Suggestions for Determining Whether a Pastoral Candidate Is a Calvinist

March 5, 2015

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

I believe the vast majority of Calvinists seek to be clear about their belief in Calvinism when interviewed by a pastoral search committee. I personally know some Calvinists who seek to make this very clear in the interview process. However, and quite unfortunately, that is not always the case.

On one occasion, the Director of Missions in one of our Oklahoma associations invited me to speak to the pastors on the subject of Calvinism. The Director told me of two churches in his association that, despite their desire and best effort to call men who were not Calvinists, ended up calling men who were Calvinists. The search committees attributed this unfortunate eventuality to the fact that the pastoral candidates were, shall we say, less than forthright about being Calvinists. In each case, this cast the respective churches into turmoil, and a number of people were hurt.

I have received calls from people who served on their church’s pastoral search committee regarding this very problem—one church in my own city and one as far away as California. In both cases the church was seeking to call a non-Calvinist pastor. In each case, the committee asked specific questions such as, “Are you a Calvinist?” Being convinced the man was not a Calvinist, they extended a call to him only to find out later that he was in fact a five-point Calvinist. One even went so far as to say that he agreed with John Piper on everything, but he was not a Calvinist.

By the time I spoke with them, the man had already been called and was serving as pastor. Of course, the churches were in turmoil. All of this could have be avoided if pastoral candidates practiced speaking truthfully about their beliefs so that the members of the committee, usually laymen, could understand precisely the candidate’s position regarding Calvinism.

I offer the following questions in order to help pastoral search committees determine whether a candidate is a Calvinist or not. Although a certain level of precision is required in formulating such questions in order to avoid mistakes, I did try to write them in such a way that the committee need not be theological sophisticates to understand either the terminology or the candidate’s position. Additionally, if a church seeks a knowledgeable and committed Calvinist to be their pastor, the questions will also help in that setting as well. Selection of a pastor may very well be the most important single decision that a church makes.

I offer these guidelines for using the following questionnaire. First, the committee needs to ask, and repeat if necessary, the question precisely as written. Second, each question is written so as to be easily answered by a simple yes or no. Follow-up comments are acceptable, but only after a clear yes or no have been given. Third, the “Meaning” listed under each question is to help the committee understand more accurately the nature of the question in order to avoid misinterpretation. Fourth, a non-Calvinist should have no difficulty at all in responding to all of the questions; consequently, any lack of clarity in one’s answer is, at least, a red flag. A non-Calvinist would answer no to the first six questions and yes to the last three. They are that clear. Less than one-hundred percent consistency is cause for serious concern.

  1. Do you believe in unconditional election?

Meaning that while all people have the responsibility to respond to the Gospel, only those whom God has sovereignly and unconditionally elected to salvation can or will believe unto salvation and the same will not say no.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe that regeneration[1] is monergistic?[2]

Meaning that until a lost person is regenerated he is totally passive with regard to exercising faith.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe that regeneration precedes faith?[3]

Meaning that faith results from regeneration rather than preceding regeneration.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe that only the unconditionally elect will experience regeneration?

Meaning that God selectively and exclusively applies regeneration to only the elect.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe there is an internal efficacious[4] call of God that is extended only to the elect?

Meaning that this is the essential and irresistible call given by God to the elect that inevitably results in salvation, and this same call is withheld by God from the non-elect.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe that conditioning regeneration or salvation upon a person’s faith in Christ is equivalent to adding human works, merit, or virtue to salvation?

Meaning that Calvinism’s belief in unconditional election gives God all the glory (credit), and non-Calvinist’s belief that salvation is conditioned upon faith gives man some of the glory (credit) for his salvation.

  1. Calvinists say Yes.
  2. Non-Calvinists say No.

 

  1. Do you believe that both God’s saving desire and His decretal will confirm that His salvation plan provides everything necessary for every single person to actually be saved by faith?

Meaning God’s decrees and His saving desire equally prove that everyone and anyone who hears the gospel can truly be saved by faith.

  1. Calvinists say No.
  2. Non-Calvinists say Yes.

 

  1. Do you believe that anyone and everyone who hears the gospel is, by the grace of God, able to freely respond by faith unto salvation or to freely reject the gospel, and whichever choice the person makes, he was equally able to have made the other choice?

Meaning that God graciously provides in order to make both options accessible to every person.

  1. Calvinists say No.
  2. Non-Calvinists say Yes.

 

  1. Do you believe that Christ’s death atoned for the sins of every person in the world in the same way so that anyone and everyone can believe and be saved?

Meaning that Christ’s death actually paid for every sin thereby removing every obstacle so that every person has the same opportunity to be believe the gospel and be saved.

  1. Calvinists say No.
  2. Non-Calvinists say Yes.

 

[1] Usually understood to mean born again
[2] This means that God alone brings about regeneration in the elect without any cooperation or activity by man; consequently, being born again is not contingent upon man exercising faith.
[3] Not all Calvinists ascribe to this, but most in SBC life do; all non-Calvinists reject it.
[4] “Efficacious” means that it is absolutely successful in securing salvation for those who receive it—the unconditionally elect. Often times, this is used interchangeably or cooperatively with the belief in “irresistible grace.”

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Les Prouty

Pastor Rogers,

I’m a long time Calvinist (about 30 years). I was blessed to serve in four Southern Baptist churches during part of that time while in seminary and after. Though no longer serving in a SB church, I have connections through my Haiti ministry and family in SB churches. So I have a deep concern for the health of Southern Baptist churches.

It is shameful when any minister is less than forthcoming in his answers when candidating for pastoral ministry. He should not wait to be asked. So this post is a good word.

One question for clarification. You have #4 as “Do you believe that only the unconditionally elect will experience regeneration?
Meaning that God selectively and exclusively applies regeneration to only the elect.” You say that the non Calvinist will answer “no.” So are you saying that non Calvinists believe that the non elect experience the new birth (are born again)? You noted in the footnote #1 that regeneration is usually understood to mean being “born again.”

Thanks brother.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Les
    First, thanks for your comment. My desire is that this document would prove helpful to some churches; so any clarifiers or questions are much appreciated.

    You said, “You have #4 as “Do you believe that only the unconditionally elect will experience regeneration?
    Meaning that God selectively and exclusively applies regeneration to only the elect.” You say that the non Calvinist will answer “no.” So are you saying that non Calvinists believe that the non elect experience the new birth (are born again)?”

    No, “elect” in the meaning statement is to be understood as used in the previous sentence “unconditionally elect”, which is the question being answered. We do believe regeneration is experienced only by the elect as a part of salvation, but we never refer to the elect as the “unconditionally elect” nor do we say that God applies regeneration “selectively or exclusively”. We deny the existence of unconditional election.

    However, I am not opposed to adding “unconditionally” in the second sentence if that becomes necessary.

    I am glad to hear of your forthrightness with churches. I have practiced the same in both my former and present church. When I came to my present church, I was a Calvinist, and I made that very clear in my first meeting.

    Les Prouty

    Pastor Rogers. Thanks for your reply. I do think adding “unconditionally” may help at least avoid some confusion.

    Thanks brother.

Bill Mac

I’m not crazy about the wording in #2. I don’t think it is necessarily wrong, I just don’t think Calvinists would use the word passive.
I don’t think #6 is right, at least so far as being true of all (or even most) Calvinists. I know some think this, but not all.

I don’t quite understand why any church, if they find their pastor to have been untruthful in getting the call, don’t just fire him. If a pastoral candidate declared himself to be a cessationist, and then started speaking in tongues once we called him, we’d fire him. Good grief, you’re suddenly upset that you have a Calvinist pastor? You have a deceptive pastor! He has disqualified himself. To let him stay on is an abrogation of your responsibilities. If churches would do this, perhaps it would deter people in the future.

Ronnie W Rogers

Hello Bill Mac
Thank you for your comments.

You said, “I’m not crazy about the wording in #2… I just don’t think Calvinists would use the word passive.”

First, they do in fact use the term “passive” in writings, confessions, and theology books. In my writings on this site and elsewhere, I have quoted prominent Calvinists that believe such; others have done so as well. This is simply a mainstay of Calvinism. Second, consistency seems to demand that if one is not active, he is passive in regeneration, and monergism definitionally means that man is not active in regeneration in contradistinction to synergism. Additionally, I do agree that some Calvinists do not speak forthrightly about this in some contexts, but I would suggest that is due to an inconsistency between the particular Calvinist and Calvinism (no intent implied) rather than in the wording of my question.

You said, “I don’t think #6 is right, at least so far as being true of all (or even most) Calvinists.” This is a very common refrain by Calvinists regarding those who believe God conditions the reception of salvation (regeneration) upon faith rather than unconditional election. Again, such has been cited on this site many times and is a quotidian argument used in Calvinism against my position. The idea usually incorporates the concept that non-Calvinists put man’s fate in man’s hands and Calvinists put it solely in God’s, not that I agree with such, but a very common statement.

As you might guess, it seems quite impossible to produce such a needed document as this in light of some Calvinists who, for whatever reason, might answer differently than mainstream Calvinism does in fact teach. At least, it is far beyond my paygrade to know the thoughts of every Calvinist. Consequently, in my guidelines for using the questionnaire, I make the final test that “a non-Calvinist should have no difficulty at all in responding to all of the questions…A non-Calvinist would answer no to the first six questions and yes to the last three… Less than one-hundred percent consistency is cause for serious concern.” Therefore, even if a Calvinist answers differently than I say he will (I am assuming sufficient knowledge of Calvinism and consistency in the questionnaire), his unwillingness to answer, as non-Calvinist will gladly do is enough to indicate that he is a Calvinist of some kind.

Accordingly, it does seem to me that I have provided a sufficient safeguard that comprehends such anomalies. I do believe every consistent Calvinist will answer as I have said. I was a Calvinist for over twenty-years and spent another twelve in researching unto my departure from such. I have no knowledge of my statements being inconsistent with mainstream Calvinism, which is not to say every Calvinist knows such or so speaks consistently. But even if I am wrong, the document is sufficiently safeguarded in the guidelines to demonstrate one is not a non-Calvinist. I actually, as said in the article, believe this can help a church find a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist as well.
Thank you my brother.

Bill Mac

OK. I’ve had a little more time to think about these.
1 is good, but I suspect a person might say they believe in unconditional election and free will, and that it’s simply a mystery. I’ve heard non-Cals say that, so 1 alone might not disqualify a person.
2 is unnecessary in my opinion, it is included in #3.
3 is fine.
I’m not sure 4 is necessary either. If a person believes in U, then they will most certainly answer yes to this. Only the elect are regenerate, no matter what your soteriology. You are just asking them #1 all over again.
5 looks good.
Again, I think 6 is wrong. There are lots of Calvinists who don’t believe that non-Cals are saved by works or merit. I think only the most extreme C’s think this.
7 is not worded well. I know what it is trying to say but the wording is a little funky.
8 is fine, and basically includes 7.
9 is fine, but not every Calvinist will say no to this.

    Robert

    Bill Mac you wrote:

    “Again, I think 6 is wrong. There are lots of Calvinists who don’t believe that non-Cals are saved by works or merit. I think only the most extreme C’s think this.”

    I have seen over and over and over again that if one maintains that the choice to initially trust Jesus for salvation is freely made (i.e. involving libertarian free will) as non-Calvinists do. Then many, many Calvinists will try to argue that this choice amounts to “saved by works” or amounts to salvation by merit.

    We just saw this for example in the other thread where Les argued that if the choice to believe involves libertarian free will, then the person then controls their eternal destiny, that their choice ultimately saves them.

    Traditionalists and other non-Calvinists do not believe that our initial choice to believe if freely made (not necessitated, not involving irresistible grace, not determined in any way) ultimately saves us or means we control our eternal destinies. Those like Les who argue against libertarian free will in these ways are arguing that we are saved by works (the work being our freely made choice to believe!).

    Bill Mac are you saying that Les and others who argue against free will then are “only the most extreme C”s”???

    I should also bring out some of my past experience here. When I worked in counter cult ministry with the late Walter Martin, a frequent argument made by non-Christian cultists (who do believe in salvation by works, e.g. the JW’s). When we presented the biblical doctrine of justification by faith (i.e. that we freely choose to trust God for salvation and so He saves us not our works).

    A very common response by the non-Christian cultists was to then argue and claim that:

    “Well that faith that you have, to be saved, isn’t that ***something you do***? Therefore, you also believe in salvation by works, because if you don’t have faith then you wouldn’t be saved right?”

    Note that they are arguing that if we do ANYTHING in the process of being saved, then what we do should be considered a religious work, something that merits salvation.

    Bill Mac if you engage cultists today you will hear the same argument against justification through faith, that that faith is something we do so it too is a religious work and so we are saved by religious works!

    It is interesting that many Calvinists (especially those who also argue for “monergism”) argue in exactly the same way: if our choice to believe is made freely it **is** something that we do, so we may boast about it or save ourselves by this “work” that we are doing. I cannot tell you how many times I have run across a Calvinist who claims that if we freely choose to trust God to save us, then we may boast that we had faith while the other guy did not have faith (cf. it comes directly from John Owen’s who makes you to differ argument). It is really sad that Calvinists desperate to argue against libertarian free will have to attack justification by faith and specifically attack our freely made choice to believe as a religious work that saves us. Scripture distinguishes faith from works and explicitly states that saving faith excludes boasting.

    And yet time after time we encounter Calvinists who claim that if we freely choose to believe (not as a result of irresistible grace, in a manner involving libertarian free will) then we may boast that we have saved ourselves. I have seen Calvinists make this argument on this very blog on multiple occasions.

    Robert

    Les Prouty

    Robert,

    If you are going to bring me into another discussion based on a previous thread, please do not misrepresent me. You just now wrote:

    “Then many, many Calvinists will try to argue that this choice amounts to “saved by works” or amounts to salvation by merit.

    We just saw this for example in the other thread where Les argued that if the choice to believe involves libertarian free will, then the person then controls their eternal destiny, that their choice ultimately saves them.”

    I made quite clear in the other thread, several times, that I DID NOT believe that you, Vol, Rick et al believe in salvation by works or by merit. Now you may want to think that is what I was implying. You’d be wrong. But please do not attribute by linking this “for example” statement about me with the notion of “many, many Calvinists will try to argue that this choice amounts to “saved by works” or amounts to salvation by merit.”

      Robert

      Les claims that I was misrepresenting him. It seems to me that others also saw Les suggesting that if we believe that we freely choose to believe then this choice somehow merits our salvation.

      Andrew Barker wrote:

      “David, you are absolutely correct. The Calvinist/Reformed way of thinking just cannot accept that to exercise faith is not in itself meritorious, neither does it make a person the master of their own fate.”

      Rick Patrick also saw Les suggesting this as is evident by his words as well:

      “Man’s free will decision controls his own eternal fate.” Uh, no. . . .
      We disaffirm that man’s freedom to respond is a meritorious work.”

      Rick declares: “We disaffirm that man’s freedom to respond is a meritorious work”. So why is Rick bringing this up in response to Les’ words if he didn’t see Les as suggesting that our faith is meritorious?

      So it seems that Les was making statements that suggest that if we believe our choice to trust Jesus to save us is made freely then our choice is what ultimately saves us.

      In the next post I will cite from Les’ own words to show he clearly was suggesting that our faith is what ultimately saves us.

      Robert

        Les Prouty

        Well Robert. First, you can talk TO me. No ned to talk ABOUT me.

        “Les claims that I was misrepresenting him.”

        Because you were.

        “It seems to me that others also saw Les suggesting that if we believe that we freely choose to believe then this choice somehow merits our salvation.”

        “Seems.” You need some FACTs brother. Not it “seems.” The fact that others may have wrongly concluded the same as you doesn’t make it so brother. It just means you all were/are wrong.

        “So it seems that Les was making statements that suggest that if we believe our choice to trust Jesus to save us is made freely then our choice is what ultimately saves us.”

        “Seems” and “suggests.”

        “In the next post I will cite from Les’ own words to show he clearly was suggesting that our faith is what ultimately saves us.”

        “Suggesting.”

        No, I CLEARLY said otherwise. I really can’t help it if you are having some comprehension issues with what I actually said. But I can clearly show your error.

        More on your next post.

    Les Prouty

    Robert,

    Examples for you Robert from the other thread:

    To Vol: “I don’t really think you believe that man is the captain of his own soul. I know that you believe that man is saved by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. I know that.”

    To you, Robert: “I do not mean to say that our decision saves us. I stipulate that I’m operating under the assumption that all of us here believe that sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”

    I could not have been more clear brother.

      Robert

      Here are some examples where Les seems to be suggesting that our choice to believe is what ultimately saves us:

      “you end up saying (not meaning to I think) that man is the final arbtrar of his eternal destiny. “

      How are we the final arbiter of our eternal destiny if our choices is not what ultimately saves us?

      “There is no other way to read this that David agreed to, despite protestations, other than man is the ultimate decider of his eternal destiny.”

      If Les is correct here then doesn’t this mean that our choice to believe is what ultimately saves us?

      “then the ONLY difference in why they end up where they do is man’s unaided choice. I realize that’s their plank, but that position leaves man as the FINAL decider of his eternal destiny..”

      If our decision is what is the final decider of our eternal destiny: how is this not saying that our choice ultimately saves us?

      “they at least are agreeing that man’s ultimate decision determines if any particular man is indeed saved. i.e. if Jesus saves someone, man ultimately decided to allow himself to be saved.”

      How did “man ultimately decide to allow himself to be saved” but by his choice to believe.

      “So, based on those responses I have to conclude that the final destiny of any person who ends up in heaven is due to his decision. I cannot see any other way to state that position.”

      Referring to our view that a person freely chooses to believe Les says he has to conclude that “the final destiny” of any person “who ends up in heaven is” “due to his decision” (how is that not saying that our choice is what ultimately saves us?).

      Les’ words show that he is like many other Calvinists who want to claim that if we choose to believe freely then this choice is what ultimately saves us.

      Robert

      Les Prouty

      Robert, to continue:

      Robert: “Here are some examples where Les seems to be suggesting that our choice to believe is what ultimately saves us:”

      Those pesky words “seems” and “suggesting.”

      You quoted me thusly, ““There is no other way to read this that David agreed to, despite protestations, other than man is the ultimate decider of his eternal destiny.””
      You: “If Les is correct here then doesn’t this mean that our choice to believe is what ultimately saves us?”

      No, as I have pointed out to you from my own words to the contrary. After you have been corrected I don’t understand why you are still confused.

      Besides, none other than Rick Patrick said,

      My question to Rick: “Rick, thank you brother, Lots of words trying to splain this. Maybe we can get to the matter in fewer words.
      Do you agree that man is the final decider via his own free will of his eternal destiny?”

      Rick’s response: “Well, yes, I believe in what you probably call libertarian free will. “Final decider” goes down much more easily than “Master of His Own Fate.””

      So there’s that.

      Robert: “If our decision is what is the final decider of our eternal destiny: how is this not saying that our choice ultimately saves us?”

      Well Robert you are free to conclude that if you wish (that your choice is what saves you) but that is not what I said.

      Quote of me: “they at least are agreeing that man’s ultimate decision determines if any particular man is indeed saved. i.e. if Jesus saves someone, man ultimately decided to allow himself to be saved.”

      Quote of me: “So, based on those responses I have to conclude that the final destiny of any person who ends up in heaven is due to his decision. I cannot see any other way to state that position.”

      Robert, do you not believe that man’s choice is the final cog in the wheel of his ending up saved? Aren’t you all about man getting to make his free will choice after all that God has done for him? Where Robert do you disagree with this statement?

      Robert: “Referring to our view that a person freely chooses to believe Les says he has to conclude that “the final destiny” of any person “who ends up in heaven is” “due to his decision” (how is that not saying that our choice is what ultimately saves us?).

      Because I attributed to you and other that you all believe that Jesus saves. if you want to try and draw implications of what I have pointed out about what you all believe, have it. But don’t say that I said that you all believe in works salvation.

      Robert: “Les’ words show that he is like many other Calvinists who want to claim that if we choose to believe freely then this choice is what ultimately saves us.”

      I have claimed no such thing and it is intellectually dishonest for you to keep attributing such to me.

      Reminder of a couple of things I stipulated:

      To Vol: “I don’t really think you believe that man is the captain of his own soul. I know that you believe that man is saved by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. I know that.”

      To you, Robert: “I do not mean to say that our decision saves us. I stipulate that I’m operating under the assumption that all of us here believe that sinners are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.”

      Now if you are going to try to draw implications that you THINK are posed by my statements then I suppose I am free to do the same of your statements. So careful.
      This should finally clear up any confusion.

      Blessings brother

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Bill
    You said, “1 is good, but I suspect a person might say they believe in unconditional election and free will”

    It appears to me that you have misunderstood the limit and intent of my question since free will is not addressed beyond the nature of UC, which necessitates that it is absolutely UC i.e. both inviolable and without any conditions. Again, you have suggested what you “have heard Calvinists say” which is often quite different than what Calvinism actually teaches according to the most knowledgeable Calvinists, and, as stated in my previous response, well beyond the scope of the document and my ability to know.

    You said, “2 is unnecessary in my opinion, it is included in #3.”

    First these are not precisely the same. Some mainstream Calvinists, mostly outside of SBC life to my knowledge, do not accept #3 (as noted in the footnote), but do accept #2. Secondly, similarities do not make something essentially similar i.e. redundant. Lastly and quite unfortunately, the type of situations for which the questionnaire is designed do not permit someone like me to be present to probe the candidates responses further, which is oftentimes necessary to reach a place of clarity; this along with the lack of forthrightness on the part of some candidates does in fact, at least in my opinion, require both questions. They will together help to confirm whether one is a non-Calvinist more certainly than if only one question was retained. Please keep in mind the point of the document and the context in which it will be used.

    You said “I’m not sure 4 is necessary either. If a person believes in U, then they will most certainly answer yes to this. You are just asking them #1 all over again.” Please see “secondly” and “lastly” in my response to your previous comment.

    You said, “Only the elect are regenerate, no matter what your soteriology.” See all of my responses to Les.

    You said, “I think 6 is wrong.”

    I think I have sufficiently answered this in my previous response, at least from my perspective; consequently, we must just disagree. However, I would add that I did not precisely say that all, or any, Calvinists say non-Calvinists are “saved by works or merit.” Some may, but that is not what I said nor have I ever heard it so stated.” Rather, I specifically said “that….is “equivalent to adding…”. My use of the word “adding” and your inference are not the same. Further, the evidence of the truthfulness of my statement is never far away as mentioned in my previous posted response.

    You said, “7 is not worded well.”

    Unfortunately, I had to include such wording in order to avoid confusion for the committee because some Calvinists might affirm that God desires all to be saved while simultaneously believing, that His decretal will does not. This is a component found within Calvinism. I first attempted to word this much less theological, but upon seeking counsel regarding such; I changed the language in the quest to help a committee. Consequently, the awkwardness of the statement is not due to my inclination but rather it is the result of attempting to avoid a preventable confusion for the committee.

    You said, “9 is fine, but not every Calvinist will say no to this.”

    You are correct regarding the precise intent of this question because four-point Calvinists do believe that Christ’s death paid for every sin in the same way i.e. unlimited atonement vs. limited atonement. I must say that I like agreeing with you more than not. :) Thank you for the insight! I plan to incorporate the distinction between four and five point Calvinists in maybe a footnote or something in my updated version. I will have to give it some thought regarding the best way to do so.

    That said, the question and statement do accurately reflect the limited atonement perspective. This becomes quite evident after all of the theological musings regarding such things as efficiency vs. sufficiency are worked through. In addition, I was a four-point Calvinist who would have argued such that Christ’s death did pay for all sin so that no one was precluded from salvation because his sins were not atoned for; however, if one believes in UC, then he cannot affirm the rest of the question and statement even if sins were adequately atoned for. e.g. “…thereby removing every obstacle so that every person has the same opportunity to be believe the gospel and be saved”

    Now, would you mind helping me see if the questionnaire works? If it fairly portrays your theological perspective in light of your numerous criticisms, it would seem to accomplish its intended purpose. I would appreciate it if you would, but I certainly understand if you are not so desirous.

    Here is my question to you. If you were before a search committee, would you be able to answer as I have said a non-Calvinist would surely do? If not, then may I assume that you consider yourself a Calvinist? If so, the questionnaire seems to accomplish its intended purpose of clearly and fairly representing the overall soteriological position of the candidate to the search committee.
    Thank you again my brother

      Andy

      Again, if we follow your logic, if it can be shown with a few questions that you agree with arminians on a few points, may we assume you are an Arminian?

      Bill Mac

      I would consider myself Calvinistic-ish, but more of a Molinist these days.
      1. I would answer yes to this. If I were to abandon the U, I would move to the corporate view of election. I find the “election based on foreseen faith” view to be ludicrous.
      2 and 3: I believe regeneration precedes faith, or perhaps they are simultaneous. I do not believe God regenerates after faith is exercised.
      4: Yes. Only those who will be saved will be regenerated.
      5: Yes. God accomplishes what He purposes.
      6: No
      7: This may be where the Molinism kicks in. God’s salvation plan cannot possibly include the whole world, since the whole world has not heard the Gospel, and they cannot be saved apart from it. God has actualized a universe where the maximum people will be saved.
      8: I believe God can change the hearts and will of people to respond to the Gospel if He chooses. Paul, for example. Some, He does not. Pharoah, for example.
      9: I’m good with universal atonement, as long as we aren’t talking about universalism.

      I believe most people’s beliefs don’t necessarily fit into a nice box, so it’s quite possible that my replies are a little inconsistent. Some things I don’t hold as tightly as others, and some I’m still working through and keeping an open mind.

      Here’s the bottom line. I don’t think God tries. I don’t think God fails (trying implies failing). I don’t think God is up there, frustrated because things aren’t going His way. How that all fleshes out doctrinally can be a bit tricky.

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Bill Mac
        Here are my thoughts in light of your answers and thank you for taking the time to answer the questionnaire.

        You said, regarding 1 “I would answer yes to this.” This must mean that you accept that election includes no conditions of any kind if one allows the term to mean what it does in fact mean both definitionally and theologically; hence, you are clearly not a non-Calvinist and the questionnaire has accomplished its purpose without falsely labeling you. You may prefer “Calvinistic-ish” which I will gladly honor. But the committee would have a clear answer, and I do believe that UC is at the heart of what determines one to be a Calvinist or not; the rest of one’s answers simply demonstrate consistency or inconsistency with such. The belief in this does not stand-alone.

        You said regarding 2 and 3: “I believe regeneration precedes faith, or perhaps they are simultaneous. I do not believe God regenerates after faith is exercised” Again, by your own words, surely you know that you have clearly placed yourself in the Calvinist camp and not in the non-Calvinist camp. Your clarity regarding these first three questions means that this could not be clearer. Thank you for such. I both appreciate it and respect you for it. Your position is antithetical to non-Calvinism and has therefore demonstrated the effectiveness of the questionnaire again.

        You said regarding 4. “Yes. Only those who will be saved will be regenerated.” Per our previous conversation, I asked you to read my comments to Les where I affirmed that the elect here are the UE of the question of 4. I am assuming that you read that. If so, then again you have answered consistently with Calvinism and inconsistently with non-Calvinism. If you did not read my comments to Les, and my failure to repeat unconditional in the “meaning” statement caused you to misunderstand this, then I am sorry for such. I have corrected this in my revised questionnaire.

        You said regarding 5, “Yes. God accomplishes what He purposes.” Of course, I trust that you know that we all believe God accomplishes his purpose, but what disagree on is what His purpose is. Additionally, whether or not God accomplishes His purpose is not the question (actually not even mentioned), but rather is there an internal necessary and efficacious call extended only to the unconditionally elect. If you acceptance of 5 means that you believe there is such, then you have further confirmed your Calvinism and disaffirmed non-Calvinism.

        You said regarding 7, “God’s salvation plan cannot possibly include the whole world, since the whole world has not heard the Gospel, and they cannot be saved apart from it.” With all due respect, your answer here conflates two different questions, neither of which a part of the question asked. That is to say, the question about whether everyone gets a chance to hear and the question of whether the one we know hears the gospel can believe or not are not the same question; therefore, I believe it to be quite unhelpful to the discussion when these are conflated. I have and will write again on this, but now is not the time because question 7 does not ask either. Rather, the question only relates to congruency in God’s desire and decrees; therefore, it is only intended to prevent someone from affirming universal desire to save based on the word desire while simultaneously denying it based upon the decrees of God. Consequently, because of the lack of clarity in either my question or your answer, I do not know what to make of your answer. I can say, I do not believe a non-Calvinist would hesitate to say yes, so long as he understood the question, and I believe the question to be clear.

