Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: Toward a Baptist Soteriology
Part 2: Philosophical Presuppositions
about Freedom and Determinism

April 10, 2012



Eric Hankins is the Pastor of First Baptist, Oxford, Mississippi


Editor’s Note: Today’s post is the second of a four-part series by Eric Hankins attempting to frame Baptist soteriology in a different structure than comparing it to Calvinism and Arminianism. In the first article, Hankins contrasted individual election as a key Biblical Presupposition in Calvinism and Arminianism with corporate election in a Baptist soteriology. In this article he contrasts the Philosophical Presuppositions of Calvinism (The “Problem” of Determinism and Free-Will) and that of a Baptist soteriology (“The Freedom of God and the Free-Will of People”).


The Philosophical Presupposition of Calvinism:
The “Problem” of Determinism and Free-Will

Like Calvinism and Arminianism, the 2,500-year-old debate concerning the “problem” of determinism and free-will has also reached an impasse. This is because absolute causal determinism is untenable.[1] Put simply, the “problem” is not a problem because the paradigm for causation in the Western philosophical tradition is wrong. The whole of reality cannot be explained in terms of uni-directional causation from a single first-principle. The universe does not work that way. Causation is complex, hierarchical, and interdependent. God sits sovereignly and non-contingently atop a hierarchy that owes its existence to the functioning of the levels below it, levels that include the fully operational free-will of humans.[2] Opposing God’s sovereign guidance of the universe and the operation of free-will within that universe is a false dichotomy based on reductionistic metaphysical assumptions. God has made a free and sovereign decision to have a universe in which human free-will plays a decisive role. Human agency is one force among many that God has created to accomplish His cosmic purposes.

Free-will plays a unique role within God’s purposes for the universe because it is the unique power of human beings freely to enter into covenant relationships, especially a covenant relationship with God. This makes human willing fundamentally moral. Under certain circumstances, God, in His freedom, contravenes free-will, just as He is free to contravene any other force in nature, but this is not His normal modus operandi. Because God is God, He knows all of the free acts of humans from eternity, but this knowledge does not cause these acts nor does it make Him responsible for them. Moreover, the existence of these acts in no way impinges upon either His freedom or His ability to bring about His ultimate purposes. The ability of humans “to do otherwise” does not call God’s sovereignty into question; it actually establishes and ratifies His sovereignty over the particular universe that was His good pleasure to create. Opposing free-will and sovereignty is, from a philosophical perspective, nonsensical.[3]

Calvinism’s desire to protect God’s divine status from the infringement of human free-will by denying it completely or reducing it to some form of “soft-determinism”[4] is unnecessary. God’s corporate elective purposes are accomplished by individual free acts of faith. Arminianism’s need to inject ideas such as God’s election of individuals based on their future free acts is also a move designed to maintain both a strong view of God’s sovereignty and the free choice of individuals. Unfortunately, this move is made at the expense of any regular understanding of biblical election, which is unilateral. God does not choose Israel because He knows she will choose Him in return. He chooses her even though He knows that her history will be one of rebellion and failure. Moreover, Arminianism’s desire to protect the inviolability of free-will to the degree that God cannot keep His promise to seal a believer’s free response fails to take seriously the totality of the biblical concept of faith.

Many Baptists have tended to opt for what they think is a “compatibilist” understanding of determinism and free-will in salvation: God chooses individuals unconditionally, and individuals choose God by faith.[5] Unfortunately, compatibilism demands a deterministic view of both God and free-will with which those same Baptists would be very uncomfortable. What these Baptists really want to say is that a “determinist” view of God is compatible with a “libertarian” view of free-will, but this is philosophically impermissible. Another typical strategy of Baptists, at this point, is to appeal to “mystery” or “paradox:” We don’t know how God chooses individuals, and, at the same time, individuals choose God. But, like other complex doctrines such as the Trinity or the hypostatic union, it is still true. To say, however, that God chooses individuals unconditionally and that He does not choose individuals unconditionally is not to affirm a mystery; it is to assert a logical contradiction. Baptists need to abandon the language of compatibilism and “mystery,” which do not adequately reflect what they believe about God and salvation, and embrace the concept that a robust (soft-) libertarian free-will is the actualization of God’s sovereign direction of His universe.

The Philosophical Presupposition in a Baptist Soteriology:
The Freedom of God and the Free-Will of People

The manner in which biblical faith functions in creation is this: God sovereignly and freely made a universe in which the free-will of humans plays a decisive role in His ultimate purposes for that universe (Rom. 10:9-10). Without free-will, there is no mechanism for the defeat of sin and evil, no mechanism for covenant relationship, no mechanism for a world-changing, world-completing partnership between God and His people. For Baptists, faith has never been something that occurs without our willing. We deny that people’s eternal destinies have been fixed without respect to a free-response of repentance and faith. We preach that the decision of each individual is both possible and necessary for salvation.

It has been typical of Baptists to believe that anyone who reaches the point of moral responsibility has the capacity to respond to the gospel. While all persons are radically sinful and totally unable to save themselves, their ability to “choose otherwise” defines human existence, including the ability to respond to the gospel in faith or reject it in rebellion. God initiates the process; He imbues it with His Spirit’s enabling. When people respond in faith, God acts according to His promises to seal that relationship for eternity, welding the will of the believer to His own, setting the believer free by His sovereign embrace. Our assurance of salvation comes not from a “sense” that we are elect or from our persistence in holy living. Assurance comes from the simple, surrendered faith that God keeps every one of His promises in Christ Jesus.


[1] Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 93–99.

[2] Nancey Murphy, “Introduction and Overview,” in Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will, ed. Nancey Murphy, George F. R. Ellis, and Timothy O’Connor (Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2009), 2–3.

[3] C. S. Lewis, Yours, Jack: Spiritual Directions from C. S. Lewis, ed. Paul Ford (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 186. The word “nonsensical,” while a bit harsh, is chosen purposefully. I take my cue from Lewis: “All that Calvinist question–Free-Will and Predestination, is to my mind undiscussable, insoluble. . . . When we carry [Freedom and Necessity] up to relations between God and Man, has the distinction perhaps become nonsensical?”

[4] “Soft-determinism” is the view that humans are free to do what they desire most, but they are not free to choose what they desire. Since, “the good” is off the table as an object of desire (because of the Fall), “evil” is the only option left, and therefore, humans always “choose” to do evil because they cannot do otherwise. “Soft-libertarianism” (mentioned below) is the view that human freedom, while limited in many aspects by environment and prior choices, is still characterized by the ability, often at crucial moments, to choose between two live options for which the agent is responsible. For a more full discussion, see Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty, 63–79.

[5] This often expressed in the old saw that “Whosoever will may come” is written over the entry into heaven, but, once inside, the verse over the door reads, “You did not choose Me, but I have chosen you.”


These posts are adapted from Eric Hankins’s article “Beyond Calvinism and Arminianims: Toward a Baptist Soteriology,” published in the online Journal for Bapist Theology and Ministry, Spring 2011, Vol. 8, No. 1. It is reposted here with the permission of the author.

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Joshua

Eric,

You said: “To say, however, that God chooses individuals unconditionally and that He does not choose individuals unconditionally is not to affirm a mystery; it is to assert a logical contradiction.”

In light of this, how do you explain God’s “not choosing” the Amorites for salvation, and yet choosing Israel for salvation? Is this not an unconditional and particular love of a certain people to the exclusion of others?

    Eric Hankins

    Joshua,

    I figured you’d agree with that statement. The context of that sentence is the failure of many Baptists to understand what compatibilism really means. They want to combine a determist view of God with a libertarian view of free will. This is not possible, don’t you agree?

    The explanation for God “not choosing” the Amorites is a correct view of biblical election, God’s unilateral unconditional decision to have a people Himself (corporate election), of which His choice of Israel is part and parcel. I reject unconditional individual election, the idea that election means “God’s pretemporal choice to save some individuals and not others without respect to their response of faith.” God entered into a special covenant with Israel, but this did not mean that every individual Israelite was “in” against his will (Deut 29: 14-21). It also did not mean that every non-Israelite individual was “out,” thus the provisions in the Law for strangers and aliens.

      Bob Hadley

      Eric,

      I think there is also a unique aspect to the issue of choosing Israel over the Amorites as exampled and it is this: God created Israel to bring Christ in to the world who would be The Way, The Truth and The Life to the whole world (Jew and Gentile). So just as salvation in the individual is a process (justification and sanctification and then glorification), so was His bringing salvation to the world a process.

      Thoughts there?

      ><>”

        Eric Hankins

        Bob,

        Certainly, “progressive revelation” is at work. God’s dealings with Israel is part of his ultimate plan for revealing the fullness of the gospel at the proper time.

Resequitur

Erik, you said:

“The manner in which biblical faith functions in creation is this: God sovereignly and freely made a universe in which the free-will of humans plays a decisive role in His ultimate purposes for that universe (Rom. 10:9-10)”

Romans 10:9-10 reads

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

How does this negate the Compatibistic notion of free will (CFW) in support of the Libertarian notion (LFW) ?

It seems you have some familiarity with the CFW, as you defined it as

“God chooses individuals unconditionally, and individuals choose God by faith.”

But this is just a simple bumper sticker explanation, and the footnote provided is just another simple bumper sticker. For instance, you have the question “Why is something is what it is”, the CFW notion would say that God’s comprensive knowledge and will give the basis for man to make an intelligible choice, because it is in the mind of God that anything within creation holds together. How does ~CFW (the denial of CFW) answer that intelligibly within the bounds of Scripture.

Also the Reformed notion of paradox is does not necessitate an actual contradiction. It realizes the Creator/creature distinction, based on Isaiah 55:9

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

A paradox isn’t an actual contradiction, it is an apparent contradiction. An apparent contradiction can still make sense within Christian Theism. It’s only apparent, because God’s thinking is over and beyond ours, we can’t understand it as God understands it because we would have to be God. However, this doesn’t negate a true knowledge of who God is because He does stoop down, and reveal Himself to us. So there are mysterious aspects of Christianity, that the finite mind cannot fully understand.

    Eric Hankins

    Romans 10:9-10 indicates that confession and faith really matter. Obviously, there is more to say on the matter, but the consistent trajectory of NT soteriology is that “faith” is central, not election.

    I don’t have “some familiarity with the CFW.” I understand it as well as you do. I get it, and it’s internal logic is secure. What I reject are it’s presuppositions. For it to work, God has to be the cause of all things, including evil, and freedom is not the ability to do otherwise. You don’t have good answers for these charges, so you play the “paradox card/mystery card” which is mighty convenient. I just want you guys to own the implications of your system. What’s the problem with admitting, if God can do anything He wants, that He causes evil? Just admit that, if we are not the cause of our evil actions, the only “culprit” (Sproul, Jr.’s terminology) left is God.

