and it is most assuredly a misrepresentation of what most Calvinists believe.

      Nor am I confused as to whether or not man possess libertarian free will. I placed it in quotes precisely because the very thought of such needs to be crushed from our proud hearts.

      Soli Deo Gloria

        Braxton

        Thanks for clarifying what you meant about libertarian free will. However, I’m still convinced that you don’t understand what I mean when I say man cannot want what he wants. You demonstratd again that you think I mean man doesn’t do what he wants. I’m saying man has no control over his desires. Man cannot choose God on Calvinism without the work of the Spirit, who only ministers to the elect in this way. This is to say that man has no power over his “wants.” I know your a smart guy and passionate about the Word. However, before you post several more paragraphs, I would encourage you to pick up a book on compatibilists and find that what I’m saying is consistent with what most compatibilists say about themselves in one way or another.

          Randall Cofield

          Dr. Hunter,

          You said:

          I’m still convinced that you don’t understand what I mean when I say man cannot want what he wants. You demonstratd again that you think I mean man doesn’t do what he wants. I’m saying man has no control over his desires. Man cannot choose God on Calvinism without the work of the Spirit,…

          Brother, I must insist that I do understand what you are saying. I do not think you mean “man doesn’t do what he wants.” My posts have consistently indicated that man does indeed “want what he wants.”

          Indeed, that is exactly the Apostle Paul’s contention in the Romans 3 passages, and further evidence for that being his contention is found in Ro. 1:18-32. Again, the precise problem, according to Paul, is that man “wants” (desires) that which is contrary to God.

          You (and the T.S.) are insisting that man is capable of controlling his desires, even to the point of desiring God. Not so according to the inspired Word:

          Ro. 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
          8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

          For man to desire God would most certainly be pleasing to God. The T.S. says man can do precisely that. Paul says man doesn’t even “want” to desire God (Ro. 1:10-19), does not “like (desire) to retain God in their knowledge” (Ro. 1:28), but rather is at enmity with God (Ro. 8:. I must believe Paul.

          You said:

          I know your a smart guy and passionate about the Word. However, before you post several more paragraphs, I would encourage you to pick up a book on compatibilists and find that what I’m saying is consistent with what most compatibilists say about themselves in one way or another.

          Brother, while I don’t think you are accurately characterizing compatibilists, I’ll not be so bold as to preemptively recommend you pick up a book. I am not bound by compatibibilism, I am bound by the Word of God, and it is that Word which I’m offering in response to what you are saying…not compatibilism.

          Soli Deo Gloria

Bob Hadley

Randall,

I do not see the significance of the passage you quoted in Romans 3 to your argument;

As I see it, your two statements below are actually conflict one another…

We must put our hands over the very mouths that are stubbornly proclaiming our freedom of choice, confess our utter and absolute guilt, beg God to crush our “libertarian free will,” and plead for redeeming mercy.

Those who are thus drawn by the Father will find Christ to be a ready and a willing Savior!

According to your tribe, oh I am sorry, the trads are the tribe… only those who are drawn by the Father can beg God to crush our “libertarian free will,” and plead for redeeming mercy.

Personally, I prefer a different set of words to speak of this. I prefer the choice to choose to free will because to me it is much simpler understand. God gave us the choice to choose; we did not have a choice in that matter. God did it. He also gave us the consequences of our choices. We did not have any choice in that matter either. Here is why I believe God did that; He gave me the choice to choose so that His choice would reflect my choice where eternity is concerned. His choice is clear; He is not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL come to repentance.

My choice to come to Him was given to me by Him so that kind of eliminates this argument that my choice supersedes His sovereignty If He in His sovereignty gave me the choice to choose in the first place! Interesting how that works.

><>”

    Shawn

    Dear Bob,
    I hope you are doing well, brother. I had to engage this comment when I read it. If our all-powerful God desires the salvation of all men in the way that “Traditionalists” say He does, then why are all men not saved? Some of you will no doubt reply, “Because many men choose not to accept His free gift of salvation.” You are effectively saying that our sovereign God will have unmet desires because His will is limited by men’s will. Or to put it in your wording, God is still sovereign, but He voluntarily limits His own will so as not to force Himself on His free moral creatures. This begs a critical question:

    How is God more “loving” in this scheme? He truly desires that all men be saved and He has the power to accomplish all He desires (Psa 115:3). He knows that many men will reject the gospel which will result in their eternal torment. He has the sovereign ability to override their choices and save them from eternal torment, but He does not do so out of deference to their free will. How is God more “loving” if he wants to save all His children, is able to save all His children, and yet lets men die in their sins out of deference to their choice?

    If I had the power to save my child from death and yet deferred to what my child chose in the moment, even though it would result in their death, I would rightly lose my parental rights and be imprisoned. Please offer your insights on how this is more loving.

    Thank you, brother!

      JoeJ

      I believe this would be a good place to reflect on a passage from Genesis 1:26: God said, “Let us make mankind in our image and likeness.”

      The text does not spell out what the specific likeness is, but I believe it goes beyond facial features. This text seems to be inconsistent with your view of total depravity.

        Shawn

        Dear JoeJ, I’m not sure what you are saying here. Could you please elaborate. . .

          JoeJ

          If we are completely without free will, as you post seemed to say, are we not made more in the image of a slug than the image of God?

          Shawn

          Dear JoeJ, My post had nothing to do with free will or depravity or the image of God. Please take time to make sure you understand a post before commenting. The question is, “How can the traditionalists say God is a loving God if He desires to save all men, has the power to save all men, and yet chooses not to save them out of deference to the exercise of their will?”

Mike Davis

If man is bound by his will to only choose according to his sinful desires, then he simply cannot choose godliness. Worse still, he is punished for choosing “A” rather than “C” when, in fact, only “A, B, and D” were available to him. Such a proposal strikes the thinker as absurd.

The exact same argument has been used by those who claim humans are not born with a sin nature. I realize Traditionalists have clarified they believe a sin nature is inherited from Adam, but then why use the same argument as those who argue against that fact and claim it is possible for man to obey God’s law in his own power?The fact that an unredeemed human chooses according to his sinful desires does not mean the right choice is unavailable to him. It means that without God’s initiating grace, he won’t make the right choice. This is the consequence of inheriting a sin nature. The reason you see compatibilism as determinism is because you are redefining it as you did above. I could use the same tactic and logic to conclude that libertarian free will = Open Theism (I am not making that claim, however).

    Braxton

    As long as man is not capable of choosing the good it is not in fact available to him. You can’t have it both ways. If man’s desires were determined, then his actions are determined. They flow from his desires. The fact that an argument is applied where it does not belong does not necessitate that it belongs nowhere. Traditionalists hold the man is not incapable of crying out to God. This is not tantamount to saying man is somehow not a sinful creature. I am clear on what you are saying. Man has “c” available to him, but he will not choose it. If he will not choose it because he cannot choose it, however, then this is just word play.

      Randall Cofield

      Traditionalists hold the man is not incapable of crying out to God.

      Ro 8:7 …the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
      8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

      Randall Cofield

      Dr. Hunter,

      As long as man is not capable of choosing the good it is not in fact available to him.

      Jos 24:15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

      Jos 24:16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods,

      Jos 24:19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

        Dale Pugh

        And yet the people replied:
        v. 21 “No, but we will serve the Lord.”
        v. 22 Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves the YOU HAVE CHOSEN FOR YOURSELVES the Lord, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.”
        v. 23 Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and INCLINE YOUR HEARTS to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
        v. 24 The people said to Joshua, “WE WILL SERVE the Lord our God WE WILL OBEY His voice.”

        It would appear to me that a proper exegesis of these passages would include the fact that the people were making a firm and committed choice. I placed certain words in bold print in order to emphasize this idea. God had already made it clear that He had chosen them in Exodus19–“Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” (Ex. 19:5-6a) In the verses you cite, Joshua is calling on the people to renew their commitment to that calling they had already received from God. He had chosen them, but they continually failed to live up to that calling. God graciously continued to draw them to Himself, but they had to make a choice as to their spiritual allegiance. They were worshiping idols and pagan gods. God said, in effect, “You choose. What will it be?”
        Had they chosen themselves to be God’s priests and a holy nation? Of course not. They showed themselves incapable of such, just as we recognize that it is not we ourselves who grant our personal salvation. We could never achieve salvation on our own. But we are involved in the process as we choose to follow Him, incline our hearts to Him, and serve Him in living out the fruits of repentance.

          Randall Cofield

          Hi Dale,

          You said:

          It would appear to me that a proper exegesis of these passages would include the fact that the people were making a firm and committed choice.

          Brother, the sad record of the book of Judges demonstrates clearly that their “commitment” lasted only as long as Joshua and his contemporaries were alive. They died, and the hauntingly prophetic words of Joshua echoed in the ears of Israel for 400 years:

          Jos 24:19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

          Just as Joshua told them, their “firm and committed choice” only served as a witness against them.

