Diminishing the creation and the Creator

March 6, 2014

The Exalted View of God in Scripture

by Ronnie Rogers, pastor

Trinity Baptist Church
Norman, Okla.

The nature and attributes of God are seen not only in His person, but in His creation as well. We are reminded, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The Old Testament declares the same truth in Psalm 19:1.

The heart and desire of Calvinists is to exalt, honor, and glorify God. However, Calvinism’s endeavor to exalt God by emphasizing compatibilism,[1] monergism, unconditional election, passive or active reprobation, and selective regeneration actually results in the antithesis of their desire.

As with God, the glory of a creator is not only seen in his attributes, but also in his creation. If I am shown the work of a person, I can tell a great deal about the person. For the excellence of our creative ability, ethic, love, etc., have a way of being manifested in our work. An example of this is, while we have not met Bach, Da Vinci, Aquinas, etc., or may not have ever read their biographies, if we are introduced to their works, we immediately see their human genius and greatness. To wit, one’s works declare the greatness, talent, creativity, and often even the morality or stability of someone at a particular time in his life, e.g., Picasso.

While it seems true that one can create something less than his capabilities, it seems impossible for someone to create something that is measurably beyond them. I would even argue that is true at any time, since creating something by accident is certainly reflective of the accident, but not necessarily the ability of the creator; in any case, it is clear that one cannot do so with consistent intentionality.

That is to say, one simply cannot diminish the work of the Creator without concomitantly diminishing its Creator, which Calvinism does by strapping man (God’s crowning creation) with compatibilism, whereby man was created to inevitably sin and be totally passive in regeneration. For example, what if one looked beneath the majestic mystique of the Mona Lisa only to find that Da Vinci actually painted by the numbers, or we learned that Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was actually composed by an alien being who could do nothing but produce such a masterpiece. Either discovery would tell us more about the creators of such works than the works themselves, and would in fact reduce our opinions of their creators. The point is, Calvinism’s reduction of man’s freedom to that of compatibilism tells us more about their, albeit unwitting, diminished view of God, who apparently cannot be in sovereign control of truly free beings with otherwise choice, than it does about Calvinism’s view of man.

Therefore, if any view or system of thought is diminishing or humanizing God, it seems in reality to be Calvinism rather than those who disagree with Calvinism’s assumptions, as Calvinists often claim. One can see this in many areas in which we disagree with our Calvinist friends. We believe the Scripture teaches that God created a more sophisticated man in His own image who had the ability to actually choose to not sin (i.e. Adam and Eve chose to sin and were therefore expelled from the garden, but they could have chosen to not sin and remained). We believe the Scripture teaches that God’s sovereignty is more complex, in that He is capable of being sovereign over true free beings with otherwise choice. We believe the Scripture teaches that God’s plan is unique in that it is actually able to accomplish the otherwise plausibly impossible outcome of producing a being with otherwise choice who will one day, like God but not as God, always choose righteousness, which He accomplished through coextensive creation and redemption.[2] We believe the Scripture teaches that God’s perfect love is more comprehensive in offering every person everything needed to choose freely to come back into fellowship with Him through faith. This enablement is based on the sufficient sacrifice of Christ (1 John 2:2), working of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), drawing of the Father (John 6:44) and Son (John 12:32), and the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16-17). We believe the Scripture teaches that God’s salvation plan is more inclusive in that He does in fact truly desire every individual to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23, 32, 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:4, 4:10; Titus 2:11; 1 Peter 3:8; Revelation 22:17); and God’s gospel is more consistent with the authentic meaning of the word gospel “news that makes one happy.”[3] This is the exalted God of Scripture.

Ed’s. note: Per his usual practice, Pastor Rogers will be observing comments from time-to-time, but may or may not reply immediately. He likely will, however, reply to the most salient comments at a later time.


[1] The two views of free will are Compatible and Libertarian. With regard to salvation, the Compatible view means that man freely chooses according to his desires that emanate from his nature, and whatever he did in fact choose, he could not have chosen otherwise. The Libertarian view means that man is endowed with otherwise choice, and therefore, whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise. Libertarian free will is contrary to Compatibilist’s soft determinism in that Libertarians assert that free will means that man can choose to act or refrain within the range of choices he has. Compatibilism is as deterministic as determinism, but seeks to differentiate itself by redefining free will to mean a choice is free so long as one did what he desired; resulting in the compatibility of determinism and moral responsibility. Of course, no one consistently preaches the Bible nor lives life consistently with such a neologistical understanding of free will. 