      Les

      Eric,

      You ask, “What’s the problem with admitting, if God can do anything He wants, that He causes evil?”

      How are you using the word “cause?” Definition please.

      By the way, you say to Resequitur, “You don’t have good answers for these charges, so you play the “paradox card/mystery card” which is mighty convenient.”

      Poor ol’ dumb John Calvin on why God is not guilty,

      “But how it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author and approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance.”

      More when I have time. Thanks.

      Les

        Eric Hankins

        Les,

        John Calvin is not being dumb in your quote. He is playing the “paradox/mystery” card which, even then, was mighty convenient.

          Les

          Eric,

          I don’t know if you realize how arrogant you are coming across with that “paradox/mystery” card which, even then, was mighty convenient” kind of statement. But you are.

          It would be like me retorting, “Well, respected and godly theologians and pastors recognize mystery/paradox on this matter.”

          But anyway, you still didn’t answer my earlier, “How are you using the word “cause?” Definition please.”

          Thanks

          Eric Hankins

          Les,

          Let’s not get touchy; it really takes the fun out of this.

          I’m sorry, but I don’t care how old or revered you are, it doesn’t give you a free pass to appeal to mystery when the logical conclusions of your system don’t suit you.

          I’m using cause in the ordinary sense, to act in order to produce a result.

          Les

          Eric,

          I’m not touchy, really. I just wonder if you are aware how you come across. I would hope you would not want to even be perceived as arrogant or condescending.

          Anyway, the reason for the question about cause is due to theologians in discussion of the matter of evil sometimes use “cause” in a normal usage way which can often be thought of as a reason for blame. I think we all mostly think that way. “He caused the wreck.” We usually mean, “he is to blame for the wreck.” He is guilty.

          So in your saying that “God causes evil,” are you therefore assigning blame to God? That is, does God become guilty of sin in causing sin or evil in our Calvinistic view? I want to make sure that I understand what you are assigning to Calvinism.

          Thanks.

          Les

          Eric,

          It is not a cop out or trying to get a “free pass to appeal to mystery when the logical conclusions of your system don’t suit you.”

          Jesus fully God and fully man really makes no sense logically. Neither does our Triune God. Neither does creation from nothing. I suspect you appeal to mystery in at least some matters of theology, right?

          Les

          Eric Hankins

          Les,

          What I am saying is this: When one makes the statement, “God causes evil,” he is assigning moral responsibility for the evil to God. Now, I know Calvinists want to make the claim that God causes evil, but He is not responsible for it, and it is a mystery as to how this is so. I do not agree that (1) God can cause something without being responsible for it or (2) That the concept “mystery” can be used to describe (1). Unlike the Trinity and the hypostatic union, (1) is logically contradictory like a “square-circle” or a “married bachelor.”

      Resequitur

      “Romans 10:9-10 indicates that confession and faith really matter. ”

      Who said that it does not? You seem to be implying that in Reformed Christian Theism, confession and faith don’t matter, but that isn’t the case, we affirm that it is the means by which men are saved.

      “I don’t have “some familiarity with the CFW.” I understand it as well as you do.”

      I didn’t meant to indicate that you had little familiarity or anything of that nature, I just wanted to point you to maybe a clearer definition to give you an idea of how Calvinists approach the subject. Even within the SBC camp (which was Calvinistic in it’s roots).

      “I get it, and it’s internal logic is secure. ”

      But the following quote says otherwise:

      ” To say, however, that God chooses individuals unconditionally and that He does not choose individuals unconditionally is not to affirm a mystery; it is to assert a logical contradiction.”

      This is true, but this is not what the CFW position is, though it seems you have ran into some adherents that perhaps either implied this was the case or was confused. But we believe that God chooses men unconditionally, and that man’s will is compatible with God’s eternal plan, that is the mystery.

      “What I reject are it’s presuppositions. For it to work, God has to be the cause of all things, including evil, and freedom is not the ability to do otherwise.”

      I have a couple of problems with this

      1) The only definition of freedom which entails the “ability to do otherwise” is libertarian freedom. But neither God or man has this kind of freedom. God does not have the ability to lie, or sin. He doesn’t have the ability to be not God. His will is limited by His nature, and He is of Himself. Man’s relationship to God is derivative and dependent of God. This applies to man’s will as well. For man’s will to make any sense at all, it has to be seated in the all-comprehensive plan of God.

      2) As far as God being the cause of evil, if we are taking God at His Word, we have to affirm that God certainly did ordain good as well as evil, according to His foreknowledge (which isn’t simply knowing ahead of time when it’s used in Scripture) and eternal plan.

      “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isa 45:7)
      (Also note Paul is drawing from Isaiah 45:9, when he addresses his objectors in Romans 9:21)

      “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:23)

      Notice both the reference to God’s “definite plan” and foreknowledge. This involves not only the will of God in Christ Jesus, but also the will of God in the evil men who were instrumental in putting “crushing Him”. I’m sure you’ve heard of this argument before, but I’m not sure how you could reject the presuppositions, when a Reformed Christian would argue that He is presupposing the Triune God and His self-disclosure in Scripture.

      “. You don’t have good answers for these charges, so you play the “paradox card/mystery card” which is mighty convenient.”

      1) I don’t have all of the answers, but 2,000+ years of the work put forward by the Church has really answered most of the objections and categories you are bringing up. I’m not trying to be condescending, I’m just saying your objections aren’t anything new, and it’s good to take some of these things to where the’ve been answered in the past.

      2) Also there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with appealing to mystery. For instance, I shouldn’t go anywhere beyond what the Scripture says. It asserts that God has ordained all that comes to pass, not only the end, but the means as well, which involves our real choices and decisions. How this all works out is in fact a mystery. By mystery I don’t mean it is ultimately irrational or nonsense, but rather God understands what He’s doing, but our finite minds can’t comprehend it.

      I just want you guys to own the implications of your system. What’s the problem with admitting, if God can do anything He wants, that He causes evil? Just admit that, if we are not the cause of our evil actions, the only “culprit” (Sproul, Jr.’s terminology) left is God.”

      “What’s the problem with admitting, if God can do anything He wants, that He causes evil?”

      Yes, I admit along with Isaiah, Job, and Jeremiah that God has ordained both good and evil, but remains inculpable because His ultimate intentions are Good (Gen 50:10)

      “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Lam 3:38

      “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

      “Just admit that, if we are not the cause of our evil actions, the only “culprit” (Sproul, Jr.’s terminology) left is God.”

      No, I admit along with Reformed Christian Theism that we are culpable for our sinful actions. God has revealed to us His Character, and our duties as the people created in His image. We know enough to be condemned, as we have general revelation, immediate knowledge of God, and the Word.

        Eric Hankins

        1. In Reformed Christian Theism, can a person who has faith “do otherwise”? If not, then his faith doesn’t matter. He’s an actor on a stage. God’s made all the decisions, ours don’t matter.

        2. The following quote has been cited a couple of times, but you guys aren’t getting the point: “To say, however, that God chooses individuals unconditionally and that He does not choose individuals unconditionally is not to affirm a mystery; it is to assert a logical contradiction.”

        I am making the point that this is what most Baptists believe that “compatibilism” means. They are wrong, don’t you agree? I get it. You don’t think God chooses individuals unconditionally. Calvinism is not nonsensical here. It is wrong, but not internally inconsistent.

        3. Just so we’re clear: You are affirming that the Bible teaches that God causes evil and sin? He is not responsible for them, humans are, and how this works is a mystery. This is what you affirm? I am telling you, this is not going to work in Southern Baptist Land.

        4. Can we “do otherwise”? If God has preordained that we sin, can we do otherwise? If the answer is no, how are we held culpable? Oh, yes. It’s a mystery. “Who’s on first? I Dunno . . .”

          Resequitur

          ” In Reformed Christian Theism, can a person who has faith “do otherwise”? If not, then his faith doesn’t matter. He’s an actor on a stage. God’s made all the decisions, ours don’t matter.”

          1) You are still assuming a LFW category as I’ve already argued is not a Scriptural one.

          2) Also you are coming to a logical conclusion that is unbiblical. As I’ve already pointed out, Scripture tells reveals a CFW notion, and man’s decision do matter for God’s glory

          ” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” ( Rom 11:36)

          Also we are all actors on God’s stage, God is an actor. The star as well as the script(ure) writer. You would need to argue how this doesn’t matter using biblical categories. Otherwise you are just arguing against Christian Theism.

          “I am making the point that this is what most Baptists believe that “compatibilism” means. They are wrong, don’t you agree? I get it. You don’t think God chooses individuals unconditionally. Calvinism is not nonsensical here. It is wrong, but not internally inconsistent.”

          If you are making the argument that these Baptists are trying to affirm that God

          1) chooses men unconditionally
          2) doesn’t choose men unconditionally

          and saying they are affirming a contradiction, then you are correct. They are wrong here. But the CFW notion as held by Calvinists is both 1 and 2. It is just 1. So It isn’t CFW that is inconsistent here, rather it is these particular baptist affirming their misunderstanding.

          In any case if that is the point you are trying make I will concede it to you, and agree with you

          ” Just so we’re clear: You are affirming that the Bible teaches that God causes evil and sin? He is not responsible for them, humans are, and how this works is a mystery. This is what you affirm? I am telling you, this is not going to work in Southern Baptist Land.”

          1) Yes I’m affirming all of that. But note, I’m doing so along with Paul in Romans 11:28-36. He affirms the mystery while accepting the revelation. This leads him to his doxology, as it should for both you and I as well.

          2) Also I would point you to the historical categories and outworking of Christianity which distinguish between “Primary” and “Secondary” causation.

          3) Historic Southern Baptist thought affirmed these truths. I myself am a Presbyterian, but these things matter to me as I have friends and family in the SBC (as well did I a few years ago). But I care for the denomination.

          “Can we “do otherwise”? If God has preordained that we sin, can we do otherwise? If the answer is no, how are we held culpable? Oh, yes. It’s a mystery. “Who’s on first? I Dunno . . .”

          Notice how Paul brings up the same question his objectors raised in Romans 9:19:

          “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

          notice how he answers in v.20-23

          “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory”

          Resequitur

          I said mistyped:

          “But the CFW notion as held by Calvinists is both 1 and 2. ”

          I meant to say the CFW notion as held by Calvinist ISN’T both 1 and 2.

          Sorry for the confusion

Les

Eric,

My first question is, how does God’s omniscience factor in to human free choices in your view? i.e. Does God know our free choices before we make them?

Thanks.