        You said, regarding 8 “I believe God can change the hearts and will of people to respond to the Gospel if He chooses.” Again, I am not trying to be unkind, please forgive me if my following statement comes across as such, but I believe this question to be as simple and lucid as one could ask for. Nowhere do I ask whether God “God can”. Consequently, your answer is troubling. It is possible that you did not understand the question, and I am willing to entertain that thought and give the benefit of the doubt; although, to be candid, the clarity of the question seems to me to be such that one could readily grasp its meaning and intent. In any case, a non-Calvinist would not only be able to affirm such, but would be excited to do so.

        You said regarding 9 “I’m good with universal atonement, as long as we aren’t talking about universalism.” That is the positon of 4 point Calvinism and non-Calvinism.

        As I see it, you clearly affirmed 1, 2 and 3, which by everything I know places you unmistakably in the Calvinist camp or to use your term Calvinisti-ish. They do equally as clearly demonstrate that your soteriology is not consistent with non-Calvinism. Consequently, just based upon these answers alone, I believe a committee could quite accurately determine that you are not a non-Calvinist. This is the obvious conclusion to be drawn from your answers, and I assume that you agree.

        Additionally, although your responses to 4,5,7, and 8 were either impertinent to the precise question or confusing because of your misreading them or my ineptness in stating them (particularly I conceded this possibility on 4), I can say that does not change the fact that a non-Calvinist would have found them easy to understand and answer.

        Your taking the time to answer these does demonstrate that the questionnaire does in fact facilitate in winnowing out whether one is a Calvinist or non-Calvinist, and it does so without mislabeling or misinterpretation the person’s position.

        Brother, thank you for answering this and all of your feedback, it has been most helpful. I surely do not desire to misrepresent you or anyone else, but I do think we must endeavor to help committees and ourselves to speak more consistently and forthrightly about our general position. Additionally, I do appreciate that you and I are still learning and growing, and may God grant that we would continue such. However, I do also think the questionnaire has correctly reflected your basic soteriological position without unfairly portraying you or unfairly discounting your own particular nuances.
        Thank you

          Bill Mac

          I don’t have a problem with your assessment of my answers as such, or even being put into the Calvinist camp, but I am a little troubled by the idea that a single wrong answer (from your perspective) excludes a person from the non-Calvinist group. I’m not seeking entrance to that camp, but you seem to be setting up as a gatekeeper for non-Calvinism and as I said in another comment, I’m not sure you can speak for all of them. It seems like a “one drop of blood” situation.

          Bill Mac

          Regarding my answer to 4: If someone believes in U, then they can’t help but affirm this. I honestly cannot see how this is anything but a reiteration of question 1.
          5: I think I can clarify here. A molinist (and probably some others) believes that God is able, because of his complete knowledge of the mind and personality of a person, to bring about circumstances that would bring a person to Christ without violating that person’s free will. A Calvinist might have a different take on effectual call than that. My short answer to 5 is yes, but I’m not sure everyone who answer yes will have the same reasons for doing so.
          7 and 8: Frankly I’m not sure how to answer these. I can’t say I hold to libertarian free will as i understand it, but Molinists (I think) have a little different take on free-will than both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. I think our will is more free than Calvinists think it is and less free than you probably do.

            Ronnie W Rogers

            Bill Mac
            You said, “Regarding my answer to 4: If someone believes in U, then they can’t help but affirm this. I honestly cannot see how this is anything but a reiteration of question 1”

            I did think you affirmed this, but I gave the benefit of the doubt. Yes, if one does believe 1 he will believe this if he is consistent. As stated in our previous correspondence, the nature of the topic and setting for the questionnaire seems to be best served by stating the questions in slightly different ways so as to avoid misinterpreting by the candidates inconsistencies and to afford the candidate the benefit of the doubt until he makes his position clear, which goal seems better served by the method I have employed. I even experience this in various forms of correspondence, even face-to-face meetings. Thank you for your clarification.

            You said regarding 5: “I think I can clarify here. A molinist (and probably some others) believes that God is able, because of his complete knowledge of the mind and personality of a person, to bring about circumstances that would bring a person to Christ without violating that person’s free will.”

            Before I respond, one must determine what his view of man’s freedom is, and there are only three possibilities, then one must be consistent in his deductions. It sounds to me that this is still something you are working through (please forgive me if I have misunderstood your language). I give an explanation of these and the theological ramifications at, http://www.ronniewrogers.com/2013/10/09/the-fall-of-angels-and-man-two-views-calvinism-and-non-calvinism/.

            Now, while I have no problem with your view, it is not what mainstream Calvinism teaches regarding the “efficacious call or irresistible grace” In Calvinism, this happens because of God alone (monergism) and is not dependent upon anything else happening within or without of the person, nor can it be because it is monergistic. To wit, God need not know anything that will happen because He knows what He will do and that is what will happen. In non-Calvinism, including Molinism, there are other factors that play substantively into determining who is born again, but not in Calvinism for it is monergistic and UE. Man is dead and passive.

            Additionally, the very concept of irresistible grace acting upon a compatible free will sinner, means that not only is man’s will and nature overridden (it works against every possible desire of the fallen nature) it must be to bring about regeneration before man can cooperate with God’s grace in any way. In what you have described, man does cooperate, God knows of such, and it is a substantive part of the process. That is not Calvinism. One simply cannot have it both ways. In Calvinism God knows, not because he merely knows what people will do in certain circumstances, but because He decreed everything to come to pass as it does in fact come to pass.

            On a personal note, it seems apparent to me that you do not ascribe to the basic tenets of consistent mainstream Calvinism. As a Calvinist, I found myself doing precisely the same thing. I, as I have seen others do, nuanced Calvinism to such a degree that what I called Calvinism was not actually Calvinism. Regrettably, I continued to refer to myself as a Calvinist or Calvinistic, or 3 or 4 point modified, and finally I claimed to be a minor Calvinistic. This continued until I found so many inconsistencies between what Calvinism actually affirms, the Scripture and my beliefs that it became intolerable and unhelpful. I spent 12 years working through this. Even when I wrote my book, Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist, up until the last few months, the title was going to be Reflections of a Minor Calvinist.
            I understand, recognize, and appreciate your grappling with these issues. It is more than apparent that you have spent considerable time thinking about these issues. However, the truth is, once we strip away the personalization of Calvinism, rhetorical practices that obscure the disquieting realities of mainstream Calvinism and accept that Calvinism is a system and the term Calvinism does mean something that is very clear, we can truly then evaluate whether we are in fact a Calvinist or even Calvinistic. Once we realize that doffing the title Calvinism actually frees us from inconsistences and calvinistically generated mysteries, we are much better suited to communicate our belief system consistently.
            As long as a person claims to be a Calvinist, that term does include certain doctrines if one is to be consistent with the system. When someone claims to be a Calvinist it means something, and his beliefs are either consistent with Calvinism or they are not, and determining such is not as difficult as some imagine. I was a 4 point Calvinist because I believed unlimited atonement was the clear teaching of Scripture, and that allowed for preaching the gospel to all affirming that God truly loved them and they could be saved (I am using non-technical language). This is in contrast to Christ’s death only meaningfully paying for the sins of some. However, it is clear to me now, that even if Christ did pay for everyone’s sins, God does not truly desire everyone to be saved as long as UC is true.

            When I talk with Calvinist, my main concern is that if one dons the label, then I will seek to expose inconsistencies and the harsh and unbiblical entailments of such. I am not evaluating their view based upon my non-Calvinism, but rather by the criteria they have adopted. This is the same that I did regarding my own beliefs as a Calvinist. These are just some thoughts from my personal pilgrimage.

            You said regarding 7 and 8 “Frankly I’m not sure how to answer these. I can’t say I hold to libertarian free will as i understand it, but Molinists (I think) have a little different take on free-will than both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. I think our will is more free than Calvinists think it is and less free than you probably do.”

            Mainstream Calvinism holds to a Compatible freedom, which is a theory that determinative antecedents controls every decision and therefore there is actually never a time when everything we do is not determined. To state it differently, man’s choosing to do something never involves origination (actually starting something that was not determined by prior determinants), although it does include voluntariness; therefore it precludes the possibility of him choosing other than he did (the belief in actual accessible options is an allusion). Compatibilism argues that determinism is compatible with moral responsible; thus, the Calvinist refrains although all is determined, man is still responsible.

            My understanding is that Molinism does embrace libertarian free will as properly defined (involving voluntariness, origination, agent causation, and that antecedents influence but do not cause, while rejecting that man is unable to make the free decision to act or refrain). This seems to be precisely what you have described. Libertarian view does not minimize the fall (by saying that fallen man has the same range of options Adam did) nor does it place man’s decisions above God. Rather, it views the freedom to actually make choices between accessible options as from God and in accordance with His will which comprehends such freedom (this includes the misuse of such endowment as well e.g. the garden of Eden). That is to say, the ability to choose, and the range of options from which one chooses were established by God.

            In Calvinism, God’s knowledge of what might help or influence man is not a factor in determining whether one believes or not, of man being saved, since He has a compatible freedom which means nothing can ever help him to make the right decision because that requires a new nature, (new determinative antecedents), which inevitably results in the exercise of faith; hence, the need for regeneration prior to faith. Molinism and non-Calvinism substantively incorporate things which you mentioned, but they are not a part of Calvinism’s monergism or UC.
            Again thank you for your thoughts, thoughtfulness, and help.

            Robert

            Bill Mac I am reading your comments and come across some of your comments about Molinism that don’t fit at all what I know Molinists believe. I have read a lot on Molinism. I have friends who hold to Molinism (including Arminians who hold to Molinism). I have read William Lane Craig extensively and also Thomas Flint (two of the most well-known and published contemporary Molinists). I also know two major Molinists personally (Alvin Plantinga and J. P. Moreland a former professor of mine). Catholics who hold Molinism also hold to libertarian free will (i.e. it was Catholic Jesuit theologians who first proposed it).

            This I absolutely know, they **all** hold to and **strongly endorse libertarian free will.**

            Those familiar with Molinism believe that it is an attempt to combine (1) a strong view of providence in which God decides all events that will make up the actual world that he actualizes (versus other possible worlds that he does not) and (2)** libertarian free will**. In all of the Molinists that I have read every single one of them holds to libertarian free will (no exceptions).

            With this in mind, I read you saying:

            “I would consider myself Calvinistic-ish, but more of a Molinist these days.”

            “7: This may be where the Molinism kicks in.”

            From these statements you appear to hold Molinism yourself. But then you also write:

            “7 and 8: Frankly I’m not sure how to answer these. I can’t say I hold to libertarian free will as i understand it, but Molinists (I think) have a little different take on free-will than both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.”

            This last statement is incorrect: Molinists do not have a “different take on free will then both Calvinists and non-Calvinists”.

            In common with Arminians, Traditionalists and other non-Calvinists Molinists hold to libertarian free will.

            Bill Mac how can you consider yourself to be Molinist if you don’t hold to libertarian free will?

            Robert

              Bill Mac

              Robert: It’s possible I’m just not a very good one. I think we can see from this thread, and others, that people don’t always fit neatly into the boxes that we try to place them in. To be fair to Ronnie, he isn’t trying to see who fits in the Calvinist box so much as he is determining who doesn’t fit in his.

              But more to your point, I’m not as well read on Molinism as I could be, but I think a bigger issue is that there isn’t a standard definition of LFW, I know because I’ve seen several.

                Robert

                “Robert: It’s possible I’m just not a very good one. I think we can see from this thread, and others, that people don’t always fit neatly into the boxes that we try to place them in.”

                It is fine if you don’t want to be put into some box that does not fit what you believe. But when you claim to be “X”, you put yourself in the “X” box. I didn’t claim to be a Molinist, you did.

                As every Molinist that I have spoken with, know, or have read, holds to libertarian free will. I found it odd that you claimed to be a Molinist but that you don’t hold to libertarian free will (which does not fit Molinism) and you also claimed that Molinists hold a different view of free will than Calvinists and Non-Calvinists (which is a mistaken claim).

                “But more to your point, I’m not as well read on Molinism as I could be, but I think a bigger issue is that there isn’t a standard definition of LFW, I know because I’ve seen several.”

                So Bill Mac are you claiming that when William Lane Craig, Thomas Flint, Alvin Plantinga, Alfred Freddoso, etc. present their Molinist views in their books, journal articles, etc. and make reference to LFW that they are all holding to different versions of LFW?

                How are they talking rationally about LFW if they are all operating from different understandings of LFW?

                If you examine the writings of the Molinists they all have the same understanding of LFW, if they did not then they could not be on the same page when they discuss it.

                Robert

                  Bill Mac

                  Appeal to authority. You win. I’m not a Molinist.

                    Robert

                    Bill Mac you wrote:

                    “Appeal to authority. You win. I’m not a Molinist.”

                    If someone labelled themselves a Calvinist and yet they denied unconditional election, those of us familiar with calvinist theology would find this an odd claim. Odd because every calvinist affirms unconditional election. They may disagree on limited versus universal atonement, but not on unconditional election.

                    Likewise, every Molinist holds to libertarian free will.

                    For you to claim to be Molinist and then deny libertarian free will and claim mistakenly that Molinists hold a different view on free will then Calvinists and Non-Calvinists is like that professing calvinist, it contradicts what Molinists believe.

                    No one called you a Molinist or put that label on you, you put yourself in that box. I did not commit the fallacy of appeal to authority: anyone can check Molinist sources for themselves to verify that they hold to LFW. Some of these sources are even available on the web, just look up Molinism.

                    We use labels at times to try to understand where someone is coming from. But if they use these labels with an idiosyncratic meaning, then the label becomes useless and confusing. If we are going to communicate rationally and meaningfully then we need to use words and labels with the normal or standard understanding of the word/label. If we don’t use words with the same meanings, we end up with unnecessary confusion, then we end up in Alice in Wonderland with Humpty Dumpty’s view of language: :-)

                    “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.
                    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t- till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”
                    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
                    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

                    Robert

                    Les Prouty

                    Bill Mac, I thought you “tapped out” on the Molinist thing and said, “you win.” Wait! You did.I see it right there.

                  Bill Mac

                  LFW asserts that human beings have greater free will than God, so I can’t accept that. I believe Bruce Ware suggests that a compatibilist view of middle knowledge strengthens Molinism’s claims (from Theopedia).

      Les Prouty

      Andy,

      “Again, if we follow your logic, if it can be shown with a few questions that you agree with arminians on a few points, may we assume you are an Arminian?”

      From Theopedia on what constitutes an Arminian:

      Universal prevenient grace

      Conditional election

      Unlimited (or universal) atonement

      Resistible grace

      Uncertainty of perseverance

      Libertarian free will

      Equal, impartial, and undifferentiated love

      The universal call of salvation

      I think the majority apply to the non-Calvinists on this site. 6 out of 8 it seems.

        Bill Mac

        I know Andy and Les seem to be pulling a “gotcha” here, but I think their questions are fair. If holding to a few points of Calvinist doctrine makes one a Calvinist, why doesn’t that work for Arminianism?

          Ronnie W Rogers

          Bill Mac

          You said, “I know Andy and Les seem to be pulling a “gotcha” here, but I think their questions are fair. If holding to a few points of Calvinist doctrine makes one a Calvinist, why doesn’t that work for Arminianism?”

          Regarding the questionnaire, if questions in the interview process regarding ones theology are meaningful, then the questions need to be asked. If they are going to be asked, then they need to be as precise as possible and reflective of the general theological position in order to make them worth asking. Asking them wrongly or not knowing what the sentiments of the main teachings of such positions would answer negates the process. Thus, the questionnaire has a specific purpose which is not to call people Calvinists or Arminian etc., but rather to evaluate the readily recognizable distinctions between being a Calvinist (or Calvinistic) and non-Calvinist. I for one, as a Calvinist, and now as an Extensivist have absolutely no hesitancy in answering the above questions. I have asked several non-Calvinists who have no problem, including the theological astute and laypeople; none have had a problem. Actually, your willingness to take the survey demonstrated that you answered according to what you claim to be, and I did not mislabel you—nor did the questionnaire. I must admit, I find many of the other comments regarding how they are troubled about answering such simple questions about their views as disturbing and further confirming the need for such questionnaires to assist local churches navigate such ambiguities.

          On a broader level, I did not call you a Calvinist, but rather I let you label yourself as calvinitic-ish. I then responded that I am fine with the latter term. It is neither my desire nor intent to impose labels on someone because of certain points of agreement with another view, which is nonsense and would make us all Catholics. That is not what the questionnaire does, as you are evidence of. It did not result in you being called a 3,4,5, etc., point Calvinist, but rather reflected precisely what you said you were. Based upon the questionnaire and your free answers, the committee would be in a much better position to determine if you are too Calvinistic or not. That is to say, they can determine whether they want someone that leans in the theological direction that you do or not. What is wrong with that?

          I interact with Calvinists on this site, and personally elsewhere and only ascribe to them the term they choose. I ask the same. Consequently, I do not seek to associate someone with a certain school of thought just because he has a similar belief. If a person tells me he is a Calvinist, Arminian etc., then I will respect that and my interest is then in probing his consistency within his chosen system. I do find many inconsistencies within the neighborhood of those who call themselves Calvinists—I unintentionally did the same as a Calvinist. I do believe that Calvinism means something, and I would deduce what that is and entails from mainstream Calvinist theologians, which is the perspective of all of my theology books but one. Consequently, I do think ideas such as 1, 2, 3 etc. are so inconsistent within the system that they are not a true reflection of Calvinism (which understanding I get from knowledgeable Calvinist theologians), and it is in fact very worthwhile to call people to greater consistency within their belief system. I surely appreciate such. If they choose not to bear the title Calvinist, but say hold to UC or IG, then I will probe that without having to label them because although they have articulated beliefs that are consistent with Calvinism, they may have others that prohibit them from being a consistent Calvinist, or a meaningful one.

          Similarities do not make something the same because essential dissimilarities can make similar things essentially dissimilar. For example, Arminians, Traditionalist, Calvinists etc., all believe in “preceding grace” but what we disagree significantly on is what that involves and entails; consequently, I do not believe that though one holds to some of the same views as someone else’s system of thought one should be ascribed a label they do not desire. However, it is fair to ask, say me, about consistency within my system. That is what I do with Calvinists and me. That is all the questionnaire is for. I for one think it is a valuable endeavor to help committees clarify difficult issues, others negative comments notwithstanding.

          The questionnaire assists the committee in what they are trying to accomplish, and thereby avoid unnecessary church problems etc. The committee will be better informed and can determine whether one leans too much or too little in the direction they desire to go, which does not require imposing labels on the candidates. The committee can determine if the leanings of the church and candidate are in the same direction without any labels. This problem is a serious problem, and I am seeking to help. So far I have read allot of complaints, but little help for the committee. For me, that is not very impressive and totally unhelpful to the committees and churches facing such realities.

          I think I can say both in corresponding with you and all of my work on this site, that I have never sought to label someone something that they denied. So doing, when the person holds to essentially dissimilar ideas or disavows such label can make us less of good listeners. Thus, the questions regarding Trads, me, etc. being Arminian because of some agreements are, at best, unhelpful to the discussions.
          Thank you

        Les Prouty

        Bill,

        I really am not trying to pull a “gotcha.” But I’ve pointed out before maybe here, but certainly other places the 6 out of 8 agreements between Trads and Arminians. It’s really not disputed. Now I understand they don’t want to be associated with the “A” word. But there it is.

        And, I think you’re right. The complaints used to be more about what Trads called “hard” Calvinism…5 pointers. Now, let a man come out as a couple of points and he’s not to be associated on a staff and such. Warning alarms go off. So I see a goose and gander thing here.

Andy

RONNIE SAID: “Therefore, even if a Calvinist answers differently than I say he will (I am assuming sufficient knowledge of Calvinism and consistency in the questionnaire), his unwillingness to answer, as non-Calvinist will gladly do is enough to indicate that he is a Calvinist of some kind.”

Based on this statement, since you seem to be willing to assign the label of Calvinist to some who would not use it to describe themselves…may we take that logic and say that if anyone denies unconditional Election, or even want’s to qualify his answer in some way, we may acceptably call him an Armininan? :-)

    Bill Mac

    Good point. Frankly I think non-cals are pretty inconsistent on this. I’ve seen time and time again when non-cals have said you can’t really be a Calvinist if you don’t hold to T, or U, or L, or all 5 points, or whatever. But at the same time they want anyone with a whiff of Calvinism about them to declare themselves as Calvinists or be accused of being deceptive.

    When these discussions first started up in the blogosphere several years ago, it was not uncommon for non-Calvinists to say they believed in T or U or P. But now, that is not considered acceptable, and doctrinal beliefs have been so wordsmithed that there is practically no common ground. It used to be that the P at least was believed to be held in common, but under the new rules, they are irreconcilable. If a Calvinist tries to say they believe in perseverance the same way that non-Calvinists do, he is considered to be either a liar, or misinformed about his own doctrine.

      Lydia

      “When these discussions first started up in the blogosphere several years ago, it was not uncommon for non-Calvinists to say they believed in T or U or P. But now, that is not considered acceptable, and doctrinal beliefs have been so wordsmithed that there is practically no common ground. It used to be that the P at least was believed to be held in common, but under the new rules, they are irreconcilable. If a Calvinist tries to say they believe in perseverance the same way that non-Calvinists do, he is considered to be either a liar, or misinformed about his own doctrine.”

      It could be that people have simply been studying more. I am one that believes the TULIP cannot stand without all its petals.

        Bill Mac

        So you would not consider a 3 pointer a Calvinist?

          Bill Mac

          FWIW, I would not consider a 3 pointer a Calvinist, but under the new rules, if he said he wasn’t a Calvinist, he would be considered to be a deceiver.

            Lydia

            Bill, I don’t think there are “new rules” just more understanding. I think the whole YRR resurgence caught a lot of people off guard and now they have had some time to dive into it. that is why I think the earlier long blog debates were of great value in the long run. I think most YRR were indoctrinated by the big cheese gurus and never really thought it through to its logical conclusion. Most of the blog debates ended in ad hominem as in “you are too ignorant to understand it”.

          Lydia

          It does not matter what I think. Who on earth would I convince? My guess is that any of the petals alone (considering the “Calvinist” defines the P as I understand it which is not the same as OSAS.. to me) would eventually require the others to sneak in to prop it up if one went deeply enough with it.

          If someone wants to call themselves a 3 pt Calvinist that is certainly ok with me. I just don’t think it works when we dive in deeply with it. The problem could be that I always look to application for beliefs. That is a problem in Calvinism. Ex: If you are so totally depraved how can even know if you are really elect? How can you even know if there was a real regeneration and it is not some mystical trick by the evil one to fool you because you are already so depraved.

            Bill Mac

            That is a problem in Calvinism. Ex: If you are so totally depraved how can even know if you are really elect? How can you even know if there was a real regeneration and it is not some mystical trick by the evil one to fool you because you are already so depraved.

            I know this gets trotted out a lot, but I’ve never interacted with a Calvinist who believes this way. I can know I’m saved just as thoroughly as you, and for the same reasons. If there are Calvinists who believe this, then they’re wrong.

              lydia

              Bill, of course they don’t believe it. the same way they don’t believe that you are actually dead. the same way they claim that everyone is born hating God. They make all sorts of similar claims but when you take them to their logical conclusion they claim that is not what they believe. so they say a lot of things they don’t really believe or need a dissertation to explain. Even the dissertations are a circular maze.

              I know, I am just too ignorant to get it or I am misrepresenting it on purpose. (Sad face)

              Or perhaps the goalposts are always being moved? To me, Calvinism is one big exercise in cognitive dissonance of having your cake and eating it too

                Bill Mac

                It’s not that the goalposts are being moved, it’s that you can’t accept that people outside your camp aren’t homogeneous in their beliefs. You are supposedly all about individualism, but in your last comment all you talk about is “they” or “them”. (9 times or so) Not individuals, with individual beliefs.

                  Lydia

                  “It’s not that the goalposts are being moved, it’s that you can’t accept that people outside your camp aren’t homogeneous in their beliefs. You are supposedly all about individualism, but in your last comment all you talk about is “they” or “them”. (9 times or so) Not individuals, with individual beliefs.”

                  I can definitely see where you would have that impression. IMO there was a homogeneity to the YRR movement for a long time that I think some tend to ignore now when it is convenient. There was definitely a push for power in numbers which made for strange bedfellows. Now, many are trying to pretend that what happened has not happened and we are all to be “unified”. Where is CJ? Where is Driscoll?. Are most of the SBC entities now run by Mohler loyalists? Where are all the SBC pastor Driscoll defenders we read for years on comments? The Gospel Coalition, T$G, Piper, Acts29/Namb , etc. It has been a movement to take over young minds, grab power and catapult leaders to Christian stardom.. And we can argue all day whether it was monolithic or not which I think misses the point of the damage that has been done. And I think a ton of damage has been done even though they want to pretend otherwise.

                  It has been interesting to compare and contrast what has happened in the Emergent/Progressive wing of Christendom compared to the YRR wing. The Tony Jones scandalabra and the leaders response to it has just about ruined the leaders credibility. Even Rachel Held Evans is feeling the intense pushback. I don’t think any of them will really recover as far as the celebrity they once held in that movement. And they will feel it at the box office which was really what they were interested in all along. But once their followers realized that the authenticity was manufactured, they immediately turned on them in droves.

                  So why are the followers of the Emergent/Progressive wing so appalled and taking that to social media but the followers in the YRR movement have done all they can to argue for, protect, or now even ignore those involved in scandals in the YRR movement? As if it never happened or they had never promoted or partnered with these people?

                  What is the difference in the followers?

              Robert

              Lydia had written:” If you are so totally depraved how can even know if you are really elect? How can you even know if there was a real regeneration and it is not some mystical trick by the evil one to fool you because you are already so depraved.”

              Bill Mac you responded with:

              “I know this gets trotted out a lot, but I’ve never interacted with a Calvinist who believes this way. I can know I’m saved just as thoroughly as you, and for the same reasons. If there are Calvinists who believe this, then they’re wrong.”

              Apparently you have not interacted with Calvin then or read what Calvin wrote:

              “I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. . . . .I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. . . . But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. . . .We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. . . . Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure forever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

              (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book III, Chapter II, section 11)

              Robert

                Les Prouty

                Calvin says it so well.

                “Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure forever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

                Reminds me of Vol and others here saying, “BUT, God is calling out to everyone in the world. The Holy Spirit is convicting the WORLD of sin, righteousness, and judgment. And, God desires that all be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth. And yes, not everyone has the same amount of light to be convicted of….and, God has told us to get that light to them, so that they can come under more conviction, so they can have more light.”

                So according to Vol and other Trads here, God is working the SAME in every person. How is this different than what Calvin says happens in the reprobate? Why according to Trads would God work the same in one who ends up in heaven and one who ends up in hell? Doesn’t He know beforehand their destiny? Is that cruel?

                Bill Mac

                Apparently you have not interacted with Calvin then or read what Calvin wrote:

                Bingo. That’s the sound of me not being in the box.

                  Robert

                  Bill Mac you quoted me “Apparently you have not interacted with Calvin then or read what Calvin wrote”

                  and then responded:

                  “Bingo. That’s the sound of me not being in the box.”

                  Lydia made a claim, you then responded that you had never encountered that kind of thing in all of your interactions. I then cited the most famous Calvinist of them all as being an example of precisely what you have never encountered. And Calvin is not the only one, I can cite other calvinists as well who make similar claims about reprobates. I wish that people would examine the primary sources themselves before they talk about what Calvinism is or what Arminianism is or what Molinism is or what Traiditionalism is.

                  Take Arminianism for example, I cannot tell you how many times I have asked Calvinists (who prided themselves on their knowledge of theology) about Arminius and what they have actually read in his writings, after they made false or mistaken claims about Arminius and Arminians. And virtually every time they haven’t read a thing Arminius wrote, and yet they consider themselves experts on what Arminians believe.

                  Likewise how can people make claims about Calvinism when they haven’t read Calvin or Edwards writings? What I often see on blogs is people making all sorts of claims that you instantly know are false because you actually read what the primary sources said about it.

                  Robert

                    Bill Mac

                    Robert: The point is, Calvin doesn’t own Calvinism. In fact, that’s why a lot of people don’t want to call themselves Calvinists, but now of course if they don’t, they’re labeled deceivers. I don’t believe in inherited guilt. Does that make me a non-Calvinist? I lean more toward Molinism than Calvinism. Can I drop the Calvinist label? I doubt it.

                    I don’t need source documents to know what I believe. I (and everyone else) use labels as shorthand. They are imperfect, and people are individuals, not drones.

            Les Prouty

            Bill Mac,

            Agreed. I’ve been in Reformed churches for almost 25 years. Graduated from a Reformed seminary. Absolutely no one, professors I had and have known over the years or that many pastors I know or the many elders I know…none of them believes this way. It’s a classic misdirection and total misunderstanding of Calvinism.

