Talking Past Each Other

September 29, 2014

Dr. Braxton Hunter | Professor of Apologetics
Trinity Seminary

We don’t want to talk past each other! This is a common phrase heard when Calvinists and non-Calvinists discuss their differences. Yet, it almost always happens. One of the primary reasons for this is that many non-Calvinists come to the table already under the impression that their Calvinist brothers do not believe that man is free in any sense. Calvinists constantly speak as though their system allows for free will perfectly well. Is this true? Yes and no.

Broadly speaking, there are three understandings of man’s freedom that philosophers speak of when considering the subject:

DETERMINISM –  is the view that no free will of any kind exists. Though you feel as though you are making genuine choices it is all an illusion. Determinism is most commonly held by naturalists who believe that the universe is a closed system of cause and effect. Just as the collapse of the first domino in a chain initiates a causal chain in the well placed pieces such that they all come falling down, the determinist believes that even your decisions are the results of chemical reactions in your body and the firing of neurons in your brain. You are not free in any sense . . . at all.

LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL – is the belief that man is genuinely free to choose between two options. When you indulge in the chocolate cake rather than heading for the treadmill you experience it as though you made a genuine choice because you actually did make a genuine choice. When you consider your options as though you are free to make a selection among them, you actually are free to make a selection among them. In simple language, libertarian free will is what most people mean everyday when they use the term free.

COMPATIBILISM – What is often considered to be a middle ground position between these two understandings is known as compatibilism. Overwhelmingly, Calvinists understand human freedom in this light. On the compatibilist view, man is free to do whatever he wants, but not free to want whatever he wants. That is to say, man has freedom to exercise his will in accordance with his desires, but he has no control over those desires. This will involve a little illustration.

Imagine that Tom is madly in love with Michelle. The problem is that Michelle is entirely uninterested in Tom. Tom isn’t even on her radar, and if left to her own devices Michelle would never love Tom. Yet, Tom is a bright guy. He goes to school to learn chemistry and cracks the formula for the elusive love potion of a thousand fiction tales. Slipping the mixture into Michelle’s morning coffee, Tom is fully aware that Michelle will fall madly in love with the first person she sees. He approaches her office just as she takes the first sip of the mysterious brew and they lock eyes. Success! Michelle indeed falls madly in love with Tom. She begins to demonstrate her affections by running her fingers through his hair, bringing him little gifts and batting her eyelashes at every opportunity. She is doing what she wants, but she is not free to want what she wants. The result of the potion is that she is open to suggestion. Tom, by his ploy, has determined Michelle’s actions by controlling her wants. Is she free? No. In fact, something somewhat like this actually exists. We call it the date rape drug.

Now since I have offered an analogy that will hopefully appeal to our feminine readers, let me turn to the guys. The greatest film saga ever produced is Star Wars. Everyone who has seen the films knows about one of the most quintessential jedi abilities. It’s an old jedi mind trick. Thank goodness in Star Wars it only works on “weak minded fools.” However, in a fallen world perhaps that’s what we all are. Obi Wan Kenobi waves his hand before the enemy and protects his precious robotic cargo with the suggestion, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” The stormtroopers, under a trance, reply, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for. . . move along . . . move along.” Classic. It’s also a great example of compatibilism. The stormtroopers were saying and doing exactly what they wanted. The problem is that the old jedi had manipulated them such that they were no longer in control of what they wanted. If you change their wants, then their actions will follow.

So before you stand three options. Either 1) determinism is true and there is no freedom of any kind, 2) libertarian freedom exists and we are genuinely free, or 3) compatibilism is true and you are only free in the sense that you do what you want, but since your wants are chosen for you your actions are determined. Now, a clever reader will have already recognized that there is no substantive difference between 1 and 3. Compatibilism, though its advocates try to argue that determinism is compatible with freedom, just reduces to determinism anyway. Calvinists, however, are compatibilists. This allows them to say, “Free? Of course we believe that man is free. Everyone is free to do whatever they want.” This is why so many Calvinists and non-Calvinists end up talking past each other.

So is our Calvinist friend right to say that on Calvinism man is free? Yes and no. Man is not free in the established common use of the term. However, if the Calvinist redefines the term free to mean one can do what he wants, but his wants are chosen for him, then yes the Calvinist can get away with claiming that man is free. The problem is that he has to redefine an established term to make this move. When calvinists say that man is free, they mean something entirely different than actual freedom. Worse, they are actually affirming determinism. On calvinism, man is simply not free.