Les

Eric,

I should have acknowledged that you stated this,

“Because God is God, He knows all of the free acts of humans from eternity, but this knowledge does not cause these acts nor does it make Him responsible for them. Moreover, the existence of these acts in no way impinges upon either His freedom or His ability to bring about His ultimate purposes.”

The point of my question is not about His being the first cause of the free acts or about His being responsible for them, but about His prior knowledge fixing that they will indeed occur and cannot possibly NOT occur in any other way. How do you reconcile or deal with that?

Thanks

    Eric Hankins

    Les,

    As I have stated before, I am not a determinist. My presupposition concerning the nature of divine action is that free decisions of people in the libertarian sense are both possible and actually matter in God’s dealings with the universe. Otherwise, we are actors on a stage and God is the cause of evil, both ideas of which are unbiblical.

    That’s why I am unmoved by the labrynthian logic that God’s knowledge of events is identical with his causation of events. The implications of such thinking are unbiblical (and immoral). It is possible for me to know things ahead of time without me being the cause of those things. So, it is for God. I wrestle through the rest of the issues relating to the metaphysics of divine action from that starting point because it is a biblical starting point, not a Greek philosophical one.

      Les

      Thanks Eric. I’m covered up today with Haiti stuff. Maybe I can participate more later.

      selahV-hariette

      Hello Eric,

      \”It is possible for me to know things ahead of time without me being the cause of those things. So, it is for God.\”

      So often this is the excuse of man when certain things do not occur as we think they should occur. We think: It\’s gotta be someone\’s fault, doesn\’t it? We want to blame others (as in Eve the serpent, and Adam God for giving him the helpmeet). Sometimes we blame our ourselves for not doing more, saying more, etc.. We can see the \”handwriting on the wall\” of certain situations and circumstances. We can only do what we can do in our own small portion of the world. Then we must (if we want to have any peace on earth), leave the results of situations–and often the consequences of–to our Father in Heaven. Then we must accept the situation as it is, or find ways through God\’s Word to deal with it…live with it, or change it. Sometimes He calls us to sit, sometimes to walk, and sometimes to stand. In each of these we are doing something…and as we look to Him for direction, He most certainly guarantees He is with us–even until the end of the age–no matter what man conjures up for us as an explanation. Correct? selahV

Mark

Speaking of presuppositions, this article begins with the following presuppositions in order to support the authors claims. A few of these presuppositions being the following.

Opposing God’s sovereign guidance of the universe and the operation of free-will within that universe is a false dichotomy based on reductionistic metaphysical assumptions. God has made a free and sovereign decision to have a universe in which human free-will plays a decisive role. Human agency is one force among many that God has created to accomplish His cosmic purposes.

And

Free-will plays a unique role within God’s purposes for the universe because it is the unique power of human beings freely to enter into covenant relationships, especially a covenant relationship with God. This makes human willing fundamentally moral.

And

Under certain circumstances, God, in His freedom, contravenes free-will, just as He is free to contravene any other force in nature, but this is not His normal modus operandi.

And

The ability of humans “to do otherwise” does not call God’s sovereignty into question; it actually establishes and ratifies His sovereignty over the particular universe that was His good pleasure to create. Opposing free-will and sovereignty is, from a philosophical perspective, nonsensical.

And

Moreover, Arminianism’s desire to protect the inviolability of free-will to the degree that God cannot keep His promise to seal a believer’s free response fails to take seriously the totality of the biblical concept of faith.

And a few other statements that raise questions.

Without free-will, there is no mechanism for the defeat of sin and evil, no mechanism for covenant relationship, no mechanism for a world-changing, world-completing partnership between God and His people.

Well, it seems that God can and does answer all of these issues that free-will asserted to full-fill.

For Baptists, faith has never been something that occurs without our willing.

This is true for both Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic Baptists.

We deny that people’s eternal destinies have been fixed without respect to a free-response of repentance and faith.[emphasis mine]

Yet, earlier the author state the following in opposition to Arminianism.

Arminianism’s need to inject ideas such as God’s election of individuals based on their future free acts is also a move designed to maintain both a strong view of God’s sovereignty and the free choice of individuals. Unfortunately, this move is made at the expense of any regular understanding of biblical election, which is unilateral.

If one’s eternal destiny is fixed in accordance with God respecting one’s “free-response of repentance and faith,” yet not based on one’s “future free acts” (of repentance and faith), then upon what is one’s destiny based? Also, if election is unilateral, how is it also based on God respecting one’s “free-response of repentance and faith?” (I hope I am accurately representing the author’s meaning here.)

We preach that the decision of each individual is both possible and necessary for salvation….God initiates the process; He imbues it with His Spirit’s enabling. When people respond in faith, God acts according to His promises to seal that relationship for eternity, welding the will of the believer to His own, setting the believer free by His sovereign embrace.

Even though the author is attempting to move beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, this understanding fits within Arminian soteriology.

Our assurance of salvation comes not from a “sense” that we are elect or from our persistence in holy living. Assurance comes from the simple, surrendered faith that God keeps every one of His promises in Christ Jesus.

Is there a majority of a particular soteriological view that denies this?

Also, note that the author mentions “we” several times in reference to Baptists as if he has the corner on exactly what Baptist soteriology is. However, this approach would leave many Baptists of the past, including the SBC Founders, Spurgeon, and many early and present day Baptists of being in a category of not being truly Baptist. This position of ‘we Baptists’ is another unsupported premise that denies historical theological precedent.

I do wonder how such an approach to claiming what seems an exclusive Baptist soteriology furthers Baptist dialogue in cooperation.

    Eric Hankins

    Mark,

    There is alot in your post, so I’ll just hit some essentials:

    1. I do indeed have my own presuppositions; every system does. I am presupposing that determinism is wrong.

    2. My disagreement with Arminianism is related to its view that election is individual and that is based on God’s a knowledge of an individual’s future faith. I assert that election is corporate. Election doesn’t have anything more to contribute to our understanding of how an individual “comes in” to God’s corporate People.

    3. You have understood me correctly in that I believe the vast majority of Baptists are not divine determinists. They believe in “soft-libertarian” free-will, because soft-determinism is unbiblical.

      Bob Hadley

      Ditto: 1,2,and 3.

      ><>”

      Mark

      1. Since you admit your own presuppositions I don’t understand the point of objecting presuppositions you don’t agree with as if presuppositions are a problem as the title implies.

      2. Arminianism holds to corporate election as Olson indicates on page 194 of Arminian Theology. In a footnote on page 194, Olson points readers to “an excellent study of corporate election” in Klein’s The New Chosen People.

      I don’t understand how your position differs from that of Arminianism.

      3. Whether or not a majority of Baptists at this point in time are determinists of any extent is less the issue than your seemingly exclusive claims “we Baptists” do not include determinists of any stripe both past and present.

        Eric Hankins

        Mark,

        1. Presuppostions are very important. If you are wrong on your presuppostions, you will be wrong everywhere else. I am making the case that Calvinsm and Arminianism are wrong in their presuppostions, and that most Baptists are neither because they have a sense that these presuppositons are wrong and don’t fit well with the Bible.

        2. I believe that Mary was Jesus’ mother. So do Roman Catholics. But my belief that Mary was Jesus’ mother does not make me a Roman Catholic, any more than my belief in corporate election makes me an Arminian. I don’t believe that God elects individuals based on His foreknowledge of their faith, I don’t believe that prevenient grace undoes total depravity, and I don’t believe in the possibility of apostasy. No Arminian would have me.

        3. I didn’t say that “we Baptists” do not include determinists of any stripe both past and present. Nor do I think that Baptists who are deterministsts should be excluded or hassled. I am making the case that most Baptists are not determinists and don’t want to be and don’t want a small minority making them feel deficient for not believing it. They don’t want to be Reformed and they have good reasons not to.

          volfan007

          Amen!

          Mark

          Eric,
          To 1 & 3: I wasn’t asking you to explain presuppositions, but to point out an inconsistency. I agree they are important, but having a “sense” that a presupposition is wrong is not very good biblical discernment. I pointed out the “we Baptists” approach because you certainly imply that Baptists should hold to your theological positions. Anyway…

          On 2: You have offered a non-sequitur. I was working within your own context. Using the line of reasoning you answered with can be used by anyone to dismiss any theological identification within which one’s position may fit.

          Also, when you stated, “any more than my belief in corporate election makes me an Arminian.” you seemed to have missed your own words. You are the one who stated that Arminians believe in individual rather than corporate election.

          Furthermore, all Arminians don’t believe that “God elects individuals based on His foreknowledge of their faith,” though you will find Baptists who may not identify as Arminian who hold this position. The Arminian position is that of conditional election and there is not just one set Arminian understanding of such.

          I don’t believe that prevenient grace undoes total depravity

          Technically speaking, neither does the Arminian though prevenient grace frees one’s will.

          If you do not believe in prevenient grace, then I would like to know how to understand your following words – “It has been typical of Baptists to believe that anyone who reaches the point of moral responsibility has the capacity to respond to the gospel. While all persons are radically sinful and totally unable to save themselves, their ability to “choose otherwise” defines human existence, including the ability to respond to the gospel in faith or reject it in rebellion. God initiates the process; He imbues it with His Spirit’s enabling.”

          If the above is not a description of prevenient grace, then what does the bold quote describe?

          and I don’t believe in the possibility of apostasy.

          Neither to all Arminians and believing as such is perfectly acceptable within Arminianism.

          No Arminian would have me.

          I beg to differ. Maybe you missed Roger Olson’s answer to Steve Lemke in the months past concerning Arminian soteriology.

          Eric Hankins

          Mark,

          I don’t appear to be making myself understood very well to you, so let me just hit the essence of my argument:

          1. Calvinism presupposes determinism. This makes God the cause of evil. This makes free will a farce. This is wrong and the vast majority of Baptists reject it.

          2. Arminianism is not the only alternative to Calvinism. I am suggesting Baptists have not believed either for a long time, and that we have a better way. I think this is what most Baptists believe and what most Baptists ought to believe.

          3. I understand Calvinism implicitly. I don’t need to have it explained to me. I understand it completely. I understand its use of the Bible. It is not correct.

Johnathan Pritchett

While I too must frown on some of the hasty characterizations of both the Arminian and Calvinist positions (and occasionally flat out wrong), I can get past that because you can’t toss it all in a single blog post. But I am with you Mark on some of the inconsistencies here in the logic.

I affirm corporate election in Scripture to both salvation and service, but there is also individual election (of at least to service, and the individual corporate heads as well like Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Christ, and so one) as well.