          Soli Deo Gloria

          Dale Pugh

          I hope that my words have not simply been taken as an attempt to disagree with you. That isn’t my motivation at all. Disagreement for disagreement’s sake is, well, disagreeable to me.
          We really aren’t so far apart in our understanding, I take it. But I see Joshua’s words in v.19 as a prophetic warning should they choose to continue in their sinful worship of idols. I believe that my interpretation is supported by the surrounding text.
          As to the other statements in my previous response, “being born from above” (John 3) is based solely upon the work of Christ on my behalf. It is brought to bear on my life in the following: “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have everlasting life” (John 3:16). I am the “whosoever” by my choice to believe and confess Jesus as Lord.
          We stand on different premises. I fully embrace the concept of a person’s free will being involved in the process. You, it appears to me, do not (if I am mishandling your position in any way, I apologize). So be it. We will agree to disagree at that point, and probably a few others as well. We will do so amicably, I trust.
          No matter how we view it, I certainly agree with you that to God alone the glory is due. I’ll leave it at that.
          May God bless your work on His behalf.

        Dale Pugh

        Good morning, Randall–
        You said: “Brother, the sad record of the book of Judges demonstrates clearly that their “commitment” lasted only as long as Joshua and his contemporaries were alive.”
        That was the point of the last paragraph of my comment. On this we agree. Thank God for areas of agreement!
        I also recognize that throughout the Scriptures, God says “if you will…….I will…..” God always calls His people to obedience. That is the fruit of repentance. If their choice was only there to serve as a witness against them, then how much better is my confession of faith in the grace of God to save me? If I make that confession and believe in my heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, Paul says, I will be saved. “For with the heart man believes , resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made, resulting in salvation.” Would not my confession simply, then, be a witness against me that I cannot really make that confession myself? Would not John’s statement that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” be ineffectual? After all, the confession only serves as a witness against me.
        Yet John goes on to say “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). I am not saying that I depend on my choice to save me, but that my choice to receive the free gift of grace that God offers is made effective in my life. Thus, my choice is no longer the negative “witness for the prosecution” but now becomes the admission of wrongdoing (sin) and throwing myself on the mercy of the court (God’s throne) where my Advocate has already laid the payment for the penalty of my wrongdoing. The admission is my choice to make. The resulting merciful justice that comes is God’s doing.

          Randall Cofield

          Hi Dale,

          You said:

          If their choice was only there to serve as a witness against them, then how much better is my confession of faith in the grace of God to save me?

          Dear brother, may I gently point out here that you are not disagreeing with me? It is God who said, thru His servant Joshua:

          Joshua 24: 19 “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.”

          In response to the remainder of your post, if the confession, etc. comes not from a “born from above” heart (Jn. 3) the confessor is no more sincere nor no more able to obey God than were the Israelites to whom Joshua spoke.

          God bless, my brother.

          Soli Deo Gloria

          Dale Pugh

          Randall:
          I posted my response in the wrong spot above. Sorry. I’ll leave it there so as to not confuse things further on this thread. :-)

          Randall Cofield

          Hi Dale,

          Yes, I think you are right on the point at which we don’t see eye-to-eye.

          I am decidedly monergistic in my view of the new birth in Jn. 3. The Spirit blows where He wills, bringing life where there was no life. I can’t summon the Spirit to give me the new birth. Just as I didn’t work synergistically with my parents in my natural conception and birth, I did not assist the Spirit of God in my “birth from above.”

          I just cried “waaaaaah” and started repenting and believing…after I was born. :-)

          Grace and peace to you, my brother.

          Soli Deo Gloria

      Mike Davis

      As long as man is not capable of choosing the good it is not in fact available to him. You can’t have it both ways…The fact that an argument is applied where it does not belong does not necessitate that it belongs nowhere.

      Okay, but if Charles Finney were alive today and arguing on this thread that man has the ability apart from God’s power to obey God, how do you respond to him when he uses your same argument? God commands the non-Christian to obey his law, therefore, if we apply your argument, why is the non-Christian still held accountable on Judgment Day for something he had no ability to do? Also, if we apply the claims of Article Eight, why does an redeemed man have no ability to obey God except to obey the commandment of Jesus to repent and follow him? What changes for the man if you don’t recognize an initiating grace (irrisistible or prevenient) to enable him?

        Mike Davis

        irrisistible …sorry, typo. “irresistible”.

          Braxton

          Let me be clear, I believe that God knocks at the heart’s door of every man. This is precisely why I maintain that God has given man a special and supernatural ability, not had in the animal kingdom, to make an undetermined choice. Now this is not to say that man is not influenced by external stimuli. However, it is to say that he is able to transcend cause and effect. It is for this reason that God is just in holding the non-Christian accountable for his choices. He “in fact” had the ability to choose the Savior who was knocking at his heart’s door, and rejected him.

          As far as Finney goes, I don’t think you are intentionally trying to poison the well by bringing him up, but I can see no other reason to do so. My use of this argument in this respect is different in important ways than the use of it that you suggest. I’m not bound to defend how others use “similar” arguments to mine for different purposes any more than I am responsible as a gun owner for the man who uses a gun to murder his neighbor.

          Thanks again for the thoughtful and cordial discussion.

    Shawn

    Hey Mike, Historically, you are on to something. History shows that those who give ultimate deference to libertarian free will often end up espousing heresies like open theism. I too want to be careful – I am NOT accusing them of being open theists. However, it does tend to lead down that road. . .

      volfan007

      Shawn,

      To make statements like this is such a mischaracterization of the Traditionalist position. Its a blatant misrepresentation.

      And, if I wanted to play your game, then I could bring up how Calvinism has led to the liberalism of the Church in Europe. Where are the strong, Reformed Churches in Europe? I mean, Europe! Where the Reformed Churches began? They’ve just about all turned liberal.

      But, you’re the one making this kind of statement….not me.

      David

Randall Cofield

Bob said:

According to your tribe, oh I am sorry, the trads are the tribe… only those who are drawn by the Father can beg God to crush our “libertarian free will,” and plead for redeeming mercy.

Jesus said:

Joh 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

Therefore:

Joh 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.

The traditional Jewish crowd responded:

Joh 6:60 “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

To which Jesus responded:

Joh 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

And the sad response of the traditional Jewish crowd:

Joh 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.

Dear brothers and sisters, how these truths should humble us. I tremble to think how odious it must be in the sight of the Father to see His gracious and Sovereign drawing of those He has given to His beloved Son so denigrated. How reprehensible this admixture of proud, libertarian free will must be to Him.

Do not be deceived! God will not be mocked in this His crowning glory of redeeming unworthy sinners by free grace alone! Boast not of thy free will; raise not the banner of thy proud heart in the presence of the King of Kings! The glory of your salvation is His, and His alone. He will not share that glory with thee!

Trust not in the wicked choices of thy deceptive heart, O sinner! Cast thyself at His feet, and plead not thy freedom of choice, but plead His sinless blood and matchless grace alone for the forgiveness of thy sins!

Kick not against the goads of electing grace, dear friend. Run to it! Flee to Christ alone, rejecting the proud and wicked inclinations of thy heart! Fall prostrate before Him, bringing nothing of the rotten pride of thy fallen nature.

Come thus, and be saved. Come thus and thou wilt find this the humble cry of thy regenerated heart: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”

Soli Deo Gloria

    Bob Hadley

    Randall,

    I think I will heed the Word you quoted, “Kick not against the goads.”

    May God bless you sir as you week to walk with Him in the Light of His precious Word.

    ><>”

      Randall Cofield

      And you too, my brother.

    JoeJ

    Interesting that you skipped from verse 44 to 60. What comes in between is sometimes called the bread-of-life discourse. The part that you skipped is the hard saying that many cannot listen to.

Matt

Dr. Hunter,

I would like to ask you about your comment, “If man is bound by his will to only choose according to his sinful desires, then he simply cannot choose godliness. Worse still, he is punished for choosing “A” rather than “C” when, in fact, only “A, B, and D” were available to him. Such a proposal strikes the thinker as absurd.”

Do you disagree that men make choices according to thier prevailing desires? There are many factors that can play into a decision. there may be conflicting desires. The objects of choice may not be desirable in themselves, but we desire the “lesser of two evils”. Desires outside the objects of choice may determine which option is chosen, but a prevailing desire will always be followed by the will. To deny this is to either say that the will chooses a certain way (an effect) without any cause for it choosing that way, or that the will chooses a certain way because it did not desire to choose that way. Such a proposal certainly strikes this thinker as absurd.

You seem to think that God would not want the gospel proclaimed to people if they were not able to make a possitive response to it. Your satement that people are, “punished for choosing “A” rather than “C” when, in fact, only “A, B, and D” were available” seems to say that the option to repent and follow God was never made available to them. However, this option was made available to them. The call to repent and be saved is very clearly made to many who reject it. It sounds like your objection is that Calvinists claim that God commands us to spread the gospel to people who He knows are not willing to respond possitively to it. They are not physically unable to follow God. He isn’t telling a blind person to read something or a cripled person to run after Him. He knows that they are mentally or spiritually unable, but that is just recognizing that a sinful selfish creature will not put thierself aside and make Jesus the true Lord of thier life. I would like to know what your answer to this “objection” is, since all christians who believe that God is omnicient are faced with this same situation. We all agree that God knows who will reject Him, for whatever reason, but He still commands us to proclaim the gospel to all. Is it absurd to think that God makes the offer of the gospel to people that He knows will reject it? I think we all agree that He does this. You may attempt to trace thier rejection to thier upbringing, thier disposition, the circumstances surrounding the way the gospel is presented or whatever mixture of nature and nurture you please. Calvinists simply point to the Biblical teaching that we are, by nature, sinful creatures. Whatever the reason for rejection of God, there existed a determining cause behind the effect of the rejection. Whether the cause is a sinful nature or something else, it constitutes a mental or spiritual necessity. This question must be answered by all Christians, not just Calvinists. Calvinists accept and praise God for how He works without imposing how we think He should work on what we believe.