In case you think I’m overstating the case, consider the words of John Feinberg of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He says, “Calvinists as determinists must either reject freedom altogether or accept compatibilism.” There you have it. If one knows how to navigate the language and avoid the (intentionally or unintentionally) deceptive terminology, what is left is naked Calvinism. Naked Calvinism paints human freedom very differently than what most believers know of it from scripture and personal experience.

For more on this issue, check out the debates page of BraxtonHunter.com and listen to my debate with Joe Mira or head over to the Trinity Radio page for my debate with Paul Cooper. For a robust discussion of the issue, listen to “The Problem of Evil Part 3: Remaining Theodicies and Free Will” on the Lectures page.

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Bill Mac

Dr. Hunter: Wouldn’t libertarian free-will mean that unbelievers are free to not sin?

    Robert

    Hello Bill Mac,

    While I realize that your question was aimed at Braxton, I want to make a couple of points in regards to it:

    “Dr. Hunter: Wouldn’t libertarian free-will mean that unbelievers are free to not sin?”

    A helpful distinction that is relevant to this question is the distinction between (1) a person’s capacity for free will (i.e. they have the capacity for free will if they are capable of having and making their own choices) and (2) their range of choices (i.e. how many and what kinds of choices are available to them). One of my favorite examples that makes this clear is to contrast Donald Trump and I when it comes to purchasing million dollar properties. Both “the Donald” and I have free will, meaning we both have the capacity to have and make our own choices. But we do not have the same range of choices when it comes to purchasing million dollar properties. He can choose to do so almost whenever he wants, I cannot choose to do so. Does that mean that he has free will and that I do not? No, it means that our choices reflect our range of choices. Because he has the money, included in his range of choices is the capacity to purchase multiple million dollar properties (that is not included in my range of choices due to insufficient funds). On the other hand I have lots of experience teaching Bible studies and preaching sermons. So if the issue is choosing to present a good Bible study or sermon, presumably, that is not within Trump’s range of choices but it is within mine! :-) So would we claim that he does not have free will because he cannot teach Bible studies or preach sermons? And the fact is different persons have differing ranges of choices. This is also one of the reasons many people want more education or more money, they believe that with those things their range of choices will increase.

    Even with believers we see that our range of choices now is different from what it will be in the eternal state. Now, sin remains a choice that is within our range of choices. However when we are perfected and all temptation is eliminated from the world, and we will be in the eternal state, sin will not be within our range of choices.

    Or take God himself as an example of this distinction. God has free will; he has to have this capacity as while he chose to create the universe he also could have chosen not to create the universe. He also says that He has mercy on whom he has mercy and hardens whom he hardens (again indicative that he has and makes choices, nothing outside of himself necessitates his choices). And yet God cannot sin. Since God cannot sin does this mean that he does not have free will? No, it means that sin is not within his range of choices. God also cannot be stupid or irrational, does it then follow that he does not have free will? No.

    And we all know this distinction from personal experience. We all know of people (including ourselves) who do not have certain choices within their range of choices. And yet we also know that just because we may not have one choice within our range of choices does not mean that we no longer have free will as ordinarily understood or that we never had it. It may not be within my range of choices to buy zillion dollar properties like Donald Trump: yet it may be within my range of choices to purchase a house or some apartments, or a car.

    Now how does this distinction apply to Bill Mac’s question?

    I believe that the nonbeliever has free will (they, just like us, sometimes have and make their own choices). But what would it mean for the nonbeliever to be “free not to sin”? It would mean that sin is not within the range of choices of the nonbeliever. Is that true? No, we witness them sinning every day and the Bible tells us that all human persons have sinned. So we know by observation and by scripture that the nonbeliever does in fact sin. Therefore we can reasonably conclude that the nonbeliever is not “free not to sin”. We also know some of the reasons that the nonbeliever will sometimes choose to sin. They have a sin nature, they do not have the power or guidance of the Holy Spirit guiding them to be sanctified, they are surrounded by temptations coming from the world, the flesh and devil. They are in fact sinners who have chosen to sin and will continue to choose to sin and will live a lifestyle of sin unless they are converted to Christianity. If they never repent, they will find themselves eternally separated from God, they will not be perfected nor will they be present in the eternal sin where there is no more sin and no more temptation. Contrast their condition with that of us, believers, we still have sin within our range of choices. But someday through the Lord perfecting us, eliminating sin and all forms of rebellion, remaking the world, we will find ourselves in the eternal state where we will be incapable of sin because sin will not be within our range of choices.

    Robert

    David Martin

    Yes. We are free not to sin and we choose NOT to sin daily. We also choose TO sin daily. Thus the need for GOD’s grace daily.