If Southern Baptists would adopt the best “corporate model” of election, I’d be happy, because it would mean Southern Baptist scholars and Seminary professors would have to start giving real attention to Biblical sociology and anthropology of the Ancient Near East, and our folks are falling flat in this area in their commentaries, books, journal articles, and so forth anyway (which is depressing).

Clark Dunlap

“God sits sovereignly and non-contingently atop a hierarchy that owes its existence to the functioning of the levels below it, levels that include the fully operational free-will of humans.”[2]

OK, I’m not real bright but does this actually say anything?
God sits non-contingently atop a hierarchy.
This hierarchy owes existence to its support structure below.
So the hierarchy is contingent but God is not.
Thats good because God is not contingent on anything. And any throne he rests on needs nothing to rest on.
So after all that mess cancels itself out, that brings me back to human free will (all that is left of this sentence) which I simply can’t find this side of the fall.
Or am I stupid?

    Matt

    I would be interested in an explanation of this also. I’m thinking that maybe it is claiming that in the causal chain that begins with God, the links initiated by God that come before some lower links that involve human will are caused based on God’s knowledge of the free will of humans that will follow. In other words, God causes some things to happen certain ways based on His knowledge of man’s free choices that will happen at some later time. I’m not sure about that though, so I’m interested in hearing Erics explanation also.

      Eric Hankins

      Matt,

      My main point is this: a metaphysics of divine action must integrate libertarian free will with God’s sovereign direction of the universe in coming to his ultimate purposes for it. This is a rejection of determinism, which is the foundation of Calvinism. Moreover, God’s ultimate purpose is centered on having a people who are his in Christ by their free choice to trust Christ rather than reject him. Humans are not absolutely free, we are free within and under the ulimate purposes of God. No one is free to reject the gospel and go heaven. They are only free to reject the gospel and go to hell.

        Matt

        Eric,

        I would like to say that I agree with what you said at the end of your reponse, “Humans are not absolutely free, we are free within and under the ulimate purposes of God. No one is free to reject the gospel and go heaven. They are only free to reject the gospel and go to hell.” We may differ on how much wiggle room is allowed under the ultimate purposes of God, but I don’t think we are necessarily as far apart as we sometimes think on the doctrine of providence. The idea of corporate election verses individual election is another story.

        You say above, “a metaphysics of divine action must integrate libertarian free will…” and in your response to Mark you say, “I am presupposing that determinism is wrong.” How can you make this presuposition if you are truely seeking what is the correct theology. That’s like Stephen Hawking tracing the universe back to a point that requires a non-phisical cause and then claiming, out of bias, that no “true scientist” should accept a metaphisical or spiritual answer. I know that you have repeatedly said that the reformed view is unbiblical, but I can give you a mountain of scripture that supports it. I recently saw a book by Dr. Olson in which he claimed that if he was convinced from scripture or if Jesus Himself came down and told him that calvinists had a correct view of God, he would not worship that God. I’m not accusing you of being that bias, but to presuppose that the reformed view cannot be correct is not giving the matter a fair inquiry. Our ideas about morality like: we must have libertarian free will to be responsible moral agents or that if God doesn’t suspend His sovreignty when it comes to human actions, He is the author of sin; cannot be presupposed. These moral ideas are at the center of the debate, and to presuppose them is to beg the question. God is our absolute ethical standard. He provides the determination of what is and is not moral. What you are doing, by supportting your argument about how God works with these presupposed moral maxims, is circular reasoning since you presuppose that God has established these standards of morality, something I contend He has not done. If He has not established these standards then His actions are not bound by them, and if it can be shown that his actions go outside of these maxims, then we will know that these are not moral standards at all.

          Eric Hankins

          Matt,

          Let me clear about my use of the word “presupposition.” I am using it in a technical sense, and I think you think I mean “assumption” like “my presuppostion is that all Calvinists are insane” (which, of course, is totaly unfounded). By presupposition, I mean the bases on which any truth claim is made. We all have presuppositions that we bring to the discussion of the data. My question is, are we being honest about what all of our presuppositions are? Are those presuppositions correct? Do they account for all the data in a cogent manner? So, when I say that I am presupposing that determinism is not true, I mean that I have good reasons for doing so (although you disagree), and I mean to set that in distinction to your position. You presuppose that determinism is true and you believe you have good reasons for doing so (although I disagree).

          Then, you go on to argue that determinism is true and that I’d see it too if I were truly seeking correct theology, as if any clear thinker would readily embrace determinism. This won’t do. You go on to make your case for your presupposing the truth of determinism: God can do whatever He wants, even if it is not moral by my standards. But my morality is based on the Bible and so is my understanding of God’s character. So, can God do whatever he wants, even if what He does is a sin for humans? i.e forcing people to do things against their will, causing people to sin. Can God do whatever He wants, even if He said in the Bible that He does not behave in certain ways? Causing people to sin even though he said he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin; not really wanting to save everyone even though he says he wants to save everyone. You see, I believe God can do whatever he wants, but I also beleive he has told us alot about what wants. Most notably, He wants is for all people to be saved by responding freely to the offer of the gospel. By “all” I don’t mean “some” and by “responding freely” I don’t mean “doing what they desire most-even though they are not able to desire otherwise.”

          Matt

          Eric,

          My comments about you presupposing things were not based only on the way you used the word “presupossing” in one of the quotes I cited above. I am sure that you believe that you have good reason to hold the view that you hold on this issue. I believe that I have good reason for holding the view that I hold also. My point in objecting to making presuppositions in our discussions of the issue is that we are guilty of begging the question if we simply state something that is at the heart of the disagreement as though it were an agreed fact. We can never reach any agreement of what is true about the way God works and the role human will plays if we don’t give a fair consideration to the evidence that has influenced our different beliefs. So, when you say, ” a metaphysics of divine action must integrate libertarian free will with God’s sovereign direction of the universe in coming to his ultimate purposes for it. This is a rejection of determinism, which is the foundation of Calvinism.” you are begging the question, making a statement that rejects what you claim to be the foundation of Calvinism in no way presents a valid argument for your rejection of Calvinism. The need for man to have a libertarian free will is what we disagree about in the first place. Your very next sentence, “Moreover, God’s ultimate purpose is centered on having a people who are his in Christ by their free choice to trust Christ rather than reject him.” This is also an unagreed statement. I believe that God’s ultimate purpose in creation is to bring glory to Himself, and this is something that I believe in no way requires people exercising libertarian free will, much less centers on it. No valid argument is given to back up these statements, and so we are no closer to reaching an agreement about what is true. The same applies to all the claims that the Calvinist view is unbiblical without going into the places you believe the Bible goes against the Calvinist view, and examining wheather or not the text requires an interpretation that contradicts the Calvinists view. I have seen you refer to a couple of different verses, but most of the specific claims that something is unbiblical are meant to refute certain Calvinist beliefs although the claims are not agreed on or backed up by specific scriptures. Anyway, all I meant to say was we need to give valid arguments for our beliefs, and, although we believe certain things ourselves, we cannot presuppose anything in those arguments that is not agreed on by everyone involved in the debate.

          Now let me answer the questions you asked concerning ethical standards. You asked, “So, can God do whatever he wants, even if what He does is a sin for humans? i.e forcing people to do things against their will, causing people to sin.” I would say that when it comes to some things, yes, God can do things that would be sinful for humans to do. One example is that God seeks glory for Himself. This is good and right since He created all that is worthy of praise. This is a sin for humans since we have nothing that God did not give us and can achieve nothing praiseworthy apart from God given abilities. To answer the specific examples you gave, “forcing people to do things against their will, causing people to sin.” He cannot do these things because of a moral neccessity within himself. I hope you aren’t implying that Calvinists believe that He does these things, since I would be the first to argue against anyone who says that God would force anyone to sin against thier will. Just to be clear, I do believe that God actively works in the hearts of men giving them good desires, but I don’t think that is what you meant by “forcing people to do things against thier will”. I do not believe that God ever actively works in the hearts of men in a way that causes them to sin. Even in the case of Pharaoh, God providentially presented Pharaoh with the situation of being the ruler of Egypt who was being told what to do by an Israelite. God simply provided the circumstances and then let Pharoah’s nature expose itself. You go on asking, “Can God do whatever He wants, even if He said in the Bible that He does not behave in certain ways? Causing people to sin even though he said he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin” God cannot do something that He has clearly revealed is against His own ethical standards. If by “causing people to sin” you mean working thier hearts towards sinning or making them do something sinful against thier will, then Calvinists wholeheartedly agree that God cannot do this because of a moral neccessity within Himself. You go on, “not really wanting to save everyone even though he says he wants to save everyone.” Here is a point of disagreement. We don’t agree that God wants to save everyone, and we need to examine what the Bible really says about this. I don’t have time to start on that right at this moment, but even though I think I have already heard it before, it may be interesting to look at a few verses, or a few dozen if time permits, and see what we can or cannot agree on.

    Eric Hankins

    Clark,

    I don’t think you’re stupid. Discussions of the nature of divine action can indeed be dizzying, but my approach is no more (and I think less) complicated than determinism. We are looking at a mirror dimly. But Calvinists are proposing an intricately crafted view of divine action that supports their view of salvation. We need to propose one that is in keeping with the God of the Bible, who doesn’t cause evil and doesn’t create some people in order to damn them.

Ron Hale

Dr. Hankins,

Well … your first article got things stirred up. I appreciate the many hours you patiently gave to your comments. Now, it seems the gentlemen are lined up and waiting for you (0n this your second article) and will keep you busy as a “one armed paper hanger” with their many questions.

I personally thank you for writing on this subject … because the logical end of the Calvinist poisition on the matter of sovereignty/free will… always seems to lead to a strong form of determinism. Biblical sovereignty does not find strong determinism as its outcome.

You are a blessing and will “shake up” things … for many years to come!

Matt

Eric,

You state, “Opposing God’s sovereign guidance of the universe and the operation of free-will within that universe is a false dichotomy based on reductionistic metaphysical assumptions. God has made a free and sovereign decision to have a universe in which human free-will plays a decisive role.” First of all, I would like to point out that I made a statement very similar to the first part of this quote while discussing the reformed doctrine of confluence with Bob in a post under your previous article: “When you say, “if God decreed it it is no longer the result of man’s nature.” I believe you are guilty of presenting a false dichotomy. You are implying that man’s nature can be responsible for sin or God can decree the sin as if these two things are mutually exclusive. The reformed doctrine of confluence teaches they can both be true and the Bible provides the examples.” Ofcourse, the source of our disagreement is over the degree to which God is sovreign and man is free.