I also would like to apply your “a,b,c,d” statement to the fact that many many people are held accountable for thier rejection of God without ever hearing the gospel. Ofcourse Romans 1 makes it clear that these people are justly condemned, but it is also clear that they were not able to be saved if they did not know of Jesus; or, in the case of Old Testament people, the one true God. It is undeniable that God never intended for the people who die without hearing to hear the gospel to have heard it. So, if the good news was meant for all people, meaning every single person past, present, and future; why do so many die without hearing it? This problem is compounded, for those who affirm unlimited atonement, when considering many stories from scripture. The Israelites were at the gates of several cities of people who had never been told of the one true God, but instead of commanding them to proclaim His name, God commands them to kill every man, woman, and child. They were never given the options a,b,c, or d; but they are held responsible for thier sins because the did not choose the option that would have saved them from those sins. Another related question regarding these people would be: Since it is obvious that God never intended to save these people, did God impute thier sins to Jesus on the cross? And if you claim He did, was His wrath poured out onto Jesus on the cross and these people who were at that moment in hell simultaneously for the same sins? Another example from scripture that compounds this problem of people who do not hear the gospel is found in Acts16:6-7 “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the spirit did not permit them.” Paul intended to go preach the gospel to these people, but God actually forbid them from doing this because He wanted another group to hear the gospel instead. Calvinists theology finds no problem with this, but there seems to be a big problem for non-calvinists who feel like “a,b,c, and d” should be made available to all people.

You quote William Lane Craig as saying, ““Determinists reconcile universal, divine, causal determinism with human freedom by re-interpreting freedom in compatibilist terms. Compatibilism entails determinism, so there’s no mystery here. The problem is that adopting compatibilism achieves reconciliation only at the expense of denying what various Scriptural texts seem clearly to affirm: genuine indeterminacy and contingency.”

I would like to see these texts. I see many texts that affirm God’s omnipotence and omnicience, two concepts that logically rule out the possibility of “genuine indeterminancy and contingency.” I see that Craig is quoted from his book “Molinism vs. Calvinism”. Do you ascribe to the Molinist belief in “middle knowledge” that is intended to escape the fact that God knew the results of His creation, including who would and wouldn’t be saved, before creating and then created with the intent of bringing about those known results? I would just like to point out that all knowledge still had to have preceeded creation in the molinist view and that all determining factors that could possibly influence any decision; nature, nurture, or a mixture of the two, were still determined by God’s act of creation. So, knowledge of how people would “freely respond” to God, was only really knowledge of how people who God created this specific way would respond in this specific circumstance. God still would have created people with specific dispositions who would grow up in specific environments, some of whom would never hear the gospel, and middle knowledge would merely be knowledge of the “free” responses of creatures who’s natures and environments were determined by God before He ever created.

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that the very idea of middle knowledge implies a thought process within the mind of God. This is an impossibility for an omnicient Being. No knowledge can be the result of a deductive process based on other knowledge. This would require that God was not truely omnicient before the deductive process. I am aware that molinists attempt to avoid this by saying that thier supposed hierarchy of God’s knowledge is not ordered chronologically, but is only ordered by describing some knowledge as being based on other knowledge. If, however, some knowledge is based on(caused by) other knowledge, this is saying that there is an effect not preceeded by it’s cause. Once again, proponents of “middle knowledge” are simply assigning an idiosyncracy of creatures with limited knowledge to God. There can be no reasoning process within the mind of God. He knows everything perfectly and simultaneously. All of His knowledge coincides perfectly because it is all perfect, true, and correct.

God bless

    Braxton

    I’m really glad you brought some of these things up. I really do mean that. This is the dialogue I was hoping for. Thank you for that.

    First, at the very root of the will it is true that on its face it would appear that the will is always the result of some desire, no matter how hidden that desire may be. So I think what you are asking is, what was the causal factor in bringing about a person’s choice to do one thing over another according to my libertarian view. Now in what I’m saying here, I speak for myself only. There are other options for libertarian free will advocates besides this. Yet, I believe that the answer is that God gave man free will as a supernatural gift. Are “made in the image of God.” As he is able to create something from nothing , I believe he gave us the ability to do the same, in a certain sense, by transcending this system of cause and effect and making a truly free and undetermined choice. This is not really new. After all, no one is saying that animals have free will. We have always viewed this as being a special gift that God gave man, without which responsibility for evil would be a senseless idea. I believe that when scripture refers to men as judges or Elohim as it does in John 10:34, that it is referring to this special gift that is a truth about God that is likewise true in us. By the way, I’m not somehow elevating man to the status of God as others have charged us with here. I’m just saying that this must be one of the ways in which we are made in his image.

    As far as the fate of the unevangelized, there are varying explanations of this. I do not see how it is directly related to the question. So long as there actually are non-contradictory explanations of how God may fairly deal with such individuals then we have a philosophical defeater. This, then becomes a moot point. No such defeater exists for the man who is given no live choice. So let’s talk about that.

    Most of what you have said is well reasoned (though since I disagree with your conclusions I obviously thing they are not well reasoned enough), but I think you are falling into the same wordplay others here have. I agree that on your position God made his salvation available to the unelect. However, with the a,b,c,d argument, I’m saying that it is not available “in fact.” why this is not apparent has always seemed strange to me. Is it, “in fact,” possible for the unelect to be saved. If not then it is not available to him. If yes, then I think you are on your way to becoming a traditionalist.

    On Molinism – I have not defended Molinism in this commentary. What I claimed was consistent with Molinist and non-Molinist frameworks. However, your critique of Molinism is engaging, but strange. You are correct that it would be philosophically awkward to claim that there was a thought “process” in the mind of God outside of (before, although before is a temporal word) creation. The reason for this is because time had not yet been created, and a sequence of events requires time. This is why I would never claim that a process like this took place, except perhaps to explain things in common parlance. However, for the Molinist, the inclusion of God’s awareness of counterfactual events no more necessitates a thought process than his knowledge of actual events (which you believe he had). As you rightly say, God’s knowledge outside of creation was simultaneous. He is changeless. Where you do have a point is that if God placed free agents (libertarian freedom) into whatever world he chose to actualize this is in a certain way a predetermination. I’m fine with that, although I speak only for myself. This makes sense of sovereignty and human responsibility. Man truly has choices a,b,c and d available to him.

    Thanks for the discussion, it is one of only two dialogues on this post that has been appropriate, and engaging.

      Darryl Hill

      Continuing that thought here is the verse…
      in him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.

      How could it be clearer? God works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of his will. That is… He doesn’t consult us.

      I will admit that this is an offense to my humanity but God can do what he pleases and this is how Scripture describes him.

      Matt

      Dr. Hunter,

      Thank you for your response. I really do enjoy these discussions. I think we have both identified the root of our disagreement and come to an impasse very quickly. You say, “I believe that the answer is that God gave man free will as a supernatural gift. Are “made in the image of God.” As he is able to create something from nothing , I believe he gave us the ability to do the same, in a certain sense, by transcending this system of cause and effect and making a truly free and undetermined choice.” I see we have a huge epistemological difference here. I am not willing to deny the law of causation in order to explain my theological beliefs. You use the example of fiat creation to show a common belief that God created ex nilo, which would demonstrate a common denial of the laws of conservation of matter and energy. I do not see fiat creation as a violation of this law though. God’s creation was not a true creation from nothing as the universe did not just begin to be. The universe was brought into existence by the causal power of God. I may not be able to explain all the specifics of how this was achieved, but somehow the creative force of the eternal spiritual Being was tranformed into phisical objects. This is just one theory, and I am not making a hard stance on this. If God’s creation was shown to have been in direct opposition to the law of the conservation of matter and energy, then I would surely discard such a law that I see as merely the result of imperical observations. I will admit that the law of causation is not one of the “big three” laws of logic, but I hold it much higher than many other laws of phisics since it is impossibe to function without the assumption of it’s truth. We cannot even have a discussion without both of us agreeing to accept this law as true. That is why I am unwilling to point out a specific circumstance and claim that causation appies everywhere but here.

      As for the molinist discussion, you say, “Where you do have a point is that if God placed free agents (libertarian freedom) into whatever world he chose to actualize this is in a certain way a predetermination. I’m fine with that, although I speak only for myself.”

      I would point out that all determining factors, such as the nature of the person and the nurture (environment), are things chosen by God and not by the person. Calvinists simply point at the sinful nature of all men since the fall as a sufficient cause for all men to naturally reject God. Ofcourse, I only mention that briefly, because if you believe that all men are given a “supernatural gift” and are “transcending this system of cause and effect” then all determining factors are no longer really determining factors.