              Bill Mac

              Les: I have seen quotes from Calvinists of the days of yore who seem to have been without assurance, so I’m sure it happens. I’m sure someone will probably produce some to answer you. But I very much doubt it is a widespread phenomenon among Calvinists. I love being told I can’t have assurance of salvation. Especially since I have sat under countless non-Calvinist evangelists during revival services who invariably trot out the “are you sure that you’re sure that you’re sure”? line, in a desperate attempt to get someone to walk the aisle.

                Robert

                “Robert: The point is, Calvin doesn’t own Calvinism. In fact, that’s why a lot of people don’t want to call themselves Calvinists, but now of course if they don’t, they’re labeled deceivers.”

                If people are going to speak of “Calvinism” or “Arminianism” or “Molinism” or “Traditionalism” or whatever, they need to be using the same meanings of the terms or labels or words or you end up again in Alice in Wonderland with Humpty Dumpty. :-) It makes sense that if you are going to talk intelligently about Calvinism you ought to know what prominent and representative calvinists believe (and this goes for the other groups as well).

                “I don’t believe in inherited guilt. Does that make me a non-Calvinist?”

                No, because you have already said that you reject libertarian free will, which is a standard belief among Non-Calvinists whether they be Traditionalists, Molinists, Arminians, Catholics etc. etc. A non-Calvinist is understood to be a person who rejects Calvinistic beliefs.

                “I don’t need source documents to know what I believe. I (and everyone else) use labels as shorthand. They are imperfect, and people are individuals, not drones.”

                Ahh but Bill Mac my point is not that you need to read primary sources to know **what you believe**, of course that is not necessary.

                I am talking again, about having informed and intelligent conversations about theological systems like Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism. If you want to talk about those theologies, those systems then it makes sense and is prudent to study the primary sources. I never said everyone believes the same things, I am well aware that people hold different beliefs. Again my point about studying primary sources is in reference to discussing theologies or theological systems intelligently.

                Robert

                  Bill Mac

                  Robert: That would go a lot farther with me if there weren’t an effort underway (not necessarily by you or the author of this post) to define Calvinism so broadly to include anyone who believes something in common with Calvinists. Remember the good old days when 5 pointers were the only Calvinists? Then 4 pointers were included, and full 5 pointers became “Dortian” Calvinists. Then it was 3 pointers, and so on.

                  You are telling me that I am not a non-Calvinist because I reject LFW. Doesn’t that double negative imply that I am in fact a Calvinist? Even though I say I am not?

                  Bill Mac

                  LFW doesn’t have a single definition. Ken Keathley suggests that Molinists hold to a soft libertarianism, not that agents have the absolute ability to choose the contrary. As I said in another comment, I do not believe creatures are more free than the creator.

                    Robert

                    I don’t have much time,will possibly say more in a few days. I will say this, many calvinists create easily destroyed characatures of LFW. Such as that it involves choosing apart from desires. I don’t, know about you but my desires are always involved when l choose freely. I also know major proponents of
                    LFW like Plantinga do not claim or believe that LFW means we have more free will than God. The way some Calvinists present LFW l would not believe in it either. All that shows is that some whether intentionally or unwittingly are committing the straw man fallacy
                    Robert

                    Lydia

                    “LFW like Plantinga do not claim or believe that LFW means we have more free will than God. The way some Calvinists present LFW l would not believe in it either. All that shows is that some whether intentionally or unwittingly are committing the straw man fallacy”

                    They are purposely leaving out the key components of growing in wisdom and maturity which is what believers are to do. They are trying to present a variation of “If it feels good do it” that plays into their doctrine of total inability. And because so many in our culture act that way, it is their proof of its wrongness. There is a faint hint of the Greek pagan forms thinking in this, too, as in all material world is evil and only the spiritual good. So we cannot learn to think through our desires. Like animals we just act on them.

                    Sure people go to revivals and respond emotionally. That could mean anything from a conviction to a getting caught up in the environment and going along. Too many people are easily led into all sorts of actions because they have not been taught to think and grow in wisdom.

                    Just for grins, lets say a person goes to service after service and walks the aisle. There is a deeper problem there. Why not be “pastoral” with this person. Perhaps they have attention seeking problems or something worse. Seriously, with any “repentance” it takes time to know if it is real or not. Calvin never repented over his thuggish deeds in Geneva that we know about. We do know he wrote a defense of Servetus’ burning. What do we make of that? Was he acting on evil desires even though one of the predestined elect?

                    On the flip side, one would think the predestined elect would always act with justice, love, maturity, responsibility and wisdom. The problem is, when they don’t, theological arguments and institutions protect them. So “who” is responsible in that scenario? God? Or the person?

                    You want to know what really scares me about their doctrinal position? Kids and teens are being taught this in church! And for me, that is not something I can be unified with.

                    Bill Mac

                    I don’t, know about you but my desires are always involved when l choose freely.

                    Robert: If that’s what LFW means, then count me in. But that’s what I’ve been saying: People don’t mean the same thing when they say it. I wasn’t trying to be a smart alec when I said LFW means we have more freedom than God. God cannot act outside his nature, but the definitions of LFW that I have read says that creatures with LFW make choices that are not governed by their natures or deepest desires. I call hogwash on that.

                    Lydia: Of course you are responsible. (as an adult, or as a child) You can only be responsible for a choice if you did it because you wanted to. Free-will means doing what you want. You can’t be held responsible for stealing if someone is holding a gun to your head, making you do it. You can only be held responsible if you did it freely.

                    If LFW means simply acting freely within our nature and desires, then sign me up. Is that truly what you non-Calvinists mean by LFW? I had people on this very blog tell me that isn’t what it means, on an earlier post. They told me quite specifically (and actually quite belligerently) that LFW means we are not constrained by nature or desires, that we can make choices contrary to both.

                    Someone remind me, does the TS use the term libertarian free will?

                  Les Prouty

                  In his refutation of LFW, John Hendryx says, “Freedom as understood in the libertarian sense means that a person is fully able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done, and this is not predetermined by any prior circumstances, our desires or even our affections.” Hendryx then says, “Libertarians, therefore, when asked what caused the person to choose one action over another, will answer that a free act is when no causal, antecedent, laws of nature, desires or other factors are sufficient to incline the will decisively to chose one option or another.” He then brings Clark Pinnock, noted LFW advocate, to help show what LFW folks believe.

                  Then this by Hendryx, “In other words, within libertarianism, we could acceptably choose to receive Christ apart from a desire to receive Him.”

                  Do any of you LFWers agree with Hendryx?

                    Bill Mac

                    More than that, according to LFW, anyone who accepts Christ because of desire or affection has not done so freely. How many testimonies have we heard from people (non-Calvinists) who felt an overwhelming compulsion to respond to an altar call? That certainly doesn’t comply with LFW, at least in its strictest sense.

                    Lydia

                    “Hendryx then says, “Libertarians, therefore, when asked what caused the person to choose one action over another, will answer that a free act is when no causal, antecedent, laws of nature, desires or other factors are sufficient to incline the will decisively to chose one option or another”

                    Right. I am sure people who believe in free will answered exactly like that. (rolling eyes) But I do think it is honest of you to admit you have absolutely no control over your actions, desires, etc. They are controlled for you. (Please no dissertations on the compatiblism rabbit trail)

                    However, I am glad our justice system, as flawed as it is, is based on free will as in people are responsible when they act on wrong desires.

                    Bill Mac

                    Lydia: You’re right, no one would answer like that, because people who believe in free will can’t imagine that it would mean what the the doctrine of LFW says it means. Ask 100 people what “free will” means, and 105 of them will say “it means doing what you want”. Isn’t that what you mean when you define free will?

                    Bill Mac

                    Les: Let’s hear them out. If they say that your links are LFW straw men, then perhaps they are.

                    No traps, or silly blog argument point scoring. I truly want to know what people here who hold to LFW mean by it.

                  Les Prouty

                  Forgot the link to Hendryx’s refutation of LFW. http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/libertarian.html

                    Lydia

                    “Lydia: You’re right, no one would answer like that, because people who believe in free will can’t imagine that it would mean what the the doctrine of LFW says it means. Ask 100 people what “free will” means, and 105 of them will say “it means doing what you want”. Isn’t that what you mean when you define free will?”

                    Of course not. It means I am responsible for what I do/believe/say as an adult. With Freedom of any sort comes responsibility. It is the difference between behaving as an animal or a human made in the image of God.

                  Les Prouty

                  John Frame in his refutation of LFW says,

                  “If free decisions are based on desires, he [the libertarian] thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused. The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.””

                  “Further, libertarianism, rather than guaranteeing moral responsibility, actually destroys it. How can we be held responsible for decisions, if those decisions are “psychological accidents,” unconnected with any of our desires? Indeed, such a situation would, precisely, negate all responsibility. Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn’t want to do.”

                  LFW is really an illusion.

                  http://www.frame-poythress.org/free-will-and-moral-responsibility/

                    Bill Mac

                    I don’t know that LFW is completely wrong, but taken in its strictest sense, it must be, because it has us doing the opposite of what we most want to do and are inclined by nature to do. It makes us more free than God himself. It may be that LFW is the logical opposite of hard determinism, but that just means that both are probably wrong.

                    That’s why I say all LFW is not created equal. People don’t mean the same thing when they say it (kind of like Calvinism).

                    Lydia

                    “John Frame in his refutation of LFW says,

                    “If free decisions are based on desires, he [the libertarian] thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused. The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.””

                    Is Mr Frame is aware of scripture that tells us how to deal with our anger and bad desires? And that it is not an easy thing, is it. What separates us from animals when it come to natural inclinations?

                    So basically he is saying a murderer could not help but commit the murder? He could not have done otherwise? Did CJ Mahaney believe this when he protected “Christian” (as in elect, right?) child molesters who worked at SGM? They could not do otherwise? Of course they could. They are acting more like animals than humans made in the image of God.

                    the only thing Frame seems to be saying is that free will is animalistic and we cannot help but respond to our desires whether good or bad. . Hmm. And I am wondering about the focus on desire as wrong and uncontrollable. Isn’t wanting to mature in wisdom a “desire”. Desire can be a good thing. I desire to invent a new product. Some desire to cure cancer. Some desire to watch TV and drink beer. Unless there is a mental defect that prevents it, we can all mature in how we react to our desires. Isn’t that what we teach our kids? I mean seriously, how on earth can you apply this belief to raising children. Isn’t the goal to teach them to think through their desires even when in a group where emotions are being whipped up to cause an effect?

                    When one starts with a wrong premise one cannot help but go down ridiculous mazes even if they have a Ph.D. Einstein had to paint his door red to find his house.

                    “Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn’t want to do.”

                    But Judge, I did not WANT to kill my wife so you cannot hold me responsible. It was a psychological accident!

                  Les Prouty

                  Ok, last one on LFW from Frame’s refutation.

                  “For another thing, libertarianism seems to me to be unintelligible on its own terms, for it makes our moral choices accidental. R. E. Hobart, in a famous article from the 1930s, wrote to the effect that on the libertarian basis, a moral choice is like my feet popping out of my bed without my desiring them to, and carrying me where I don’t want to go. The attempt to separate decisions from desires is psychologically perverse.”

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  Only a minute…running out to a church missions meeting (yep, Calvinists have missionaries!),

                  You: “Right. I am sure people who believe in free will answered exactly like that. (rolling eyes) But I do think it is honest of you to admit you have absolutely no control over your actions, desires, etc. They are controlled for you.”

                  Yes, people who have thought through these things like you and Robert et al. Pick it apart if you will, but does it not describe your LFW position? And re-read the whole thing, or study further. it does not posit that “you have absolutely no control over your actions, desires, etc.” He actually said, “Freedom as understood in the libertarian sense means that a person is fully able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done, and this is not predetermined by any prior circumstances, our desires or even our affections.”

                  Further, care to explain how you wrote what you did with your LFW apart from any desire or motivation?

                    Lydia

                    “Only a minute…running out to a church missions meeting (yep, Calvinists have missionaries!),”

                    Wow, you get extra holy and pious bonus points! I am afraid I am not that pious today. I am doing basketball games with the kids. Just remember: Spread Jesus not Calvin in your missions.

                    “Yes, people who have thought through these things like you and Robert et al. Pick it apart if you will, but does it not describe your LFW position? And re-read the whole thing, or study further. it does not posit that “you have absolutely no control over your actions, desires, etc.” He actually said, “Freedom as understood in the libertarian sense means that a person is fully able to perform some other action in place of the one that is actually done, and this is not predetermined by any prior circumstances, our desires or even our affections.””

                    Les, it is like everything else in your world. It posits one thing then negates it in the next paragraph or whatever. the Institutes do this. It is pure cognitive dissonance. We could go around and around all day with it. One of the glaring problems I see with this view is that Desire and Thinking are seen as incompatible. They should be “complementarian” as in real complementary :o)

                    “Further, care to explain how you wrote what you did with your LFW apart from any desire or motivation?”

                    Ok here is the process:

                    Read>think> desire to respond or not? > think some more about the desire one way or the other>
                    >Decision to respond even though know it is futile> prepare to act on futility because some YRR follower might be reading and instead of thinking determinism is his only choice and he/she does not like that God anymore, they will see here perhaps there is another way of viewing our human relationship with God> write response knowing it was my free will decision to do so acting on a well thought out “desire”.

                    (This is a verbose variation of the old org development process Think Plan Act…etc.)

                    IOW: Thinking happened with “desire”. Maturity in responding? Debatable. :o)

                    I am sure you will find some way to prove the process proves your point. That is the cognitive dissonance you live in. I try my best not to go there. It is not “desirable” because I employ “thinking” and that thinking makes me “responsible” for my freedom to respond and how I respond.

                  Les Prouty

                  Bill Mac, I agree. Let’s hear them out on what they really think LFW means. No traps. And as I will momentarily ask Lydia specifically, after she talked about decisions to eat chocolate, tell me about a choice to believe in Jesus? Where does that come from?

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  Did you really read what Frame wrote? Frame said, “If free decisions are based on desires, he [the libertarian] thinks, they are not fully free. They are not in this case wholly uncaused. The libertarian argues that such a view is essential to moral responsibility. For no one is responsible for an act unless he “could have done otherwise.””

                  Your response is: “Is Mr Frame is aware of scripture that tells us how to deal with our anger and bad desires? And that it is not an easy thing, is it. What separates us from animals when it come to natural inclinations?”

                  I suspect Dr. Frame is aware of more verses than you and I put together. That aside, your questions make no sense. His point is that LFW leads to what he stated, not that HE believed that. Step back in the batter’s box please.

                  “So basically he is saying a murderer could not help but commit the murder? He could not have done otherwise? Did CJ Mahaney believe this when he protected “Christian” (as in elect, right?) child molesters who worked at SGM? They could not do otherwise? Of course they could. They are acting more like animals than humans made in the image of God.”

                  Love how you have to get a Mahoney jab in. No Lydia. He’s pointing out the utter nonsense LFW makes of our choices. Back in the box.

                  “The only thing Frame seems to be saying is that free will is animalistic and we cannot help but respond to our desires whether good or bad. . Hmm. And I am wondering about the focus on desire as wrong and uncontrollable. Isn’t wanting to mature in wisdom a “desire”. Desire can be a good thing. I desire to invent a new product. Some desire to cure cancer. Some desire to watch TV and drink beer. Unless there is a mental defect that prevents it, we can all mature in how we react to our desires. Isn’t that what we teach our kids? I mean seriously, how on earth can you apply this belief to raising children. Isn’t the goal to teach them to think through their desires even when in a group where emotions are being whipped up to cause an effect?”

                  I’m handing your paper back with a F, or at least an incomplete. Re read Frame and redo your report.

                  “When one starts with a wrong premise one cannot help but go down ridiculous mazes even if they have a Ph.D. Einstein had to paint his door red to find his house.” True. But Frame didn’t, at least you have failed to demonstrate that he started with a wrong premise.

                  “Certainly it is difficult to imagine being held responsible for something we really didn’t want to do.”

                  “But Judge, I did not WANT to kill my wife so you cannot hold me responsible. It was a psychological accident!”

                  And that is the problem of LFW as Frame points out. You guys own that one.

                    Lydia

                    “Did you really read what Frame wrote? Frame said, “If free decisions are based on desires, he [the libertarian] thinks, they are not fully free.”

                    “IF” he says. Why can’t decisions be based on reason, logic and/or compassion? I cannot help but think you are starting from a total inability perspective. Perhaps he is, too?

                    Therefore humans cannot help but be like animals who respond based on immediate desire. Les, I am a peasant who could never debate the likes of ivory tower Frame types. They live in a different world than I do. I am wondering why he is to be my go to guy to understand free will when I can actually live it with the help of the Advocate.

                    I will take my F and go eat some chocolate!

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  ““IF” he says.” And etc., etc. Lydia I think you miss the point he’s making. He stated what LFW people believe and by using the “if,” he is showing their error.

                  Enough already. Whenever we have a convo, we always seem to be going right past each other. So I’ve already had my chocolate and have to finish packing. No, I choose to finish packing. Going out of the country for a few days. So unless there is more that needs to be said tonight into the wee hours of the morning, I’m outta here. I’ll be up anyway since I need to be at the airport by 3:30am. I choose not to like that very much. :)

              Lydia

              “Agreed. I’ve been in Reformed churches for almost 25 years. Graduated from a Reformed seminary. Absolutely no one, professors I had and have known over the years or that many pastors I know or the many elders I know…none of them believes this way. It’s a classic misdirection and total misunderstanding of Calvinism.”

              Les, I don’t think Calvinists take their beliefs to their logical conclusion so I can see where that would be your experience. If they did, they would most likely not be Calvinists anymore.

                Donald

                “Les, I don’t think Calvinists take their beliefs to their logical conclusion so I can see where that would be your experience. If they did, they would most likely not be Calvinists anymore.” – Lydia

                +1

              Les Prouty

              Lydia,

              “Les, I don’t think Calvinists take their beliefs to their logical conclusion so I can see where that would be your experience. If they did, they would most likely not be Calvinists anymore.”

              That’s a pretty arrogant thing to say Lydia. You can do much better than that.

                Lydia

                Les, It is probably that I just don’t have the ability to understand all the ins and outs of Calvinism and forgot that arrogance is the domain of “ruling” elders. :o)

                  Les

                  Lydia,

                  “Lydia 06-03-2015, 09:59
                  Les, It is probably that I just don’t have the ability to understand all the ins and outs of Calvinism and forgot that arrogance is the domain of “ruling” elders. :o)”

                  Well then you’d make a good ruling elder…in the PCA USA, being a woman and such. :)

                    Lydia

                    ” Les, It is probably that I just don’t have the ability to understand all the ins and outs of Calvinism and forgot that arrogance is the domain of “ruling” elders. :o)”

                    Well then you’d make a good ruling elder…in the PCA USA, being a woman and such. :)”

                    I would find it embarassing to be referred to as such. I am just one of the Holy Priesthood.

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  “I would find it embarassing to be referred to as such. I am just one of the Holy Priesthood.”

                  Aren’t we all, Christians that is.

                    lydia

                    “Aren’t we all, Christians that is.”

                    Ruling elder then In an Orwellian sense? Some animals are more equal than others.

                  Les Prouty

                  I know. Some of us, ruling elders, are more equal. We get to control (insert scary music here) people.

            Robert

            Some are discussing what makes a Calvinist and whether or not someone ought to be considered a Calvinist if they are a five, four or three pointer.

            First of all it depends upon what standard you are using to decide.

            A common standard that has arisen since the council of Dordt is the five point acronym TULIP. I personally evaluate a person’s “Calvinism” by means of the five points of TULIP and a few additional points (one is whether they affirm that God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, if they do then they will also deny libertarian free will and they are theological determinists). But let’s stick with only the five points for now.

            Every Calvinist affirms “T”(you will never find a calvinist that denies total depravity). Every calvinist affirms “P” (you will never find a calvinist who believes a genuine believer may eventually be lost and not persevere in their faith). Every Calvinist whether they are supra or infra lapsarians affirms “U”.

            If there was any one element that “gives away” a calvinist it is adherence to unconditional election.

            So they all hold these three points. There is no controversy among them there.

            That leaves only two other points.

            With regards to “I” I have never read or encountered a calvinist who denies irresistible grace. So that means logically the only real disagreement among calvinists is with “L”. Most hold to limited atonement (e.g. John Owen in the past and John Piper today), a few sometimes deny limited atonement and hold to unlimited atonement (e.g. Bruce Ware). So when it comes to the five points there seem to be only two standard calvinist positions (i.e. five pointers and four pointers who affirm all of the points except for limited atonement). Now people can always label themselves any way that they choose, but it seems logically that when dealing with calvinists they are either four or five pointers.

            Robert

            Robert

            Lydia you brought up a significant problem in calvinism: “Ex: If you are so totally depraved how can even know if you are really elect? How can you even know if there was a real regeneration and it is not some mystical trick by the evil one to fool you because you are already so depraved.”

            Actually it is worse than you describe Lydia. You talk about someone being tricked “by the evil one” to believe they are regenerated when they really are not. Calvin’s position was much worse. Calvin said that God could give the reprobate a false faith, a temporary faith. Look at his words in the quote that I provided. He says that at times God gives a “temporary faith is ascribed to them” a grace given to the reprobates in “they truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel” with the result that they think they are saved “yet experience shows the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”
            They are given a “fading faith” according to Calvin.

            And notice why God does this to these poor reprobates: “but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse”. So he gives this temporary faith which is indistinguishable from real faith so that the can better convict them and leave them without excuse!

            According to Calvin God gives these reprobates (people he never has any intention of ever saving, people he has chosen for eternal damnation in hell) a temporary faith so they think they are saved when they really are not. I mean it is bad enough to be a person who is ordained for damnation, but to then be toyed with in this life, this is just unconscionable and cruel.

            It reminds me of Jonathan Edwards famous sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” where according to Edwards God is toying with the sinners just holding them like a spider over a flame where he could drop them into the fire at any moment. But Calvin says that God sometimes deludes the reprobates/spiders fully convincing them they are saved and not going into the fire when he fully intended to put them into that fire.

            Robert

              Lydia

              “Actually it is worse than you describe Lydia. You talk about someone being tricked “by the evil one” to believe they are regenerated “when they really are not. Calvin’s position was much worse. Calvin said that God could give the reprobate a false faith, a temporary faith. Look at his words in the quote that I provided. He says that at times God gives a “temporary faith is ascribed to them” a grace given to the reprobates in “they truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel” with the result that they think they are saved “yet experience shows the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”
              They are given a “fading faith” according to Calvin. ”

              You are exactly right, Robert. I forgot about his chapter on Reprobation. So, instead of the Father of Lies being the deceptive trickster, Calvin credits Yahweh for deceiving people and presents it as just! And people wonder why I despise Calvinism.

      Donald

      “When these discussions first started up in the blogosphere…”

      You are correct, but back then I did not understand these five points as understood by Calvinist. If I am allowed to define the five points of the T.U.L.I.P, then there are perhaps up to three with which I could agree. But, as defined by my Calvinist friends, I cannot agree with any.

      Donald

Andy

Also, this list of questions is unnecessarily complicated…

The simpler method is simply to look for a beard:
-Beard = Calvinist
-No beard = Not a Calvinist

SIMPLE! :-)

    Max

    Yes, good point – the long pointed beards are a particular red flag. Candidates who also come to the interview wearing a “Jonathan Edwards is My Homeboy” T-shirt and carrying an ESV Study Bible should not be included on the short-list for further consideration. ;^)

      Bill Mac

      Ugh, Max beat me to it. Now I look like a copycat.

    Bill Mac

    Watch out for the ESV too. Red flag. Or if he has a t-shirt that says Spurgeon is my home-boy.

      Max

      Bill, you are not a copy-cat … you offer uncanny confirmation!

        Max

        “Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV)

    Andy

    Of course this gets confusing when you try to apply to women…I suppose you would have to ask if their husband has a beard, or if they are single, are they attracted to men with beards? …and of course if you do run across a woman with a beard, you may assume she is a calvinist…although…if you are interviewing women pastors, bearded, or not, you may have different issues to work through…

    …I’m done now… :-)

phillip

“Do you believe that Christ’s death atoned for the sins of every person in the world in the same way so that anyone and everyone can believe and be saved? (Meaning that Christ’s death actually paid for every sin thereby removing every obstacle so that every person has the same opportunity to be believe the gospel and be saved.)”

Brother Rogers,

I am probably reading too much into this question, but are you suggesting that faith is only possible because of the atoning work of the cross?

God bless.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Phillip
    You said, “are you suggesting that faith is only possible because of the atoning work of the cross?” No, I am simply trying to bypass the distinctions made in Calvinism that the atonement was sufficient for all but only efficient for the unconditionally elect. This appears to many non-Calvinists to mean what they mean, and it does not. That is to say, I am simply trying to say that what Christ did in the atonement paid for the sins of the ones who receive the gospel by faith and those who reject the gospel in the same way. i.e. unlimited atonement. I hope this clarifies.
    Thanks Phillip

William Thornton

I appreciate the effort that went into this, the latest Calvinist ‘smoke out’ guide. It is a serious attempt to address a serious issue.

My inclination is that very, very few search committees will have enough sophistication to manage this with a candidate. The yes/no approach would be fairly simple to deflect by any candidate who (a) has a bit of finesse and a deft touch in these conversations, or (b) who desires to deceive, or, (c) who sees enough imprecision that he can go yes or no, or dispute the vocabulary. If there is a search committee composed of theologians or of bloggers who eat and sleep this stuff, this would work well for them.

A committee ought to be informed enough to know the theological terminology and the implications of certain Calvinistic positions, but also some of the predictable pastoral thrusts that Calvinist pastors will attempt to take. Primary references aren’t worth much so secondary or tertiary references on the candidate’s previous places of service would likely yield what a committee needs to know. In the church situation I am most familar with, simple requests for secondary references would quickly have gotten the committee to people who would relate certain statements and practices of their former pastor. This would be stuff the search committee could easily understand that they weren’t comfortable with even if they couldn’t fathom the theology. I’m guessing that there are far more Calvinists who attempt to copy the latest Calvinist celebrities in church leadership practices than there are who are theological sophisticates.

I have a working theory that a rabid Calvinist cannot be pinned down to much of anything by ordinary church people. But if the guy has a record in an actual church that can be scrutinized that will be the ticket for the committee.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello William
    You said, “I appreciate the effort that went into this….It is a serious attempt to address a serious issue.” Thank you!

    You said, “My inclination is that very, very few search committees will have enough sophistication to manage this with a candidate. The yes/no approach would be fairly simple to deflect by any candidate who (a) has a bit of finesse and a deft touch in these conversations, or (b) who desires to deceive, or, (c) who sees enough imprecision that he can go yes or no, or dispute the vocabulary.”

    While I do certainly concur that if one is so inclined, he can always lie despite our best efforts to get at the truth; however, this does not negate the worthiness of such attempts and documents that we use to aid in ascertaining the position or qualifications of someone. Such a perspective (not implying that you hold to such) seems to leave even the very idea of all, or at least most, questionnaires (even for missionary service, ministry volunteers, employment, loans, volunteer work etc.,) for church employment and even the interview process reduced to meaninglessness.

    First, I have actually used such questions to help laypeople ascertain whether someone is a Calvinist or not. Consequently, although not perfectly, I do believe this approach does in fact help. I do not pretend that it is sufficient to expose even the most nefarious of all scoundrels because nothing seems worthy for that undertaking, but even there the approach that utilizes various means seems more likely to reveal such than one that employs only one.

    I am not suggesting this in lieu of contacting former churches but rather to use it in concert with such. I would suggest that contacting former churches regarding the pastor’s exact theological position etc., may actually muddy the waters even more since he may have been less than forthright with them; they may have lacked either the theological concern or sophistication of even the present committee (I have run across such). He may have only become a Calvinist recently and therefore, knowing that he was leaving, may not have made much of it. Additionally, not all former churches, for various reasons, are as forthcoming as they could be regarding previous members or pastors e.g. the letter that says one’s membership is in good standing; although, no one has seen him in years. I have actually experienced this reticence personally when calling about a potential staff member—sometimes the church is afraid of lawsuit. In addition, I think it is unwise to place the responsibility of a committee upon a previous church’s evaluation alone, maybe in concert with, but not alone.

    My conversations with laymen regarding Calvinism do in fact indicate that they can and do understand these type of questions enough to properly pose such questions, once made aware of such. Although they may not be a theologian, they are not all dolts that cannot understand once given due consideration; at least that has not been my experience. Even the ones I talked with after the fact, mentioned in the article, understood the questions I gave them similar to the ones here; they then asked the questions which garnered precisely what they were intended and in a manner that the layperson understood quite well. Each time, the person was revealed to be a Calvinist without superimposing an unjust label on someone.