First of all, do you agree that my definition of God’s sovreignty and the idea of any creation having a totaly free, autonomous will are two mutually exclusive concepts? By my definition of God’s sovreignty I mean that He rules over His creation and everything that happens happens because he chose for it to happen. In this scenario, unless God’s will and man’s will are synonomous, one must give way to the other. Plainly these two ideas are not compatible, and either the idea of a truely sovreign God or the idea of a truely free creature must change.

You try to avoid this by changing the idea of God’s sovreignty when you say, “God has made a free and sovereign decision to have a universe in which human free-will plays a decisive role.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that God has sovreignly chosen not to be sovreign. This would mean that where scripture speaks of our sovreign God, it actually means He has the potential to be sovrein but is not actually sovreign at all. He has the power to be sovreign, but has chosen to subject himself to human will. Isn’t this twisting the plain meaning of the sovreignty of God in scripture?

You explain how you see it all ultimately working out by saying, “He knows all of the free acts of humans from eternity, but this knowledge does not cause these acts nor does it make Him responsible for them. Moreover, the existence of these acts in no way impinges upon either His freedom or His ability to bring about His ultimate purposes.” I see a huge problem with this. He doesn’t simply know these acts from eternity, because, in eternity, nothing existed except Him. He could only know the actions of His creatures if He knew that He was going to create the creatures that would perform the actions. So, God had to make a concious decision to act in a way that would result in his creatures existing and acting out the actions that God knew.” When we start with the concept of an omnicient, omnipotent God existing by Himself in eternity, we have to admit that nothing else can exist or happen unless He knowingly and intentionally brings it about. I know I mentioned this before in a previous post, but I was never given any answer except that knowing something doesn’t require causing it. That was followed by examples of men observing something that they knew the outcome of, but had no control over. These answers could never apply to the subject because men aren’t omnicient, omnipotent, or the causal antecedent of the universe. So, God not only knows the actions of humans, He knows them because he knowingly created the universe in a way that brought them about. I don’t see anyway around this, and if God created in a way that He knew would bring about specific creatures who would perform specific actions, how could those creatures do anything other than what God intended in His act of creation?

I think this brings us to the other option of how to reconcile the ideas of a sovreign God and autonomous human wills. Instead of lessening the sovreignty of God by saying he has chosen not to exercise his power to be sovreign, we can view the will of humans as presented in the reformed doctrine of confluence. According to this idea God’s eternal decree is the primary cause of everything. Nothing can happen that God did not decide in eternity. God created angels good but not omnicient, thus Lucifer saw his beauty and mistakenly thought that he, instead of God, should recieve glory for it. No fault with God. He created angels good and told them that all glory belonged to God. (this is a possible scenario, but the principle would apply to whatever actually happened) In the same way, God crated man good but not omnicient. Adam was decieved by Lucifer after God had told Adam not to eat that fruit. God had decreed the fall of man, this was the primary cause of Adam’s sin, but Adam believing Lucifer was the secondary or more immediate cause of Adam’s sin. Since the fall, we all have sinful desires and do evil because we want to. This is what makes Man a responsible moral agent; he sins of his own free will. I say free will because we all sin voluntarily and God never coerces us to sin against our wills. However, our will is not autonomous. We cannot go outside of God’s eternal decree. In relation to God our actions are ultimately subject to His decree, but we always sin because we want to. I believe that God does actively influence the will of men toward good, but never toward evil. Since the fall there is plenty of evil intent within man wthout God’s immediate intervention. I also believe that God, in His infinite wisdom, has worked everything in a way that it all works toward His glory and the ultimate good of His people. No evil happens within God’s devinely orchistrated universe that doesn’t further His plan. Don’t we as Christians believe that God is able to orchistrate things this way. The Bible gives examples like Joseph’s brothers. God decreed thier sin would happen, and had good intentions. Joseph’s brothers acted out the sinful act that God had decreed, but they did it for evil purposes. “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” It doesn’t get much plainer than that. This is the confluence of God’s and man’s wills.

To wrap this up, I just want to reiterate that I agree that the coexistence of a sovreign God and men with free wills doesn’t necessarily have to be contradictory. One of the two must be understood to be less than total though. You want to lessen the sovreignty of God to reconcile the two, which is something I believe we should not and logically cannot do. Calvinist, instead, choose to view the will of man, like everything else in the universe, as subject to the decree of Almight God.

    Bob Hadley

    Matt,

    You wrote a LOT here… but a couple brief comments: Here is a question I think is essential; “if man is sovereign over his actions and decisions, does that necessarily reduce God’s sovereignty?” I say no. God is sovereign over all things but does that mean that He has to be sovereign over my decisions? Apparently the WCF recognizes this problem as it states:

    God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.

    This statement clearly says basically that God is sovereign over the things that He has chosen to be sovereign over! So, it appears to me that even for the calvinist, this is a fair statement. Here is another caveat in this discussion; If God chose not to be sovereign over my sovereignty in the decisions that I make, is He not still sovereign IF THAT IS INDEED HIS CHOICE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

    To me this argument is much the same of Jesus’ Lordship. I am called to make Jesus Lord of my life but no matter what my decision is, Jesus is Lord, Period. Jesus is Lord over the most adamant atheist and God is sovereign as well.

    Now to the matter of God’s decretive will versus man’s free will. I argued the point that if God’s decrees are deterministic as the calvinist contends, then man’s will or nature is not really the cause of his actions; God’s decrees are. Because as you state, God’s decrees are primary and will necessarily happen and in fact cannot not happen. So if God is sovereign over “all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events” as the WCF contends, then man’s nature has nothing to do with his actions because it is God’s decrees that must come to pass.

    Now if we take the second part of the WCF, “yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures” we have the non-calvinist position espoused and man and not God is responsible for his sin and consequent conversion… at least as I see it.

    ><>”

      Matt

      Bob,

      Let me start out by responding to this: “Here is a question I think is essential; “if man is sovereign over his actions and decisions, does that necessarily reduce God’s sovereignty?” I say no. God is sovereign over all things but does that mean that He has to be sovereign over my decisions?” I say yes. If God’s sovreignty doesn’t apply to our decisions, then He is not truely sovreign over all things and His sovreignty is necessarily reduced. You say, “God is sovreign over all things” and God is not sovreign over certain things (our decisions). Let me point out that these two propositions, one a universal affirmative and one a particular negative, having the same subject and predicate are necessarily contradictory.

      I’m surprised to see you quote the Westminster Confession to back up what you’re saying. You claim,”This statement clearly says basically that God is sovereign over the things that He has chosen to be sovereign over!” No, it clearly says, “all things”, “all creatures”, and “all events”. You qoute it again saying,”Now if we take the second part of the WCF, “yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures” we have the non-calvinist position espoused and man and not God is responsible for his sin and consequent conversion.” This does not espouse the non-calvinist position. It is refering to the calvinist doctrine of confluence where God is the primary cause and man provides the secondary cause. I explained this doctrine in my post above. Lets see what the WCF says:

      Chapter 3.- Of God’s Eternal Decree.
      1. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy cousel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass. Yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

      Chapter 5.- Of Providence.
      2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infalibly, yet by the same providence, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.

      You still maintain that the reformed view releases man from all responsibility by saying, “then man’s nature has nothing to do with his actions because it is God’s decrees that must come to pass.” As I previously explained, just because God’s decrees must come to pass, man’s nature is not totally excluded. Were joseph’s brothers free from guilt because God meant for them to do what they did. No, because, the Bible says, they meant it for evil. In Gen. 42:21 they even admit thier guilt, “We are truely guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear”. Joseph tells them,”it was not you that sent me here, but God”. But, this in no way releases them from thier guilt. Is the reformed view of primary and secondary causes logically possible? Yes. Under this view, can any sinner claim that they were forced to sin against thier will? No. Every sin committed is committed by a sinner who wants to commit it.

      As for your question, “If God chose not to be sovereign over my sovereignty in the decisions that I make, is He not still sovereign IF THAT IS INDEED HIS CHOICE IN THE FIRST PLACE?” I would say that, in this unthinkable scenario, He would be sovreign up to the point that He decided not to be. If after He decided not to be sovreign, He still was, then He would have failed at being what He had decided not to be.

      I think it says a lot about human nature in general, even in the Church, that when faced with the delima of God’s will and man’s will, so many will choose to deminish God’s will in order to preserve our precieved autonomy.

        Bob Hadley

        Matt,

        Thanks for the interaction. I made reference to the WCF not to back up MY position but to attempt to point out the inconsistency of the calvinist position, as I see it.

        For exaomple, look at your own response to my question…. ““if man is sovereign over his actions and decisions, does that necessarily reduce God’s sovereignty?” I say no. God is sovereign over all things but does that mean that He has to be sovereign over my decisions?” I say yes. If God’s sovreignty doesn’t apply to our decisions, then He is not truely sovreign over all things and His sovreignty is necessarily reduced.”

        What? I am not the smartest tool in the woodshed but I can recognize a contradiction when I see it! You said first, God’s sovereignty is not reduced by man being sovereign and then turned around and contradicted yourself.

        With respect to man’s nature, I believe man responds according to his nature but is not limited to it. He can respond to God’s revelation of Himself and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit or else there would be no value in the work themselves. I do not believe in total depravity or inability and before you even bother going there, that does not make me a Pelagian. Salvation is of God’s initative and man’s response to that initiative.

        Now, to the calvinist position as I think Eric is speaking to… if God’s decrees MUST be performed in all events and decisions, then it can be argued that man’s decisions reflect those Divine decrees; that is a necessary conclusion; and it does not matter that one comes back and says, “but not to deny man’s free will.”

        If the first part of the WCF is correct, it does not matter what they second part says! So I maintain the second part of the SCF statement is correct and that trumps the first part! That is why I quoted it in the first place.

        ><>”

          Matt

          Bob,

          Sorry it has taken me a while to respond to you. I have been pretty busy lately. Just want to make a couple of quick points. I didn’t contradict my self in what you quoted, “““if man is sovereign over his actions and decisions, does that necessarily reduce God’s sovereignty?” I say no. God is sovereign over all things but does that mean that He has to be sovereign over my decisions?” I say yes. If God’s sovreignty doesn’t apply to our decisions, then He is not truely sovreign over all things and His sovreignty is necessarily reduced.” I was contradicting what you said. The first part of that quote is your statement including the “I say no” and the following sentence. The “I say yes” is the beginning of my response to that statement.

          I understand that you do not agree with the doctrine of total depravity, and this is one of our points of disagreement. I haven’t and wouldn’t call you a Pelagian, though, unless you believed that you have the power to live a life totaly free from sin, and as a result have no need for a Savior.

          You say, “He can respond to God’s revelation of Himself and the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit or else there would be no value in the work themselves.” I want to be sure that I understand your position correctly, so please tell me exactly what you believe the reconciliatory work of the Holy Spirit is. Also, please explain what you mean by there would be no value in the work themselves.