[2] Click HERE to see my entitled, Is Libertarian Free Will Eternal, from September 2013 on SBCToday.com.

[3] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 412.

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Rick Patrick

Ronnie,

Thank you for your usual clarity in exposing yet another of Calvinism’s vulnerabilities—a diminished view of man as God’s crowning creation. That I am made in the image of God should not logically glorify me, as the one who had nothing to do with it, so much as it glorifies Him, as the One whose creative masterpiece the Bible says that I am. (Ephesians 2:10) A living human masterpiece in the image of God should logically be inspiring and empowered—not passively disabled to the point that his Father has to make his decisions for him.

I continue to marvel whenever our Calvinist friends require the adjective “libertarian” to modify the “freedom” of the will. I thoroughly understand the definitions as they use them, but because libertarian is essentially synonymous with freedom, I simply think of my view as “free” freedom and cannot help but wonder how there can possibly be any other kind.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    I prefer just saying “morally responsible agents”, since that entails a real freedom. Holding one morally responsible for actions that they were determined to do makes zero sense to me. Determinism makes image-bearers merely passive spectators to their own life, while simultaneously living under the illusion or delusion that the wants and desires they have in relation to their influences on which they incorporate into their decision-making processes are actually theirs. This in contrast with them being the ones living it out. Putting the word “divine” in front of determinism doesn’t change anything or somehow make the notion either Biblical or pious-sounding. Determinism doesn’t even square with the Biblical data regarding the hardening(s..plural, since THREE different Hebrew words are used in those passages) of Pharaoh.

      Norm Miller

      Amen, J-Man. Care to share some exegesis of those three Hebrew words RE “harden”?

Ronnie W Rogers

Rick

Thanks, and you are right on target.

Zach Whitson

Concerning the first sentence of the fifth paragraph, would you mind addressing God’s decrees as they relate to sin or if they don’t?
Concerning your sixth paragraph, would you mind interacting with: posse peccare, posse non peccare, non posse non peccare, posse non peccare, non posse peccare?
*Since you cited the article, “Is Libertarian Free Will Eternal,” would you also interact with experiential knowledge concerning people dying in infancy? Your emphasis on experience is clearly evident in that article as you state, “it may be impossible to guarantee that a created libertarian free human being with otherwise choice, who does not have experiential knowledge (either through personal experience or observation) of sin.” Although you state, “a human’s first experience of sin after Adam and Eve comes from inheritance, i.e. procreation,” I’m not sure whether you would claim that infants have an experiential knowledge of sin or if those in heaven are observing us. Since this question is related to a separate article, I won’t hold it against you for not answering.