      Bill Mac

      David: My question was about unbelievers. Are unbelievers free not to sin? I don’t think Robert’s answer is adequate. He says the only way they can not sin is if sin is not an option for them. But that isn’t what libertarian free will means. It means having the choice to do something and doing something else instead. It would seem that by the definition of LFW, that anyone, believer or not, has the choice to live sinlessly. Every definition of LFW I looked up states that people with LFW are able to choose all available options regardless of their nature or desires. If sin is a choice, then LFW states that we are free to choose not to sin, even if our nature and desire is towards sin.

      Does not the traditionalist statement claim that as soon as someone is capable of moral reasoning, they become sinners? How can that be said with any certainty if all people have libertarian free will?

      If people can, by an extreme effort of will, live without sin, then it seems a good bit of the bible is wrong. If they cannot, it seems that LFW is wrong. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that Calvinists are necessarily correct, but it does mean that non-Calvinists need a different definition of free-will.

      Where am I off?

        Robert

        Hello again Bill Mac,

        “David: My question was about unbelievers. Are unbelievers free not to sin?”

        And I gave an answer: no they are not free not to sin. That is true according to scripture (cf. “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”) and observationally (we see them sinning, we see that none is sinless).

        “I don’t think Robert’s answer is adequate. He says the only way they can not sin is if sin is not an option for them.”

        And that does answer your question because the only way a person is free not to sin is if they have both libertarian free will and sin is not within their range of choices. God is a perfect example of a person who has libertarian free will and He does not sin.

        “But that isn’t what libertarian free will means.”

        Now Bill Mac you are changing the goal posts. You seem to be defining LFW as the ability to choose to do anything:

        “It means having the choice to do something and doing something else instead.”

        No, that is not what it means. You define LFW as the ability to do one thing and also do its opposite thing. So according to this definition of LFW if God truly has LFW then he can choose to do righteousness and also choose to do the opposite and sin. But that is a mistaken definition of LFW as it means that LFW must mean that a person’s range of choices must include the ability to do one thing and also do its opposite thing.

        Again look at God for the perfect example of LFW. He had the freedom to choose to not create the universe or to create the universe. He has the freedom to have mercy on whomever he wants and to harden whomever he wants. God has and makes his own choices and his choices are not necessitated they are freely chosen. Would anyone here seriously claim or argue that God does not act freely? And yet scripture says that he cannot lie. Just because that choice is not available to him (i.e. that choice is not within his range of choices): does that mean he no longer has free will?

        I went through the example of contrasting Donald Trump and I (just because he has more available choices due to his wealth does not mean that since I do not have those choices available to me that I do not have free will). Just because one choice is not available to one person it does not follow that that person does not have free will.

        Say I want to go to a fancy high priced restaurant with my wife. We get to the restaurant and notice we left the credit cards at home, and that all I have is a $10 bill. Well guess what that high priced restaurant is now not an available choice for me. So my wife and I since we are hungry agree that while that fancy restaurant is no longer a choice for us, we could just go to a fast food place instead (and guess what, if we are in most American towns we have multiple choices regarding what fast food place to go, it could be McDonalds, it could be Taco Bell it could be KFC, it could be Wendy’s, etc. etc.). Just because the fancy restaurant is not an available choice, does not mean we no longer have a choice when it comes to having food.

        The concept of LFW is very, very simple. It does not mean that you can choose to do anything (that would be to be omnipotent): it does mean that sometimes you have a genuine choice between differing options (and those options need not be opposites, they may only be variations like the various fast food places we could go to). I have sometimes seen Calvinists who are out to destroy LFW argue that it **must** mean that you can always choose to do the opposite: but that is not necessary at all for LFW. You only need to have choices of different options. God has all sorts of options available to him and yet he cannot lie (just because he does not have the option of lying within his range of choices does not mean he does not have free will with all sorts of other things).

        “It would seem that by the definition of LFW, that anyone, believer or not, has the choice to live sinlessly.’”

        LFW merely means that sometimes we have a real choice between two options; both are doable, we can choose either one. The choice to “live sinlessly” is not within the range of choices of either believers or nonbelievers at this time.

        “Every definition of LFW I looked up states that people with LFW are able to choose all available options regardless of their nature or desires.”

        That is odd I have not seen LFW defined that way at all. And I have read some of the primary literature on it. I have even corresponded with major proponents of LFW such as Alvin Plantinga. And none of them define LFW as the ability to make any choice regardless of circumstances (again if you could do whatever you want you would be omnipotent and LFW is not omnipotence!)

        “If sin is a choice, then LFW states that we are free to choose not to sin, even if our nature and desire is towards sin.”