    Another thought that I would offer regarding the lack of lay sophistication being such to render such a questionnaire unavailable, is that oftentimes there are one or two on the committee who do desire to seek help in best framing the questions so as to be fair to the committee and candidate. To wit, not being sophisticated enough, should not be interpreted to mean uncaring or incapable to become so—I am not implying that you mean such only that such comments can lead to that unjust conclusion.

    As I mentioned to Mac, if you notice my fourth guideline is for determining whether the person is a non-Calvinist or not, which seems, to me, to overcome your concerns. Actually, the questions are written in such a way that the committee members need not fully understand all of the questions (not that I am endorsing such), but only must know that a non-Calvinist will gladly answer as I have suggested. Consequently, the man being a Calvinist becomes evidently undeniable. Again, a document cannot be written to get truth out of a person dedicated to deception, but that does not invalidate such documents nor the attempt to make it far more difficult to deceive God’s people. E.g. the locks on our homes do not keep the most dedicated out, but we do not therefore discard them.

    I was for many years a Calvinist and continue to interact with very knowledgeable Calvinists and non-Calvinists who have no problem with the intelligibility and congruency of the evaluations I have suggested. Since I posted this, both Les and Mac have made suggestions to improve the clarity within the context of the purpose of the document, which I have incorporated in my revised version of the questionnaire. Thus, I am very open to incorporating legitimate improvements to the questionnaire, but what seems quite unacceptable to me is to reject such because it does not accomplish everything perfectly; thereby leaving committees with no guidance at all. Additionally, I have no interest, and actually disdain the idea of actually misrepresenting my Calvinist brothers and sisters.

    Thank you my brother for taking the attempt seriously and your thoughtful comments. My desire is to make it as helpful a tool as possible.

      Bill Mac

      I’m not sure you can know what all non-Calvinists will gladly answer. I’m sure they are at least as diverse as the people associated with Calvinism.

Rick Patrick

Ronnie,

Excellent post. I think this is a tool which can definitely help “get to the heart” of the matter. (I rather dislike the pejorative connotations of the term “smoke out” which my friend William Thornton used, as it makes us seem to be hunting prey or catching criminals, rather than pursuing a godly and honorable quest for truth and clarity.)

One aspect of your survey that deserves reinforcement is the answer key–six no’s followed by three yes’s with little to no waffling allowed. I actually think that the tell-tale heart here is not even in the answers themselves, but in all of the definitions and nuances and caveats that will be required by the Calvinistic leaning candidate.

Suppose a Calvinist is seeking to gain a position in a Traditional SBC church disinclined to embrace Calvinistic theology. He wants to accept a call to this church in order to “reform” their doctrine, which he considers subpar, a mission that the Search Team wants to avoid in the interest of preserving church unity. Using your survey, I believe the Search Team could almost arrive at the correct answer using only a stopwatch. Regardless of the responses themselves, simply evaluate how long it takes the individual to explain their views.

You have created a very helpful tool. I also agree that Search Teams can easily pick up on this jargon. They haven’t been taught the Calvinistic vocabulary simply because it hasn’t been an issue in the past, but now that it is, they can learn it. If they can order at Starbucks, they can use big theological words just like the Calvinists do!

    Andy

    Rick, Thanks for weighing in, I wonder if you might address a few comments made by Ronnie, I haven’t gotten an answere yet:

    RONNIE: “Therefore, even if a Calvinist answers differently than I say he will (I am assuming sufficient knowledge of Calvinism and consistency in the questionnaire), his unwillingness to answer, as non-Calvinist will gladly do is enough to indicate that he is a Calvinist of some kind.”

    RONNIE: “If you were before a search committee, would you be able to answer as I have said a non-Calvinist would surely do? If not, then may I assume that you consider yourself a Calvinist?”

    If we were to create a few questions that determined that you and Ronnie, or others, reject Unconditional Election, and agree with Arminianism on some points, may we assume you are an Arminian “of some kind”? It seems you are eager to determine who is a calvinist based on a few points of agreement. Why does it not work the other way?

      Andrew Barker

      Andy: What if instead of saying “what if” you went ahead and did it? Produce your questions to smoke out the Arminian. The perhaps you might have a definitive answer? I somehow doubt it and I suspect the exercise will prove more difficult than you first think. But at least it’s better than all this ‘what if’ this or that? Yes, No? I can’t speak for Ronnie/Rick so I’m not committing them to answer but I’m sure someone will chip in! :)

        Andy

        Andrew,

        I don’t think such a questionnaire would be very helpful, precisely because it would not give a definite answer. That’s the point.

        However, neither would it be difficult to make one. It’s not really a matter of “IF”. I could quite easily create a few questions that I could use to determine FOR MYSELF whether I though someone was an arminian…but they might disagree with my assessment. Or they may want to qualify their answer in some way…then I might say that their desire to qualify their answers instead of giving only a yes or a no only proves they are an arminian.

      Rick Patrick

      Andy,

      Perhaps it does not work the other way, in my opinion, because we are not merely talking about a spectrum of Calvinism and Arminianism. The entire discussion of soteriology has been hung on this framework for centuries. It has not served us particularly well. As I understand the work of those who drafted the Traditional Statement, the desire was to move beyond such definitions. The Ten Articles were designed to provide not merely some kind of Arminian answer to Calvinism, but to change the very framework away from TULIP.

      Most Traditionalists I know do not wish to be described as Arminians, primarily because we have a different view of Depravity and a non-negotiable stance on Perseverance. I should be quite happy for a Calvinist church to ask me questions that would screen me out of consideration for their vacancy. I’m less concerned with whether they label me an Arminian or a Traditionalist, although I self-identify with the latter. The important thing is not the label itself but the awareness that we are theologically incompatible.

        Andy Williams

        Rick, thank you for you clear and thoughtful answer.

        I do still think there are some similarities to the two situations. On the one hand, many baptists have avoided the label of Arminian, because of negative associations and popular opinion that go back a long time (John Wesley even attempted to allay people’s fears about the label); so many baptists share much of Arminian soteriology, but seek some nuanced and middle way to describe their beliefs. On the other hand, you also have many baptists who avoid the label of calvinism, because of negative associations and popular opinion, especially recently in SBC life; so many baptists would be may share some of calvinism’s beliefs in , but seek a more nuanced and middle way to describe their beliefs.

        I suppose the biggest problem I have with this Article, and other articles like it, even some that would use the view of depravity ALONE to “smoke out” a calvinist…is that it seems to give a large “You are not welcome,” sign to not only(a) 5-point calvinists, not only (b) those who agree with calvinism on some important points, but also (c) those who simply don’t see the issue as clearly as you, that perhaps see verses that seem to say God chose who will be saved, and other verses that say we must choose God, and don’t know how to figure it out, and EVEN (d) classical Arminians who share arminian view of depravity and prevenient grace, along with a baptist view of eternal security. And SOME, (not all) will take most of these groups and call them calvinist, while jumping to correct anyone who might call them Arminian. (I’m glad to hear you would not too terrible offended by the “A” title :)

        It just seems to me that the net is getting drawn a little too tightly, by both sides. I Realize this is a reaction to feeling squeezed out of national influence by Calvinists, but it seems like an over-reaction, at least to me. And, I know you have explained well why the name was chosen, I will admit that some of the tension comes from the name “Traditional.” When we hear that groups a,b,c,d above are ALL the types of people that should be avoided by a “Traditional Baptist Church”. It sounds like a re-definition of the word “Traditional.”

        Thanks again for you reply, and continued civil interaction on these issues!
        -andy

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Rick
    Thanks for the encouragement.

    You said, “I actually think that the tell-tale heart here is not even in the answers themselves, but in all of the definitions and nuances and caveats that will be required by the Calvinistic leaning candidate” I do think you are precisely correct. I will probably try to incorporate something related to that in the introductory paragraph. Thanks for the help.

William Thornton

With an average church size of 100 or so in worship and committees from such churches composed of the types of men and women I’ve interacted with over the years, I think the better route for this and other areas of discovery about a candidate is his previous record of deeds and misdeeds in an actual church. Of course, it may not be true here but most SB churches are perfectly comfortable with a calvinist, just not a rabid one who thinks his mission is to correct heresy in the church. Go to the secondary references for salient info.

Rick, Ronnie’s design here is to do one thing: make a calvinist reveal himself; hence, this is manifestly a ‘smoke out guide’, the latest of several I’ve seen over the past 15 or 20 years. Ascol so labeled ithe genre.

You call the terminology perjorative, I’d call the whole candidate exercise employing this list adversarial. Not many of us would sit still for laypeople saying, “These are our questions. You may only answer by “yes” or “no.” You may not ask for clarification until you have answered “yes” or “no.” You may provide explanation but only after your “yes” or “no” answer. You may not alter any of the wording prior to your “yes” or “no” answer.

Ah, if only laypeople on search committees wer as steeped in all this as bloggers. Perhaps we should have a sub-group of SBC Today that certifies candidates as being non-C or that blacklists candidates who have beeb smoke out as genuine Cals.

    Rick Patrick

    Well, if Ascol labelled the “smoke out” genre, then I suppose it must be the right description after all! Like a law of the Medes and Persians, one simply cannot change a label once it has been affixed by the Founding Father of the Founders!

    As for your request that we create a committee of blacklisters, it is only fair to remind you that these black lists go both ways. Those inviting speakers to the Pastors Conference or writers for Sunday School curriculum have such lists that clearly are disproportionately favoring the Calvinists. For four consecutive years, Calvinistic candidates have been placed as the President in four of our eleven SBC entities.

    It would be naive for us to assume that the Calvinists are not screening candidates based on their theology. Developing a reference point of our own is simply a matter of keeping up. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Lydia

“They told me quite specifically (and actually quite belligerently) that LFW means we are not constrained by nature or desires, that we can make choices contrary to both.”

I feel like we are discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. First of all, how are you defining “nature”? As worms who are born hating God at 3 hours old?

My desire is to eat chocolate for breakfast. But I choose not to. I sometimes have desired to wallop my kids but chose other punishment venues because I thought it through. I could go on and on.

Maybe this explains it better than I can. While I do not agree with everything he teaches in other areas, I heartily agree with what he is teaching here. In fact, it sounds like how I what I was taught in the SBC of my childhood. You have to listen all the way through to the end. We must PRACTICE walking in the light. It does not come natural.

    Les Prouty

    Lydia,

    Let’s think about chocolate later. Maybe after dinner. Please tell us about a person choosing to believe in Jesus as LFW defines choosing? Is there desire involved from within? From without? Are there either internal or external influences? Where does this desire come from in the LFW world? In fallen man himself apart from any external influences from God?

      Lydia

      “Let’s think about chocolate later. Maybe after dinner. Please tell us about a person choosing to believe in Jesus as LFW defines choosing? Is there desire involved from within? From without? Are there either internal or external influences? Where does this desire come from in the LFW world? In fallen man himself apart from any external influences from God?’

      I don’t think it has to be the same for every person. I don’t think there is a one size fits all process. I think a healthy focus on the “what” is more important than the how. Can there be a sinful “how”? I wonder….

    Bill Mac

    Lydia: Are you even capable of having a conversation without throwing that nonsense up in every comment? I don’t think people are born hating God. I don’t believe in inherited guilt. I’m actually trying to find out what people mean by the terms they use.

    Our nature and our desires are complex. So one day you choose to eat chocolate for breakfast, and one day you eat yogurt. Whatever desire is the greatest is the one you go with. One day the desire for flavor wins, one day the desire for health wins (if you consider yogurt healthy).

    Every sin is a choice, so you bear responsibility for each one. We aren’t forced to sin. We sin because we want to. But we also have a desire to please God, and sometimes that desire wins. I think we are able to cultivate our desires through practice. I haven’t watched the video all the way through but I suspect that’s what it is about.

    I think Molinism makes the most sense to me, but as Robert points out, a lot of its proponents believe in LFW. I’m trying to figure out what people mean by it, because I don’t think they mean the same thing. I’m NOT trying to win an argument. I’m trying to find out information.

    Andrew Barker

    Thanks Lydia. I enjoyed listening to that! :)

Lydia

“Lydia: Are you even capable of having a conversation without throwing that nonsense up in every comment? I don’t think people are born hating God. I don’t believe in inherited guilt. I’m actually trying to find out what people mean by the terms they use”

I am sorry, Bill! I am not used to someone from that camp genuinely asking without trying to back you into a corner. I could not swing a dead cat in my neck of the woods without a YRR challenging every word for the last 10 years. Must be like PSTD where every car backfire is a bullet. :o)

“Our nature and our desires are complex. So one day you choose to eat chocolate for breakfast, and one day you eat yogurt. Whatever desire is the greatest is the one you go with. One day the desire for flavor wins, one day the desire for health wins (if you consider yogurt healthy).”

I don’t see it like that at all. If I eat chocolate for breakfast it will be well thought out: Are the kid still sleeping? :o) Doyou not see that what you are suggesting is exactly what we should be teaching against to children while they are young? We should “practice” thinking through our desires. Can you imagine if that were taught in youth groups instead of the worm theology and you cannot do anything good? Why is Romans 7so often taught as a prescriptive excuse for sinning?

I do agree that every sin is a choice but not sure if I agree on what is sin. I don think eating chocolate for breakfast is a sin just a desire that is not prudent. But why would we want to sin when we understand how devastating it is to other people? And those really are the worst ones. The damage done to others because of sinful/evil desires can have life long damage. Considering ourselves better than others and putting ourselves over others is a glaring problem in most of evangelicalism that I think grieves our Savior. I do believe there are innocents who bear the worst brunt of sin in this world because they are easy pickings. I think our not getting involved in protecting innocents is a sin, btw. I don’t think confronting evil is a sin. I don’t think debate is a sin. AL of that is a choice. NONE of it easy. This stuff is grueling, to be honest. And I am starting to think we spend so much time evangelizing we don’t stop and become real disciples. Look what John wrote:
6 Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

So evidently we can overcome sinning albeit with lots of hard work.

He also says this:
17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister[f] in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Ouch. And a lot of wealthy pastors who take tithes from the poor should be quaking in their boots over that one. I know, that one is hard. In my experience it is the folks who are barely making it who pony up to help someone worse off. We have lots of work to do about our desires, I know. But we CAN!! And that is my entire point.

I think doing justice and fairness is something that pleases God. And I will never understand why Christians brag about being sinners as if it is pious/humble to do so.

    Les Prouty

    Lydia,

    You so often answer questions we in the “Other camp” aren’t asking. And then, “Why is Romans 7 so often taught as a prescriptive excuse for sinning?” Who even hinted at that? Who teaches that among Calvinists? Do you have actual evidence to back that up?

    “This stuff is grueling…” It sure is.

      Lydia

      “You so often answer questions we in the “Other camp” aren’t asking.”

      Sorry about that. .I really do understand why you see it that way.

      ” And then, “Why is Romans 7 so often taught as a prescriptive excuse for sinning?” Who even hinted at that? Who teaches that among Calvinists? Do you have actual evidence to back that up?”

      You are right.It is only my experience. Without bonafide proof that would pass the Cavlinist camp test I should not have said it. I will rephrase it to something like ‘pay close attention sometimes they present Romans 7 to show we cannot help doing some pretty bad stuff to one another.’

      Les Prouty

      Lydia,

      Greetings from Haiti. I was surprised to see that I had an internet connection this morning.

      Thanks for your response. You demonstrate humility here, seriously. I do think that most Reformed folks do not use Romans 7 to justify our sinning, as in it’s ok, just go ahead. Whoever may be doing that is just really messed up. Reformed views on Romans 7 are divided as to whether Paul is talking about his pre conversion life or writing as a Christian and a Christian’s struggle with remaining sin. I tend toward the latter. So I see Paul talking about the believer’s sometimes struggle with sin and his/her ongoing war with the flesh. Of course I think most of us also see that progressively the believer should be maturing and by God’s grace win more of those battles than lose them.

      Les

        Lydia

        ” You demonstrate humility here, seriously.”

        As you know, I live for your good opinion. Most likely we have different ideas of what constitutes humility, too. I don’t see it as something folks “demonstrate” …especially with words.

        ” I do think that most Reformed folks do not use Romans 7 to justify our sinning, as in it’s ok, just go ahead. Whoever may be doing that is just really messed up. Reformed views on Romans 7 are divided as to whether Paul is talking about his pre conversion life or writing as a Christian and a Christian’s struggle with remaining sin. I tend toward the latter. So I see Paul talking about the believer’s sometimes struggle with sin and his/her ongoing war with the flesh. Of course I think most of us also see that progressively the believer should be maturing and by God’s grace win more of those battles than lose them.”

        My experience is hearing it referred to as why we cannot help but sin.

Bill Mac

“I don’t see it like that at all. If I eat chocolate for breakfast it will be well thought out: Are the kid still sleeping? :o) Do you not see that what you are suggesting is exactly what we should be teaching against to children while they are young? We should “practice” thinking through our desires. Can you imagine if that were taught in youth groups instead of the worm theology and you cannot do anything good? Why is Romans 7 so often taught as a prescriptive excuse for sinning?”

Certainly I agree that we should teach our children (and ourselves) to think through decisions, but of course our we and our children don’t always do that, or if we do we don’t always make the right decision. I don’t do the “worm theology” myself. I believe we are all sinners, and undeserving of heaven. But I also believe we are image bearers and incredibly valuable to God.

“I do agree that every sin is a choice but not sure if I agree on what is sin. I don think eating chocolate for breakfast is a sin just a desire that is not prudent. But why would we want to sin when we understand how devastating it is to other people?”

I wasn’t clear. I don’t believe eating chocolate is a sin. Why would we want to sin? Of course as Christians, at one level we don’t want to. But since Christians do sin, they must still desire it at another level. Else why would Paul spend so much time telling Christians not to do it? I think that is what Romans 7:15-20 is talking about.

I agree that discipleship takes a back seat to evangelism and that is wrong. The great commission is to make disciples, not converts.

“So evidently we can overcome sinning albeit with lots of hard work.”

I think you are correct to a certain extent. I think sanctification ought to be progressive, but also I think there can be a danger to this line of thinking, leading to pride and the inevitable fall.

“And I will never understand why Christians brag about being sinners as if it is pious/humble to do so.”

Agreed, although in my experience it isn’t so much bragging about sin, but rather bragging about how unhappy they are about their sin.

Robert

Bill Mac you wrote : “If LFW means simply acting freely within our nature and desires, then sign me up.”

You also wrote: “Les: Let’s hear them out. If they say that your links are LFW straw men, then perhaps they are.
No traps, or silly blog argument point scoring. I truly want to know what people here who hold to LFW mean by it.”

I believe that if I share what I and others mean by LFW, that you will find it reasonable even if you disagree with it. What I find troubling is some who ridicule it, deny it, mock it, declare it to be an “illusion” when all they are doing is attacking straw men created in their imaginations not what LFW actually involves.

I believe a good way to get started is to share examples of LFW. A Father brings home a new kitten for his daughter who has wanted one for months. She is happy and excited and asks: “What’s her name?” The father replies: “whatever you want to name her, that will be her name.” The girl thinks about it and ends up calling her new kitten “Sasha.”

A young heterosexual man goes to a dating club to find a date. While there 10 people are presented to him, five men and five women. As he is heterosexual he has no desire to date any of the five men. In talking to the women he finds out that of the five, three love sports as he does. So he thinks about it, eliminating the two women who don’t like sports, and he for various reasons ends up choosing one of the three women who loves sports to go on a date.

Cory the Calvinist has only $10 in his wallet (no credit cards and no check book) and stops at the local Christian bookstore. He sees they have a special sale there and finds two books on sale for $7 (one is Edwards Freedom of the Will book with commentary by Calvinist scholars; the other is Sam Storms’ book Chosen for Life). He thinks about it and ends up choosing the Storms book.

John is playing a game of chess and realizes that his opponent has opened with the Ruy Lopez opening so he can make various moves in response but rationally chooses one of the most effective responses to the Lopez opening.

God is considering whether or not to create the universe. He could choose not to create the universe or he could choose to create the universe, either choice is available to him and there are no necessitating factors that make him make one choice rather than another.

[Molinist version] God is considering which possible world to create. He consider several but ends up choosing one (the actual world) and he creates that one from among the various possible worlds.

In each of these cases the persons experience LFW. Note “they do not have more free will than God”. Note they do not choose beyond the parameters of their nature or against their nature (cf. guy at dating club not choosing men). Note their choices involve their desires and are not “psychological accidents” (they choose for reasons in each in case).

Bill Mac are any of these examples to be mocked and ridiculed or declared to be an “illusion”??

Robert

    Bill Mac

    “Bill Mac are any of these examples to be mocked and ridiculed or declared to be an “illusion”??”

    Not a bit. Like I said, if that’s what it means, then sign me up. But to be fair, I honestly don’t think that is what everyone means by it. I have read definitions of LFW that say if we choose according to our nature and desires (even without some kind of interference from God), then that is determinism, just not divine determinism. They would call what you are describing compatibilism.

      Robert

      We are making progress and that is good.

      First let’s start with determinism. If a choice is determined, then you have to make that choice and it is impossible for you to have made any choice in those circumstances. Using my favorite example of LFW again, if God were determined in his choice to create the world, then that would mean he **had to** create the world (he had no choice, there was some necessitating factor that made him choose to create the world, because of this necessitating factor it was impossible for him to have chosen not to create the world). If everything was determined/necessitated, then we would never ever have a choice. In each and every choice that we made we would have to make that choice and it would be impossible for us to have chosen otherwise. If the child’s choice of the name for the cat were necessitated, then she had to choose the name “Sasha” and it would have been impossible to have chosen any other name for the cat. Likewise if the calvinist’s choice of book were necessitated then he had to choose the Storms book and it was impossible for him to have chosen the Edwards book.

      LFW choices are non-necessitated choices.

      You have a choice between at least two different alternatives, you then make the choice of one and not the other alternative (and your choice is not necessitated, there is no necessitating factor that forced you to make that choice). Plantinga defines LFW as: “If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.” Notice he says there are no antecedent conditions (that means before the choice is made) or laws that “determine” (read necessitate), that particular action or refraining from action. Notice he does not say that LFW does not involve desires (in each of my examples the choices all involved desires), or that LFW is choosing against your nature (the heterosexual guy at the dating club had no interest in choosing men to date, his choice was in line with and not against his nature). It is simply a choice that is not necessitated by some sort of necessitating factors.

      With determinists there is always some necessitating factor that forces you to make a particular choice. Some propose it is a person’s environment, for many secular determinists it is your brain (your brain causes you to make the choices that you make), some propose it is a causal chain that, like dominoes runs through you and makes you make a particular choice, some propose it is your “nature” (your nature causes you to make the choice that you make) some propose it is your “desires” (your desires make you make the choices that you make). There is always some necessitating factor that forces you to make the choice that you make so that you really had no choice, you had to do it. The libertarian acknowledges that a person’s environment, brain, nature, desires are involved in their choices. They just don’t believe that these “antecedent conditions” ****necessitate**** a particular choice. You will note that in all of my examples these various factors were involved, and yet the people had a genuine choice (they could have made the choice that they made, they also could have chosen otherwise). Only someone who believes in exhaustive determinism believes that every one of our choices is necessitated.

      Robert

        Bill Mac

        Robert: Yeah, it’s tricky because there’s always a cause. There are no un-caused choices. Does cause = necessity? And of course it is easy to say that we could have made a different choice, but we can’t know that for sure, because we didn’t.

        I think we have real choices, within our nature. I think God can interfere if he chooses.

          Lydia

          “Yeah, it’s tricky because there’s always a cause. There are no un-caused choices. Does cause = necessity? And of course it is easy to say that we could have made a different choice, but we can’t know that for sure, because we didn’t”

          I was thinking about your assertion that there has to be a “cause” as “no uncaused choices” when it comes to a sober alcoholic. The alcoholic will tell you he is an alcholic no matter how long he has been sober. We could dive into this one all days as in why one alcoholic seeks sobritey and the hard work that entails for YEARS and why another one, doesn’t. Is that “choice” outside of him? I think that is how I look at what you are saying…the choices are outside the person. (I am always thinking of an adult here) As in can they mature?

          So is the alcoholic bound by his “nature”? (If we agree that his nature is to be addictive?) Or, did he overcome what you are calling his nature? I am not sure I understand what you mean by that so am groping a bit.

          I do think once we have reached brain development we can know for sure why we made certain choices or not. We can even look back and see choice mistakes, learn from them and use that information as we navigate different choices in the future.
          Please understand I am basing this on “can” as in we have the “ability”. I am not basing it on what many people actually do as in nothing thinking too much about what they are doing. I think there is a real deficit in what we are teaching kids in how to think.

            Bill Mac

            Perhaps we can swap the word cause with the word reason. There is a reason for every choice we make. There are reasons why we make different choices faced with what one might think are similar circumstances (yogurt today, chocolate yesterday). Why does one alcoholic sober up and one doesn’t? It could be a bunch of different reasons. More desire, more support, less time as an addict, etc. But there’s always a reason.

            I always come back to brussel sprouts. I am able to eat them, but I am not able to like them. It is not in my nature. So my nature (not liking brussel sprouts) and my desire (not to cause myself distress) cause me not to eat them. Is that determinism, or do I have free will? I can make the contrary choice to eat them, if my desire to eat them (say, for health reasons, or to be polite) is greater at the moment than my desire not to be grossed out. Have I overcome my nature? Not really, because wanting to be healthy, or wanting to be polite is also part of my nature.

            Now I’ve forgotten what the question was.

              Lydia

              “Perhaps we can swap the word cause with the word reason. There is a reason for every choice we make. There are reasons why we make different choices faced with what one might think are similar circumstances (yogurt today, chocolate yesterday). Why does one alcoholic sober up and one doesn’t? It could be a bunch of different reasons. More desire, more support, less time as an addict, etc. But there’s always a reason.”

              I like ‘reason” better. “Cause” makes it sound like something happening outside of us we can only respond to in one or two ways within a decreed boundary or something like that.

              The “reason” for alcoholism could be something as simple as not thinking but responding only to “desire” at the moment. Perhaps a desire to be accepted by a group of teens or something. But there is “ability” to think and use reason even in that period of brain development. To me the point in this conversatoin is more about the “ability” to choose even overriding our desires. I have become very concerned by the amount of Christians I hear saythings like we don’t even know our own motives for what we do or don’t do.

              “I always come back to brussel sprouts. I am able to eat them, but I am not able to like them. It is not in my nature. So my nature (not liking brussel sprouts) and my desire (not to cause myself distress) cause me not to eat them. Is that determinism, or do I have free will? I can make the contrary choice to eat them, if my desire to eat them (say, for health reasons, or to be polite) is greater at the moment than my desire not to be grossed out. Have I overcome my nature? Not really, because wanting to be healthy, or wanting to be polite is also part of my nature.”

              Now how can you prove that Brussel Sprouts are not in your nature to like? Your mother would have disagreed with you. :o) Sometimes we would be sitting at the table long after dinner with 4 brussel sprouts on our plate that we had to eat. Finally, we found a way to sneak the dog into the dining room. So there you have the sin nature wrapped around desire and “reasoned” choice in problem solving and ingenuity.

              Now I’ve forgotten what the question was.

              Robert

              “Perhaps we can swap the word cause with the word reason.”

              That would be a good move as “cause” for many implies necessitation while “reason” implies that we may or may not act according to that particular reason.

              “There is a reason for every choice we make. There are reasons why we make different choices faced with what one might think are similar circumstances (yogurt today, chocolate yesterday). Why does one alcoholic sober up and one doesn’t? It could be a bunch of different reasons. More desire, more support, less time as an addict, etc. But there’s always a reason.”

              I agree with what you say here, we do things for reasons in light of what is important to us.

              “I always come back to brussel sprouts. I am able to eat them, but I am not able to like them. It is not in my nature. So my nature (not liking brussel sprouts) and my desire (not to cause myself distress) cause me not to eat them. Is that determinism, or do I have free will? I can make the contrary choice to eat them, if my desire to eat them (say, for health reasons, or to be polite) is greater at the moment than my desire not to be grossed out. Have I overcome my nature? Not really, because wanting to be healthy, or wanting to be polite is also part of my nature.”

              LFW is pretty simple: regarding eating the Brussel sprouts, did you have and then make a choice (and was your choice not necessitated?).

              If you had to choose to eat the Brussel sprouts (and it was impossible for you to choose not to eat the Brussel sprouts), then you did not act with LFW (and likewise if you had to choose not to eat the Brussel sprouts and it was impossible for you to choose to eat the brussel sprouts then you did not act with LFW).