    Norm Miller

    Due to sporadic technical issues w/our “CAPTCHA” security, Pastor Rogers was unable to post this response to you, Zack.
    So, he emailed it to the moderator, who is posting this on Pastor Rogers’ behalf.
    ===========================
    Zack,
    Thanks for your response. I am not trying to avoid your questions, but they are rather open-ended—as you know, people write books on such questions. Consequently, I am guessing at what you are concerned about particularly. If I miss your point, I apologize, but it seems imprudent for me to write a long answer to a question that may not have been asked.
    You said, “Concerning the first sentence of the fifth paragraph, would you mind addressing God’s decrees as they relate to sin or if they don’t?”
    First, it is a good reminder for both of us that the concept of “the decrees of God” falls within the category of speculative theology; therefore, one should be tentative in his affirmation of such. Yes, of course, they are related to sin in theology—infra, supra, etc. However, I find the discussion regarding them and God’s role in the reality of man’s sin to obscure the real question. That is, did it please God to create man with a compatible free will and thereby predetermine that man would freely choose to sin; while concomitantly determining only to offer redemption to some, thereby predetermining that untold numbers spend eternity in hell by God’s desirous design according to His good pleasure? In Calvinism, God did in fact do this, regardless of one’s position on the decrees. This truth can be seen in the reality that according Calvinism, God predetermined that He would save some and not save some when He could have saved all via compatibilism, unconditional election, and selective regeneration. Whether He did this prior to determining to create, allow the fall, etc., or not is ultimately inconsequential to the true question. Consequently, Reprobation is a reality whether active, passive, or consequently. That is the issue. Do we believe the Bible teaches that? I do not, and all the discussions regarding the order of decrees neither changes nor clarifies the true problem with Calvinism’s view of God, man, and sin.
    You said, “Concerning your sixth paragraph, would you mind interacting with: posse peccare, posse non peccare, non posse non peccare, posse non peccare, non posse peccare?”
    I suppose that you are asking about something to do with the four states of man, e.g. able to sin, able not to sin, not able not to sin, able not to sin, and unable to sin.
    Of course, you well know that this is another open-ended question. Consequently, I will say, according to Calvinism’s embracement of compatibilism, the question is how a Calvinist explains that Adam could have chosen to sin or not sin and whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise. It is not enough for Calvinists to state such, but rather how can it be in Calvinism with its adoption of compatibilism? It truly cannot be. For if man was able to sin and able not to sin and whatever he did in fact do he could have done otherwise, you have a libertarian view of free will. For clarity, Calvinism does not merely affirm that God knew Adam would sin—all Biblicists believe that—but rather that He created man with a compatible “free will” and thereby determined that man would inevitably freely choose to sin. Again, sometimes our talk (I am not saying you have done this, but rather decrees, posse…etc.,) obscures this harsh reality of Calvinism. That is what I want to avoid because it is not only unhelpful, but it is an impediment to our knowing God.
    You said, “Would you also interact with experiential knowledge concerning people dying in infancy…. Although you state ‘,a human’s first experience of sin after Adam and Eve comes from inheritance, i.e. procreation,’ I’m not sure whether you would claim that infants have an experiential knowledge of sin or if those in heaven are observing us?”’
    You answered the question in your citation, “a human’s first experience of sin after Adam and Eve comes from inheritance, i.e. procreation.” Experience does not require volitional choice, but rather just experience. Every person experiences sin after the fall. They only experience it in different ways. Jesus experienced sin—consequences, presence, etc.—without ever sinning. A baby experiences sin in procreation, i.e. conceived in sin. A simple way to see that everyone, including prenatal beings, experiences sin is by answering the question, who goes to heaven without the work of Christ on the cross? My answer is no one, and I assume you would say the same; therefore, everyone experiences sin.

      Zach Whitson

      Thank you for the responses. My questions are open-ended by purpose. I will not make an assumption with what you believe concerning something you didn’t address in the article and bare false witness against you.
      I find it curious that you chose to respond to my first question by saying, “Yes, of course, they are related to sin in theology—infra, supra, etc. However, I find the discussion regarding them and God’s role in the reality of man’s sin to obscure the real question,” when you could’ve chosen otherwise. Most of the charges are directly addressing God’s decrees or God’s role in the reality of man’s sin. One of the charges specifically says, “man was created to inevitably sin…”, which you come close to saying yourself since Adam lacked experiential knowledge. Since you state that God’s decrees are related to sin in theology, I will delve deeper with my question. When Adam sinned, was that in accord with God’s decree or was it contrary?
      Taking into consideration how you answered my second question, I’m not sure if I should request further information until my follow-up question gets addressed.
      Thank you very much for answering my third question.

Ken Hamrick

Brother Rogers,

The compatibilism that you have addressed is not true compatibilism. The standard Calvinists have coopted the term, but as you have pointed out, their version of compatibilism is as lacking in freedom as plain determinism. True compatibilism is not Calvinist, but centrist, and does indeed maintain the freedom of men’s actions; however, it does affirm that the “master choice” is God’s alone, while each man must and does freely make his own choice. See the SBC Voices article, “Compatibilism: A More Immanent Grace,” at: http://sbcvoices.com/compatibilism-a-more-immanent-grace-by-ken-hamrick/

Ken Hamrick

True compatibilism does not hinge on the impossibility of choosing otherwise, but on the certainty that one possible course of action will be freely chosen over other possible courses of action. In determinism, God accomplishes His plan through necessity, while in compatibilism, God accomplishes His plan through certainty. Setting God’s will over and against the will of men, as if God must thwart the will of men in order to accomplish His plan, limits God to acting transcendently in relation to the will of men. However, God is not limited to acting transcendently… We tend to assume that the only alternatives are for God to either force His will on us or “step back” and let us decide. But God can indeed accomplish His will by acting immanently within and through the freely-made decisions of men. The truth of God’s immanent working does not require us to be able to comprehend exactly how He does this.