          Moving on, of the Calvinist position you say, “if God’s decrees MUST be performed in all events and decisions, then it can be argued that man’s decisions reflect those Divine decrees; that is a necessary conclusion” I agree. This is what I believe, but you go on to say, “it does not matter that one comes back and says, “but not to deny man’s free will.” Here we disagree. Are you saying that it doesn’t matter if God’s decrees are accomplished in a way where man is forced to commit evil actions that he would not have committed if God had not manipulated his heart towards evil or if God’s decrees are accomplished in a way where man is never compelled against his will or internally manipulated to commit any sin? Since you believe this distinction doesn’t matter, you say, “If the first part of the WCF is correct, it does not matter what they second part says! So I maintain the second part of the SCF statement is correct and that trumps the first part!” How can it trump the first part if it isn’t at odds with the first part? The second statement is merely meant to clarify how the first statement is accomplished. Again, I just want to point out that by saying, “If the first part of the WCF is correct, it does not matter what they second part says!” you are saying that there is nothing important in the difference between God actively working the hearts of men towards evil and passively allowing men to sin in accordance with thier nature when that sin is in accordance with God’s purposes. I fully realize that the men sinning could not go outside of God’s decree under the Calvinist view, but I would like non-calvinists to acknowledge that this does not require God to manipulate anyone’s heart t0ward evil (something I believe relieves God from any accusations of being the author of evil) and that there is a huge difference between the Calvinist’s view and the Hyper-Calvinist’s view.

    Eric Hankins

    Matt,

    Your post well-illustrates the problem. The mistake of both Calvinism and Arminianism is that God’s sovereignty and human free will run on a continuum of causation in which they are inversely proportional: If God’s sovereignty is emphasized, then free will must be reduced or eliminaited, thus giving us the soft-determinism view of free will that you are espousing. If man’s free will is emphasized, then God’s sovereignty must be truncated, thus giving us process and open theologies and talk of God as “limiting” Himself.

    My proposal is that we quit thinking of the problem this way. I know this is hard because we’ve always thought of the problem this way. At the risk of sounding nerdy, I will illustrate with the issue of the wave-particle duality of light. For centuries, scientists have known that light exhibited properties of both waves and particles, but their paradigm insisted that it be one or the other because it couldn’t be both. Wave and particle hypotheses bounced back and forth for a long time, none really satisfying, each saying the other only had the “appearance” of light or particle properties. Then came along Planck and Einstein with a completely new paradigm which affirmed that light was indeed both fully a wave and fully particles at the same time, all though it took a number of years to describe how.

    I am proposing that there is new paradigm for causation (sometimes called “downward causation”) that gives a better account of the fact the Bible and common experience show clearly that our decisions and God’s sovereignty are fully operative , without having to “cheat” on the full reality of one or the other. It may take some time to describe how, but it is better than saying that God is not really sovereign or that we are not really free, because the Bible affirms both.

      Matt

      Eric,

      I’m sorry it has taken me a while to respond to this. I’ve been pretty busy the past couple of days working with my daughter on her Awana grand prix car and racing it.

      To start off with, I would like to respond to your statement, “The mistake of both Calvinism and Arminianism is that God’s sovereignty and human free will run on a continuum of causation in which they are inversely proportional…My proposal is that we quit thinking of the problem this way.” I agree that Calvinists see these two as inversely proportional, but do not agree that this is a mistake. I also do not think that the idea of corporate election has enabled anyone to quit thinking of the problem this way. I contend that God’s sovreign decrees extends to all things including the voluntary actions of His creatures. You contend that God’s sovreign decrees do not extend to the voluntary actions of His creatures. The problem still remains: either God has decreed that these actions take place or He has not decreed that these actions take place. If God’s sovreign decree does not extend to these actions, then under your view, God’s sovreignty is reduced from the view of absolute sovreignty held by Calvinists. Any view, like the reformed view, which believes that God is sovreign over ALL things requires that human freedom become less than autonomous, and the inverse proportionality of God’s sovreignty and human freedom is not avoided.

      I’ve heard the analogy of light being a wavicle before. There is no logical problem with something possessing all the essential properties of both a wave and a particle since waves and particles are not mutually exclusive things. As I pointed out in a previous post, the propositions: All things are subject to God’s decree, and These things (human decisions) are not subject to God’s decree; are necessarily contradictory and cannot both be right. A God who sovreignly decrees all things, and a man who’s actions can go outside of God’s decrees are two beings that cannot both exist in the same universe. The essential properties of waves and the essential properties of particles can exist togather, even in the same thing, because there is nothing contradictory about the two.

      I’m not sure exactly what is meant in your last paragraph where you say,”I am proposing that there is new paradigm for causation (sometimes called “downward causation”) that gives a better account of the fact the Bible and common experience show clearly that our decisions and God’s sovereignty are fully operative , without having to “cheat” on the full reality of one or the other. It may take some time to describe how, but it is better than saying that God is not really sovereign or that we are not really free, because the Bible affirms both.” When you say, “It may take some time to describe how” are you saying that it would require a lot of time typing it out, or are you saying that you expect this new theory to somehow reconcile two mutually exclusive concepts, something it has not done yet, but that you expect it will. If you mean that it requires a long explanation, then please point me in the direction of a good source for that explanation so I can see if this new paradigm brings up any points that I haven’t considered. If you mean that this is a theory in the making that you have high hopes for, then I believe you are guilty of the same type of fallacious argument that the athiests who claim that they are certain science will one day explain away the logical requirement of a Creator are guilty of. Please note that I am comparing styles of arguments here, and am in no way equating you to athiests, brother.

      To end, I just want to say that I do not believe that the Bible affirms both total sovreignty for God and total freedom for people. I believe that only God’s total sovreignty is affirmed. To say that the Bible affirms both is to say that the Bible affirms a contradiction (something no one here will say in those words).

        Eric Hankins

        Matt,

        I think we are clear on where we disagree. You say that “God’s sovereign decrees extend to all things including the voluntary actions of his creatures.” I say this is logically contradictory. Preordained events are not voluntary. It’s like a square circle. Square circles can’t exist; Decreed voluntary actions actions can’t exist. If I can’t do otherwise, my actions aren’t voluntary.

        You characterize my position thusly: “God’s sovereign decrees do not extend to the voluntary actions of His creatures.” This is not my position. I am arguing that God’s sovereignty includes the voluntary actions of His creatures.

        Later you indicate that my position is that all things are subject to God’s decrees, and human decisions are not subject to God’s decree, and then you conclude that this contradictory (which it it). But this, again, is not my position. I do not think all things are subject to God’s decrees. I do not agree this is what it means for God to be sovereign. God is sovereign in that He has created a universe where human decisions actually matter. He is more sovereign than a deterministic God, who apparently is not powerful enough to bring such a universe into existence. Instead, the deterministic God has to have actors on stage running thrugh predetermined roles. The sovereign God brings his purposes to pass by including free decisions in his providential plan.

        This is why the analogy of wave-particle theory is apt. Two things that we thought didn’t go together logically actually do. We just needed a better paradigm. We thought the real sovereignty and real freedom couldn’t go together but it turns out that we have been wrong. They actually do.

        One way to make my case is using a metaphysic of divine action called supervenience or downward causation. Nancey Murphy is one of the advocates of this position. John Polkinghorne would fit in this camp as well. It would, indeed take a long time to type it out, but the point is simple: new paradigms like quantum physics are revealing that are indeed states of affairs where freedom and causation co-exist.

darryl brunson

Eric, great article. I am not a scholar, by any means. I read things like this and have to read and re-read to try and keep up. Haha, these conversations are great learning tools for rural, small-church preachers like me. I want to make sure that I am on the right track, because what I understand you saying, is what I have been saying for a while (not as well as you). The thrust of my thought is that if a Sovereign God (and He is) makes man with free will (and He did) then how can that man’s free will (which the Sovereign God gave him) be in contradiction or in any way threaten the Sovereignty of Him? I was asked one time by a Calvinist brother, “Where does God’s Sovereignty stop?” I would ask the same question now of anyone who believes that man’s free will is in opposition to Him. Correct me where needed. Trying to make a difference here in SW Alabama.

    Les

    Darryl,

    I’m only able to be on here a minute right now. Wanted to ask what part of SW Ala are you in? I’m originally from Monroeville. Close to there?

    Blessings brother.

    Les

    Eric Hankins

    Darryl,

    You are right on the money, and I think you’ve put it more clearly than I have.

    Thanks,

    Eric

    Bob Hadley

    Darrell,

    Praise the Lord you are not a scholar; your comment is absolutely brilliant. May God continue to bless your “non-scholarly” approach to the Word!

    ><>”

Andrew

I am always amazed at these long philosophical debates that so many people love to participate in. It makes me think of the day each of us will stand before the Lord….imagine the conversation…When our Lord says: I told you – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” and “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” and to His Father He shared with us that: “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” …
Will you then spew out all of your philosophical responses that attempt to understand the obvious, or will you and I simply shut our mouths in awe and worship of an amazing Creator, Savior, Lord Who is the first and only cause of all things…

or will you try to negotiate with Him regarding the glory that is due only to Him? This is the heart of the issue – will you attempt to steal His glory so you may claim some?
I wonder and I hope…there are times, especially here brothers, when we should simply believe all that He has told us…

Look at the same mistake at the tomb that morning…name one human being that actually believed all that the scripture, and all that our Lord told them so plainly, so many times… that He would rise again from the tomb…can you think of one person who simply believed what He told them…no…they and us are exactly the same…everyone had their own “presupposition” that blinded them to the obvious…

    Eric Hankins

    Andrew,

    I think the meaning of 1 John 2:2 is obviously teaching limitless atonement. I think John 3:16 is obviously teaching that God loves all people and wants all people to be saved. I think 2 Peter 2:9 obviously teaches that God doesn’t want any to persish, but all to come to eternal life. What if God quotes these verses when we stand before Him on resurrection day? Now, I know what your response to these verses will be: you will start referring to your presuppositions- “world” doesn’t really mean “world,” God has two wills, etc. You come to the text with presuppostions. Everyone does. The questions are, “What are my presuppositions? Are the correct? Do they give the best account of all the biblical data?” And then you have to make your case. Quoting random verses and insulting people’s intelligence is not making an argument.