              From your description here you choose to eat them on one occasion (i.e. it was important for you to be healthy) and on another occasion you choose not to eat them (i.e. it was important to you not to eat something when you don’t like the taste of it). You choose whether you will or will not eat them and there is no necessitating factor that makes you make the choice that you make: so LFW is present.

              Regarding “overcoming your nature” not sure what that means. Human nature regarding our choices is to make choices for reasons in light of what is important to us. Whether you chose to eat them or not eat them, you do so for reasons in light of what is important to you so you are acting in line with human nature.

              Robert

            Andy

            I would wonder whether even adults can always know for sure why we made certain choices. Some choices we make without hardly thinking. As I sit here at my desk today, for the last few hours, I have been occasionally reaching for 2 snacks: Peanuts, and trail mix. I have taken handfuls of both. I can’t tell you why exactly at 9:45 I chose a handful of peanuts, and at 10:30 I wanted a handful of trail mix. I can think back and say, “I wanted something sweeter that time so i chose trail mix…but why did I want something sweeter at 10:30 than I did at 9:30? I don’t know.

            For something more serious…I don’t know if I can tell you all the reasons why I pursued a relationship with the woman who later became my wife as opposed to many other godly, attractive women I knew at the time. I know some reasons, but can’t explain it exhaustively.

              Robert

              “I would wonder whether even adults can always know for sure why we made certain choices. Some choices we make without hardly thinking.”

              I don’t think anybody claims that in making freely made choices we always know and remember every thought that was involved in the deliberation process when we made our choice.

              But not knowing them all is not the same as saying that thought and reasons for choosing were not present. We make our choices for reasons in light of what is important to us: we don’t make our choices for no reason. Even when someone else makes a choice for reasons and things that are important to them but not us, they are still making their choice for reasons and in light of what is important to them.

              “For something more serious…I don’t know if I can tell you all the reasons why I pursued a relationship with the woman who later became my wife as opposed to many other godly, attractive women I knew at the time. I know some reasons, but can’t explain it exhaustively.”

              Again, not knowing them exhaustively is not the same as not having reasons for making the choice that you made.

              Try telling your wife “I had no reasons to choose you whatsoever”, and see how that flies!
              ?
              I believe God created us with the capacity to reason and choose in a way similar to Him: just as he reasons and freely makes choices based upon reasons and what is important to Him (and his choices are not necessitated), likewise we do the same thing.

              Robert

                Andy

                “Try telling your wife “I had no reasons to choose you whatsoever”, and see how that flies!”

                Ha Ha!

                If I was a determinist, I could say “God ordained that I would marry You!”

                If I was a romantic, I could say, “I don’t have any reasons, but my heart pulled me toward you!”

                If I was a stoic, I could say, “I evaluated you based on certain criteria, and based on my spreadsheet, you were a better match than everyone else!”

                If you must know, I think what I said at some point in our relationship was, “I’ve decided that I love you.”

                :-)

      Jim G.

      Hi Bill,

      Maybe this will help the discussion. (Divine) Determinism is the belief that God has decreed and rendered certain all that will come to pass. Libertarian free will (LFW) holds that God has not pre-decreed all that comes to pass, leaving at least some things undetermined (but quite possibly fully foreknown by him). Determinism and LFW are mutually exclusive. They cannot exist together in the same universe. Note that LFW does not hold that all things are divinely-indeterminate, only that some are. A determinist cannot allow one drop of LFW to exist.

      There is another definition of free will, called compatibilistic free will, that holds that we are free to choose based on our nature/desires, but that those choices are already pre-decreed and rendered certain by God. It is called “Compatibilism” because it is a version of free will that CAN exist side-by-side with determinism, making the two compatible. Not all determinists are compatibilists, but most that we see are. However, all compatibilists are determinists.

      In the examples that Robert gave, the question is whether or not that God decreed the kitten’s name before the foundation of the world. A determinist would say yes. A compatibilist would say yes. A LFWer would say possibly but not necessarily and quite likely not. Someone who holds to LFW would say that it is very possible that God allowed the little girl to come up with her own name for the kitten – one that was not decreed or rendered certain by God, even though he may have absolute foreknowledge of the name she would choose. The other examples in Robert’s illustration are similar.

      In the end, a determinist or compatibilist leaves nothing outside of God’s meticulous decree and certainty. To a determinist/compatibilist, the name for the kitten was chosen before the foundation of the world, and the little girl is only free to choose the name for the kitten decreed by God. LFW holds that God may be thrilled with whatever name the little girl chose freely and did not determine it.

      BTW, we – Cals and Trads alike – would all frown at the dad who gave his little girl a kitten and then rendered certain that she would name the kitten Sasha because that is the way he wanted it. Just a thought. :0)

      Jim G.

        Bill Mac

        I am enjoying the discussion. This statement: “God has decreed and rendered certain all that will come to pass”, is one that I have always agreed with, but I guess not in the way that Calvinists mean it. To me, if God foreknows something (even if He didn’t cause it), and He decides to allow it to come to pass, then He has rendered it certain. That is always the way I have thought about it. If I drop a rock, God doesn’t have to decree that it will fall. He just has to let it happen, but if He chooses to not intervene, hasn’t he rendered the fall of the rock certain?

          Jim G.

          I see what you are saying, Bill. To a strict Calvinist, the decree is logically prior to foreknowledge (there is no temporal, of course, it is done so eternally). To the strict Calvinist, God only foreknows what he has decreed. There is nothing else to foreknow. That is one of the reasons behind some disagreements between some Calvinists and Molinists. Molinism is predicated off of middle knowledge (God’s knowledge of counterfactuals – things that did not occur but could have in a different world). To the strict Calvinist where the decree is prior, even the concept of middle knowledge is nonsense. In decretal theology, there are no deviations from the comprehensive decree.

          Using your example of the rock, the “If I drop a rock” part is the key phrase. To the Calvinist, you only drop the rock if it were decreed that you would do so. And if God decreed that you drop the rock, then he has also decreed whether or not it falls. The decree, to the Calvinist, is comprehensive and meticulous. A compatibilist will say that you “freely” chose to drop the rock, but that what you “freely” chose is always in line with the meticulous, comprehensive decree. You were not free to otherwise “choose” about dropping the rock.

          In reality, complaining about anything in this life is incompatible with decretal Calvinism. EVERYTHING that occurs is the will of God, even the most hideous (to us) evils. But, the complaining itself was decreed and rendered certain too. That is why Calvinists have speculated about the “hidden” vs. the “revealed” will of God. God has clearly stated “Do not murder” (revealed will) yet, to the Calvinist, he has decreed and rendered certain every murder ever committed (hidden will). To the Calvinist, the act of murder did not originate in the heart of the murderer, it originated in the (hidden) will of God in eternity. He willed it, and it occurred, and yet he told us not to do it.

          That is why I cannot buy into decretal Calvinism. To me, it collapses in on itself and renders our tangible reality to be completely unreliable. Further, it makes God unknowable. We cannot possibly know that God is for us, because lying behind everything is the unknowable decree. Everything he told us might be completely false, because if he can divide himself to will and render certain that which he says he hates, how can we trust anything about him? Decretal Calvinism is Medieval nominalism carried to its logical conclusion.

          Jim G.

            Robert

            Hello Jim G.,

            “To the strict Calvinist, God only foreknows what he has decreed. There is nothing else to foreknow. That is one of the reasons behind some disagreements between some Calvinists and Molinists. Molinism is predicated off of middle knowledge (God’s knowledge of counterfactuals – things that did not occur but could have in a different world). To the strict Calvinist where the decree is prior, even the concept of middle knowledge is nonsense. In decretal theology, there are no deviations from the comprehensive decree.”

            Good observations: this is also another reason to reject Calvinism (i.e. the Bible as Craig and others have pointed out definitely presents examples of God having so-called “middle knowledge”).

            “Using your example of the rock, the “If I drop a rock” part is the key phrase. To the Calvinist, you only drop the rock if it were decreed that you would do so.”

            Right and that applies to EVERY event if all is decreed by God as consistent Calvinists maintain.

            “A compatibilist will say that you “freely” chose to drop the rock, but that what you “freely” chose is always in line with the meticulous, comprehensive decree. You were not free to otherwise “choose” about dropping the rock.”

            Compatibilism does not allow for us ever having a choice: we make choices but they are the choices that we were decreed to make and it is impossible for us to do otherwise than what is decreed.

            “In reality, complaining about anything in this life is incompatible with decretal Calvinism.”

            Actually that is not quite accurate as, if everything is decreed, then God decrees any complaining (or anything else that anyone does or does not do). For example if all is decreed then those of us who oppose Calvinism are decreed to oppose Calvinism and it is impossible for us to do otherwise. And that goes for every evil and wicked thought or action, God decreed them all and if we have them then it is impossible for us not to have them!
            “That is why Calvinists have speculated about the “hidden” vs. the “revealed” will of God. God has clearly stated “Do not murder” (revealed will) yet, to the Calvinist, he has decreed and rendered certain every murder ever committed (hidden will). To the Calvinist, the act of murder did not originate in the heart of the murderer, it originated in the (hidden) will of God in eternity. He willed it, and it occurred, and yet he told us not to do it.”
            Yes the hidden/unrevealed will then contradicts the revealed will in scripture (e.g. God says Murder is wrong, but in the hidden will he decreed and desired for every murder that takes place to take place).

            “That is why I cannot buy into decretal Calvinism. To me, it collapses in on itself and renders our tangible reality to be completely unreliable.”

            Agreed. It is a mess that makes a mess out of a lot of things.

            “Everything he told us might be completely false, because if he can divide himself to will and render certain that which he says he hates, how can we trust anything about him?”

            How can you trust someone that says Murder is wrong, adultery is wrong, etc. etc. and yet decrees for every single instance of these things to occur and ensures that they occur.

            “Decretal Calvinism is Medieval nominalism carried to its logical conclusion.”

            Agreed. Thanks for sharing Jim G I always appreciate your comments.

            Robert

            Bill Mac

            OK. That makes sense. I still have a hard time letting go of the idea of compatibilism because I see our free will as having boundaries within God’s sovereignty. I don’t think God has to decree everything, but I think He can and does decree some things and those things might interfere with my will.

              Jim G.

              Hi Bill,

              I too believe our freedom is bounded. LFW acknowledges boundaries as well. There are numerous boundaries on our freedom, many that are far too complicated for us to fully understand. We don’t always have the power of contrary choice in all things, but I believe it exists in some things. If it even exists in one thing, then decretal Calvinism is false, and so is compatibilism.

              I also accept that God can and probably does decree lots of things (although I do not have full knowledge of what is or is not decreed). The Calvinist “knows” what is decreed only as it occurs. He can only see the decree looking backward, and never forward. With my own very limited vantage point, I don’t always know to what extent I am employing LFW. I am not privy to the full range of facts. But I do know that I employ it sometimes, especially in my own (limited as it is) love for God. Love for God cannot be decreed, nor can it be forced. The capacity to freely love God in our redeemed state, I believe, is one of the strongest forms of evidence for our creation in God’s image, as well as LFW. He loves freely, and we who are redeemed love freely. Even God cannot render love certain in his creatures. In my opinion, that is why the Tree of Knowledge was in the Garden of Eden in the first place.

              Jim G.

              Robert

              “OK. That makes sense. I still have a hard time letting go of the idea of compatibilism because I see our free will as having boundaries within God’s sovereignty.”

              I don’t hold to compatibilism and “I see our free will as having boundaries within God’s sovereignty” too. If God has purposed something scripture says, then no one will stop Him or prevent him from doing what He wants to do. Our capacity to have and make choices is limited, like everything else about us. We are not infinite beings we are finite beings with definite limitations. As Clint puts it “a man’s got to know his limitations”. :-) Our vision is limited and nothing compared to that of a hawk. Our physical strength is limited and nothing compared to that of a gorilla. Even our ability to reason is limited. Being limited is part of what comes with the package of being human. We are not fully in control of our daily circumstances though we have control over some things.

              “I don’t think God has to decree everything, but I think He can and does decree some things and those things might interfere with my will.”

              In logic we sometimes speak of ALL, NONE, or SOME. Exhaustive determinism says that ALL events are decreed (which includes sin and evil). This is false and does not fit both scripture and our experience. The claim that God cannot and does not decree anything comes from Atheists (he does not exist so how can he decree anything) and deists (he created the world but then he leaves it alone, never interferes, never acts in the real world, never does miracles).

              The **some** claim seems most reasonable to me. God does decree some things (e.g. He decreed the crucifixion of Jesus, he decreed a fixed day for the final judgment,). He decreed that Israel would be His chosen nation (they did not ask to be the chosen people). He also decreed that we would have the capacity to have and make our own choices and do so for reasons and in light of what is important to us. He also decreed that all men would be raised for the final judgment (He didn’t ask us if we wanted to choose for that to happen!).

              Robert

          Robert

          Bill Mac you wrote:

          “I am enjoying the discussion. This statement: “God has decreed and rendered certain all that will come to pass”, is one that I have always agreed with, but I guess not in the way that Calvinists mean it. To me, if God foreknows something (even if He didn’t cause it), and He decides to allow it to come to pass, then He has rendered it certain. That is always the way I have thought about it.”

          That is my view too. That way of thinking explains how God could foreknow an evil event (i.e. the crucifixion of Jesus) knowing what choices evil people would make (i.e. the Jewish leaders using the Romans to get Jesus crucified) for a good purpose. God knew that if Jesus came in the flesh and did and said what he did and said the freely made response of these evil men would be to have him crucified. God knew they could have chosen not to do those things (as they were acting freely), but that in fact they would make those evil choices. He sends Jesus knowing the response and accomplishing the atonement of Christ. God didn’t cause those evil choices (so they are responsible for the choices not Him) and yet he could use them for the good purpose of providing Christ as an atonement for the sins of the whole world. This same kind of thing happened with Joseph and his brothers and with God’s use of the Assyrians to discipline Israel.

          Robert

      Bill Mac

      Here’s a followup question, as if I was a full blown Calvinist. Do the folks here who hold to LFW believe that God will never take direct action on a person’s will (nature or desires)? The impression I get from non-Calvinists is that a person’s will is inviolate. Yes? No?

        Robert

        “Do the folks here who hold to LFW believe that God will never take direct action on a person’s will (nature or desires)? The impression I get from non-Calvinists is that a person’s will is inviolate. Yes? No?”

        Bill Mac what do you mean when you say that a “person’s will is inviolate?

        Do you mean that God influences our will?

        Do you mean that God sometimes takes over us and our wills, like demonic possession but in reverse with God doing the “possessing?

        Do you mean that God controls our wills?

        Regarding the first question: does God ever take direct action on a person’s will (nature or desires) again what do you mean by this?

        Does God influence our wills? Yes most definitely. Say we are considering doing a particular sin, I believe that at times God will convict us at that time by bringing a certain scripture to mind. Once that is on our mind, we then may choose not to do that sin because of that scripture. Is THAT God directly acting on our mind or only indirectly acting on our mind? I have done many sermons and Bible studies in which afterwards someone said something like “God was really speaking through you, that really touched me.” I didn’t feel that God possessed me and took over and said the words instead of me. He didn’t use me like a ventriloquist using their dummy! :-) ?And yet something I said was used by God to directly impact the other person.

        Then there are cases in scripture where people prophesy, I would think that God is in some way directly taking action on that person’s will. And then there is the case of people like Paul writing under inspiration and producing inspired and inerrant biblical texts (seems to me that God was directly taking action on their wills when that was happening). And regarding Paul consider his Damascus road conversion experience. God did some extraordinary things that he does not do with all of us in getting Paul’s attention. But even in the biblical text describing that incident there is no indication from the text that God took over Paul’s will forcing him to believe or in some way violating his will to force him to believe. In fact I can think of no text describing a person’s conversion where their will was taken over, they were possessed by the Spirit and caused to believe, or any such thing.

        When I consider my own experience and other people that I have observed I have also not seen instances where God took over someone’s will, possessed them, in some way “violated” their wills.

        Bill Mac Have you?

        Bill mac I think we can discuss this better if you define and more fully describe what you mean by “inviolate” and God taking direct action on human wills.

        Robert

          Andy

          “When I consider my own experience and other people that I have observed I have also not seen instances where God took over someone’s will, possessed them, in some way “violated” their wills…Bill Mac Have you?”

          Well, obviously, in a calvinisitic framework, you would not SEE this happening. God would cause a person’s desires to change, which would them make them want to make a different choice. Lack of seeing someone turn into a zombie for 5 minutes doesn’t invalidate the compatibilists position.

          I think the question is, does God ever guide a person to do or say something that HE (God) knows they would not do if left to their own devices? Does he do it during prophesy? (Cals, Arms, & Trads could all say yes) Does he do it to make a police officer “happen” to be going the donut shop at the right time to stop a crime? (Cals, Arms, & trads, could all say yes) And does he do it in producing saving faith? (Only Cals would say yes).

            Robert

            “Well, obviously, in a calvinisitic framework, you would not SEE this happening. God would cause a person’s desires to change, which would then make them want to make a different choice.”

            Right, if God decreed every event without exception, then he would decree both our initial desire as well as the desire that replaces that initial desire (as well as every desire that we ever have). So we would be like conscious Puppets whose strings are being pulled but with complete lack of awareness that this was happening. Sort of like a science fiction movie.

            “Lack of seeing someone turn into a zombie for 5 minutes doesn’t invalidate the compatibilists position.”

            Perhaps it does not completely invalidate the compatibilists position but it strongly undermines it.

            Because if exhaustive determinism/compatibilism is true, then we never ever have a choice. We would then not only be “zombies” for 5 minutes but our entire existence!

            If it was all preplanned, then we are just pawns in God’s game that He is playing with himself (like a child who sets up his army men figures and then has them “battle things out” with the child completely controlling each of the army men by picking them up, relocating them, causing their movements that allow one side to “win” and the other side to “lose”).

            That means our daily experience of having and making our own choices is completely an illusion.

            Then we are not genuine and independent persons with our own minds and thoughts as every thought that we have, movement, belief, desire, action is preplanned and we are just going through the motions.

            “I think the question is, does God ever guide a person to do or say something that HE (God) knows they would not do if left to their own devices?”

            The problem with this question is that it assumes a world where LFW is present to some extent. Because in an exhaustively determined world no one is “left to their own devices”, there are no events that have already been preplanned and LFW is not present because everyone is equally controlled and equally determined in their every action and thought. The only way the world could have some people who appear to be “left to their own devices” is if God did not control everything and some people sometimes had LFW. Think of a puppet completely controlled by a puppet master: we would never describe the actions of the puppet as “left to their own devices”.
            In such a world where LFW existed then you could ask the question about whether or not God would guide or do something so that the people would do something different than what they would do left to their own devices. It is like a parent who leaves their kids in their room allowing them to their own devices (that presupposes they are individual persons with their own minds capable of making their own choices and doing their own thing).

            Incidentally the Bible sometimes makes reference to this very fact that at times God leaves people to their own devices/choices (cf. Romans 1 where after they reject His revelation to them, God gives them over to all sorts of sins, there is no hint in this chapter that God controlled them and predestined them to engage in these sins, it does appear though that he leaves them to freely choose to engage in various sins after they chose to freely reject Him).

            Robert

      Les Prouty

      It would be helpful to see a fuller explanation how man’s desires mentioned above play into how LFW works in man choosing by LFW to accept Christ. Not just everyday decisions like what to wear, etc, but in the conversion of a sinner.

      Thanks brothers.

        Les Prouty

        One more thing I forgot to include. This is from the LBC 1689 on free will. My question a moment ago relates to this.

        “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation. As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good, and dead in sin. He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.”

        I’m assuming that the LFW proponents on this site would disagree with the above statement. So what would be helpful is a discussion on how LFW relates to man exercising his LRF regarding his salvation and spiritual things.

        Thanks.

Robert

In all of my examples (including God himself) the person had a choice and made a choice and their choice was not necessitated. The girl could have given her cat another name besides Sasha, it did not have to be Sasha. Usually we make our choices for reasons and in light of what is important to us.

A common error (and also caricature) is to argue that: “well God cannot lie, therefore it follows that God does not have or experience LFW.”

But this mistakes the capacity for having and making a choice (a person’s capacity for LFW) and a person’s range of choices (which may vary from person to person, and from a person in one condition and that same person in another condition).

A person’s range of choices may not include a particular choice, but it does not follow that this means they never experience LFW with other choices. Take God as the best example, his nature does not allow him to lie (lying is not within his range of choices). But it does not follow from the fact that he cannot lie that he never ever has and makes other choices in other contexts.

Contrast myself with Donald Trump. Both of us sometimes experience LFW (i.e. we have and then make a choice and our choice is not necessitated). But we have very different ***ranges of choices*** when it comes to purchasing properties. The “Donald” can purchase multiple million dollar properties in one day, he has choices in his range of choices that involves properties that I could never buy. But we do not conclude that since he has a different range of choices than I do, that I do not ever have and make my own choices!

Many Calvinists make this error of failing to see the distinction between sometimes having the experience of LFW and a person’s range of choices. They will argue that the nonbeliever due to total depravity cannot make the choice of trusting in Christ for salvation unless they are regenerated first. They will claim that since Pedro cannot make that particular choice, this means that Pedro never has or experiences LFW.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that they are correct, that Pedro cannot choose to trust in Jesus unless he is regenerated. He just cannot make that choice, he is completely unable to make that choice. Does it follow from the fact that Pedro cannot make that one particular choice that LFW never exists for Pedro or that LFW is an illusion for Pedro?

Pedro may not be able to choose to trust in Jesus for salvation, but in other contexts and other areas of his life Pedro does have and makes his own choices (i.e. he does experience LFW). A friend calls Pedro and invites him to a party where there will be lots of alcohol and illegal drugs. Pedro also has a friend that wants to come over and show him the latest pornographic movie that he has. So Pedro chooses to stay home and watch the movie (sin) rather than go to the party (also sin). Does Pedro really have and make a choice here about what sin he will commit? If his choice is not necessitated and he could have chosen to go to the sinful party or chosen to stay home and watch the sinful movie, then his choice is freely made and so he is experiencing LFW.

Robert

Andy

Perhaps it would be helpful in this discussion for those opposing LFW if they do so on biblical grounds, or logical grounds. Lots of these arguments are based on logic, ie… “There is no such thing as and un-caused choice.” Or… “If God created beings with LFW, then it would mean he is no longer full sovereign.” or perhaps even, “God, being all-knowing and all-powerful, HAS TO BE ultimately the cause of why I chose to accept christ, or to eat peanuts today, etc.

So my question is, if you oppose LFW, is it because you cannot imagine how it would work? Ie, it would be impossible for God to create creatures with LFW? Or is it simply that you don’t think he DID, even though he COULD HAVE?

    Clay Gilbreath

    “So my question is, if you oppose LFW, is it because you cannot imagine how it would work? Ie, it would be impossible for God to create creatures with LFW? Or is it simply that you don’t think he DID, even though he COULD HAVE?”

    Great question Andy! Look forward to some answers!

Randall Cofield

QUESTION 1: Do you believe in unconditional election?
ANSWER: I believe election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

QUESTION 2: Do you believe that regeneration is monergistic?
ANSWER: I believe regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

QUESTION 3: Do you believe that regeneration precedes faith?
ANSWER: I believe regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

QUESTION 4: Do you believe that only the unconditionally elect will experience regeneration?
ANSWER: I believe election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

QUESTION 5: Do you believe there is an internal efficacious call of God that is extended only to the elect?
ANSWER: I believe election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable…I believe regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

QUESTION 6: Do you believe that conditioning regeneration or salvation upon a person’s faith in Christ is equivalent to adding human works, merit, or virtue to salvation?
ANSWER: I believe regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

QUESTION 7: Do you believe that both God’s saving desire and His decretal will confirm that His salvation plan provides everything necessary for every single person to actually be saved by faith?
ANSWER: I believe salvation…is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.

QUESTION 8: Do you believe that anyone and everyone who hears the gospel is, by the grace of God, able to freely respond by faith unto salvation or to freely reject the gospel, and whichever choice the person makes, he was equally able to have made the other choice?
ANSWER: I believe that in the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. I further believe that regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

QUESTION 9: Do you believe that Christ’s death atoned for the sins of every person in the world in the same way so that anyone and everyone can believe and be saved?
ANSWER: I believe that salvation…is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.

    Clay Gilbreath

    Exhibit A of why these questions need ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. I think Randall is a Calvinist, but a pulpit committee could easily be confused.

      Andy

      Or…they might simply assume that Randall is a robot… :-)

      Robert

      Hello Clay,

      “Exhibit A of why these questions need ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. I think Randall is a Calvinist, but a pulpit committee could easily be confused.”

      Absolutely correct.

      Randall used to post here a lot and he is most definitely a Calvinist (unless he has changed).

      But judging by his answers here (which are classic examples of “calvinese”) many pulpit committees could be easily confused and fooled by his answers.

      Take question 1 for example.

      All Calvinists will answer “Yes” to whether or not they believe in unconditional election if they answered directly and forthrightly. But look at how he words his answer:

      “QUESTION 1: Do you believe in unconditional election?
      ANSWER: I believe election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.”

      Most non-Calvinists would answer that election is “gracious” and that it is “consistent with the free agency of man”. Merely reading his answer here you really do not know if he is saying “Yes” or “No”. And that is precisely the problem. Notice the language sounds like something straight out of the Westminster confession (I mean who in normal conversation speaks with words like “It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.” It reminds me of the old King James Version English not at all the way people talk on the street). :-)

      The Calvinists know exactly what they believe, but instead of answering forthrightly with a “Yes” to this question there is all this other stuff that serves to mask and hide their Calvinism.

      Notice that Ronnie explicitly said he wanted direct “Yes” and “No” answers:

      “Second, each question is written so as to be easily answered by a simple yes or no. Follow-up comments are acceptable, but only after a clear yes or no have been given.”

      And notice that Randal who is a Calvinist did not give a single “Yes” or “No” answer in any of his “answers”, you are right Clay this is a perfect example of the phenomenon.

      I feel sorry for the pulpit committee that has to deal with these kinds of answers to simple questions asking for a simple “Yes” or “No”.

      Robert

        Andy

        I hate to state the obvious, but does everyone realize that Randal has simply quoted the Baptist Faith & Message, most likely for humor, right?

        If it is “classic calvineeze”, then non-calvinists should not complain about being excluded from recent entity leadership positions, since they must not agree with the BF&M, and are therefore inelligible! :-)

          Robert

          Ronnie explicitly stated answer with a “Yes” or “No” answer, then if you want to elaborate do so. I don’t find it particularly funny when the SBC denomination has to struggle with people who are not being forthright about their answers, who cannot even answer directly with “Yes” or “No” answers.

          Regarding the language, my experience is that confessions usually don’t sound like contemporary language we use daily: they almost all sound like they feel obligated to couch their language in King James like language. :-)

          I read Randall’s response and found (1) no “Yes” or “No” answers and (2) the same language you hear from a confessional type statement. I also thought the statements did not answer the questions asked. I originally ignored Randall’s response but now when Clay made his observation I thought that is exactly right, this is an example of what is going on at the meetings: Calvinists are not answering directly and couching their answers in confession like language that really does not answer the questions at all.

          If this was just a joke, then you got me I was fooled. and the laugh is on me.

          Unfortunately for real churches dealing with this problem it is neither a joke nor a laughing matter. I think it is sad that Ronnie even needs to produce this questionnaire as it indicates some major dishonesty and deception by some Calvinists trying to get pastoral positions and take over non-Calvinistic churches.

          Robert

          Lydia

          “I hate to state the obvious, but does everyone realize that Randal has simply quoted the Baptist Faith & Message, most likely for humor, right? ”

          If only the non Cals on that committee had known where it was all going.

          Some did question some of it:

          http://assets.baptiststandard.com/archived/2000/7_17/pages/bfm_meaning.html

        Lydia

        ” (I mean who in normal conversation speaks with words like “It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.”

        John Piper?

        :o)

          Andy

          Hi Lydia,

          That phrase actually goes back through the 1963, and even the 1925 BF&M…as does most of the Election paragraph. :-)

            Lydia

            Thanks Andy. . Just pointing out in the link how a tweak here and there can change meanings. But no matter, even the exact same words can mean a totally different God to different factions. The wording can mean determinism to some and free will to others. Which is one reason the SBC is having the problems it is having.

            And that is just one reason I am not creedal or confessional which is something most here cannot imagine, I know. Why would I want to debate what a group of men claim is what I agree the bible says when we can debate what the actual bible says? In all the years I grew up in the SBC in different churches the BFM was never trotted out and taught. We were not catechized in it as many children are with other creeds in other traditions. I do not think the Holy Spirit inspired the BFM.