    Norm Miller

    Due to sporadic technical issues w/our “CAPTCHA” security, Pastor Rogers was unable to post this response to you, Ken.
    So, he emailed it to the moderator, who is posting this on Pastor Rogers’ behalf.
    ===========================
    Ken,

    Thanks for your response. I truly did enjoy reading your article, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

    You said, “The compatibilism that you have addressed is not true compatibilism.” I wish to differ and explain why. Compatibilism is the philosophical belief that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible; hence, the name. In contrast, strict determinism and libertarianism are both incompatibilist because they deny that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, albeit for very different reasons.

    In compatibilism, choice is considered free so long as the individual chooses according to his/her desire and there is no external coercion (voluntariness exists). Determinism exists in that determinative antecedents unalterably determine the desire from which the free choice emanates. These antecedents can be explained variously depending on whether the compatibilist is a Materialist, Darwinist, Theist, Calvinist, etc. All compatibilists who understand compatibilism agree upon the existence of determinative antecedents, but disagree on what they are, e.g., atheists would not consider God.

    Now, if you mean by God working immanently so that man freely chooses but could not have actually (at that point in time and space with the same antecedents) chosen otherwise, then that fits compatibilism. In compatibilism, voluntariness (free choosing) exists, but origination (that the idea can originate within the person—agent causation and/or otherwise choice) does not. According to compatibilism, a person cannot act differently that he did in fact act—not freely anyway. Compatibilism argues that the choosing is free, but the idea of a choice between accessible options is non-existent based upon the determinative antecedents. Further, compatibilism does not exclude natural causes, be they secondary, tertiary, etc. Consequently, I do use the term correctly.

    In your article you propose that God works “acting immanently…which always has a natural cause.” You use terms such as “persuasively” etc. Now, if by immanently working you mean that man (in certain areas, i.e. Adam’s sin, responses to grace-enabled faith) can act in concert with the constellation of natural antecedents (influences, persuasions, or whatever the antecedents may be) or he can choose not to, then that is not compatibilism. That is libertarian free will, and we are not actually disagreeing on this particular point.

    However, if your usage of such is determinative so that the moral agent could not have chosen other than he did in fact choose, then you are arguing for compatibilism with only different determinative antecedents. Per my article, I do not believe Scripture reflects that view of man, and that it actually degrades both the creation and creator; although, the very opposite is the desire of every Calvinist I know. Again, according to compatibilism, an action can be both determined and free so long as one is not coerced and the person does what he desires. It does exclude origination, otherwise choice, and can only be sustained by defining freedom in a way that is not apparent in Scripture, and that I do not believe anyone lives consistently with; moreover, in compatibilism, the question of ultimate responsibility looms ominously.

    You said, “The standard Calvinists have coopted the term, but as you have pointed out, their version of compatibilism is as lacking in freedom as plain determinism.” As explained above, compatibilism seeks to maintain both determinism and freedom. Further, compatibilism is what it is, and the development of personal versions only beclouds the issue. Compatibilism allows Calvinists to believe man freely believes or disbelieves, and that Adam freely chose to sin, but that freedom is defined as stated above, which precludes any notion of a choice between accessible options at the moment of decision in time and space. Consequently, the free choosing is actually a predetermined free choosing.

    In addition, Calvinists who place regeneration before faith must include both force and free will (I am not sure where you stand on this so I am not suggesting this is your position). Although they are seldom so bold as to state selective regeneration so forthrightly, this understanding is attested to ubiquitously in Calvinism because prior to regeneration, man is “wholly passive” and regeneration is monergistic. After the new nature is forced upon the sinner, because the sinner could only freely disbelieve (or your word would be “unwilling” or aversive), he freely chooses to believe in Jesus unto complete salvation. However, the distinction is that as a sinner he could only freely disbelieve (or using your terms, have “unwillingness” or “aversion”), and as a monergistically regenerated being he could only freely believe. Thus, his free choice is a predetermined free choice.