      Thank you for the discussion. I feel that logical arguments are many times lost in these debates.

      God bless

      Matt

      Dr. Hunter,

      After typing out a quick response to your response last night, I thought a little more on the subject and was not totally satisfied with my dismissal of our disagreement as an epistemological dead end.

      I don’t know if you are still responding to all these comments, but if you are, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the following line of reasoning. Can God produce an uncaused effect? I see this as impossible since it is the same as asking if God can cause something that is not caused. If an effect is brought about by God, then God has produced the cause of that effect. If any determining causes found within a person; nature, nurture, or any combination of the two are actually determined by God; then for a person to truely make a choice that is not determined by God’s intent in His decretive act of creation, the person’s decision cannot come from anything within thierself. By saying that a person’s decision happens outside of the constraints of causation, you have taken all the causal factors, all of which are subject to God’s determination, out of the equation. However, nothing is left except a decision without a cause. This spontaneous decision would not be in any way determined by God, but it would not be in any way determined by the person either. If the decision was traced to anything in the person, then it could be further traced to God; but if it cannot be traced to anything within the person, the persons fate is left to something outside of the person (a spontaneous choice that they did not determine). This would not be libertarian free will; it would be a blind occurance. God cannot give a supernatural gift to a person to do something that He cannot do, because it is truely impossible to make an uncaused effect. If a person makes the effect, then by definition, they caused it. If they caused it then God ultimately determined the effect since everything about the person is determined by God.

      Just another thought that I wanted to add. Thank you again for the discussion.

      God bless

    Godismyjudge

    Matt,

    Middle knowledge is part of a logical or explanatory priority rather than a temporal one. I hold to middle knowledge, but I don’t believe God has a temporally sequential thought process like we do. Rather, one aspect of God’s plan is the basis of and helps explain another aspect of God’s plan and thus it is logically prior. This is similar to the Calvinist in house debate between sub and supra lapsarians. One side says election comes before the fall the other after. But this is a logical priority rather than a temporal one.

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Matt

      Godismyjudge,

      As I stated in my first post, I am aware that molinists claim that God’s knowledge is ordered logically but not chronologically. However, to say that one part of His knowledge is the basis of another part does imply a thought process. It is hard to move past something that is an essential part of our minds as creatures of limited knowledge. God’s knowledge is perfect and true so it necessary that it all agrees. If any piece of His knowledge did not agree with another piece, then God would be mistaken about something and would not be omnicient. Perfect agreement of all knowledge is essential to omnicience. It does not mean that some parts are based on other parts. I also see the similarities between the molinist view and the infra or supralapsarian views sometimes spoken of amongst Calvinists. I would say that I tend to agree more with the infralapsarian view because all those elected are known as fallen creatures, but I will not say that knowledge of the fall is in any way a basis of any other knowledge such as who will or will not be elected.

      The more important point here is that, even if the molinist view of middle knowledge were true, it would not escape the necessary providence of God in all things. We all make decisions based on our desires which are determined by our natures and nurture. Nature refers to who we are born as. Different people have different dispositions from birth. They also have different physical features that will determine thier abilities and how others treat them. They also have different mental abilities, which may be traced to physical attributes within thier brains or whatever else. Nurture refers to a persons environment. there are many factors throughout a persons life that form who they are. Some of these factors are where a person is born. What religion they are raised in. Who thier parents are and how they treat them. Who they come into contact with and how those people treat them. Any external stimuli are considered nurture. People have debated the effects of nature and nurture for a long time, but both are beyond the control of the individual. We are born with certain features both physical and mental that we did not choose. We did not choose our parents or where we were born. Even our previous decisions before a certain point are the effects of our natures and nurtures up to that point and cannot truely be viewed as exercises of a libertarian will.

      Before creation God knew every aspect of every individual He would create, and He is the ultimate determiner of both nature and nurture for all people. So middle knowledge could only be knowledge of how specific individuals, who’s natures and nurtures are determined by God, would react given the nature God gave them and the circumstances He placed them in. Since all determining factors are determined by God, the highest degree of freedom that can be logically hoped for is a compatiblistic freedom.

      Calvinists point to our fallen natures, as revealed in scripture, as sufficient reason for all men to naturally reject God; but even if you want to deny the effects of the fall as being sufficient to cause all to reject God, all other possible causal factors weighing into the decision are determined by God also.

      In this way our decision concerning God is as free as our decision of what to have for dinner. We all choose to do what we want; but what we want is the result of who we are and what we have been through in life, which was determined by God in eternity.

      God bless

    Darryl Hill

    (Crickets)

    Here is my problem with libertarian free will…

    …even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will…

    When were the elect chosen? Before the foundation of the world.
    To what were we predestined? To adoption. Imagine the adopted giving praise to their “decision” to be chosen by God.
    Whose will factored into God’s decision? God’s free choice is the deciding factor.

    We sound like fools when we opt for our culture’s view rather than Scripture’s. Our culture demands to be in control of its own destiny- yet not one single person can control any of the contributing factors that have resulted in who they are.

    But God says this of himself in the same text I quoted above…

Chris Roberts

A four part response. First, a word on a biblical argument. Second, situations which challenge libertarian free will. Third, responses to some of the claims in Hunter’s post. Fourth, a look at the four stages of the human will.

First, on my own blog I have a rather lengthy biblical exposition as to why God must first change the heart before a lost sinner is able to respond. Why do I believe man is not free to desire God? Why do I believe the natural human will is never going to desire salvation? Because of the Bible. At Why God Must First Change the Heart I spell out the biblical argument. I wrote that post with the Statement in mind. As others in the comment thread have noted, Scripture should be the source of our thinking, and it’s not enough to focus only on the Scriptures that support our position – I want to know how the authors of the Statement deal with the many passages of the Bible that show complete human bondage to sin, a bondage which extends even to the will. We all know the Bible presents human beings with choices: the choice between sin and righteousness, good and evil, God and the world, etc, but we also know that isn’t the whole story; the Bible has more to say. I think the Calvinist system offers the best understanding of what the Bible teaches without avoiding any uncomfortable texts.

Second, a challenge situation. As I read Hunter’s post I kept thinking of real-world situations which challenge libertarian free will. If it is true “that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options)” then we might presume that this freedom is preserved in every instance. The Statement goes on to describe the use of our will in salvation, but began with the general claim that human beings have actual (libertarian) free will. Biblical objections aside (and they are legion), how does this deal with the many influences that hinder our ability to freely choose between two options? Biological factors are real – some people have genetic predispositions to certain behaviors which are sinful. Social factors are real – some people grow up in broken homes, surrounded by terrible examples of sin and depravity, and we see again and again that such examples breed similar behavior. Someone might respond that these individuals still retain the ability to choose, they must make their choice, but you must concede that the choice has been severely constrained, otherwise we wouldn’t see the vast majority of people growing up in “the hood” following the examples of those around them. If the full story of the human will was described in a passage like Deuteronomy 30:19, “I have set before you life and death,…” so that God ensures we freely choose between two options of equal weight, why do the vast majority chase after the sin of their environment? These are not mild influencers, these are corrupting, even coercive, behavior changers.

If my will has been heavily influenced by factors beyond my control, then to what degree am I truly free to choose between two options?

Third, a few responses.

“if the intention of Article 8’s affirmation is properly understood, the charge [that libertarian free will denies God’s sovereignty] has been laid to rest.”

The claim usually goes (and is written along these lines in the Statement), “God remains sovereign because it is through God’s sovereign authority that he has granted free will to man.” I understand and sympathize, but don’t find it compelling. Yes, God could perhaps sovereignly grant us libertarian free will, but were he to do so he would at that point no longer be sovereign. He would be saying, “In my final act of absolute sovereignty, I grant you freedom from my sovereign rule – you can do what you want. From here on, I will abide by your decisions, giving up my absolute authority.” This is not far from the claim of the open theists (not in their openness but in why they believe God could be omniscient yet not know the future): God has known everything but has chosen not to know what he had known. You are saying that God is sovereign, but has sovereignly chosen not to be sovereign – which results in him not being sovereign.

I daresay (or at least, I hope) even those affirming the Statement do not believe man always has libertarian free will, unless it is believed that prophecy is nothing more than God telling us what he has seen in the future. If God truly shapes history, if God truly brings about his will, if God truly accomplishes his purposes, then it is necessary for him – at least at times – to impose himself on human history in defiance of the human will. Jonah serves as one example: Jonah had made his will absolutely clear – he did not want to go to Nineveh. But God also made his will clear: Jonah was going to Nineveh, like it or not. One might argue that God still left it for Jonah to choose, but Jonah’s choice only came after God had already disrupted what Jonah had willed to do. The Bible has no shortage of similar examples. If it is the case that God at times imposes himself on the human will, then libertarian free will, as an absolute rule, fails. If it is not the case that God at times imposes himself on the human will, then we might as well become partial deists, worshiping a God who might be active in human affairs but is powerless to shape them to his will. If we cannot insist that we always have libertarian free will, then on what basis can we be sure that we ever have it? And if we cannot insist that God will, at least at times, impose himself on us, then how can we have any assurance that God will ultimately be triumphant? And what of judgment? Does judgment mean there comes a time when God chooses to no longer respect the desires of the human will? Certainly no one desires Hell, yet God casts people there against their will.