              Les Prouty

              Lydia,

              “Why would I want to debate what a group of men claim is what I agree the bible says when we can debate what the actual bible says? ”

              Of course you realize that in having a confession, SB are not claiming what YOU agree the bible says. Even in a confessional church such as the PCA no such claim is made of church members.

              And of course you can debate what the bible says, not what confessions say. Realize though that debates about what confessions say ARE about what the bible says. I don’t get why people miss this so often.

              Andy

              Well, then, we agree on that…

              …the BFM as written and used today has little function beyond being used as a baseline for entity hiring…it has no bearing over what churches are part of the SBC…except for NAMB church plants, which I believe are begun by planters who must affirm the BFM.

              Andrew Barker

              Lydia: I couldn’t agree more. I am not a member of an SBC church so there’s plenty which I don’t understand about the workings of SBC church life and I tend to observe posts on these topics rather than contribute. Randall’s comments were interesting if not enlightening!

              Randall gave a response to all the questions, but he did not give an answer to any of them. This was a shame because as Christians we are called to give a ‘reason’ for the hope that is in us, not simply to give a response, albeit one that follows a party line!

              I note on Randall’s church facebook page the encouragement to “get your doctrines from the Bible, not from the traditions of men”. The ref Col 2:8 is given. I would suggest to Randall that good as they are, the lines in the BF&M come under the traditions of men and as such should be placed secondary to the word of God. When answering a question we should be thinking first what does the Bible say on this point, not, what is the politically correct reply? Of course, occasionally this may involve saying something which conflicts with the party line but it’s better, even essential, to be “biblically correct than politically correct” again a quote from the Lakeside facebook page.

    Randall Cofield

    Interesting how some in this debate wish to frame both the questions AND the answers one is allowed to use in response to the questions…

    The point of my post was to demonstrate that this questionnaire seeks to exclude what our common confession allows.

    The fact that some did not realize I was citing the BF&M is absolutely fascinating.

      Andy

      Randall,

      Thanks for checking back in to explain your motives a little bit.

      I believe the general purpose of questionnaires like this must be seen as something that might be used by only one segment of SBC churches, not all of them.

      For example, if there were a growing concern about increasing numbers of young pastors who were speaking in tongues (something not forbidden by the BFM, although apparently forbidden by IMB)….then there would be nothing wrong with the cessationist churches that wanted to help each other be careful not to hire a charismatic pastor passing around a list of related questions they may want to add to their search process. And of course the other churches, who don’t care whether their pastor is a cessationist or not, or those who definitely want a charismatic pastor…would obviously not use that questionnaire.

      They may offer comments to try to be helpful in determining the effectiveness of said questions, but would it be fair for the charismatic SBCers to vilify the cessationists for wanting to find a pastor who fits their beliefs & practices?

      -Andy

      Robert

      Randall you wrote:

      “Interesting how some in this debate wish to frame both the questions AND the answers one is allowed to use in response to the questions…”

      Actually it is not some; most people tend to frame their questions and answers according to their commitments. I cannot count how many times Calvinists have presented supposedly “innocent” questions to me (or others) that were total set up questions. For example the classic set up question: “who makes you to differ?”

      “The point of my post was to demonstrate that this questionnaire seeks to exclude what our common confession allows.”

      Actually the purpose of the questionnaire is not to “exclude what our common confession allows” as you claim here Randall.

      Rather, the purpose of the questionnaire is to ferret out less than forthright and honest Calvinists when they are before pastoral search committees trying to obtain pastorates by, shall we say, less than the best ways and means.

      Robert

      Lydia

      “The fact that some did not realize I was citing the BF&M is absolutely fascinating.”

      Why? I think that is a good thing.

        Andrew Barker

        People may not have known exactly what Randall was quoting from, but EVERYBODY knew he was quoting from a prepared text! Nobody, just nobody speaks that way ….. well, only a few anyway! :O

        Andy

        I would tend to agree with you, that it is unnecessary for most members of Autonomous Baptist churches to be intimately familiar with the statement of faith of one of the mission organizations with which they voluntarily partner, even if it is by far their biggest ministry partner. I can’t quote the CRU (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) statement of faith. No one would expect me to do so.

        However, how many of those who didn’t recognize the BFM attend churches where the BFM (1963, or 2000, the wording of Randall’s quotes is essentially the same on those sections)? Many SBC churches have decided not to write their own, and simply adopt the BFM (some adopt it formerly, others simply use the wording, but call it their own statement of faith.).

        Wouldn’t you think it MORE important that a church member have at least some familiarity with the beliefs of the church they are a member of? I mean, if my church’s statement of faith spoke positively of snake handling, or tongues speaking, or female Elders…I would want to know it.

Preston V

I think that any man who is intentionally misleading during his hiring process should be shown grace and the door. Outside of the Church there is some leeway, however a lie designed to manipulate the hiring process is wrong and disqualifying. This is not a Calvinist non-Calvinist issue, it is an issue of not being beyond reproach, an issue of disqualifying sin. While I have passionate opinions about God and His grace, I am also convinced that the major flaw in dishonest applicants is not what they are lieing about but the fact that they are lieing.
One sentence summary: if you are a human you are a liar, if you are applying for the position of pastor yet are seeking to gain the position via dishonest means you have proven yourself unqualified In the Biblical sense.

Les Prouty

To any LFW proponent, I asked this the other day and no one has even attempted to answer it.

It would be helpful to see a fuller explanation how man’s desires mentioned above play into how LFW works in man choosing by LFW to accept Christ. Not just everyday decisions like what to wear, etc, but in the conversion of a sinner.

This is from the LBC 1689 on free will. My question a moment ago relates to this.

“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation. As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good, and dead in sin. He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.”

I’m assuming that the LFW proponents on this site would disagree with the above statement. So what would be helpful is a discussion on how LFW relates to man exercising his LRF regarding his salvation and spiritual things.

We have seen examples about kittens and brussel sprouts. Can a LFW proponent address LFW and conversion?

Rick Patrick

Randall’s answers make quite clear that, when it comes to differentiating between a Calvinist and a Traditionalist, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is of no value. It is an inclusive, big tent method for defining the theology of the SBC. Whether or not we should define our SBC theology so broadly is a worthy topic for another day.

Today’s topic centers around which tools we should use to measure the soteriology of ministry candidates. The one provided by Ronnie Rogers in the original post accomplishes this task well. The Baptist Faith and Message does not come close. In fact, one could argue that, by the length of Randall’s quotations alone, his answers would place him in the Calvinist category according to the scale put forth by Pastor Rogers, even though his long and nuanced answers quote the confessional statement of the SBC. Remember, we are not asking the candidates if they agree with the BFM 2000. Of course they do. If they don’t even believe in the BFM 2000 they are disqualified already. Our questions here concern those who fit within the BFM 2000 but may or may not be Calvinists. We are trying to determine their soteriology.

Perhaps this is simply Randall’s way of suggesting that we *should not* dare to ask such questions and discriminate against ministry candidates based on their theology. But this is routinely practiced in every ministry by every search team. Their responsibility is to find someone who “fits theologically, methodologically and socially” with their ministry. Such acts of discrimination on the basis of soteriology are already practiced by organizations such as the Acts 29 Network and The Gospel Coalition in the opposite direction, ruling out Traditionalists as theologically unsuited for their organizations.

The questions put forth by Pastor Rogers can help uninitiated Southern Baptist Search Teams separate the soteriological wheat from the chaff so that mistakes are not made in the process of candidating that will only result in church conflict and confusion later on.

    William Thornton

    An “uninitiated” SBC search team will have no chance of this tool working. Being uninitiated, they will easily be deflected by a Calvinist warhorse. If some nonmega, nonlarge church takes this tool and uses it, I would like to be around. The most likely reaction would be that the candidate will correctly presume that some anti-calvinist diehard has gotten the team’s ear. His reaction should be to explore with the team where they got this any why this peculiar approach.

    I have long advocated teams being informed on this issue. This is not a workable route to that end in my view. The long discussion here is sufficient proof of that.

    Why don’t you try your hand at it, Rick?

      Rick Patrick

      William,

      I doubt you will like my version any better than Ronnie’s. My wording is not nearly as precise as his. But I don’t mind obliging with a simple four-part test. “Which BEST expresses your view, A or B?”

      TOTAL DEPRAVITY
      I believe man is (a) so totally depraved that he cannot respond to the gospel unless God does some type of work (either electing or enabling) that absolutely guarantees the man will come to Christ, or (b) a depraved sinner with nothing good in him, yet made in the image of God and thus possessing the freedom of will to respond freely to God’s initiating grace by either affirming or rejecting His offer of salvation.

      UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
      I believe that before the foundation of the world, God (a) elected certain individual persons for salvation, based upon nothing other than His own pleasure, and because of this election these individuals cannot possibly say no to God, while those who are not so chosen are either actively or passively condemned to hell, and because of such condition, they cannot possibly say yes to God, or (b) elected to call and save a people of His very own, and predetermined that those individuals He would call as His very own would be those who freely accepted His offer of salvation by faith, while those He would condemn to hell would be those who freely rejected Him, and that He would grant to all persons the ability to choose not merely one option, but either option.

      LIMITED ATONEMENT
      I believe that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross (a) paid the price only for the sins of true Christians, for if He had atoned for the sins of non-Christians, then they would also be saved, or (b) paid the price for the sins of the whole world, even lost sinners, although in the case of the lost, His atonement is not applied in a saving manner due to their lack of faith and rejection of the gospel, the condition God has placed upon man in order for him to receive God’s gift of salvation.

      IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
      I believe that God’s saving grace is (a) irresistible to certain persons whom God has absolutely chosen to save, while at the same time, His condemning wrath is just as certainly irresistible to certain other persons whom God has, actively or passively, chosen for hell, or (b) capable of being resisted, for God wants everyone to be saved, and since we know that many people will in fact be lost, they must be able to resist His grace and spend eternity apart from Him, fulfilling their own desires while breaking the heart of God.

      There you go, William. Your wish is my command. Everyone may now commence picking my questions apart.

        William

        Better. Easier to understand and engage in discussion. I can see this being used as one component of a search team’s work.

        Clay Gilbreath

        I hope some in the Calvinist camp will weigh in on Rick’s 4 statements above. Do you think this is a fair set of questions? If not, why are they unfair? Pastor Rogers’ article poses questions for search committees, but these from Pastor Rick would be great for anyone! Non-CALs can easily say we “choose” B. Can CALs easily say A? looking forward to the discussion.

        Les Prouty

        Clay, I would be happy to interact with Rick’s points. I think there is merit in them.

        But first, I would like to finish up the question I’ve asked about three times, the one no non-Calvinist has yet addressed or replied to.

        “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation. As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good, and dead in sin. He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.”

        I’m assuming that the LFW proponents on this site would disagree with the above statement. So what would be helpful is a discussion on how LFW relates to man exercising his LRF regarding his salvation and spiritual things.

        We have seen examples about kittens and brussel sprouts. Can a LFW proponent address LFW and conversion?

        Maybe you’re the one to help start off a discussion on that. Maybe another non Calvinist. Then I’d love to delve into Rick’s points.

        Thanks brothers.

          Bill Mac

          Les: Wouldn’t the answer, from the non-cal side be prevenient grace?

          Bill Mac

          Although I think I see where you are going. If LFW is true, then prevenient grace isn’t necessary.

            Robert

            Bill Mac you wrote:

            “Although I think I see where you are going. If LFW is true, then prevenient grace isn’t necessary.”

            I don’t see how that follows logically at all.

            For a classic Arminian (e.g. Arminius himself had a strong very Calvinistic conception of total depravity, I cited him in the other thread did you see it?) a person affected by total depravity could not choose to trust in Christ for salvation unless they first received prevenient grace.

            Even for someone who does not hold to a Calvinistic conception of depravity (whether it be an Arminian, Traditionalist, whatever) they could still believe that the nonbeliever cannot come to Christ on their own without first having experienced some sort of preconversion grace (whether it is called “prevenient grace”, the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit my own terminology for it, or whatever you want to call it) from God.

            How could the sinner call on Jesus to be saved if he does not know who Jesus is?

            Does not know what Jesus did?

            Is not convicted of his sin?

            Does not know that Jesus is the only way of salvation, that a person must trust in His work on the cross not their own, to save them?

            The Spirit has to convict people of sin and reveal these things to them or they will never freely choose to trust in Christ for salvation.

            Put another way, a nonbeliever may experience LFW before they are saved: freely choosing the sins they engage in. And yet the choice to trust in Christ for salvation may not be part of their range of choices because they don’t even know about this choice. The Spirit comes along and convicts them of sin and reveals things to them so they then have this particular choice within their range of choices.

            The difference between non-Calvinists and Calvinists in this area of preconversion grace is that Calvinists claim there is this special grace that is irresistible (if given to a person then they will be saved, like clockwork, fully determined): the non-Calvinist believes the pre-conversion work of the Spirit can be resisted. Only a Pelagian claims that no grace is necessary for the nonbeliever, they can just walk up to Jesus and believe by their own efforts alone.

            Robert

              Bill Mac

              Robert: I agree that a person has to know the options available to them. But let’s say a person goes to church and hears the Gospel. Doesn’t LFW suggest that the person now has all that is necessary to decide to become saved? I don’t see the need for the Holy Spirit to do anything further. Have they not always had the ability to make the contrary choice? So if they have always chosen to be a sinner, they must, by LFW definition, have always had the choice NOT to sin. You could say God showed grace by not allowing them to die before they heard the Gospel, or by arranging circumstances such that they had an opportunity to hear the Gospel (or by sending Christ in the first place). But I don’t see the need for any internal work of the HS on the person. Now that the choice of Christ is before they, LFW dictates that they have the ability to choose Christ within themselves. The only thing they lacked was information. Am I being unfair to the LFW position?

                Robert

                “Robert: I agree that a person has to know the options available to them.”

                You do understand that with Calvinism/determinism, if all is predestined/determined, then we may MAKE a choice but we never HAVE a choice ( because those other options that you don’t choose really are NOT available to you), right?

                Bill mac does this mean that you acknowledge that sometimes LFW is present and sometimes we experience it?

                “But let’s say a person goes to church and hears the Gospel. Doesn’t LFW suggest that the person now has all that is necessary to decide to become saved?”

                No, you left something out, conviction of sin by the Spirit. Seems to me **that** is a supernatural work of the Spirit. As is the work of the Spirit in revealing things to a person. If you are not convicted of your sin, you are not properly informed when making your decision to trust Christ for salvation.

                “I don’t see the need for the Holy Spirit to do anything further.”

                So a person can be saved without conviction of sin: is that your view Bill Mac?

                “So if they have always chosen to be a sinner, they must, by LFW definition, have always had the choice NOT to sin.”

                First of all, I doubt that most nonbelievers consciously choose to be a sinner. Rather they live a lifestyle of sin (acting as if they have a slave master named “sin”). Second, with some particular choices they do have a choice of whether to commit a particular sin or not. That is why we are justified in assessing blame to a nonbeliever who pulls the trigger and kills someone (they made a wrong choice, they should have done otherwise).

                “But I don’t see the need for any internal work of the HS on the person. Now that the choice of Christ is before them, LFW dictates that they have the ability to choose Christ within themselves. The only thing they lacked was information. Am I being unfair to the LFW position?”

                Isn’t the Spirit revealing things to you an “internal work of the HS on the person”?

                If the Spirit reveals your sinfulness to you, reveals things in your mind, convicts you of sin, etc. where are those things happening? Isn’t that some serious and important **internal** work of the Spirit going on?

                Why is it that conviction by the Spirit apparently is seen by you as an internal work of the HS on the person, but the things he reveals to the person about themselves, scripture, salvation, Jesus, etc. etc. is NOT seen by you as an internal work of the HS on the person??

                And that “choice of Christ” that is now “before them”: does that choice occur in a vacuum or does it occur in light of knowing they are a sinner having been convicted by the Spirit?

                Just curious Bill Mac, assuming you are a believer and following the guidance of the Spirit in your daily life, is that an internal work of the Spirit? And if so, why do you sometimes resist it? We sometimes know what the Spirit wants us to do and yet we still choose to say No, correct? I know of no Christian who claims this is not an internal and important work of the Spirit.

                Robert

                  Bill Mac

                  Robert: No, I don’t believe one can be saved without an internal work of the Spirit. I’m just trying to work through the angles of LFW, which I don’t think is entirely consistent. At the very least, I think LFW needs to be explained with some necessary caveats.

                    Robert

                    “Robert: No, I don’t believe one can be saved without an internal work of the Spirit.”

                    Good, then why did you imply that if one holds to LFW then one does not believe an internal work of the Spirit is necessary for a person to be enabled to make the choice to trust in Christ for salvation?

                    “I’m just trying to work through the angles of LFW,”

                    That’s fair.

                    “which I don’t think is entirely consistent.”

                    My concern is that you have made some comments previously that suggested that you have not studied LFW sufficiently (e.g. that it means having more free will than God; that Molinists do not hold to LFW when in fact all of them do, etc.) and are influenced by common caricatures (e.g. that it means you choose against your nature, etc.).

                    “At the very least, I think LFW needs to be explained with some necessary caveats.”

                    Well when the determinists keep bringing up these false caricatures of LFW (some seen recently here at SBC include: it is ***psychologically perverse***, it is choosing against nature, it is an uncaused choice, it is irrational, etc. etc.). I am starting to feel the way I feel when I deal with an intentional skeptic of the faith. They keep asking questions and then flit on to the next question.

                    Sincere questions are always welcome from those wondering and having questions about Christianity (or LFW).

                    But there are some who want to remain skeptics so they “ask” a question (e.g. Did Jesus really exits) which you then answer. They then flit to the next question (e.g. what about the reliability of the gospels) which you then answer. They then flit to the next question and they keep doing this no matter how many times you answer. When I was a new Christian I foolishly allowed myself to get sucked into these time draining and wasteful ping pong games of question and answer. Now I am trying to avoid these wasteful interactions.

                    We all make reasonable caveats when providing explanations: especially when dealing with a subject in which the other side is presenting some really bad caricatures of our position. What are the “caveats” that you suggest?

                    Robert

                    Bill Mac

                    Robert: I’m just asking questions. They don’t necessarily reflect my own view. Your own view of LFW is far more reasonable from my perspective than the definitions of LFW that I have read. One thing I’m trying to figure out is if your view of LFW is the norm among non-Calvinists. You and Jim are really the only non-cals talking with any specificity about LFW.

            Les Prouty

            Bill Mac,

            ” If LFW is true, then prevenient grace isn’t necessary.” That is what I see to get clarified. Robert below comes close.

            But, what yet to be answered is what does God do to the unsaved sinner in convicting him? Vol has said that God convicts the entire world the same. He does the same work on on every sinner. Does God bring about ANY change to the sinner when convicting the sinner of his sin and God’s righteousness? Does God “open his eyes” and “open his ears” (both spiritually speaking), so that the sinner can then exercise his LFW? What does God do, if anything, ***TO*** the sinner in this conviction?

            Or, is the sinner able in his fallen state without any action by God to see his sinfulness and need for Christ?

            And I am not talking about iresistable grace. I’m really asking about resistible grace. What exactly in the LFW scheme does God do in this grace action?

            Thanks brother.

              Bill Mac

              I think this is a good an honest question. I think the idea that God convicts everyone equally must certainly be false.

              This is an another honest question. In light of LFW, when we pray for someone to be saved, what exactly are we asking God to do?

                phillip

                Bill Mac,

                You asked…. “when we pray for someone to be saved, what exactly are we asking God to do?”

                The same could be asked of the Calvinist. If the “someone” we are praying for is part of the unconditional reprobate are we asking God to change His mind?

                It seems to me that praying for the “non-elect” is pointless and futile.

                Blessings, brother.

                  Les

                  Phillip,

                  “The same could be asked of the Calvinist. If the “someone” we are praying for is part of the unconditional reprobate are we asking God to change His mind?”

                  Brother when you see people do you know if they are elect or not? No of course not. Neither does the Calvinist know when we see anyone and pray to God for Him to save them if the person is elect it not. That does not prevent us from praying earnestly for God to save any particular person. Only He knows who has their names already written in the Lamb’s book of life.

                  Same when we pray for God to heal. We don’t k is if it is His will to heal that person. Only He knows these things. Yet we pray.

                  Blessings brother.

                    phillip

                    Les,

                    Again, my point is that within the Calvinistic scheme God has already predestined every individual before the foundation of the world (regardless of prayer). The elect will come to Him and the reprobate won’t. That number is fixed. So prayer is pointless and futile.

                    Just take comfort in knowing that not one elect sinner will go to hell and not one reprobate will go to heaven. Prayer or not.

                    Grace, brother.

                  Les

                  Phillip,

                  Brother I do know your point. But prayer matters because God says it matters. You know of course that prayer is also for the person praying. Here is a good statement on prayer:

                  Q: What is prayer?
                  A: Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.

                  Now that is perfectly consistent with praying for God to save those whom He knows are His, even though we do not know who are His.

                  Blessings brother.

                    phillip

                    Les,

                    I agree that prayer matters.

                    I just don’t see prayer (for lost souls) being consistent within the theology of Calvinism.

                    If you didn’t pray for “those whom He knows are His” would it change anything?

                    God bless you, brother.

                Robert

                Bill Mac you wrote:

                “I think the idea that God convicts everyone equally must certainly be false.”

                I believe that we need to distinguish between: (1) God desiring to save everyone (which is explicitly stated by scripture (unless it is misinterpreted in support of a false theological system) and (2) God treating everyone exactly the same because He wants everyone saved. Those are two very different concepts.

                From my study of scripture and observation of evangelistic experiences of myself and others, plus from talking to different people and comparing our experiences of coming to Christ for salvation: we did not all have exactly the same experience. Some heard the gospel at a Billy Graham crusade and went forward the day they heard the gospel presented. Some heard gospel presentations for months and even years before they were saved. Some needed to hear some good apologetics to answer their questions before they would seriously consider Christianity. Some were in near death situations when they begged God to save them. Does God convict everyone at some point in their lives? Yes if He really desires to save them all. Does God convict them *equally*, giving them the exact same experiences? No, it does not seem like it.

                “In light of LFW, when we pray for someone to be saved, what exactly are we asking God to do?”

                When I and others (who believe that LFW is sometimes present) pray for someone to be saved, we pray that God convicts them of their sin and reveals Jesus to them (and that will include that God brings faithful Christians into their life who live the life in front of them and also share the gospel with them: and include that we ourselves will live a consistent Christian life in front of them so that they may ask us questions such as “why are you different?” “Why is it I never hear you cuss?’ etc. etc. etc.), that they open a Bible or are given one. Some people assume that surely everyone in the US has read the Bible. Not true at all, some have never actually opened a Bible (using myself as an example the first time I read the Bible and got to “Job”, I thought it was the book of job, as in book of employment cause Job spells job I had no idea it was pronounced Jobe :-) ), some have never attended a church service (or their background includes they attended religious services from non-Christian groups). They all have different life experiences and life stories: they also all need Jesus.

                It is also apparent from both scripture and experience that God seems to “pick his spots” when it comes to revealing Himself to people (you know that “being sovereign thing!” :-) ). It is not as if there is this continuous “on-switch” with God constantly and always revealing himself to every person in every situation.

                Robert

                  Les

                  Robert I don’t know if you are still not speaking to me, but if not pretend someone else is writing this.

                  You talked about your experiences in how God deals differently with different people. But all you’re describing is what people said about their circumstances. What you’re not addressing is what God is doing invisibly in the person (or maybe not for LFW folks). This is the key question. Does God operate on every person’s heart the same at some point in each person’s life?

                  And then near the end of your comments you acknowl that God discriminates. The picking His spots statement. Thank you Robert. That is what Calvinists contend, that God does not treat every rebellious, hell bound and hell deserving sinner the same.

                  Blessings brother.

              phillip

              Les,

              Even in the Arminian scheme, prevenient grace is irresistible. It is a grace that brings the sinner to a point where he can choose either way, if he likes it or not.

              God bless, brother.

              Les Prouty

              Phillip,

              “Even in the Arminian scheme, prevenient grace is irresistible. It is a grace that brings the sinner to a point where he can choose either way, if he likes it or not.”

              Brother I don’t think you are correct on it being irresistible. You should check that.

                phillip

                Brother Les,

                What I simply meant is that prevenient grace is a grace that overcomes man’s depravity thus allowing man to exercise his newly freed will.

                This grace is irresistible (if you think about it). In the classic Arminian scheme of things, this grace releases the sinner from the bondage of sin. It accomplishes its desired result. The sinner has no say in this. That is why I maintain that the Arminian solution for TD/TI is just a softer form of Calvinism.

                Now what the sinner does with this new-found freedom is up to him. But he was/is given freedom if he wants it or not.

          Jim G.

          I’ll bite.

          I’m going to break it down and note my own disagreements.

          “Man, by his fall into a state of sin”

          Agreed. Humanity has fallen into a state of sin.

          “Has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation.”

          What is the definition of the “spiritual good which accompanies salvation?” Is it faith? Is it repentance? Is it obedience? Is it doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason to accomplish the right ends? Is it the indwelling of the Spirit? Is it any or all of the above? This language is too ambiguous for me to answer directly. How can one make a blanket statement that even to will any or all of this is completely gone in humans who bear the image of God? See the next line.

          “As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good”

          I would disagree with this. Again, what is “spiritual good?” I know there are scriptures when interpreted literally that would seem to contradict what I just wrote, but I’m not convinced those Scriptures (e.g. Rom 3:10-18) are meant to be taken literally. Underlying this clause of the confession is a belief that human nature is evil. That belief arises with Augustine, who mapped his Manichean/Neoplatonist cosmology onto Christian theology. Human nature, as a creation of God, cannot be evil. It may be fallen; it may be tainted; it may be inflicted with a parasite we call sin, but it is not evil. As long as one drop of the imago dei resides in humanity, he cannot be “altogether averse” to spiritual good, because the image of God is not averse to spiritual good. He may be more or less averse, but not altogether. Human beings are far too complex in our created constitution to be consigned to the “all-or-nothing” reductionistic dualistic framework of Augustinian/Reformed thinking in every case. In the list of questions in the above paragraph, unregenerate humans exhibit all of them from time to time.

          “And dead in sin”

          Metaphorically and descriptive of the human condition, yes. Quasi-literally, no.

          “He is not able by his own strength to convert himself.”

          Agreed. Salvation is synergistic, in my opinion. No one this side of Pelagius would say man converts himself, and I don’t think even he said that, either.

          “Or to prepare himself for conversion”

          I don’t know what “prepare for conversion” means, but I think I agree. I see salvation as synergistic. No Christian (not even ol’ Pelagius himself) saw salvation as monergistic from the human side. The New Agers do, but they cannot be confused with Christians.

          So in sum I would reject the confession snippet you posted for the above reasons. The interaction of LFW in the salvation “process” is complex, but it does appear in the decision to identify with the living Christ rather than the dead Adam.

          Now you are free to interact with Rick.

          Jim G.

          phillip

          “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation. As a natural man, he is altogether averse to spiritual good, and dead in sin.”

          If all this means is that fallen man is incapable of earning salvation or restoring his relationship with God, then I agree.

          “He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.”

          If by “convert” it means believe and repent, I disagree. I reject TD/TI so I see no need for prevenient grace. That is, a grace that removes/overcomes/diminishes/over-powers (or whatever) the depraved nature that restores man to a pre-fallen, pre-lost state.

          Where I disagree with my brother Jim above, is I don’t see salvation as “synergistic”. Salvation is of the Lord. All we do is believe, which is simply taking God at His word. But salvation, the process of being made righteous by the blood of Christ, being born again, and eventually glorified, is solely an act of God. God saves the believer, not the unbeliever.

          God bless.

            Les Prouty

            Hi Phillip,

            You said, “If all this means is that fallen man is incapable of earning salvation or restoring his relationship with God, then I agree.”

            And I think we all agree that man is incapable of earning salvation or restoring his relationship with God. But I do think the LBC means more than that. It says,

            “…has completely lost all ability of will…” Man has no “will ability” to…

            “…perform any of the spiritual good which accompanies salvation.” So there is nothing man can do of any spiritual “good” toward his salvation while he is in a pre-born again state. His fallen state.

            “As a natural man, he is altogether averse [“having a strong dislike of or opposition to something.”] to spiritual good, and dead in sin.” In that fallen state he doesn’t even want anything to do with spiritually good things. He hates them. This I think is what the LBC is getting at.

            Then this part you zeroed in on, ““He is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself for conversion.”

            You said, “If by “convert” it means believe and repent, I disagree. I reject TD/TI so I see no need for prevenient grace. That is, a grace that removes/overcomes/diminishes/over-powers (or whatever) the depraved nature that restores man to a pre-fallen, pre-lost state.”