    Relevantly, if we can dust things off a bit more, let me ask this. Do you believe that God’s immanent working (regardless if you use terms that do not entail determinism, “persuade,” etc.) resulted in Adam freely choosing to sin and yet it being impossible for him to have chosen, at that point in time and space with all antecedents in place, not to sin? If not, then your “immanent working” fits nicely into compatibilism as properly defined. If you believe that the unsaved (elect) only freely choose to believe unto salvation and could not have chosen otherwise and the others (non-elect) freely choose to remain unwilling and were never given a choice by God’s enabling grace to do otherwise, then your “immanent working” fits nicely into compatibilism. Compatibilism simply does not require transcendence in any form.

    Conversely, if you believe God’s pre-salvational workings grant a genuine opportunity for every hearer to believe the gospel unto salvation or reject the same unto damnation, and whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise at that point in time and space, then we agree.

      Ken Hamrick

      Brother Rogers,

      Thank you for your substantive, well-articulated response (a breath of fresh air in an age of attention-deficit “tweeters”).

      You stated:

      You said, “The compatibilism that you have addressed is not true compatibilism.” I wish to differ and explain why. Compatibilism is the philosophical belief that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible; hence, the name. In contrast, strict determinism and libertarianism are both incompatibilist because they deny that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible, albeit for very different reasons.

      You definition is not completely accurate. Stanford’s on-line dictionary of philosophy offers the following:

      Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.

      Primarily, compatibilism speaks of determinism being compatible with free will—the idea of moral responsibility is naturally derived from the idea of free will, but only by the assumption that responsibility depends upon the freedom of will. As there are disagreements on how free will is to be defined, there are different kinds of compatiblism. Because the Calvinist limits the idea of free will to the “one-way” direction of being free to do only what one desires, it is a limited compatibilism and not the full compatibilism of a full freedom to do otherwise—it retains the language of compatibilism while eliminating much of its substance.

      You continued:

      In compatibilism, choice is considered free so long as the individual chooses according to his/her desire and there is no external coercion (voluntariness exists). Determinism exists in that determinative antecedents unalterably determine the desire from which the free choice emanates. These antecedents can be explained variously depending on whether the compatibilist is a Materialist, Darwinist, Theist, Calvinist, etc. All compatibilists who understand compatibilism agree upon the existence of determinative antecedents, but disagree on what they are, e.g., atheists would not consider God.

      There is an important distinction to be made here, and I hope you will not miss it. It is the distinction between a strictly philosophical view of determinism as a world in which past events determine future events like a row of dominoes falling one after another, and a theological view of determinism in which both God and men have a free agency and God determines events through the orchestration of persuasive influences and events. In short, it is the distinction between necessity and mere certainty. While all that is necessary is certain, all that is certain need not be necessary. All compatibilists do not agree on how the word, “unalterably,” should be defined. If it is defined by necessity, then there is no real freedom, and (contrary to the Calvinists) there ought to be no real responsibility. However, as the full compatibilists insist, the unalterable certainty of a choice does not make that choice necessary, and thus alternative possibilities are not precluded and freedom is preserved. Millard Erickson [Christian Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), pp. 357] offers this explanation:

      …The key to unlocking the problem is the distinction between rendering something certain and rendering it necessary. The former is a matter of God’s decision that something will happen; the latter is a matter of his decreeing that it must occur… What we are saying is that God renders it certain that a person who could act (or could have acted) differently does in fact act in a particular way (the way that God wills).

      God may determine the actions of men without rendering those actions necessary. Rather than eliminating all real alternative possibilities, he is capable of rendering as certain which validly possible alternative action will be freely chosen. You stated:

      Now, if you mean by God working immanently so that man freely chooses but could not have actually (at that point in time and space with the same antecedents) chosen otherwise, then that fits compatibilism. In compatibilism, voluntariness (free choosing) exists, but origination (that the idea can originate within the person—agent causation and/or otherwise choice) does not. According to compatibilism, a person cannot act differently [than] he did in fact act—not freely anyway. Compatibilism argues that the choosing is free, but the idea of a choice between accessible options is non-existent based upon the determinative antecedents. Further, compatibilism does not exclude natural causes, be they secondary, tertiary, etc. Consequently, I do use the term correctly.