“The denial “that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person,” means that although God is responsible for the salvific work and offer, man is responsible for receiving or rejecting the gift.”

Thank you for clearly demonstrating that the Statement is synergistic.

“That is to say, man has freedom to exercise his will in accordance with his desires, but he has no control over those desires.”

I’d prefer a little more specificity: man has the freedom to do what he wants, but his wants are corrupted by sin and always lead him into sin. Because we are fallen, because we are depraved, we will always delight to do evil and will never seek to do that which is truly pleasing in the sight of God.

“To say that man is free to do what he wants, but not free to want what he wants, is to say that man is not genuinely free to make undetermined choices.”

I understand the dilemma, but it is a dilemma we have created for ourselves. God created us free, we chose to sin, we brought corruption, we gouged out our own eyes and cut off our own ears. We are the cause of our disability, we fashioned our chains, we secured the shackles around our wrists, we placed ourselves in bondage and freely chose to give up choice. We are responsible for our condition, and God remains just.

“William Lane Craig asserts”

As an aside, Craig’s Molinism (not mentioned in your quote, but still relevant due to Craig) is no solution to the problem. In Molinism, man’s will and God’s sovereignty are reconciled by God’s complete knowledge of counterfactuals, such that God knows the exact circumstances which will lead to the result he desires. This implies two significant things: (1) God knows how to get us to do what he wants us to do, so how is our will actually free? And (2) the end result is God desiring us to do what we do – this actually gives God greater responsibility for human sin, for God is the one who orchestrates things in just such a way that it brings about our actions. Sin is not a consequence of a nature we corrupted by our free choice, it is a result of God’s orchestration. God winds up the watch in such a way that it ticks the way he desires, but then he steps back to let it do what it will, though what it will is what he wants it to will and what he has ensured it will will.

But I digress.

“Since Scripture so frequently gives the impression that man is not only free, but responsible, the text seems to support some version of libertarian freedom.”

Scripture does not imply freedom, but it does show responsibility. We are responsible for our choices, and have been since our first parents made the choice to disobey and brought sin and death into the world. That God calls us to make a choice implies nothing more than we are called to make a choice – it says nothing about our ability. What we find about our ability is that, yes, God created us with the ability to desire both good and evil but we gave up that ability at the fall.

“Worse still, he is punished for choosing “A” rather than “C” when, in fact, only “A, B, and D” were available to him.”

Except this is not the case – all choices are available, even if the individual will never choose some of them. He is free and capable of stretching out his hand and grabbing A, B, C, or D. His choice is not limited by the fact that he will always freely choose to grab D. The offer is genuine, the command is genuine, the response is put in our hands, and we freely act in accordance with our nature.

“Two possible reasons for the general call come into view.”

The third option makes the most sense: God desires the salvation of all people, so God offers salvation to all people. (I already know one objection to what I’ve said – I’ll come back to it, though you probably already know what I will say!) God in his grace and mercy has offered salvation to all. He does not have to offer salvation to any, but by his grace he extends salvation to everyone. His offer is consistent with the beings he created: we were created capable of desiring such an offer. That we corrupted ourselves does not weaken the goodness of his offer. But God shows himself even more gracious when he overcomes our inability to make salvation a certainty for some. Why some and not all? I don’t altogether know, though I’ll offer one option in a moment. I do know the better question is, why any? We are too quick to say, “That’s not fair!” when we should be far quicker to say, “I can’t believe he would save anyone!”

Back to the objection. God desires to save all. How can a Calvinist believe (1) God desires to save all, (2) God could save all, and (3) not all are saved? The question cuts both ways: how can the non-Calvinist believe the same three principles? The non-Calvinist answer is that God respects the human will and does not want his followers to be robots. He wants humans to choose to love him by a free act of the will. In other words, even greater than God’s desire to save everyone is God’s desire for human freedom. Yes, the non-Calvinist says, God wants all to be saved and God could save everyone, but God desires their free response even more than he desires their salvation. Thus God has two desires: his lesser desire is to save everyone, his greater desire is to preserve human freedom.

The Calvinist answer is similar. Why doesn’t God save everyone? Because despite his lesser desire that he save everyone, his greater desire is for the full manifestation of his character: both his grace and his justice. Though he is not the cause of human sin, our sin – which he is just to punish – still serves an ultimate and good end of demonstrating either God’s mercy when we are forgiven or his wrath when we are judged. Those who think this position is harsh have not understood the greatness of God’s grace, the severity of our sin, the justice of God’s judgment, or the majesty of God’s glory. For lots more, see John Piper’s Are There Two Wills In God.

Fourth, the four stages of the human will.

First stage, God created Adam and Eve with both the ability to do good or evil and the ability to desire good or evil. They had complete libertarian free will: absolute freedom to choose between two options.

Second stage, Adam and Eve fell into sin and corruption. They retained the ability to do good or evil but lost the ability to desire good, the will being so completely corrupted that its only intention was always evil continually. This has been the default condition of humanity ever since.

Third stage, in Christ we become something new: we have the ability to do good or evil and once again have the ability to desire good or evil, but now we have the battle between the flesh (our sinful nature) which desires evil and the Spirit who leads us to desire good. The struggle is then to walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. The Bible describes this as a battle within each individual believer, a fight between what I used to be and what God has made me to be.

Fourth stage, in glorification we find our greatest state. We continue to have the ability to do good or evil, but we will lose the ability to desire evil. Having shed the sinful flesh, and being bound by the Spirit, our every desire will be for good. This is why we can look forward to an eternity of the joys of paradise.

Two observations based on these four stages.

First, the loss of our ability was something we brought on ourselves. God created us with the ability to desire both good and evil, and he crafted his laws according to what he had made. It does not negate God’s justice when he continues to command us to do what we were created to do, even when we have caused ourselves to lose the ability to desire obedience. God created us to obey, we cast off our desire for obedience. God remains just to demand of us what we will never want to do.

Second, where does libertarian free will fit in eternity? If we have libertarian free will but are inclined toward sin because of the flesh, what will happen in eternity? Will we return to the state of Adam and Eve? Will it be possible for the fall to happen once again? How can we be sure of eternal paradise if we forever retain the ability to desire good and evil? Or, if we do not have such freedom of desire in eternity, why insist that we have it now?

Time for bed.

    Randy Everist

    “If it is true “that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options)” then we might presume that this freedom is preserved in every instance.”

    Why think this? Many, if not most, proponents of libertarian free will would not agree. Dr. Keathley, for one, would say that so long as character-forming choices are free in the libertarian sense, man can be said to have libertarian free will. In fact, well-known philosopher Thomas Flint has argued (successfully, in my view) that if even one act is performed according to libertarian free will, we live in a libertarian universe. Moreover, there is the issue of “soft” libertarianism and “hard” libertarianism; the former does not always require an alternative act or option, but merely the ability to refrain from performing that action. Perhaps it is the case that some actions are of the soft kind of libertarianism and others are not; how can we assume, without argument, a uniform hard libertarianism for all acts?

      Chris Roberts

      Randy,

      I was mostly interacting with what the Statement said, while recognizing that it is certainly not a comprehensive argument on the will. But given the language of Article Eight (and what Hunter says in his discussion), humans have libertarian freedom and are particularly expected to exercise it with regards to salvation. No clarification was offered as to whether or not we have libertarian freedom in every instance or what it looks like in particular circumstances (is it two opposing options, or is it a choice between doing and refraining, etc).

    Braxton

    There is much that I find to be either a misunderstanding of the arguments (or scripture) in your blog post. However, I do appreciate that you took the time and did engage the data on its own terms. Your blog was thought provoking and I enjoyed it. Since I don’t have the time to respond to every line of this lengthy blog, I will point out the biggest problem I see. You claimed that if God had given man libertarian free will, it would have detracted from his sovereignty in some unclear way. Yet, you then said toward the end of your blog that God indeed gave Adam and Eve genuine libertarian free will. This seems like a flat contradiction in your post. Thanks for posting though.

    update: I see you did change the wording before posting here, so that it now reads that Adam and Eve had the ability to choose between good and evil. However, I’m glad you saw this contradiction in your thinking. What you have done though, and I say this with love and frustration, is change the terminology with the intent of keeping the meaning. This is what I find so difficult about discussing this with SOME Calvinists. In order for the system to work, words are redefined or replaced so that it is either less clear or in favor of compatibilism. After all, if what Adam and Eve had was not libertarian freewill or compatibilism or determinism then what was it? Clearly, it was what you rightly said in your blog and changed for this post, Libertarian free will.

    I think you have done a good job in trying to defeat this, but on the basis of what I’ve just said, I think it fails.

      Chris Roberts

      Braxton,

      I think Dan, in a later comment, has made a good distinction between the two arguments at play: we are not simply discussing sovereignty and determinism, etc, we are also discussing total depravity. On the level of depravity, Adam and Eve had uncorrupted wills capable of desiring either good or evil. That ability was lost due to their own sin.