            I DO think by “convert” the LBC is speaking of repent and believe. I would respectfully disagree with you here brother. It seems as if you are saying that a fallen sinner, without any action whatsoever from or by God, can by himself, repent and believe. Is that what you are saying?

            Then you, “Where I disagree with my brother Jim above, is I don’t see salvation as “synergistic”. Salvation is of the Lord. All we do is believe, which is simply taking God at His word. But salvation, the process of being made righteous by the blood of Christ, being born again, and eventually glorified, is solely an act of God. God saves the believer, not the unbeliever.”

            Our brother Jim unfortunately used the term “synergistic” in reference to “salvation.” The word “salvation” has a much fuller meaning than just regeneration (the new birth), conversion, justification, etc. We Reformed folks agree with you that it is God who saves. But we Reformed folks also believe that regeneration (the new birth) is monergistic. Then man believes and repents. The full orb of what we call “salvation” is neither monergistic nor is it synergistic.

            Thanks brother.

              phillip

              Brother Les,

              Ironically, I agree with you that the new birth is monergistic. I just differ with you on when it occurs.

              God bless.

              phillip

              Les,

              Sorry, I overlooked your previous question.

              You asked… “It seems as if you are saying that a fallen sinner, without any action whatsoever from or by God, can by himself, repent and believe. Is that what you are saying?”

              I do believe the hardware is already in place, but in order for one to believe the gospel it is mandatory that he hear the word of God. Man cannot believe in whom he has not heard (Romans 10:14), but it has nothing to do with overcoming/resolving/diminishing the issue of TD/TI. As brother Rick once wrote, fallen man never lost his “response-ability”, but he does not have “initiate-ability”. And I agree.

              Take care, brother.

              Les

              Phillip,

              “I do believe the hardware is already in place, but in order for one to believe the gospel it is mandatory that he hear the word of God. Man cannot believe in whom he has not heard (Romans 10:14), but it has nothing to do with overcoming/resolving/diminishing the issue of TD/TI. As brother Rick once wrote, fallen man never lost his “response-ability”, but he does not have “initiate-ability”. And I agree.”

              So what I hear you saying is that the simple physical event of a preacher preaching the word in the hearing (not anything spiritual happening?) is sufficient for a fallen sinner to repent and believe. So is a fallen sinner can hear (his ear works) he is able within himself to repent and believe. You and apparently brother Rick believe this.

              Brother, is that correct?

                phillip

                Les,

                I can’t speak for Rick. From his writings he affirms TD, but rejects TI. Yet he seems to lean toward PG (Head scratcher).

                You asked… “So what I hear you saying is that the simple physical event of a preacher preaching the word in the hearing (not anything spiritual happening?) is sufficient for a fallen sinner to repent and believe.”

                John 4:39-42…
                And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed BECAUSE OF HIS OWN WORD. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, FOR WE OURSELVES HAVE HEARD HIM and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

                Romans 10:17….
                So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing BY THE WORD OF GOD.

                Acts 14:1…..
                At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There THEY SPOKE SO EFFECTIVELY that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.

                Acts 28:24…..
                Some were convinced BY WHAT HE SAID, but others would not believe.

                There are plenty more. Look in the gospel of John. Everyone who did believe did so either because of something Jesus said (His words) or did (the miracles). Every time.

                Now the word comes with conviction (Hebrews 4:12), but that in itself acknowledges that man knows he is a sinner. Yes, Les, the Spirit convicts the world of sin, because that is what the book says (John 16:8). Lost man is spiritually enlighten/educated by the word of God. It is thru His word (John 6:44) and the message of the cross (John 12:32) that draws men to Him.

                But the seed, the word of God, must first be planted in the hearts/minds of man before he can believe. But I don’t see this as something that overcomes man’s depravity.

                I know you disagree, but there you have it.

                God bless.

                  Les

                  Phillip,

                  Thanks for your answer. I’m familiar with all these verses and many more.

                  “Yes, Les, the Spirit convicts the world of sin, because that is what the book says (John 16:8). Lost man is spiritually enlighten/educated by the word of God”

                  Yes the Spirit convicts the world. But what no one else has even attempted to answer and you have now tried is this: what does the Spirit do to or on or in the fallen sinner when He convicts? Does He enlighten man? Does He change the sinner in any spiritual way?

                  Or, according to you does the fallen sinner, standing there hearing the word read or preached, apart from any action by the Spirit, have the ability without intervention by the Spirit, to repent and believe? i.e. does God do anything special on or in the sinner who ends up saved vs. the sinner who dies apart from Christ?

                  I know you are not a Pelagian. Pelagianism says, “In other words, a person’s free will is totally capable of choosing God and/or to do good or bad without the aid of Divine intervention.”

                  So what is the divine intervention in your LFW non Reformed view?

                  Thanks brother.

                    phillip

                    Convict defined: “to find or prove to be guilty. To convince of error or sinfulness.”

                    And I think that is precisely what the Spirit-breathed word of God does. God opens the heart and plants the seed (Luke 8:11-15, Acts 16:14). The Spirit, thru the word, convicts us (Hebrews 4:12). Even the Lost knows he’s a guilty sinner (John 3:19-20). I’d say that’s divine intervention.

                    In all the biblical examples I quoted earlier is there any mention of something “special” taking place? By “special” I mean a prevenient grace such as being regenerated or released from the bondage of sin? Nope. Why not? Didn’t happen.

                    Brother Les, I know where you are going with this. But “regeneration precedes faith” isn’t biblical. I know and understand it makes sense within the realm of Calvinism, but it just isn’t biblical, brother. If it was the plain teaching of scripture, wouldn’t we all see it? Or has God given you a “special” grace that He has withheld from me (us)?

                    2 Timothy 3:15….
                    and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

                    Are the Holy Scriptures able to make one wise regarding salvation or is something else needed?

                    The scriptures are full of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. Can you please provide biblical examples to support your view of divine intervention? Something like…..

                    “Having experienced the new birth, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.

                    And finally…. Pelagian or Augustinian? Neither would be very flattering to me.

                    Grace, brother.

Randall Cofield

In response to RICK’S RUBRIC:

Because none of your specified answers adequately reflects the biblical data or the historic Baptist confessional position on these issues, I would answer your questions as follows.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY
I believe that man “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God.”—BF&M 2000

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
I believe that “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable.”—BF&M 2000

LIMITED ATONEMENT
I believe that Lord Jesus “…by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.”—BF&M 2000

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
I believe that God, by His saving grace, “…regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It (God’s gracious election) is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.”—BF&M 2000

In short, I’ve never been a part of or pastored a SB church that was Calvinistic, yet I am able to labor in unity alongside all who believe salvation is exclusively the work of God’s grace.

My only desire is that my willingness to cooperate be reciprocated for the sake of the Kingdom.

Mt. 12:25 “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

    Rick Patrick

    Randall,

    The reason my answers must elaborate beyond BFM2K language is that BFM2K language is simply too broad to separate the soteriological wheat from the chaff. From the perspective of a church that chooses to exclude Calvinist candidates from consideration, the BFM2K is simply no help at all. It is not a tool for soteriological sorting.

    If you read the question, it asks you to identify which position is MOST reflective of your view—A or B? No waffling. No spin. No long explanations. Just A or B. Search Committees know exactly what to do with the resumes of candidates who refuse to answer their questions as stated. His candidacy would be over, a blessing to both the candidate and to the church, since such a union would be a terrible disaster.

      Randall Cofield

      Rick,

      Again, neither of your prescribed answers reflect the biblical data OR historic Baptist confessions. Nor do they reflect my (and many others’) position. Must I exist only within the soteriological box you assign to me? And how am I “waffling” or “spinning” when I answer soteriological questions with soteriological answers from our very own common confession?

      “Wheat from chaff?” That’s an interesting choice of phrase. Joel Osteen’s gospel is “chaff,” but I don’t consider your soteriological position “chaff.” Is it too much to ask that you respect my position, given that it is allowed in the BF&M and the majority of historic Baptist confessions?

      “…such a union would be a terrible disaster.” Well, it hasn’t been a terrible disaster for the two churches I’ve pastored, as well as a fair number of others of which I am aware. I know you can answer my anecdotal offering with your anecdotal offering to the contrary, yet churches very, very seldom split over doctrine. Far more often churches experience “a terrible disaster” due to ungodly, unbiblical attitudes…usually characteristic of both parties in internecine Baptist squabbles.

      You may be painting with too broad a brush and tossing with too narrow a winnowing fork. :-)

      Grace to you.

        Andy

        Randall, please compare Rick’s options with the 2nd LBC of 1689 Below:

        TOTAL DEPRAVITY
        “I believe man is (a) so totally depraved that he cannot respond to the gospel unless God does some type of work (either electing or enabling) that absolutely guarantees the man will come to Christ,”

        2nd LBC – “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation;4 so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin,5 is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”

        (Sounds pretty close)

        UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
        I believe that before the foundation of the world, God (a) elected certain individual persons for salvation, based upon nothing other than His own pleasure, and because of this election these individuals cannot possibly say no to God, while those who are not so chosen are either actively or passively condemned to hell, and because of such condition, they cannot possibly say yes to God,

        LBC – “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature,7 being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit;8 he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.”

        LBC – “Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit,12 yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:”

        (Wording is different, but I think Rick is pretty close on this one as well)

        LIMITED ATONEMENT
        I believe that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus on the cross (a) paid the price only for the sins of true Christians, for if He had atoned for the sins of non-Christians, then they would also be saved,

        LBC – “The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God,32 procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him.”

        LBC – “Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages.”

        LBC – “To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same,”

        (“To the Elect” …”To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption” …sounds consistent with Limited Atonement…though not explicit….The earlier 1644 LBC was much more explicit on limited atonement…..Either way, it doesn’t sound too far off from a Calvinistic Baptist belief. I would say the last part of Rick’s sentence is unnecessary, as it is not part of the belief, but part of a sometimes used argument for limited atonement by some Calvinists, that the only alternative to limited atonement is universalism. Not all Calvinists believe this. )

        IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
        I believe that God’s saving grace is (a) irresistible to certain persons whom God has absolutely chosen to save, while at the same time, His condemning wrath is just as certainly irresistible to certain other persons whom God has, actively or passively, chosen for hell,

        LBC – Those whom God hath predestinated unto life, He is pleased in His appointed, and accepted time, effectually to call,1 by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death in which they are by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ;2 enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;3 taking away their heart of stone, and giving to them a heart of flesh;4 renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ;5 yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.

        LBC – “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, nor from any power or agency in the creature,7 being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit;8 he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.”

        LBC – “Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit,12 yet not being effectually drawn by the Father, they neither will nor can truly come to Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:”

        (Aside from the “Chosen for hell” portion, which not even all 5-point calvinists would agree with, Rick does OK on this one as well. LBC definitely affirms God’s hardening of the unelect, as well as their incapability to be saved. It does not say he chose them for hell…in fact the other section on the Fall says only that God “Permitted” the fall, not caused it, and that Adam in his state of innocence DID have what we might call “free will.” [though it elsewhere also affirms that nothing happens outside god’s ordaining]. ….The point is Rick is not far off here either)

        THE LARGE POINT IS THIS: Rick’s 4 summations of calvinistic beliefs may not be what all calvinistic people believe, or even what many modern Baptists believe, but they cannot be accused of being way off base from what historical baptist confessions have said in the past.

        Again, for comparison, would it be uncouth for a group of cessationist baptists to help each other avoid getting a charismatic pastor, especially if they observed a growth in the number of charismatic pastors coming out of seminary? …Even though our BFM does not dis-allow the sign gifts?

Randall Cofield

Hi, Andy.

Though I dislike being disagreeable, I’ll have to disagree with you on the comparison of Rick’s Rubric and the LBC. They are worlds apart at more points than this venue allows discussion of, occasional similarity notwithstanding. Good research, though. Baptists have always been a confessional people, and familiarity with Baptist confessions is never a bad thing, regardless of the present company of naysayers.

As for your cessationist/charismatic comparison, Rick’s and and Ronnie’s respective rubrics seek to disallow that which our common confession explicitly *does* allow, a very different matter than matters *not specifically dis-allowed* by the BF&M.

Again, if I am able to labor with an acceptable degree of unity alongside others whose soteriological view differs from mine (yet is allowed by our common confession), is it unreasonable for me to expect reciprocal liberty?

For the sake of the Kingdom, should not our attitude be “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”?

Grace to you.

    Rick Patrick

    Randall,

    Brother, we are having two different conversations here. I hear you saying that we should all rally behind our BFM2K and that as long as a brother can affirm it, then he should be soteriologically qualified to serve in any Southern Baptist Church, that no church should ask more of a Southern Baptist brother than that he affirm the BFM2K, which both Calvinists and Traditionalists can easily do. Although I disagree with you on that fact, believing the church has every right to ask for greater precision within the BFM2K, that is simply not the topic here.

    Our topic today concerns that church that has already firmly decided, for autonomous reasons of their very own, that they do not wish to employ a Calvinistic Senior Pastor. Rest assured, other churches exist in which their next Pastor must certainly be Calvinistic or he will not even be considered. Every single Acts 29 co-sponsored church plant fits in this category, by the way. So the blade cuts both ways, if you will.

    It is a given, in our hypothetical exercise today, that a church has firmly decided not to employ a Calvinistic Senior Pastor. Ronnie’s task, and mine, is to assist such a church in making sure they do not accidentally select one anyway–something that has indeed occurred on more than one occasion in SBC life.

      Randall Cofield

      Rick,

      What I think I hear you saying is that any church may, “for autonomous reasons of their very own,” decide upon any form of soteriology/theology/anthropology that exists (say, for instance, they may autonomously reject the deity of Christ and affirm homosexual “marriage”), employ only pastors who affirm their rejection of the deity of Christ and affirm homosexual “marriage”, and yet remain a SB church in good standing, our common confession notwithstanding.

      In short, a church may reject what the BF&M explicitly affirms or affirm what the BF&M explicitly rejects, and yet remain in good standing with the SBC. Is that a correct hearing of what you are saying, brother?

      If so, we are indeed having two different conversations.

      As for Acts 29 and the new Traditionalist hiring practices, two wrongs do not comprise a right.

      Grace to you.

        Rick Patrick

        Randall,

        No, your understanding of my views is worlds apart from what I actually said. In fact, how you got all that about *any form* of theology and homosexual marriage and whatever is just beyond me.

        Here is your primary problem sentence: “In short, a church may reject what the BF&M explicitly affirms or affirm what the BF&M explicitly rejects, and yet remain in good standing with the SBC.” Neither Traditionalism nor Calvinism (a) rejects what the BFM affirms, or (b) affirms what the BFM rejects. Rather, both theological systems fit within the BFM at the very same time, rejecting each other, yet still falling within the BFM framework.

        There are some better examples of theological disagreements that both fit within the BFM than the controversies you mentioned. For example, both dispensational premillennialism and amillennialism fit within the BFM. Both those who believe Apollos wrote Hebrews and those who know that it was, in fact, Luke, that wrote Hebrews, can happily coexist within the framework of the BFM. In other words, these are controversies that are not *settled* by the BFM. Nor does either position lie outside the BFM. However, churches are free to be more selective WITHIN the BFM about their doctrine if they so choose.

          Randall Cofield

          Rick,

          Here’s why you think we are having two different conversations here:

          “Rather, both theological systems fit within the BFM at the very same time, *rejecting each other,* yet still falling within the BFM framework.”

          I don’t “reject” my Traditionalist brothers, nor has Calvinism, at any point in the history of the SBC, “rejected” Traditionalism. In point of fact, the founders of the SBC and the framers of our BF&M intentionally fashioned a confession where both positions could coexist and cooperate without rejecting one another. That paradigm has has held for more than a century and a half. I’m comfortable with that, even if you are not.

          Clearly, we remain at an impasse. I believe your hard-line position represents a distinct minority in the SBC. I hope I am not deceived.

          Thanks for the exchange, and may God bless your less divisive labors.

            Clay Gilbreath

            Randall, It appears to me that you are intentionally going at Rick. I began a comment yesterday at your assertion that Rick was saying “A church may reject what the BF&M explicitly affirms or affirm what the BF&M explicitly rejects” – no way anyone should get that from Rick’ comments. I chose to stay out of it, knowing Rick could “defend” himself, and he did.

            Now you harp on his words that Calvinists and Trads coexist but reject each other, knowing that Rick meant we reject each others’ teachings. Hasn’t he often mentioned Calvinist friends and Calvinist guest speakers in his pulpit, etc? His is not a “hard-line position” – he is just leading the way to hold the line against the unwanted encroachment of Calvinistic doctrine. And in this context, to help churches make sure they hire the pastor who believes like they believe, not a stealth candidate.

            Lydia

            “I don’t “reject” my Traditionalist brothers, nor has Calvinism, at any point in the history of the SBC, “rejected” Traditionalism. In point of fact, the founders of the SBC and the framers of our BF&M intentionally fashioned a confession where both positions could coexist and cooperate without rejecting one another. ”

            Al Mohler is on record saying those who signed the Trad statement should be “marginalized”. Did you guys redefine that word, too?

              Les

              “Al Mohler is on record saying those who signed the Trad statement should be “marginalized”.”

              Lydia, since that is of record according to you, could you, would you please provide the exact quote where he said signers of the Trad statement should be marginalized? I cannot seem to find it.

              Thanks.

          Randall Cofield

          BTW, I reject out-of-hand anyone who believes Apollos or Luke wrote Hebrews. All right-headed Southern Baptists know that Mephibosheth wrote it.

Lydia

So Les,. It never happened?. He never said that?. Or perhaps we just cannot understand what he really meant?

You want proof that will convince you? Sorry, been down that dead end too many times. My guess is both sides, in a false sense of unity, would like to forget his response to the Trad statement. And most likely it has mostly been deleted by now. That movement has mastered gaslighting.

When you are powerful enough to have your statement of support for CJ Mahaney removed along with a rebuke to the molested survivors of SGM from the online Courier Journal religion pages, I wouldnt believe anything from those quarters.

    Les

    Lydia,

    I didn’t say it never happened. Just a direct quote will do. It’s not a “dead end” for you to produce the goods on what you say Dr. Mohler said. Just copy and paste it here. That’s all. If it was on the internet you’ll be able to find it.

    Or, is it possible he didn’t say that at all, but that you are projecting something he did say to mean more than or other than he said? And now you have been called out on it. Maybe that’s what it is. Hey, we’ve all done it. We’ve all been busted for attributing something to someone else that they really didn’t say. I know I have. So maybe a retraction would be in order.

      Andy

      A little research to help:

      Lydia may be referring to this Comment by Peter Lumpkins on his own Blog: “It could be that this is what Dr. Mohler meant when he said some in the SBC need to be “marginalized” in the conversation.” (http://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2013/04/baptist-press-reports-on-the-2013-john-316-conference.html)

      I searched for various combinations of mohler and “marginalized” and found absolutely nothing else.

      Mohler’s only online written response to the Statement seems to be this: http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/06/06/southern-baptists-and-salvation-its-time-to-talk/

      In it, Mohler DOES SAY: (a) that the statement appears to affirm a semi-pelagian understanding of sin, human nature, and the human will, AND (b) that he believes many of the signers don’t actually believe what the statement says on those points. (It should also perhaps be noted, that Mohler does not call semi-pelagianism heresy…so at least in this reponse, mohler does not call the traditional statement heresy, either).

      So [based only on this search and mohlers offical response, not other unknown sources]…
      1. Mohler believes the Statement affirms Semi-Pelagianism, but that many of the signers don’t know it.
      2. Mohler (in this response) does not say that these confused signers should be “marginalized”.

      :-)

      Les Prouty

      Thanks Andy. It’s obvious that Dr. Mohler did not say or write what Lydia attributed to him. One thing: you do say after (a) that he says it “appears”…Then your point #1 summary you left out the word “appears.” I do think that is an important word he used. He specifically said, “Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will…”

      As for him saying some need to be “marginalized,” still looking for that quote.

        Andy

        “It’s obvious that Dr. Mohler did not say or write what Lydia attributed to him.”

        ANDY: I wouldn’t go that far. He has said enough provocative things for to not be implausible. He did at some point say (in effect), that young people looking for robust theology had no other options other than “reformed” theology. (he then later told Eric Hankins that he was “including” traditionalists in that wide reformed net :-). It’s possible he said it in some public venue for which there is no transcript, or in some video recorded interview for which there is no searchable transcript.

          Les

          Andy if he has said that, reference to it would surely be somewhere on the Internet. There are plenty of people who would have pounced on such a statement and written about it. Maybe it was said. But as the owner of another blog used to say quite a lot before his blog became less active, “bring the goods.”

          Andrew Barker

          Andy: If your referring to the quote where Mohler says that if you’re a thinking person then you basically have to be ‘Reformed’ or some version of it, I can assure you it’s 100% genuine. Lydia doesn’t need my backing on this either, she’s more than capable of holding her own. If it really has been removed it just goes to prove how frightened the ‘powers that be’ must be of the truth. Shame on them I say! :-)

            Andy

            No, as les noted, mohlers I’ll conceived words on reformed theology being the only option are well recorded, and not missing…

            I find it surprising that you assume something has happened to some supposed evidence with no proof, then say your Assumption “proves” the powers are frightened, then say shame on them for doing something you don’t even know they did! ????

              Andrew Barker

              Andy: I don’t know Lydia personally, but I’ve read quite a lot of her comments of the past few years and I reckon I know who to trust. In my opinion, if she says it was there, it more than likely was! Lydia is not given to making things up. On the other hand, if material has been removed? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time would it?

              Oh, just found this quote …. Al Mohler on Southern Baptists solving their doctrinal divide – “marginalize those whose influence should be marginalized”. I’m checking on the source to verify this, but you can search yourselves can’t you! :)

                Lydia

                Andrew, The issue how people view the whole piece and that part. In Les’ world, and unfortunately much of the SBC leadership that follows Al Mohler, that sort of talk from an SBC entitiy employee about their peers is considered normal. There is an elitist arrogance about it that is considered normal now. And if we dare say different then the problem is us. That is how it works now for us kiddos.

                  Les

                  Lydia how about in your world? Is it ok for you to falsely attribute something to Dr. Mohler and after being called on it and proved wrong, do you just let your false accusation sit out there? Or in your world do you own your false accusation and retract it with an apology? How does falsely accusing a fellow believer work in your world?

            Lydia

            Andrew, the Mohler marginalization quote was discussed at length in comments on this very blog right after the Trad statement came out. And no, I am not playing cat and mouse with Les’ deflection tactics. Those reading here at that time should remember it.

              Les

              Lydia if it’s on this very blog it should be easy to produce. Are you able to actually produce it?

              Les Prouty

              Lydia et al,

              I suppose I had to do the research since you and others would not. Here is a section where Dr. Mohler talks about marginalization.

              “The 2012 SBC was marked by talk about theology, and the issue of Calvinism in particular. At this point, the reality is more like talking about talking about theology, but the talk will become more organized, partly through a process to be led by the SBC Executive Committee. In the meantime, Southern Baptists need to be kind, open, generous, and truthful. We should expect the best of each other, and extend understanding in every possible way. The three weeks prior to this year’s SBC did not find Southern Baptists at their best in terms of this kind of discussion, but we can and must have the right conversations in the right way. This conversation will marginalize those whose influence should be marginalized — those who have a party spirit, who play into tribalism, or who want to divide Southern Baptists form each other. We will stand within the “Baptist Faith & Message” and we will learn how to talk in a way that will help each other to be more faithful and biblical, not more hardened and bitter.”

              Notice:

              Dr. Mohler: “This conversation will marginalize those whose influence should be marginalized — those who have a party spirit, who play into tribalism, or who want to divide Southern Baptists form each other.”

              Lydia: “Al Mohler is on record saying those who signed the Trad statement should be “marginalized”.”

              Lydia, they do not look at all like the same.

              Retraction?

              Andrew Barker

              Lydia: My comments are slightly out of sync ….. lol :)

              Andy

              FOUND IT! (IF you all want to hash it out again, at least do it with all the facts)…

              Mohler, in response to the 2012 New Orleans Annual Meeting: The 2012 SBC was marked by talk about theology, and the issue of Calvinism in particular. At this point, the reality is more like talking about talking about theology, but the talk will become more organized, partly through a process to be led by the SBC Executive Committee. In the meantime, Southern Baptists need to be kind, open, generous, and truthful. We should expect the best of each other, and extend understanding in every possible way. The three weeks prior to this year’s SBC did not find Southern Baptists at their best in terms of this kind of discussion, but we can and must have the right conversations in the right way. This conversation will marginalize those whose influence should be marginalized — those who have a party spirit, who play into tribalism, or who want to divide Southern Baptists from each other. We will stand within the “Baptist Faith & Message” and we will learn how to talk in a way that will help each other to be more faithful and biblical, not more hardened and bitter.

                Les

                Andy and all,

                As you can see I found it earlier and he did not in fact say what Lydia said he said.

                  Jim Poulos

                  Les,

                  I appreciate your hard work to stay with the facts. Many of the responses you’re receiving have too many ‘may be’ this or ‘may be’ that.

                Andrew Barker

                Andy: As they say, context is the key. If you are an inveterate user of the ‘proof text’ ( aka Les ) you may be able to pass this off as saying ‘nothing of the sort’. If on the other hand you take the quote in its historical context and talk to people on the ground they will tell you exactly what Mohler was driving at. Just what was being discussed in the three weeks before conference? What’s your guess? BTW my ref to Mohler was not the right one, but it was still relevant. He really does believe that if you have any capacity to think, you must end up as ‘Reformed’. Which is maybe why he is happy to marginalize those who think otherwise?

                  Lydis

                  Andrew, you have basically nailed it. Not only does it all descend into proof texting but parsing meanings by those who make their living as public communicators. It seems some things are written quite carefully so to have plausible deniability if needed. Why is all this necessary?

                  So while we strive to understand based upon context and prior words/behavior of the public communicator, we are accused of bearing false witness and discerning motives.

                  We don’t need to bother with motives and intentions when we have a historical pattern and plenty of prior words to go by. My teens try the old “you don’t know what is in my heart” tactic, too. One day with enough training, I hope they connect the dots that what is in our hearts comes out with words and behavior unless one has a personality disorder ( or worse –intentional deception where their words and actions often don’t match or cancel themselves out.)

                  I have witnessed the constant accusation of “bearing false witness against a brother” from that movement. The irony is that the accusation most often could be “bearing false witness”. So around we go.

                  I liken it to dealing with the IRS. How can we know if we are cheating (a form of lying) when they are never clear. You can get ten different answers to the same question. Alas, they have the power to decide “what they meant.”.

                  During my career days I always preferred the plain speaking direct person even if s/he were a jerk. You knew where you both stood clearly. If you see departments/orgs paralyzed and full of group think looking to the master for clarity, you almost always will find a leader who plays communication games. It is the best way to control people.

                  As adults I wonder why we put up with so much of this sort of thing in all areas of our lives? Especially from elected leaders or voluntary associations like church where we have choices.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Thanks Lydia. Since we’re on the topic of suggestions for determining if a candidate is a Calvinist maybe using ‘proof texts’ would be one answer?

                    Les

                    On proof texting, careful Andrew ol’ boy. The accusation can cut both ways. Your side in the debate does it endlessly.

                    Lydia, didn’t really expect you to own up to your false accusation.

                    andy

                    Naw, everybody prooftexts…I still say just look for a beard.

                Les

                “If you are an inveterate user of the ‘proof text’ ( aka Les ) you may be able to pass this off as saying ‘nothing of the sort’.”

                Because it is ‘nothing of the sort.’ Lydia couldn’t have been more wrong.

                “If on the other hand you take the quote in its historical context and talk to people on the ground they will tell you exactly what Mohler was driving at.”

                Because you and others are appointed apparently to be able to discern others’ hearts and motives and intentions. Hmmm.

                “Which is maybe why he is happy to marginalize those who think otherwise?”

                And the proof of said marginalization is…?

                You guys are brighter than this and only serve to embarass yourselves with comments like these brother.

          Les

          Andrew that’s not what Lydia said. Read above.

Jim Poulos

I’m sure you’d all want to continue to keep this pot broiling: I am coming to the conclusion it is not election, free will, God’s omniscience that is the line in the sand. I think it is baptism more than anything. The reformer saw infant baptism as a way to insure loyalty to the state (Church). Baptist’s, with their rejection of infant baptism, said our loyalty is to God, with adult baptism as an expression of that loyalty.

It is that, with the baptism issue, comes a lot of theology that keeps both camps at odds.

The Lord prayed, That they would be one as the Father and I are one.” Some day, the pray will be answered.