      No, what I mean by God working immanently is that man can actually (at that point in time and space with the same antecedents) choose otherwise but will with certainty not choose otherwise. While it might work for a strictly philosophical view to claim that mere inclination suffices to disqualify alternative courses of action as impossible, the Bible knows no such excuse. Antecedent influences may affect inclination and render a chosen action certain, but the man is still held accountable because inclination alone does not render alternative courses of action impossible. Although all things are determined according to God’s eternal plan, the sinner could have and should have acted differently, and inclination is no excuse.

      How then, you may ask, are men still held accountable for sins of which God was in control? On this perpetual question, Andrew Fuller [“The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation,” The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, (Harrisonburg: Sprinkle, 1988), p. 330] has offered an important proposition that clearly illuminates the Scriptural truth of the matter: “God has ever maintained these two principles: All that is evil is of the creature, and to him belongs the blame of it; and all that is good is of Himself, and to Him belongs the praise of it.” Fuller continues:

      …To acquiesce in both these positions is too much for the carnal heart. The advocates for free-will would seem to yield the former, acknowledging themselves blameworthy for the evil; but they cannot admit the latter. Whatever honour they may allow to the general grace of God, they are for ascribing the preponderance in favour of virtue and eternal life to their own good improvement of it. Others, who profess to be advocates for free grace, appear to be willing that God should have all the honour of their salvation, in case they should be saved; but they discover the strongest aversion to take to themselves the blame of their destruction in case they should be lost. To yield both these points to God is to fall under in the grand controversy with him, and to acquiesce in his revealed will; which acquiescence includes “repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.”

      All that happens that is evil is foreseen of God and permitted, while all that happens that is good only happens because God has decided to cause it to happen. All good is caused by God in some way, while all that is evil is of the creatures alone and is not caused by God (except in the sense that it is part of His plan). Simply put, every sin is a freely chosen act that was foreknown by God, while the good in any act must not only be foreknown by God but must also be caused by God.  In both cases, creatures freely choose; but in the case of chosen good, the ultimate credit must go to God, while in the case of chosen evil, the ultimate responsibility rests with the sinner.

      Unless God graciously intervenes to suppress the evil and effect the good, men would continually be as sinful as possible. Because mankind sinned in Adam, all men are depraved, and there is no good within us apart from God’s intervening grace. Therefore, if there is to be anything good within human events, God must intervene and bring about the good. However, those parts of God’s plan that include allowing sin to occur (such as Christ’s crucifixion) do not need God to cause men to sin, since men are naturally quite willing to sin on their own. God in every case chooses whether or not to restrain the evil, and He chooses to what degree to restrain the evil (He is not obligated to do either)—and all is done according to His eternal plan in order to accomplish His ultimate purposes.

      I will break up my reply to you in order not to exceed limits. To be continued…

      Ken Hamrick

      Brother Rogers, (continuing…)

      You stated:

      In your article you propose that God works “acting immanently…which always has a natural cause.” You use terms such as “persuasively” etc. Now, if by immanently working you mean that man (in certain areas, i.e. Adam’s sin, responses to grace-enabled faith) can act in concert with the constellation of natural antecedents (influences, persuasions, or whatever the antecedents may be) or he can choose not to, then that is not compatibilism. That is libertarian free will, and we are not actually disagreeing on this particular point… However, if your usage of such is determinative so that the moral agent could not have chosen other than he did in fact choose, then you are arguing for compatibilism with only different determinative antecedents…

      Well, not quite. Determinism says that the man cannot choose otherwise (determining actions of a will that is not free); libertarianism says that he can choose otherwise (not determining actions of a will that is free); full compatibilism says that the man can choose otherwise but it is certain that he will not (determining actions of a will that is free).

      As for regeneration, my view can be found in the following article: Toward Southern Baptist Unity, Part 6: Unifying Propositions on Regeneration. The Calvinists take things too far. The Biblical truth remains in the middle.