      Andrew

      Your right Eric…I guess when I read that I am dead in my trespasses, dominated by Satan and destined for wrath, that my hopeless condition can only be changed when God grants me faith through grace out of His good pleasure…the truth is, if it were not for Gods will to save anyone, noone would ever be saved because we would continue to be His enemy and our own god with our own truth….sorry for randomly uses the very words of our Lord to line up against all of this wisdom of men. I had no intention of arguing….kind regards

        Bob Hadley

        Andrew,

        Your choice of words here is interesting indeed. You wrote, “the truth is, if it were not for Gods will to save anyone, noone would ever be saved because we would continue to be His enemy and our own god with our own truth….”

        The truth is it is God’s desire that none perish but that all come to repentance. So your posit carries about as much weight as the common argument you get from non-calvinists that God saves people against their wills… to which you will reply, “no individuals who are regenerated will do what their new heart is given to do and that is repent and by faith believe in the finished work of Christ at the cross and they will be born again. They gladly will to be saved!”

        Please accept the same mindset on the “if… and thens” on both scenarios will you… lets at least be consistent in our arguments.

        Thanks!

        ><>”

          Andrew

          I’m sorry brothers….I am way out of my league. Bob, I have looked at your site. It is obvious you devote a tremendous amount of your time to debating this topic…and Eric, you as well have masterful words to say…all leave me running to the scriptures for truth and clarity. I was saved out of the deep darkness of Catholicism five years ago…I had the wonderful grace of the Lord open my eyes wide to the truth after spending my entire life in the darkness of mans religion and his wisdom. It has taught me much of the danger of trying elevate oneself to a place where we think can comprehend the mysteries of God that rest in the first half of Deuteronomy 29:29.

          So I just have to ask you both this question…what presupposition was the Holy Spirit revealing to us when He had Paul write these two separate passages to us, the believing church?

          Ephesians 1:3-6
          Spiritual Blessings in Christ
          3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

          And

          Ephesians 2:1-5
          Chapter 2
          By Grace Through Faith
          1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—…

          I know once again I will be criticized for using “random passages” and not following the blog protocol but please tell me how you deny God being the first cause of His wonderful gracious act upon us and how you can deny the hopelessness of our condition after reading the simplicity of those two passages…

          Also…after looking at your site Bob…and your discusson on total depravity…explain to me how Saul came to faith if it wasnt through Our Lords sovereign choice to pluck him out of the hateful Satan inspired condition he was in? Did Saul come on his own?

          Thanks….

          Eric Hankins

          Andrew,

          I am glad for your testimony of salvation, and I am glad that you are so very passionate about the riches of God’s grace toward sinners. I share that passion.

          I just want to make the point that there are very legitimate ways to understand the texts you are quoting without coming to Calvinistic conclusions. I read those very same texts, and I do not conclude that Paul meant that God does not want everyone to be saved. I do not conclude that Paul was teaching that once God decides to save a certain individual there is nothing he can do about it and once God decides to condemn a person to hell, there is nothing he can do about it. I really don’t see that all. In fact, I believe these texts cannot be read that way.

          Bob Hadley

          Andrew,

          You are not way out of your league in any way, I can assure you, especially where I am concerned and I am confident that Eric would agree. We are all servants trying to do just that.

          I too am grateful that the Lord has forgiven you of your sin and made you His heir and a joint heir with Jesus! It is easy to see passages of Scripture with certain “preconceived interpretations” and we are ALL guilty of that from time to time.

          The passage, ” us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” seems to me to be saying that we who are saved are saved because God chose to save a people to be His own. That is a correct rendering of the passage; does it mean more and the ramifications of individual election as presented by the calvinists, maybe it does and maybe it does not.

          In Ephesians 2, the “And you were dead” is plural so once again it is a collective statement concerning those who are saved, as I see it.

          When I read the following passage I see it as wonderfully rewarding… “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—” is just as precious a statement to the non-calvinist as it is to the calvinist, as are the other passages. Some may seem to be more clear than others but that is the overwhelming case for the scriptures themselves as a whole.

          As to your final question, “explain to me how Saul came to faith if it wasnt through Our Lords sovereign choice to pluck him out of the hateful Satan inspired condition he was in? Did Saul come on his own?” No one comes on their own to salvation. Salvation is clearly the work of revelation reconciliation, both of which are the work of God in the heart of man. Now from there as I see it, the question becomes, one of Saul’s response. You see, I believe Saul could have turned and gone back to Jerusalem instead of going on to Damascus. Had he done so, i do not believe he would have been saved; his conversion took place when He did what Jesus told him to do. He had a choice to make and that choice determined his eternal destiny, at least as it happened on that day.

          Thanks for the thoughtful questions and for visiting my site!

          ><>”

Johnathan Pritchett

Matt, you get some things right in that long post, but a lot misunderstood, especially in your framing and conclusions. If the HTML practice in this post works, I will dissect your long post. If not, someone will have to explain this to me. :)

Did this work?

Johnathan Pritchett

Yes…it worked…so here we go.

Ofcourse, the source of our disagreement is over the degree to which God is sovereign and man is free.

False start, again. You will have to explain why you think God’s sovereignty is related to human freedom in the first place. This is assumed because of traditional ways of framing, but it is a false contrasting. One has to do with status of ruler-ship and authority, the other has to do with anthropology. Apples and oranges. The debate is properly to be framed contrasting determinism and human freedom.

If all you mean by “God is sovereign” is that “the universe is deterministic”, then what you (and others) have done is couched language properly belonging to God in statements about the universe. Which is, at best, confused, and at worst, idolatrous. The word “sovereignty” has nothing whatever in it to entail philosophical determinism.

We all agree that God is maximally and absolutely sovereign. What we do not agree on is whether or not the universe is deterministic.

First of all, do you agree that my definition of God’s sovreignty and the idea of any creation having a totaly free, autonomous will are two mutually exclusive concepts?

I don’t and I can fully affirm your definition given below:

By my definition of God’s sovreignty I mean that He rules over His creation and everything that happens happens because he chose for it to happen.

I have no problem with this whatsoever.

In this scenario, unless God’s will and man’s will are synonomous, one must give way to the other. Plainly these two ideas are not compatible, and either the idea of a truely sovreign God or the idea of a truely free creature must change.

Nope, that doesn’t even follow from your definition above that I have no problem affirming as you have written it. Now, I don’t know what is meant by man being “truly free”, but if by that you mean a proper understanding of Libertarian freedom, then, you are wrong, and your conclusion is a non-sequitur.

You try to avoid this by changing the idea of God’s sovreignty when you say, “God has made a free and sovereign decision to have a universe in which human free-will plays a decisive role.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be saying that God has sovreignly chosen not to be sovreign. This would mean that where scripture speaks of our sovreign God, it actually means He has the potential to be sovrein but is not actually sovreign at all. He has the power to be sovreign, but has chosen to subject himself to human will. Isn’t this twisting the plain meaning of the sovreignty of God in scripture?

No, because you have created a strawman, since this is not what has been stated at all. And again, you keep implying “God is sovereign” means “the universe is deterministic”, on which I raise my objections above.

Furthermore, if you do affirm determinism, then you do not affirm God is sovereign, but rather that He is a feckless wimp who can’t handle and control humans without being meticulously pre-controlling and pre-scripting in the meticulous sense of their actions (including sinful ones). Humans have Libertarian freedom because God is so sovereign, that not only can he impart that to his creatures (including the ability to perform their choices to do evil without God having meticulously and actively determined their evil actions, but simply concurring them from eternity), but can accomplish His purposes in spite of His creatures’ undetermined (yet eternally known) actions.

I see a huge problem with this.

You shouldn’t.

He doesn’t simply know these acts from eternity, because, in eternity, nothing existed except Him.

Exactly, I can wholeheartedly affirm this.

He could only know the actions of His creatures if He knew that He was going to create the creatures that would perform the actions.

Not only does that not follow, but you should abandon this thinking as an affront to God’s aseity, sovereignty, and freedom. Here is why, copied from my coments on the other post:

God must possess ALL KNOWLEDGE prior to His decree. Calvinists (and Molinists) are wrong to assume God’s knowledge is in the following logical order (respectively):

Natural knowledge –> (decree) –> Free knowledge

and

Natural knowledge –> Middle-Knowledge –> (decree) –> Free knowledge

The error of Calvinism (and too Molinism) is that by placing the decree logically between God’s categories of knowledge, this becomes an affront to both his aseity and omniscience, because God is not dependent on any action taken in eternity to have complete omniscience and thus be God, because God knows all AND is completely free to decree or not and still know all (including future contingents of what can be, will be, and could have been…we can call this “middle-knowledge” if it helps AND STILL NOT call it Molinism, if it helps, because Molinism is rejected for its errors pointed out above). Place God’s decree logically prior to any of category of his knowledge like Calvinism (and Molinism) does, and that would by necessity have to come to pass so God has “all knowledge” if that is the model one posits, and thus that would be making creation as necessary as God Himself!!! Which is horrific!

As such, the following:

When we start with the concept of an omnicient, omnipotent God existing by Himself in eternity, we have to admit that nothing else can exist or happen unless He knowingly and intentionally brings it about. I know I mentioned this before in a previous post, but I was never given any answer except that knowing something doesn’t require causing it. That was followed by examples of men observing something that they knew the outcome of, but had no control over. These answers could never apply to the subject because men aren’t omnicient, omnipotent, or the causal antecedent of the universe. So, God not only knows the actions of humans, He knows them because he knowingly created the universe in a way that brought them about. I don’t see anyway around this, and if God created in a way that He knew would bring about specific creatures who would perform specific actions, how could those creatures do anything other than what God intended in His act of creation?

…is a mixed bag of right and wrong that ultimately is riddled with non-sequiturs and false starts from which to dialog. Since we must affirm God knew all of this, as you say, prior to creation, and we must affirm, as I stated, that this (all God’s knowledge) must logically come before any decree, none of what you wrote above disputes Eric whatsoever.

Since most of your content in the “other option” paragraph flows from your same basic errors, I feel no need to address most of that because I can actually agree with the gist you are trying to say there, and none of which, at least in the way you presented, conflicted with anything Eric is saying, ironically enough. :)

To wrap this up, I just want to reiterate that I agree that the coexistence of a sovreign God and men with free wills doesn’t necessarily have to be contradictory. One of the two must be understood to be less than total though. You want to lessen the sovreignty of God to reconcile the two, which is something I believe we should not and logically cannot do. Calvinist, instead, choose to view the will of man, like everything else in the universe, as subject to the decree of Almight God.

Most of this is just drivel. You didn’t argue this, lol…So nothing Eric or I, to whatever extent we agree with each other, we both disagree with Calvinism, and I see nothing different between what we are affirming and what you are affirming. You simply keep using a non-existent tension between God’s sovereignty and “free will” or whatever in a way that is erroneous and improper.