Robert

Part 1

Bill Mac,

“Your own view of LFW is far more reasonable from my perspective than the definitions of LFW that I have read. One thing I’m trying to figure out is if your view of LFW is the norm among non-Calvinists. “

Yes my view of LFW is very typical. As to why, here is the answer. When I was a new Christian I had some folks that were trying to convert me to Calvinism. They presented all these books by people like A.W. Pink, etc. They mocked and ridiculed LFW. It was quite a barrage. But then some major cracks began to emerge in this presentation. I figured out that it was not objective at all; it was an attempt at brainwashing. Because all of the authors they presented, every article, argument, was Calvinist. They made it seem as if no intelligent person out there could possibly believe otherwise!

At this time I had John Warwick Montgomery as a professor (Lutheran and one of the most brilliant people I have ever encountered). We had to do papers which we presented to the entire class with him witnessing and critiquing. Montgomery would tell us repeatedly: “You really don’t know your own position unless you know the opposing position just as well as you know your own” (the complete opposite approach to my brainwashing Calvinist friends). One interesting thing he did, was that when he would look at your paper, he did not look at the body first, he looked at the bibliography first (because he wanted to see if you had cited people from both sides; but not only from both sides but also from the best representatives of both sides!). He actually failed people if he did not like their bibliography (with some he looked at their bibliography and then said you fail without even looking at the body! This was all done in front of the whole class, it was pretty brutal). It taught me an invaluable lesson: if you consider a topic look at the best representatives of various positions not weaker and less informed representatives, and always look at both sides, not just your own preferred position. I also had a similar experience with Walter Martin (an expert in non-Christian cult ministry). He told me that when examining a group, don’t look at the low level representative’s works and material, look at the best and strongest representatives of the particular group. This coalesced quite nicely with what Montgomery drilled into us.

So instead of simply allowing myself to be brainwashed by the Calvinist propagandists, I started studying the best representatives of the non-Calvinist LFW side. What I found was very interesting. The Calvinists presented LFW as if it was just this idiotic notion, so ridiculous, so ludicrous that an intelligent person could never believe it! That should have been a red light, a clear warning that they were not presenting well-reasoned and careful arguments against LFW. They were just emotionally ranting against it.

One thing I discovered is that some extremely intelligent folks espouse LFW (and they present well-reasoned and careful arguments for LFW and against determinism). I found out that probably the greatest Christian philosopher in the last 50 years, Alvin Plantinga, argues for LFW and sees the arguments for determinism to be extremely weak and unpersuasive. I found other sharp people who argued for LFW, including Thomas Reid, C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Robert Chisolm, William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, E. J. Lowe, Thomas Pink, Stewart Goetz, Kevin Timpe, John Searle, etc.

Robert

Robert

Part 2

Since I have access to this wonderful thing called email, I contacted and interacted with some of these best representatives via email (including Plantinga). I found out that among contemporary Christian philosophers the majority of them hold to LFW. Now none of this fit with the early Calvinist brain washing I had received. Makes you wonder: if so many smart people hold to LFW (including the majority of Christian philosophers today) why was LFW being presented as just this completely idiotic thing that no real smart person could ever believe?

What I encountered as a new Christian I now realize with hindsight was ideologues (i.e. people who hold to some position and will do whatever they can to advance their position and attack other positions all in the name of their chosen ideology). They really weren’t interested in the truth, or knowing what the best representatives of a particular position held to.

[By the way, if you really are interested in the truth then you don’t have to avoid the best representatives of the other side nor do you have to misrepresent the other side and mock and ridicule the other side.]

They were just committed to promoting their view and if that included unfair ridicule and mockery of other positions, and lots of straw men, so be it. They would have failed Montgomery’s class and been upset with Martin’s approach.

I now know and understand that what we ought to do is the complete opposite of what those Calvinist ideologues did. With LFW when we do so, what do we find? We find that LFW is not this idiotic and stupid view that only a fool could ever believe. We find that the caricatures about it (e.g. you can choose against your nature, you have more free will then God, it is irrational, it is anti-biblical, etc.: are all false). We find that some of the sharpest Christian thinkers hold to LFW and have good reasons for doing so. We find that those who argue against it and continue to ridicule it and mock it are all determinists. Hmm, that is interesting; they want to believe that everything is predestined by God, so of course they are not going to want to believe that LFW exists. They have a real axe to grind, they have to mock it and argue against it, because if it exists their determinism is necessarily false.
I had to laugh when Les in separate posts brought up John Hendrix and John Frame and spoke of their “refutations” of LFW. LFW has never been refuted, if it had then how do some of the sharpest minds endorse it (e.g. again Plantinga)? And if you look at both Hendrix and Frame’s articles you find the same old mocking and ridicule that I first heard as a new believer and the same misrepresentations (Frame even quoted someone as saying it was “psychologically perverse”, Hmm if you shared that with Plantinga or Craig they’d laugh). If you look at many Calvinists they appear to operate exactly like the early ideologues that tried to brainwash me. The same ridicule and mocking of LFW. What this tells me is that for many Calvinism has become their chosen ideology.

Bill Mac I encourage you to check these things out for yourself, don’t believe me, start reading the best representatives of LFW and ignore the ideologues who rant and ridicule about LFW.

Robert

    Bill Mac

    Robert: Thanks. To be fair, my objections to LFW have not come from opponents of it, but from the definitions of LFW that I have read that say, specifically, that for LFW to be true then decisions must be (or can be) made without regard to nature or desire. I know you don’t believe that, but that is the definition that I was going on.

    Your view, as best I can tell, is that LFW means that you can make any choice that falls within your range of choices. So that if the contrary choice falls outside of your range of choices, then you cannot choose it. (the choice to live sinlessly is not possible because our nature puts that outside our range of choices) Am I understanding you correctly? Or, as you have said, the choice to have faith in Christ is not within our range of choices until the Holy Spirit does a work within us. Am I being fair to your view of LFW?

Robert

Bill Mac,

“my objections to LFW have not come from opponents of it, but from the definitions of LFW that I have read that say, specifically, that for LFW to be true then decisions must be (or can be) made without regard to nature or desire. I know you don’t believe that, but that is the definition that I was going on.”

First can you share with me who is defining LFW in that way?

I want to know who these people are and what they are saying.

Now I know that some libertarians will say that our decisions are not necessitated by our natures or desires (i.e. our nature does not impel us to specific choices; a particular desire does not impel us to make a specific choice): I agree with that. But that is very different from saying that our nature and desires are not involved in our choices at all.

The distinction is between: (1) our nature and desires do not necessitate specific choices we make (true), and (2) our nature and desires are not involved in specific choices we make (false).

Do you understand this distinction Bill Mac?

Robert

Robert

Bill Mac,

“my objections to LFW have not come from opponents of it, but from the definitions of LFW that I have read “

Have you considered the definitions of LFW held by some of its best representatives like Alvin Plantinga or William Hasker (e.g. Plantinga = ““If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.” Hasker = “”An agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent’s power to perform the action and also in the agent’s power to refrain from the action.”)?

Notice neither of these definitions says the person’s nature or desires are not involved in their decisions. Notice neither of these definitions says you have more free will than God if you have LFW. Notice neither of these definitions says that freely made choices are uncaused (i.e. they are caused by the agent: the best representatives of LFW in my opinion are those who advocate “agent causation”). The libertarians that I really like on this (e.g. Lowe and Searle) argue that when choosing rationally we choose for reasons (thus the choice is neither random nor irrational).

Robert

Robert

Bill Mac,

“Your view, as best I can tell, is that LFW means that you can make any choice that falls within your range of choices.”

Ok, lets’ talk about range of choices.

My view is that LFW means that at least sometimes we have and make our own choices and that we make these choices for reasons in light of what is important to us (and the choice is not necessitated by any sort of necessitating factor that makes us make one choice and simultaneously makes all other choices impossible). Note carefully that a determinist can grant that we make choices even if everything is determined (i.e. some necessitating factor causes you to make the specific choice that you make and makes all other choices impossible). But a determinist who believes all is determined cannot grant that we ever HAVE a choice (i.e. you really could choose either option in that situation, both choices are accessible and available to you).

I would also suggest that the **best example** of a person who is a personal agent and experiences LFW and has a range of choices is God himself. He has and makes choices (e.g. to create the universe or not to create the universe, to create it with these features and not those features). His nature limits his choices but does not cause specific choices that he makes. He makes choices for reasons in light of what is important to him. His choices are not necessitated by some antecedent factor.

Regarding our range of choices it may be limited or changed by circumstances beyond our control. That is why we can never speak of ourselves as the masters of our fate or other such nonsense. E.g. before the car accident I was a black belt and could do high kicks with both feet if I chose to do so. After the car accident with both legs having been broken and now in a cast, I cannot do those kicks now, they are not within my range of choices at this time.

“So that if the contrary choice falls outside of your range of choices, then you cannot choose it.”

True, with all genuine choices you know what you are choosing as well as the other options that you are not choosing that were accessible and available to you at the time you made the choice.

“(the choice to live sinlessly is not possible because our nature puts that outside our range of choices)”

We have a fallen nature, and we still sometimes choose to sin. But in the eternal state we will have been perfected (i.e. having received the glorified body that Paul talks about in 1 Cor. 15) and all sin and temptation will have been eliminated from the eternal state so we will have the capacity to have and make choices (we can still experience LFW in the eternal state) but our range of choices will not include sin.

“Or, as you have said, the choice to have faith in Christ is not within our range of choices until the Holy Spirit does a work within us. “

The nonbeliever is another good example of someone who has LFW (i.e. he can freely choose various sins that he commits) and yet in that state apart from the work of the Spirit in them they cannot choose to trust in Christ (that choice is not within their range of choices UNLESS the Spirit works in them and thus enables but does not necessitate a choice to trust in Christ for salvation).

Robert

    Bill Mac

    Robert: Thanks. If someone was faced with the same choice multiple times, and the circumstances were exactly the same each time, is it possible that the person would make a different choice some of those times? (say we could hit rewind and bring the person to the same moment of decision each time). I think the person would make the same choice every single time because their greatest desire would be identical. I’m trying to figure out agent causation. That means the “cause” comes from within the agent? I can buy that, but I still think the greatest desire is a determining factor. What perhaps makes it compatible with LFW is that reason affects desire.

      Robert

      Bill Mac,

      “Robert: Thanks. If someone was faced with the same choice multiple times, and the circumstances were exactly the same each time, is it possible that the person would make a different choice some of those times?”

      Ah, just a minute Bill Mac, I was under the impression that we were engaging in a dialogue on the topic of LFW. That means that you ask questions and I provide answers, but you also answer my questions as well.

      I have asked you a few questions that I want to hear your answers on first before I answer another one of your questions. I will also ask you some questions about your latest post.

      I wrote and asked:

      “ Makes you wonder: if so many smart people hold to LFW (including the majority of Christian philosophers today) why was LFW being presented as just this completely idiotic thing that no real smart person could ever believe?

      What is your answer to this question Bill Mac?

      Bill Mac you said you were basing your comments on the definitions of LFW given by proponents of LFW, so I asked you:

      “First can you share with me who is defining LFW in that way?”

      What is your answer to this question?

      I talked about the difference between saying our decisions are not necessitated by our natures or desires, and our nature and desires are not involved in specific choices, I then asked you:

      “Do you understand this distinction Bill Mac?”

      What is your answer to this question?

      I also asked you: “Have you considered the definitions of LFW held by some of its best representatives (e.g. Plantinga . . . Hasker)?

      I talked about how God is the best example of LFW, what do you think of this claim?

      Do you believe that God has LFW?

      If so, then why couldn’t we, and if not, why would you claim that God never freely has and makes his own choices?

      In your latest post you wrote: “I can buy that, but I still think the greatest desire is a determining factor.”

      What do you mean by “the greatest desires is a determining factor”?

      Does the” greatest desire” bubble up and take control of our thinking and force us to make a specific choice, how does this work?

      Now Bill Mac I will gladly interact with you further and answer your questions: but first I’d like to see you answer the questions I posed to you. Thanks.

      Robert

        Bill Mac

        ” Makes you wonder: if so many smart people hold to LFW (including the majority of Christian philosophers today) why was LFW being presented as just this completely idiotic thing that no real smart person could ever believe?”

        I don’t know. That isn’t my position so you’ll have to ask someone who thinks that.

        “First can you share with me who is defining LFW in that way?”

        Theopedia. Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen. There are others but I haven’t re-located them all.

        “I talked about the difference between saying our decisions are not necessitated by our natures or desires, and our nature and desires are not involved in specific choices, I then asked you”

        Yes, I understand the distinction.

        “I also asked you: “Have you considered the definitions of LFW held by some of its best representatives (e.g. Plantinga . . . Hasker)?”

        I haven’t seen any primary sources that explain the views of Plantagina or Hasker although I have no reason to doubt your explanation of their views.

        “Do you believe that God has LFW?”

        I believe God is free to do what He wants in any way that is compatible with his nature. I think that of us also.

        Does our greatest desire “force” us to make a particular choice? I honestly don’t know how to answer that. Of course I know the way the question is framed, the answer is supposed to be no. But if we always act according to our greatest desire at the moment, how would we know if the action is free or forced?

          Robert

          I asked you:

          ”if so many smart people hold to LFW (including the majority of Christian philosophers today) why was LFW being presented as just this completely idiotic thing that no real smart person could ever believe?”

          You answered: “I don’t know.”

          Actually the answer is rather obvious and you don’t have to be a calvinist ideologue to know it: they presented it that way because they were calvinist ideologues trying to promote their view by maligning the other view.

          I asked you “who is defining LFW in that way”?

          “Theopedia. Robert Kane, Peter van Inwagen. There are others but I haven’t re-located them all.”

          Could provide actual quotes of them saying these things?

          I ask because I have Kane’s books as well as Van Inwagen’s book on free will (and I have not seen them say in their own writings that free will means choosing against your nature, etc.)

          Regarding “Theopedia” that is a thoroughly Calvinist/determinist site, their bias for Calvinism is extremely clear. Asking them about what LFW means is like asking a Communist about democracy: you are not going to get an accurate picture at all. :-) In a separate post I will quote “Theopedia” and show how off base it is regarding LFW.

          I asked you: “Do you believe that God has LFW?”

          You answered:

          “I believe God is free to do what He wants in any way that is compatible with his nature.”

          Sorry, that answer is too vague, here is why: both an advocate of LFW and an advocate of compatibilism could believe that. So I will ask again, in your opinion does God have LFW? Does he find himself in situations where he has a choice between at least two different options and both are accessible to him as a choice, both are available to him as a choice, and then he simply chooses one rather than the other.

          “Does our greatest desire “force” us to make a particular choice? I honestly don’t know how to answer that. Of course I know the way the question is framed, the answer is supposed to be no. But if we always act according to our greatest desire at the moment, how would we know if the action is free or forced?”

          Actually the answer to that question differentiates a compatibilist from a libertarian.

          The compatibilist will answer that we have to make the choice that we make because that so-called “strongest desire” causes us to make the choice that we end up making.

          The libertarian will answer will answer that our desires do not cause us to make our choices, we make our choices ourselves.

          In one there is the necessitating factor (i.e. the “greatest desire”) in the other there is no necessitating factor.

          I wanted you to answer because your answer would show whether you are thinking like a compatibilist or a libertarian on this point.

          Regarding the “strongest desire” Thomas Hobbes first promoted this idea that the strongest desire causes us to make the choice that we make. Hobbes was a materialist who believed that everything (including our actions/choices) is necessitated by causal chains of events causing other events. Jonathan Edwards adopted the concept in order to argue for theological determinism.

          Now as a libertarian I believe that when I face two different options and I choose one, if you want to call the one that I chose my “greatest desire” that is not saying much, it is a vacuous phrase (my greatest desire is then by definition whatever I end up choosing from differing possibilities).

          If on the other hand you view the “strongest desire” as a necessitating factor that forces you to make a particular choice and simultaneously excludes all other possible choices, well then that is determinism. In which sense do you use the term Bill Mac?

            Bill Mac

            Robert: The word “force” here is the poison pill and I don’t know how to get around it. All our choices have reasons. They are antecedent to our choice. Those reasons are shaped by our nature, knowledge, experience, desire, etc. Can someone make an alternative choice? Sure, if the reasons are different.

            Reasons produce choices. Is produce synonymous with force? I don’t think so, but you might disagree. Does water, soil, and sunlight “force” a seed to grow? No one would characterize it like that. Are they the reason? Of course.

            The libertarian will answer will answer that our desires do not cause us to make our choices, we make our choices ourselves.

            This is interesting because it seems to suggest that our desires are something outside of ourselves, an external force of some kind. Substitute the words “knowledge, instinct, experience, rationality” for the word desire and you get the same thing. But all of those things are part of us. You could go down the list and say “knowledge doesn’t cause us to make a choice, reason doesn’t cause us to make a choice”, etc. But what is “ourselves” but our nature, reason, desire, knowledge, experience, etc?

            I agree that the greatest desire thing is a bit tautological, but I think you have the same problem when you say people make choices but they could have made other choices, because of course they made the choices and not the alternatives. Ask someone why they chose beef instead of pork. Point out to them that they could have chosen pork. They will say “I chose the beef because….”. So the alternative choice is theoretically possible, but only if the “because” is different.

            About the God and LFW question: The bottom line is I don’t know. In my limited understanding, and at the risk of anthropomorphizing God, I would say that God will always choose the best course of action. He has perfect reason, infinite experience, absolute power, and unlimited knowledge. So I can’t imagine that there are ever competing choices. To say that God could make a contrary choice says, in essence, God could choose to do something worse than the best thing. I can’t get my head around that. So could God have opted not to create the universe? Well, since we know He did opt to create the universe, we therefore know that creating the universe was a better decision than not creating it. Since God is perfect, He will always choose the best option. What “free will” box that puts me in, I’ll have to live with.

              Robert

              “Can someone make an alternative choice? Sure, if the reasons are different.”

              I believe you are mistaken in your claim here Bill Mac.

              E.g. = God had reasons for different universes he considered creating, there would have been reasons for each one, so it is not like there were reasons for one and no reasons for another. That is what it means to deliberate and choose rationally, you consider the various reasons for each alternative possibility that you might or might not choose. God decided to create the world, say for reasons A, B, and C. The reasons for not creating the world say included reasons D, E, and F. Whether God decided to create the world (reasons A,B,C) or decided not to create the world (reasons D,E,F): the reasons for each choice would have been the same. So he would not have required different reasons to choose differently. And the same is true with us; I can often tell you what my reasons were for one choice and what my reasons were for the other choice if I had chosen otherwise.

              “Reasons produce choices.”

              Did the reasons that God had to create this universe CAUSE HIM to create the universe: or did God choose to create the universe in light of the reasons he had for creating the universe? In one scenario the active cause is the reasons and God is the passive effect: in the other scenario God is the active cause. Reasons do not cause our choices, we choose in light of our reasons.

              “You could go down the list and say “knowledge doesn’t cause us to make a choice, reason doesn’t cause us to make a choice”, etc. But what is “ourselves” but our nature, reason, desire, knowledge, experience, etc?”

              Each of us is a unified and unique self, it is this self that when choosing rationally considers reasons, desires, beliefs, and then makes the choice of one option rather than the others.

              “I agree that the greatest desire thing is a bit tautological,”

              It is tautological because if the term “greatest desire” merely refers to the choice we end up making then that isn’t saying much. But determinists mean more by this phrase; they mean that this “greatest desire” acted as a causal force causing the person to make the specific choice that they made.

              “Ask someone why they chose beef instead of pork. Point out to them that they could have chosen pork. They will say “I chose the beef because….”. So the alternative choice is theoretically possible, but only if the “because” is different.”

              Same mistake (discussed above). If God had chosen instead not to create the universe, his reasons for not choosing to create the world would have been (D,E,F) the same had he instead chosen to create the world. Whether he did or not create the world the reasons for not creating would have been the same (D,E,F).

              Say the person had reasons (G, H,I) to choose beef, and reasons (J,K,L) to choose pork: whether the person chose beef or pork, the reasons for choosing each would have been the same(G,H,I for beef; J,K.L for pork If he choose beef it would have been in light of reasons G,H,I; if instead he had chosen otherwise and chosen pork it would have been in light of reasons J,K,L Whichever choice that he makes, if he makes it rationally for reasons, the same reasons would have been associated with each choice, whichever choice that he made.

                Robert

                “About the God and LFW question: The bottom line is I don’t know. In my limited understanding, and at the risk of anthropomorphizing God, I would say that God will always choose the best course of action.”

                You really don’t want to admit to the existence of LFW. :-)

                So if admitting that God freely has and makes choices means that you admit that God experiences LFW you demure by claiming that you don’t know, that your understanding is limited, that that would be anthropomorphizing God. And yet you know that God’s choice to create was necessitated, he had to do it (as we will see shortly). So despite all these claims that you do not know about God’s way of choosing you simultaneously claim that he had to create the universe because that choice was superior to not creating the universe.

                “He has perfect reason, infinite experience, absolute power, and unlimited knowledge.”

                And he also has and makes choices for reasons in light of what is important to him. E.g. those determinists who claim that God creates reprobates in order to glorify himself (that is talking about God making a choice in light of what is important to him; glorifying Himself).

                “So I can’t imagine that there are ever competing choices.”

                When God decided to create, he had two “competing choices”: to create the universe or not create the universe. When God decided about what kind of universe to create there were “competing choices”.

                “To say that God could make a contrary choice says, in essence, God could choose to do something worse than the best thing.”

                Let’s assume that you are correct here, all this speaks to is his range of choices (that his range of choices does not include choosing something worse than the best thing). Just because that choice may not be part of his range of choices does not mean that he has and makes other choices where he could choose one option or choose otherwise. We know that he cannot lie. Does it logically follow that since he cannot choose to lie that he never ever has and makes other choices? Similar say we know that he cannot choose something worse than the best thing: does it follow that since he cannot choose something worse than the best thing that he never ever has and makes other choices where he could choose one option or choose otherwise?

                “So could God have opted not to create the universe? Well, since we know He did opt to create the universe, we therefore know that creating the universe was a better decision than not creating it.”

                So according to you, God was necessitated in creating the universe. Either he had to create the universe (the choice was necessitated) or he did not have to choose to create the universe (he made the choice freely and experienced LFW). Most Christians maintain that he had a choice that he did in fact experience LFW in regards to creating the universe). Arguing that God’s choices are necessitated leads to some serious problems.

                Does this same reasoning of yours also apply to God’s choice of Israel as the chosen nation? Was that choice necessitated? Or what about his choice to choose who would be elect and who would not be saved, are all of those choices necessitated? And when He says that he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy upon, are those choices all necessitated? How about Jesus when he said that he could call a legion of angels to deliver him when they were arresting him, but instead allowed them to arrest him, was Jesus’ choice necessitated? Or what about when Jesus said that he could choose to forgive the man or heal the man and he chose to heal the man, was that choice necessitated?

                  Bill Mac

                  Robert: I started another lengthy reply, but deleted it. I don’t know how to continue the conversation using different arguments than I’ve already made, so I guess I’ll stop here. Thanks for the conversation.

                    Robert

                    Bill Mac,

                    “Robert: I started another lengthy reply, but deleted it. I don’t know how to continue the conversation using different arguments than I’ve already made, so I guess I’ll stop here. Thanks for the conversation.”

                    I’m kinda glad that you didn’t send “another lengthy reply”( I was getting wearied of dealing with the misrepresentations and distortions of LFW : – ) ). If your source is Theopedia your perspective is going to be a bit off. If you want to see some good representations of what I and others believe about LFW and rationality. Pick up a copy of John Searle’s RATIONALITY IN ACTION. And also check out David Hodgson’s website (especially his article “A Plain person’s free will” here:

                    http://users.tpg.com.au/raeda/

Robert

Theopedia defines LFW as:

“Libertarian free will means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All “free will theists” hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice. Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one’s nature, predisposition and greatest desires. Responsibility, in this view, always means that one could have done otherwise.”

Consider the first line. It is true that LFW choices is free from determinism (by definition determinism and LFW are opposites)so far so good.
But the claim that LFW means “our choices are free from . . . constraints of human nature”: is false.

The first line is misleading when it says that LFW means our choices are “free from any predeterminiation by God.” If you mean does God predetermine our choices, then No this is not true as then it would be determinism via decree. If you mean that God can predetermine future events by foreknowing these events and allowing freely made choices (as in the case of the crucifixion of Jesus being foreknown and involving freely made choices by evil men to have him crucified, then Yes God predetermines some events by means of freely made choices [incidentally both Arminians and Molinists who both hold to LFW believe this occurs: Arminians believe it occurs with some events not all events, Molinists believe it occurs with all of human history].

Consider the second line. It is true that advocates of LFW “hold that LFW is essential for moral responsibility” again so far so good.
But then LFW is twisted beyond recognition by the next phrase “for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice.”

It is true that LFW does not mean our choices are determined (in the sense that determinism suggests). It is true that LFW does not mean that “our own desires” are necessitating causes that cause our particular choices. But notice that little phrase that is snuck in there that messes it all up: “or caused by anything”.

LFW does not say that no causes are involved in our choices (we cause our choice by choosing one option rather than other options, otherwise known as agent causation or self-determination). To believe that the self/soul/person causes the choice is very different from saying that the choice is NOT CAUSED BY ANYTHING. I believe there are causes for everything that happens: but I also am not a determinist and I do not believe that something other than my soul/self causes my choices (i.e. my choices are not caused by my physical brain, by my environment, by my parents, by God, by my reasons for my choice, by a desire, etc.. etc., my choices are caused by me).

But it gets worse: “Libertarian freedom is, therefore, the freedom to act contrary to one’s nature”. What? When do we ever act contrary to our human nature? Our human nature includes having a brain, a body, a mind, a soul, having consciousness, having the capacity to reason to think about things, having the capacity to have and make our own choices, etc. LFW does not claim that we only act freely when we act against our human nature.
No LFW advocate is quoted, there are just these false claims presented about LFW, and there is no substantiation. It should be clear that Theopedia is not a reliable source for the meaning of LFW. Being the Calvinist/determinist site that it is, it clearly misrepresents LFW.

Lydia

“Thanks Lydia. Since we’re on the topic of suggestions for determining if a candidate is a Calvinist maybe using ‘proof texts’ would be one answer?”

More like “which” proof texts. :o)

And Andrew, remember, opinions are false accusations in that world. But I am not sure why it matters since you are the predestined elect! You can do anything you want because you cannot help it! (Unless of course, as per Calvin, you are not being tricked by God into thinking you are elect when you are really reprobate— but then how would you know?)

    Les

    Lydia,

    Yes there are opinions. And then there are statements like yours,”Al Mohler is on record saying those who signed the Trad statement should be “marginalized”. Did you guys redefine that word, too?”

    “On record saying” is not just your opinion. That’s a direct attribution. You should be more careful when you write. :)

    Andrew Barker

    Lydia: My suggestion would be John 3:3 especially if they prefer to read it from the ESV. A simple question asking them to explain what this verse means should be sufficient to draw most Calvinist/Reformed adherents out of their shells!

J Poulos

John 3:3 is a statement by Jesus about the need of a ‘man’ to be born again just to see the kingdom of God. This verse must be understood within the ‘context’ of John chapter 3 which must be taken in context with the Gospel of John which must be taken in context with the NT with must be taken in context with all of Scripture which must be taken in context with all of Creation.

Jesus is in discussion with a leader of the Jews, Nicodemos, a teacher who should have known exactly what Jesus is talking about. Jesus is alluding to OT prophecies, particularly by Ezekiel and Jeremiah, about God’s promised deliverance of Israel (Ezek. 36 & Jer. 31 & Daniel).

The ‘kingdom of God’ promised is present in His Person and that presence will begin to fill the entire world (Daniel 2) by His people with the coming of the Spirit indwelling those who recognize Jesus, not Caesar, as the Lord of His Kingdom.

The water is the water of John the Baptist’s Baptism, which all Israel should have submitted to (Jesus uses, ‘water and the Spirit,’ parallels that of John the Baptist phrasing at the Jordon). The ‘water,’ being representative of the primal element of the old Creation, and of the Exodus out of Egypt (the Nile), and now initiating the New Exodus (to the New Creation) out of slavery to sin, out of the subjection of Israel to the pagan world in preparation for baptism by the Spirit. No one was able to enter God’s kingdom until the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost graphically shown by the dismal failure of the already believing disciples (yet without the indwelling Spirit) represented by the dismal failure of Peter and his denial. After Pentecost (the coming of the Spirit), Peter and the disciple (who all, baptized by John’s Baptism) stood God’s ground against all the Powers to be; sin, the Israel who rejected John’s baptism, and Caesar’s ruling Pagan Empire. They stood God’s Ground for their Lord, the Lord of God’s Righteous Kingdom. Ground every believer should be laboring to stand. These are the believers who are looking for honor from God and not from man. Q.E.D.

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