      On the level of sovereignty, it is more difficult to be specific because God has not revealed to us how his sovereignty is reconciled with our responsibility. Calvinists have proposed compatibilism as a way to describe some of the inner workings, but even compatibilism does not resolve the problem. What I like about compatibilism is that it ultimately doesn’t attempt to resolve what God has not revealed: it upholds both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility on the basis of the fullness of Scripture, but does not try to go beyond Scripture to figure out how these work. But when an argument tries to reconcile the two by arguing that God in some sense limits his sovereignty, we have gone beyond the Bible’s teachings, have entered the realm of speculation, and wind up limiting God’s sovereignty by arguing for his self-limiting.

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

Consider a man who beats his wife, sexually abuses both his daughters and sons, steals from and abuses his parents and subsequently dies without confession of sin, without remorse for his brutality, without repentance and without asking for the mercy of God. The compatibilist claims each one of these events is God’s will because God’s sovereignty requires complete determinism of all things; God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. The man may think he is acting freely but he is actually executing a sinister puppet dance, with God pulling the strings from behind His transcendence. However, the man is fully responsible for his second-cause sins since they were executed willingly.

The Traditional Baptist claims not one of these sins was God’s will and God grieves deeply over each of them. Each sin represents a free will decision by a first-cause agent and is contrary to God’s will. God permits, within limits and for a time, the consequences of rebellion but He is deeply grieved by the evil world in which we live. The Traditional Baptist believes the Calvinist concept of compatibilism is actually incompatible with God’s attributes of holiness, justice, goodness and truth and with the clear teaching of Scripture:

•If God credits the unsaved with second-cause sins then, in conflict with Scripture (Eph 2:8-10), He would credit the saved with second-cause good works.
•A just God would not hold a man responsible for a sin which God made him commit.
•If salvation were simply a matter of God exercising His free-will, then a good God would save all men.
•The idea that free will can be exercised by a second-cause agent is logical nonsense. Free will can only be exercised by a first-cause agent. Consequently, the thesis (determinism by God is free-will by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b). Such a statement is called a paradox.

For most of us, it is moral and ethical character and not skilled intimidation that elicits praise. What is truly praiseworthy about God’s sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could. Perhaps the greatest testimony to God’s sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him.

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter or energy can be outside the continual control of God or we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will be fulfilled; it is beyond the wisdom and power of God to create something that He does not meticulously control. The Traditional Baptist responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation. It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control. What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so? In fact, the denial that God can self limit the use of His Own power if He so chooses constitutes a denial of divine sovereignty.

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. McLaughlin,

    You said:

    The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter or energy can be outside the continual control of God or we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will be fulfilled; it is beyond the wisdom and power of God to create something that He does not meticulously control. The Traditional Baptist responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation.

    The Word of God says:

    Heb 1:2 …in these last days God has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world…3 and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

    And God’s Word also says:

    Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

    Soli Deo Gloria

      Randy Everist

      That’s right, but it ignores a crucial point: he works all things *according to the counsel of his will*. This world exists from God’s will, but it is simply wrong (both morally and logically) to then infer that God has willed each individual part because he has willed the whole.

        Randall Cofield

        Hi Randy,

        Brother, I was responding to Dr. McLaughlin’s contention that God does not control the whole of creation.

        I simply offered the Word of God in response, and did not make the inference to which you refer.

        Peace.

          Darryl Hill

          Yes all you did was post Scripture and his argument with it betrays the true flaw in the concept of “libertarian free will.”

          What might be most ironic on this point is that I don’t think “most” Baptists would agree that man has libertarian free will as is being defined here. Yet the traditionalists in this instance can count on the fact that Hollywood, not Scripture, has in large part shaped the thinking of the Baptist masses in regard to free will and demanding the right to control one’s own destiny.

Shane Dodson

“Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34)

Do human beings commit sin? Then they are enslaved to sin.

    volfan007

    Shane,

    Of course they’re enslaved to sin….and only Jesus can set that man free…only Jesus can set the prisoner free.

    David

      Shane Dodson

      “Of course they\’re enslaved to sin…”

      So much for libertarian free will.

      The will is enslaved to sin.

        Randy Everist

        If libertarian free will does not exist, then you could not help but affirm it does not exist, and I cannot help but affirm it does exist. But then, neither of us are acting rationally (per C.S. Lewis).

        volfan007

        Shane,

        Being a slave to sin does not mean that we are incapable of responding to God. Sin dominating the heart of man does not mean that man cannot respond to the calling and the convicting of the Holy Spirit.

        David

          Randall Cofield

          Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.

          Shane Dodson

          “Being a slave to sin does not mean that we are incapable of responding to God.”

          So our capability of responding to God is NOT enslaved by sin…but every other area of our life and thinking IS enslaved by our sin?

Jacob Hall

If you try to make an argument for a theological belief using only philosophy and not exegeting Scripture, you’re gonna have a bad time.

    Braxton

    The only scriptural data necessary to understand what I am saying is that God holds man responsible for sinful choices. Are you unaware of this teaching? I can’t imagine you disagree with it. I referred to the fact that this was made on the basis of the scriptures sited, and I sited more in the comments thread. As others have said, why don’t you deal with what was said, and not what was not said.

      Ross

      “The only scriptural data necessary to understand what I am saying is that God holds man responsible for sinful choices.”

      Since God holds unbelievers accountable for breaking His Law, that means they have the ability to keep His Law. Is this what you are saying?

    volfan007

    Jacob,

    Do you honestly believe that the men and women, who’ve signed this document, have NOT studied the Bible in an exegetical manner? I mean, you’re really coming across as implying that Traditional Baptists have not done any exegesis of Scripture to come to their beliefs. I’m not sure if you mean to come across that way, but you are. And, if you are, then how can you seriously think that???? About Seminary Presidents and Professors???? About Pastors with Doctors degrees???? I mean, c’mon, Dude.

    I’m not a theologian….I’m a simple redneck that God saved out of a sinful life… But Brother, I study the Bible. I’ve been studying the Bible for a long, long time…many, many years. I have not come to my conclusions lightly. And, even for someone like me…I find your insinuations insulting.

    David

      Darryl Hill

      David I think this argument has been made multiple times since this whole thing came out and it is an appeal to authority, which is a logical fallacy. It matters not what these people thought or believed when signing. It doesn’t even matter that they have more degrees than a thermometer. This is not an answer. It is a distraction from the actual discussion and a fallacy.

      I would also add that most of them didn’t see this particular article when they signed and that “libertarian free will” wasn’t explicit in the original document.

        volfan007

        Darryl,

        These men and women, who signed this document, base thier beliefs on the Bible. It’s from years of studying the Scriptures. Our ONLY authority is the Word of God. It’s not Augustinian philosophy; John Calvin; John Wesley; or Piper. It’s the Word of God that is our sole authority.

        David

Mike Morris

A New Testament Example of Libertarian Free Will: Mark 10:17-23

The rich, young ruler “came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?'” (NKJV)

He was obviously under conviction; he knew that something was lacking. He had outwardly obeyed the commandments but had not completely surrendered his life in repentance and faith. Jesus made it clear that righteousness apart from God is impossible.

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!'”

The rich, young ruler had an opportunity to be saved, but he made the wrong libertarian freewill choice. Jesus indeed loved him but didn’t regenerate him. If regeneration precedes repentance and faith in logical order, why didn’t Jesus regenerate this man that He loved? If Jesus did regenerate him, why did the man refuse to surrender every part of his life? Most Calvinists believe that regeneration occurs at the same temporal moment as repentance and faith but that it precedes repentance and faith in logical order.

    volfan007

    Wow, leave it up to Mike Morris to come in swinging with the knockout punch….this is great stuff, Brother. What you’ve said today is mighty fine.

    BTW, are you the Mike Morris, who likes Bozo BBQ?

    David

      Mike Morris

      I be he.

        volfan007

        I thought so. We need Bozo’s BBQ….do we not? But alas, you’ve moved to Texas, where they dont know what good BBQ is. :)

        David

          Mike Morris

          Next time I’m in West Tennessee, we need to meet at Bozo’s!

    Randall Cofield

    But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

    That his “libertarian free will” was hopelessly enslaved to riches does seem to arise from the text…doesn’t it? :-)

    Soli Deo Gloria

      Mike Morris

      Are you implying that Jesus was asking the rich, young ruler to do something that the young man could not do at that point in time? If so, why could the young man not do it? Was it because Jesus did not regenerate him? If so, why did Jesus not regenerate him? Jesus loved him, did He not?

        Randall Cofield

        Hi Mike,

        I don’t see where Jesus *asked* the young man to do anything. The RYR asked what to do to inherit eternal life.

        Jesus put His finger on the very thing that enslaved the RYR…riches. *Told* him to dump them and follow Him.

        The RYR went away sorrowful. Couldn’t bring himself to “choose” Jesus instead of riches.

        All this accords perfectly with Ro. 1:10-19.

        It is obvious that Jesus loved this RYR, but one would be hard pressed to make a case that He loved him the same way He loved Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus.

        Grace and Peace, brother

          Mike Morris

          Okay, let me make sure that I understand your argument. I don’t want to build a strawman. My impression is that your argument is as follows:

          1. The RYR wanted to know what to do to inherit eternal life.

          2. Jesus offered the RYR a choice: Choose to follow Jesus or choose to keep the riches.

          3. The young man, however, was unable to choose Jesus because Jesus did not regenerate him. The RYR was still enslaved by his riches.