We all agree that EVERYTHING is subject to the Almighty God AND thus by extension, His decree (you needed to word this better, as the decree is from God, not God Himself). So that isn’t the issue. The issue is in which contents of the decree is based on God’s knowledge, and which of its contents is based on actions (both God’s and creatures, and natural laws God establishes and so forth), and how it all relates.

    Matt

    Johnathan,

    Don’t have a lot of time right now, but don’t think I need it. I’ll just start with your claim that there is no relation between God’s sovreignty and human free will. Does this even deserve an answer? If God, as our sovreign ruler, has an autonomous will, and man, as His creation and subject, has an autonomous will, then who’s will prevails? If God decrees that Pharaoh will be a vesel of wrath prepared for destruction and that pharaoh will persecute the Israelites, what will happen when Pharaoh decides to exercise his atonomous will and make the Israelites full Egyptian citizens instead. Could Pharaoh do this? Whichever answer you give requires violating either Pharaoh’s will or God’s decree. If God’s decree is confounded then His sovreignty is lessened. It is clear how His Sovreignty, or maybe I should say His sovreign decritive will so you can understand it, is at odds with the idea of an autonomous human will. You really are trying to hard to say something that sounds smart. I’m sure no one else on here thought that by saying “God is sovreign” I meant “the universe is deterministic” God’s sovreignty implies an omnicient, omnipotent Being purposefully creating and ruling over His creation. “The universe is deterministic” implies blind strings of causes and thier effects playing out to thier necessary end governed by blind phisical laws. Some people on here may believe that I am saying that God’s decrees are deterministic, but that the universe is deterministic?!? Who is confussed at best?

    You claim that my statement, “Unless God’s will and man’s will are synonomous, one must give way to the other. Plainly these ideas are not compatible and either the idea of a truely sovreign God or the idea of a truely free creature must change.” doesn’t follow based on my definition. Did you read the part of my definition that said, “everything that happens happens because he chose for it to happen.” What must happen when the free creature decides to exercise his freedom and do something that God didn’t choose to happen?

    Look, I really want to respond to what you are trying so hard at here, but I am killing myself trying to go back and forth up and down these one word lines. Why don’t you figure out the correct way to speak to a grown man and then master the concept of right click, copy, and paste; and then put your argument in a readable form.

    Bob Hadley

    You will need to close out the blockquote EACH TIME with /blockquote in so each quote is singled out.

    ><>”

Johnathan Pritchett

Oh dear, that formatted terrible, could someone clean it up please?

Christiane

The rabbis tell that God is both sovereign and permits choice.
This was the belief of Judaism at the time of Christ, and remains the belief of Judaism today.

    Bob Hadley

    And the Judaism has NO concept of original sin nor total depravity either… that I can find.

    Very interesting!

    ><>”

darryl brunson

Eric,
thanks Brother for your kindness. Keep up the good work.
Les,
I am in Washington County, @ Tibbie BC, which is about 7 miles south of Chatom. I used to live in Monroeville. Was raised in Grove Hill. Find me on FB or on twitter at darrylpreach. Looking forward to the connection.

Mark

Some here may appreciate God, compatibilism, and the authorship of sin by Paul Helm.

    Les

    Like. Brilliant presentation. Thanks for linking to it.

    Eric Hankins

    At the end of the day, Helm is just making the same argument you guys have been making thoughout this thread: “God is the cause of everything including evil but He is not culpable. How is this so? It’s a mystery.”

    He defines libertarian theodicy thus: ““God has infallible knowledge that horrendous evils will result from certain exercises of human free agency, and chooses to do nothing about it.” This not what a libertarian theodicy teaches. God did not “do nothing.” He sent Christ, who is the perfect answer and healer of all the pain and destruction caused by human free will. He didn’t “do nothing.” He bore the cost of it all.

Les

Eric,

I don’t know how you got this quote from the link as Helm’s, “““God has infallible knowledge that horrendous evils will result from certain exercises of human free agency, and chooses to do nothing about it.”

Here is what he said in context. It looks like you cut and pasted parts of sentences and left out some.

Adopting Byrne’s language (HG, 203), we may say that in standard libertarian theodicy, God knowingly created and sustained the person of Adolf Hitler, infallibly knowing that Auschwitz would follow, while retaining the power to cut short this devilish regime at any time. On this view, God has from all eternity been planning and purposing states of affairs with the infallible knowledge that horrendous evils will result from certain exercises of human free agency, and chooses to do nothing about it. There are of course important differences between libertarian and compatibilist theodicies. But is there much of a moral difference?

Looks like he was dealing with Byrne’s language and the part you quoted was not saying that libertarian theodicy says God did not do “anything” in history at all, such as sending His son. Helm was referring specifically to Hitler, state affairs in a particular situation. Did you see that?

    Eric Hankins

    Les,

    I didn’t say that Helm said that God didn’t do anything in history at all. I am accurately quoting Helm. He is saying that libertarian theodicy asserts that God foreknows evil, has the power to stop it, and does “nothing about it.” Helm is attempting to make the case that God is just as responsible for evil in the libertarian view as He is in the deterministic view. I am rebutting the statement that God does nothing about human sin that flows out of their libertarian free will. He has acted in Christ to deal with that sin, sin that could have been otherwise, and bring His ultimate purposes to bear.

    Les

    Eric,

    Well, if one looks at the words you put in quotations as from Helm and what I put in quotations from Helm, they are not the same. Now perhaps yours was a different source. My source was the link given here.

    I cannot find the exact words in that form in that linked source that you quoted. That’s what I was pointing out. You were not accurate.

    Now to the substance, I don’t think you rebutted Helm at all. I think he makes his case quite well, but the reader can decide.

    Thanks.

      Bob Hadley

      Les,

      Eric did NOT put sentences together; He wrote, “God has infallible knowledge that horrendous evils will result from certain exercises of human free agency, and chooses to do nothing about it.”

      Here is the direct quote from YOUR post, “On this view, God has from all eternity been planning and purposing states of affairs with the infallible knowledge that horrendous evils will result from certain exercises of human free agency, and chooses to do nothing about it.

      The phrase he left out does not change the statement, by leaving it out it simplifies the statement for discussion purposes.

      Eric points to the statement “God foreknows evil, has the power to stop it, and does “nothing about it” and then speaks to the last part of that statement by saying, “God has acted in Christ to deal with that sin, sin that could have been otherwise, and bring His ultimate purposes to bear.”

      What is there to disagree with, calvinist or not? Certainly the issue of God’s responsibility with respect to evils like that of Hitler and Auschwitz is complicated but either one of two conclusions seems the most plausible and that is either God is directly responsible because of His dectretive will or man is responsible because of his rebellious will. It is certain that God could have prevented it but His allowing it does not take away from the provisions He provided in Christ that were not exercised. Once again even there the question is for me, whose fault was it that Hitler did not take advantage of those provisions made available at Calvary?

      Was it God’s choice that Hitler did not repent and come to faith in Jesus or was it Hitler’s choice not to do so? If it was the latter, that does not make the provision less of a provision; it did not reduce God’s sovereignty; He is sovereign just as Jesus is Lord no matter what man does or does not do; Hitler simply made a choice and his life was the result of the choices he made but those choices had nothing to do with “God has acting in Christ to deal with that sin, sin that could have been otherwise, and bring His ultimate purposes to bear.”

      At least that is the way I see it.

      ><>”

        Les

        BOB,

        My point was that Eric simply did not show the quote properly. He lifted part of the sentence. He should have used a … to make that clear. And it is important in context to have included “On this view…” in the quotation. Helm was interacting with someone else’s idea of the topic.

      Eric Hankins

      Les,

      Oh, for goodness sake! I should have put brackets around “God has.” My bad. It doesn’t change the meaning of what Helm was saying one iota. I wasn’t attempting to rebut the entirety of Helm’s argument, just the statement that God “does nothing” (do I have the quote right?) about evil that procedes from human’s libertarian choices.

        Les

        Eric, now calm down. I did not make a huge deal of it. Only pointed it out and I’m sure it was just a hasty oversight. But as I said, Helm was interacting with his opponent’s view.

        Les

          Bob Hadley

          Les,

          I think you have been debating Andrew (not to be confused with any Andrew’s anyone else knows here) a little too much… you don’t want to get to be like him!!!

          Just poking here…

          ><>”

Mark

Eric,

I believe you are incorrect.

1. Calvinism presupposes determinism. This makes God the cause of evil. This makes free will a farce. This is wrong and the vast majority of Baptists reject it.

Calvinists make exegetical arguments to arrive at their understanding of God’s decrees and predestination. Calvinism does not make free-will a farce, but just does not define it the same way as you. There are different perspectives on free-will from various theological and even non-theistic philosophical perspectives. That you presuppose a particular view of free-will is more of a problem from my perspective.

2. Arminianism is not the only alternative to Calvinism. I am suggesting Baptists have not believed either for a long time, and that we have a better way. I think this is what most Baptists believe and what most Baptists ought to believe.

We disagree as I do not see a soteriological middle way between Calvinism and Arminianism. And there you go making a general statement about Baptists. Calvinists have never left Baptist life as far as I know so I’m not sure from where you draw your “for a long time” conclusion. Well, because you think Baptists ought to believe a particular way is not the measure of what it means to be a Baptist. You are part of an organization that was started by Calvinistic believers and you can’t change that history, but you can disrespect it.

3. I understand Calvinism implicitly. I don’t need to have it explained to me. I understand it completely. I understand its use of the Bible. It is not correct.

Clearly you don’t understand Calvinism if you conclude it is not correct. ;)

Thanks for the interaction.

    Eric Hankins

    1. So, you agree that Calvinism presupposes determinism, even if you don’t agree to my assessment of how determinism plays itself out with respect to free will and the nature of evil. You are a determinist, yes? A point I want to make is that most Baptists aren’t. They agree with me on free will, that it is the ability to do otherwise.

    2. LifeWay research affirms that only 10% of Baptist pastors affirm the five points of Calvinism. 12% affirm Arminianism. http://www.edstetzer.com/2012/03/yesterday-i-shared-some-of.html. I am not trying to make the point that there are no Calvinists in Baptist life. I am making the stone-cold point that they are a tiny minority, and then I am arguing that the reason that most Baptists aren’t Calvinists is not because they are stupid or uninformed, but because they think it’s wrong. I’ve got all the respect in the world for our Founders. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with their advocacy of slaveholding. We figured out along the way that was a terribly bad idea.

    3. Well, you got me there :)

    Bob Hadley

    Mark,

    Come on… you said, “We disagree as I do not see a soteriological middle way between Calvinism and Arminianism.”

    Is there an outside way that is still Christian or are you saying that these two are the only two possibilities… and i am supposing that you highly question one of those?

    ><>”

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