      You stated:

      Relevantly, if we can dust things off a bit more, let me ask this. Do you believe that God’s immanent working (regardless if you use terms that do not entail determinism, “persuade,” etc.) resulted in Adam freely choosing to sin and yet it being impossible for him to have chosen, at that point in time and space with all antecedents in place, not to sin? If not, then your “immanent working” fits nicely into compatibilism as properly defined. If you believe that the unsaved (elect) only freely choose to believe unto salvation and could not have chosen otherwise and the others (non-elect) freely choose to remain unwilling and were never given a choice by God’s enabling grace to do otherwise, then your “immanent working” fits nicely into compatibilism. Compatibilism simply does not require transcendence in any form… Conversely, if you believe God’s pre-salvational workings grant a genuine opportunity for every hearer to believe the gospel unto salvation or reject the same unto damnation, and whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise at that point in time and space, then we agree.

      Let’s back up and take in the wider picture—to address the framework. There is a confusion to avoid here. When we speak in terms of possibility and impossibility, we are speaking of this temporal world. Contingency and possibility are the fabric of the world in which we exist. At every moment, we are met with a myriad of possible courses of action—and all of which are genuinely valid possibilities. But from the perspective of God’s eternal plan, there is only certainty. However, the certainties of heaven do not preclude the possibilities of earth.

      Matthew 26 ESV
      51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant[g] of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

      If there was any event in human history that was necessary, it was the central event of the crucifixion of the Savior. But here we have the surprising revelation of Jesus that alternative courses of action were indeed possible. His question to Peter serves well as a rebuttal to all who think that the foreknowledge or the sovereign plan of God invalidate or preclude the possibility of alternative choices or actions: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” Those who think that there are no genuinely possible alternatives would have to answer Him, “No, I do not think You can.” And although Christ implicitly affirmed the possibility of the alternative, he also affirmed that the Scriptures will indeed be fulfilled (God’s foreknown plan will indeed be carried out): “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” The balance is found in God’s use of certainty, rather than necessity, to carry out His perfect plan. If He had used necessity, then no other alternative choices or courses of action would be possible. But by using certainty, God left intact all alternative possibilities within our temporal world. God’s plan is unfailingly carried out not because men cannot do otherwise, but because they will not do otherwise.

      What I am arguing for is that  in true compatibilism, having “all antecedents in place” does not make it impossible to choose otherwise but only makes it certain that one will not choose otherwise. So to answer your question regarding Adam, God’s immanent working resulted in Adam freely choosing to sin and—although it was possible for him to choose otherwise—it was certain that he would choose as he did. God’s pre-salvational workings do grant a genuine opportunity for every hearer to believe the gospel unto salvation or reject the same unto damnation, and whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise at that point in time and space; nevertheless, his choice was utterly certain and God’s predetermined plan never fails. But again, let me point out that God’s immanent working relating to our sin is one of passive permitting of what naturally originates within us, while His working relating to our choosing rightly is one of active influencing toward the good.

      I am grateful for this discussion, and I hope we can continue (think of the good example being set by such a substantive, irenic Calvinism-related debate :) ). I look forward to your reply.

owen riddick

Calvinists and Catholics both trace their origin to Augustine, does that make them brothers in theology? Augustine was trained in Gnosticism and Platonic philosophy, which began with the ideal of God being innately perfect and man innately evil. Gnosticism wrongly brought Christ down to be a man and was rightly condemned. Calvinism is upside down Gnosticism that stresses election, predestination, regeneration, and then impartation of faith to make man savable apart from a free grace response by people.
No Calvinist can accurately explain the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in John 16, or the words of Jesus in John 12:32, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.”
Augustine also taught baptismal regeneration of babies, the primacy of the pope at Rome, Purgatory, the replacement of the literal promises to Israel by the Church, and the perpetual virginity of Mary. What is so bad about a loving God who desires everyone to trust Christ as their Savior.
Yes, predestination is taught in Romans 8; but it is based on God’s foreknowledge, not cold hard determinism.
Calvinism starts with the wrong person, Augustine, stresses the wrong points, and reads into Scripture the wrong ideas and comes to the wrong conclusions.
Gnosticism and Platonic philosophy may have been fine for Augustine and the Calvinists. Just give me John 3:16.

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