          4. Jesus regenerated Saul but did not regenerate the RYR. Even though he loved the RYR with agape love, He loved Saul in a different way.

          I am correctly understanding you?

Norm Miller

A distinction needs to be made that should guide all involved in these seemingly endless threads, some of which contain verbiage apparently contrary to how the Lord’s Words instructs us all to regard our speech and our brothers.
The distinction is whether participants are interested more in debate rather than discussion. Anyone exposed to classical debate principles will readily see this distinction.
Debaters take a position, pro or con, and must employ both defense and/or offense effectively to win the day.
Those who discuss, however (esp. God’s children), must come to the table that has no “sides.” Let us say it is a round table, not rectangular, with the former being preferred by discussionists, and the latter, debaters.
If we all view the table as rectangular, i.e., having sides, then how shall we reach each others’ hearts, minds and hands?
If we all view the table as round, then the symbolism of that is unity — at least on its face — and exemplifies that no one is taking a side, but that all come to the table in equal humility, believing that all others at the table have some truth to contribute that will expand and increase the corporate body of truth for all present.
Debate tactics continually foist the “us v. them” mentality, whereas the discussion approach creates an atmosphere of universal acceptance of others as siblings in Christ, and considers — absent of malice — all truth claims fairly.
Meekness would not be considered a desirable trait for debate team members, but is required of God’s children.
May God grant me the power and grace to practice what I preach.

Dominus caritas est,
Norm Miller

Chris Roberts

My rather lengthy comment is currently in moderation limbo (it included a couple external links). In the meantime, I also posted it at my blog: http://www.seektheholy.com/2012/06/26/do-we-have-libertarian-freedom-a-response/

    Braxton

    There is much that I find to be either a misunderstanding of the arguments (or scripture) in your blog post. However, I do appreciate that you took the time and did engage the data on its own terms. Your blog was thought provoking and I enjoyed it. Since I don’t have the time to respond to every line of this lengthy blog, I will point out the biggest problem I see. You claimed that if God had given man libertarian free will, it would have detracted from his sovereignty in some unclear way. Yet, you then said toward the end of your blog that God indeed gave Adam and Eve genuine libertarian free will. This seems like a flat contradiction in your post. Thanks for posting though.

      Chris Roberts

      Good point, I should have worded myself differently with regard to Adam and Eve. What I mean with them is they retained the ability to choose between good and evil, not that they had freedom to act outside the constraints of God’s will. One of the problems with the non-Calvinist view of God’s will is it essentially says that God sets aside his will, his plan in deference to the human will. It doesn’t just say man is free to choose between good and evil, it says man is free to choose between good and evil regardless of what God wills. That is what limits God’s sovereignty. I should have made that clearer.

      I’m curious what parts you felt were misunderstandings of mine. You were right about my contradiction here, but that was an error due to my failure to clarify myself. Are my other misunderstandings of this sort? I’m not inclined to trust the person who disagrees with me and simply says, “You are wrong!” :)

        Godismyjudge

        Chris,

        I read your post as well. I do think there are 2 main lines of arguments against LFW being presented; the first based on total depravity and the second based on God’s sovereignty (or perhaps determinism). It would perhaps be helpful to isolate the variables here.

        Let’s say a man cannot do good (i.e. both by nature and he lacks the necessary grace). Is it up to him to choose to either get drunk or yell at his wife? Or, given God has decreed he will get drunk, he will necessarily get drunk and he cannot yell at his wife?

        God be with you,
        Dan

          Chris Roberts

          Dan,

          Agreed, there are two arguments wrapped into this one discussion. On the level of depravity, I think Scripture has spoken. On the level of sovereignty, I think a lot is left in mystery.

          As for your example, it is hard to say, but one way God demonstrates his sovereignty is by restraining human wickedness. We are not as bad as we could be, so even our choice of sin is restrained by God’s grace.

          Godismyjudge

          Chris,

          “It’s a mystery” is a respectable approach, even though it effectively ends the conversation. I just thought you were hinting at determinism, given your comments on social and biological factors impacting our actions.

          For the record, I absolutely agree that we need God’s grace to be able to trust and obey Him. My reservations come when Calvinists demand that the only grace that would work must be irresistible. It’s kind of like me saying a door can be opened with an oil can and them saying no, it’s going to take a nuclear bomb. Either way the door can’t be opened, but why does it have to be nucked?

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Chris Roberts

          Dan,

          I believe the Arminian position could work, but I don’t believe the Arminian position is found in Scripture. So, I believe it is possible that God, through some form of prevenient grace, made it possible for us to desire good or evil despite the effects of sin, but I don’t see this position in Scripture. I also don’t see this position in the Statement – the Statement seems to claim that it is not necessary for God to first make it possible for us to desire good or evil, that we already retain that ability.

          Godismyjudge

          Chris,

          I assume you are talking about article 2’s statement “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will”. It does not deny our need for grace and I think it’s moreso targeted at the Calvinist idea that we could only respond to God if we were first regenerated or under irresistible grace.

          That may not be your view but I have heard many Calvinist reject resistible grace by saying it would not work – we require regeneration or irresistible grace.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Chris Roberts

          Sorry, I should have clarified myself again. :) I was responding to what you said: “My reservations come when Calvinists demand that the only grace that would work must be irresistible.”

          I believe saving grace is, in a sense, irresistible (not that we can never resist God’s grace, but that God’s grace is effectual when he determines to save a person), but I concede that the Arminian idea of grace is (1) logically possible, (2) takes depravity seriously, and (3) avoids any sort of irresistible grace – at least when it comes to how we respond to grace. But the Arminian notion fails since the Arminian notion is not found in Scripture.

          As for the Statement, it certainly does not deny the need for grace, but it does deny that grace must first change us before we are able to respond.

          Godismyjudge

          Chris,

          You may be a Calvinist, but I am afraid I am going to have to like you anyway.

          One sentence away from the famous “incapcitation denial” the statement denies sinners are saved apart from the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel. So by respond, we are not talking about the man up their preaching, but to the the Holy Spirit’s drawing on the heart. ‘Drawing’ is likely an allusion to John 6:44, and John 12:32 – texts commonly cited in support of prevenient grace. So unless the authors of the traditional view are using an abusive definition of drawing, they are saying we need God’s grace to be able to believe in Christ.

          That’s why I take the incapacitation statement as simply denying that irresistible grace is the only kind that would work. I will grant that article 2 would be more helpful if worded another way.

          God be with you,
          Dan

Donald

I find that I am uncomfortable with the term “Libertarian Free Will”. I can see how this model might be consistent with Article VIII but I do not see that it is required by the language of Article VIII. In fact, the totality of “Libertarian Free Will” goes beyond the subject of the document. We may be doing ourselves a disservice in our overuse of theological inferences.

Randall Cofield

Dr. Hunter,

You said:

Now this is not to say that man is not influenced by external stimuli. However, it is to say that he is able to transcend cause and effect.

The italicized portion of your statement above is fascinating to me. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it put precisely that way.

Would you have time to develop that statement from scripture for me so that I can better understand what you are saying?

Grace and Peace, brother.

Soli Deo Gloria

    Randall Cofield

    Dr. Hunter,

    Sorry. The “italicized” thing didn’t work out too well there. :-p I was referring to “he is able to transcend cause and effect.”

    Thanks for your time.

    Braxton

    Sure, I appreciate your genuine interest. I actually spelled this out in one of the above posts. I’m not sure who it was in response to, but I gave my reasons from logic, scripture and experience.

      Randall Cofield

      Dr. Hunter,

      I looked for it and failed to find it. This is the statement that I found interesting:

      You said:

      (man) “is able to transcend cause and effect.”

      I’ve spent a good deal of time looking at the cause/effect argument for the existence of God. I’ve developed my thinking on this point over several years, and I’ve found it to be a profoundly effective argument when witnessing to atheists.

      In short (as you no doubt know) God Himself is the only entity that can be said to be the “Uncaused Cause”). As such, He alone can be said to be utterly free from external influence–that is, “Transcendant.” I understand this to be an incommunicable attribute of God.

      Yet you have posited here that man, at least concerning the issue of salvation, is capable of transcending cause and effect. Following are only two passages of many that I would suggest contradict your conclusion:

      Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

      Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

      I think the thing that I find most startling about your statement is that if man is capable of transcending cause and effect, then not only are we not dependent upon God (at least at whatever point we can be “transcendent”), we are, at precisely that point, equal with God.

      From what passages of scripture did you derive your assertion?

      Soli Deo Gloria

        Braxton

        Here is the post where I discussed my view on this in more detail:
        Yet, I believe that the answer is that God gave man free will as a supernatural gift. Are “made in the image of God.” As he is able to create something from nothing , I believe he gave us the ability to do the same, in a certain sense, by transcending this system of cause and effect and making a truly free and undetermined choice. This is not really new. After all, no one is saying that animals have free will. We have always viewed this as being a special gift that God gave man, without which responsibility for evil would be a senseless idea. I believe that when scripture refers to men as judges or Elohim as it does in John 10:34, that it is referring to this special gift that is a truth about God that is likewise true in us. By the way, I’m not somehow elevating man to the status of God as others have charged us with here. I’m just saying that this must be one of the ways in which we are made in his image.

        –Now, I am quite familiar with the cosmological argument and you can see me use and defend it if you search “hunter Alvarez debate” on youtube. You can hear me use and defend it with an atheist on the debates page of my site, “braxtonhunter.com.” and you can hear me teach on it by searching “apologetics trinity Braxton hunter” on youtube.com. I am not saying that man transcends cause and effect in the way you are describing. If I was unclear on that, I apologize. What I mean is that because our Lord is knocking on his heart’s door, man is able to supernaturally rise above the mere influences of his surroundings and flesh to make a genuine libertarian freewill choice. Notice, that being made in the image of God, being a spiritual/physical being (substance dualism) and having God’s activity present in the offer of salvation to all are all central issues here. Secondly, even if I were saying something kin to what you are describing, most cosmological arguments have a premise that has wording like “everything that begins to exist must have a cause for its existence.” In such a case we are talking about a physical cause and effect (either for the effect or both the cause and the effect). I am talking about a supernatural event involving the SPIRIT of a man and the SPIRIT of God. Thus, no damage is done to the cosmological argument for God’s existence.

        To conceptualize what I am referring to in simple terms. It is something like realizing that option “C” is available when all you have ever known, and all that nature affords you is “A,B and D.”

        Godismyjudge

        Randal,

        “In short (as you no doubt know) God Himself is the only entity that can be said to be the “Uncaused Cause”). As such, He alone can be said to be utterly free from external influence–that is, “Transcendant.””

        I think two ideas put some space between libertarian free will and God’s creating the world out of nothing. The first is the idea that we depend on God for our very existence. God not only creates us but He keeps us in existence. Thus we depend on God even if we have LFW – in a way the preserves the uncaused cause argument.

        Second, consider the difference between a necessary and a sufficient cause. X is a necessary cause of Y if without X, Y cannot happen, but with X, Y may or may not happen. X is a sufficient cause of Y if given X, Y always happens. If we are free in a libertarian sense, our actions don’t have sufficent causes. Nothing determines or causally necessitates our actions. However, we do have many necessary causes, such as desires or motives or reasons… If we don’t desire something at all we can’t choose it, but if we do desire it, we may or may not choose it. So while our choices are free from sufficient causes they are not free from necessary causes. However, God’s creation was free from both necessary and sufficient causes. So you can have the uncaused cause argument with libertarian free will.

        God be with you,
        Dan

          Randall Cofield

          GodismyJudge,

          You said:

          If we don’t desire something at all we can’t choose it, but if we do desire it, we may or may not choose it.

          The philosophy and logic appear quite sound.

          So…..

          The Apostle Paul said:

          Ro 3:11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.

          So we are in agreement…man cannot choose God because he does not desire God…..right? :-)

          Peace, brother

          Soli Deo Gloria

          Godismyjudge

          Randal,

          Speaking for myself, yes that’s right. Man, without God’s grace does not desire to believe and therefore cannot believe without grace. (John 6:44, 15:5, Romans 8:7) However, the goodness of God leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4) and the Cross draws us to Him (John 12:32). Calvinism has God treating disabled men as if they were able. I see scripture teaching that God does not leave us in the state.

          That’s part of the reason I was telling Chris above that I take the TS’s denial of incapacitation as a sort of total incapacitation, such that only regeneration or irresistible grace would help us. I used the analogy of saying a door can be opened with an oil can and them someone else saying no, it’s going to take a nuclear bomb. Either way the door can’t be opened, but why does it have to be nucked?

          When the TS first came out there was a lot of fuss about article 2, but many of the clarifications that came out made it clear that the necessity for grace was not being denied.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Godismyjudge

          Randal (and Chris if you see this),

          I have been arguing that the type of incapacitation that the TS denies is one found within Calvinism. Here’s a fairly clear example of what I have in mind:

          “If man can come to Christ apart from irresistible grace then he cannot be totally depraved by definition.”

          http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2009/12/molinism-five-points-reconcilable.html

          If something like this was the target of the TS’s denial, one can see why the TS is in line with the idea that we cannot save ourselves and need the Holy Spirits drawing (things it says in other places).

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Randall Cofield

          GodismyJudge,

          I’m not quite sure I’m following you.

          Are you contending that we are unable to *choose* God in our native falleness, but that God, by grace, brings us to a state of being able to choose, at which point we have the capacity to either accept or reject Him?

          Grace and Peace

          Godismyjudge

          Randall,

          Yes. I am saying some other things to; but I am saying that without God’s grace we cannot believe in Christ and be saved.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Randall Cofield

          GodismyJudge,

          So…we’re dead in sin (Eph.2) and unable to choose God…but God “makes us alive” (Eph.2) so that we can make a “free will” choice for or against him…but if we reject Him we return to being spiritually dead?

          How does that work?

          Grace and Peace

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

If I was a “seeker” reading these blog posts over the past couple of weeks I might conclude the SBC was a sort of bi-polar collection of chest thumping zealots who are split on what they claim is a fundamental cornerstone of their own theology, the salvation of the human soul. A little research would show we not only have Traditional Baptist beliefs and zero to 7 point Calvinism but we also have universalism and chrislam. Is it any wonder that seekers are flocking to Joseph Prince, Joel Osteen, various Pentecostal and Charismatic groups and even groups we have historically called cults.

Does anyone really believe the “10 Traditional Baptist statements on soteriology” can be replaced with “10 statements of consensus accord” which will be embraced by both sides of the debate and bring us all together in peace and unity? If so, perhaps someone could rephrase “Article 8: The Free Will of Man” in a way that unites Traditional Baptists and Calvinists.

    Darryl Hill

    It would be very simple Dr M. I’m no tenured theologian but I could write one that we could all agree on. You simply need not get into the minutiae of it all. Focus on the big picture and we could agree.

    Let me rephrase … I could choose to love my brothers and cooperate with them in harmony. You, on the other hand, have made it abundantly clear that your preference is to fracture the SBC. And again I say that I thank God you do not speak for those who wrote the original statement.

      Darryl Hill

      By the way the Baptist faith and message does this very thing and we all agreed to it.

        Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

        Is this the part of the BF&M that you would like to submit as a “consensus accord” replacement for Article 8: The Free Will of Man? “God’s kind plan does not deny the free will of man. God’s plan includes all the ways to accomplish this.” If so, what exactly does this mean?

    BroKen

    I have a great idea. Why don’t we throw this so-called “traditional” statement of belief out the window and use this instead: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?” It makes no difference if I think that the “whosoever” are those whom the Lord has chosen before the foundation of the world and called to himself, and you think whosoever is every person on the planet – the truth of the Scripture is that whenever anyone by faith believes the gospel and trusts in Jesus as Lord and Savior, that person is saved. Why don’t we all unite at that common point and spend our time sharing the gospel instead of “witch hunting?”

rhutchin

If I understand the Statement’s affirmation and Dr. Hunter’s defense, then it denies the Calvinist concept of Total Depravity. Thus, a person’s “free will” was granted to man at the creation and not vacated by Adam’s sin. Before and after Adam’s sin, a person is able to consider salvation and make a reasoned decision to accept or reject that salvation because he has the ability to do so via a free will. It would have made sense for the authors of the statement to just say this directly. They could then have focused the argument on the condition of man after Adam’s sin and have addressed more profitably those Scriptures that Calvinists use to support Total Depravity (as some have cited in the comments).

The issue here is not really free will but whether the Scriptures describe man as Totally Depraved [recognizing that the term is not found in the Bible but was coined to summarize that which is said in those verses speaking to the spiritual condition of people]. If a person is Totally Depraved, then there is no free will argument (at least, not as we find expressed so far).

    Mark Morrison

    The Bible goes on step further than to simply say totally depraved but that you are dead ! Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; This was why Jesus said “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He explains it as follows “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

    Mark Morrison

      Roof

      Jesus is so beautiful. that is refreshing to read.

Eric Simmons

I possess no degrees in theology, I haven’t published any essays or works that can be cited or checked for scriptural accuracy. God gave us the gift of logic. He gave us his Word in the Bible, yet our ability to truly understand the depth and breadth of God’s omniscience and/or his sovereignty will always be limited. If the Bible was written in a mathematical formula that eventually revealed answers to our questions in a solvable code it would be an even greater mystery and quite frustrating to most. But He chose to give us an escape from certain damnation.

Why can’t I look at the creation and ultimate end of mankind as a book, God as the author? He knows how the book will end, but allows us to write our own chapters. In so doing, we make choices along the way that ultimately decide where we will spend eternity. He wills (not commands) that all mankind will accept his gift of salvation and He grieves all those that do not.

On one hand, you can say that man did not deserve saving. God commanded that we deserved saving, evidenced by the sacrifice of his only begotten son. The intent is clear to me as well as the extent of this sacrifice. The intent is admission of man into Heaven. The extent includes all mankind. It requires a choice. This choice requires a confession that you individually will forever be separated from God for eternity if you do not choose Him over the world.

Eric Simmons

Sorry for that previous post. Kind of disjointed, banged it out on a smart phone at 2 am I couldn’t proof read it very well.

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