        I think the mistake you are making Bill is to argue for LFW in a vacuum: as if it is the absolute ability to make any choice that you want to make at any time **regardless of circumstances**. This is not true at all; our choices are most definitely influenced by circumstances. As in my illustration above if you get to that pricey restaurant and discover that you only have $10 available to you, then that reality/circumstance most definitely influences your available choices! And again I think we all know this from personal experience. Just because one college rejects your application does not mean that every college will reject your application. Just because one girl does not want to date you does not mean none of them ever will!

        “Does not the traditionalist statement claim that as soon as someone is capable of moral reasoning, they become sinners? How can that be said with any certainty if all people have libertarian free will?”

        Because part of those circumstances that influence our choices is this pesky thing that most of us call the “sin nature”. And this sin nature definitely impacts our choices and what choices we will make. Adam had a choice to do the right thing or do the wrong thing when it came to the fruit (he did not have a sin nature) and yet through temptation he made the wrong choice. We are not so lucky, we come into this world separated from God in a world where the world the flesh and the devil are out to get us to sin and we have this sin nature on top of it! Talk about a stacked deck!

        “If people can, by an extreme effort of will, live without sin”

        But they can’t! Again, the Bible tells me so as does observation of others as does my own experience. We all sin during this present evil age, no exceptions!

        And you are making that mistaken assumption again that LFW means we have the ability to choose to do anything we want (so by this false definition if we just will something strong enough, including willing not to sin, well then by our will power we will achieve a sinless state).

        “then it seems a good bit of the bible is wrong.”

        The Bible is not wrong: all have sinned with the exception of Jesus.

        “If they cannot, it seems that LFW is wrong.”

        No, your definition of LFW is wrong. Your definition that means it is the ability to make any choice that we want regardless of circumstances (with those circumstances including having a sin nature). That is not the right conception of LFW.

        “Where am I off?”

        You are “off” in your definition of LFW. It does not mean the ability to choose to do anything we want (cf. omnipotence). It does not mean that our choices are independent of all circumstances (our circumstances include having a sin nature, living in a world where the world, the flesh and the devil are out to get us to sin, finding ourselves with only $10 at the pricey restaurant, etc. etc. etc. etc.). It does not mean that any and every choice is within our range of choices (so then in order for God to have LFW he would have to be able to choose to sin, since he cannot choose to sin he must not have LFW, No, he has LFW but sin is not within his range of choices). It is actually a very, very simple concept. It does not mean that every choice is always available to us, it does mean that sometimes we do face a choice where more than one option can be chosen.

        Robert

Robert

Hello Braxton,

You provide a helpful summary of the various positions here. I want to highlight a couple of comments. One comment that you made was:

“However, if the Calvinist redefines the term free to mean one can do what he wants, but his wants are chosen for him”

This is an extremely important point as compatibilists/Calvinists love to mislead folks with their emphasis on: but you are really free when you do exactly what you want. This is misleading because most people when they think of free will in the ordinary sense understand that free will **includes** doing what you want. The problem is that this is only half of the picture. Yes we are free when we do what we want, but, most people when they think of free will in the ordinary meaning and understanding ALSO mean that you have a choice. You do what you want and if you have at least two different choices (two different options), say one choice is to go for BBQ for dinner and the other choice is to go for Italian food for dinner (and you enjoy both types of food!). So if you are choosing freely you can choose either option, both are accessible to you, you are not forced to choose either one.

Not only do Calvinists redefine free will to limit it to doing what you want. The dirty secret seldom openly mentioned or discussed by Calvinists is that they view people as desire-determined mechanisms. This means that our desires dictate what we will choose to do. We have to act in line with the strongest desire they say (this is especially evident in Jonathan Edwards’ famous book on the will).

So going back to the two dinner choices, the Calvinist believes that one of those desires (BBQ or Italian) is the strongest desire so that we HAVE TO choose the one that is our strongest desire. If the strongest desire is BBQ then we will have to choose that option we will want to choose that option (and conversely we cannot choose the Italian food option). Or if the strongest desire is Italian then we will have to choose that option we will want to choose that option (and conversely we cannot choose the BBQ food option).

So our desires determine our choices in this way of thinking about “free will”.

Now where it gets really nasty and this is seldom ever openly discussed by Calvinist determinists is that not only do our desires determine our choices: but God ordains (or decides beforehand, plans beforehand) OUR DESIRES! So according to the consistent Calvinist (i.e. one who claims that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass: God predestines every event). So I ask the consistent Calvinist: “Does God ordain every event that happens? They will answer Yes. Then when talking about the unbelievers committing sin, they will say that the nonbeliever always and only sins because that is all that they want to do. They have to do what they desire, they desire to sin so they have to sin. What is not mentioned is that God himself ordains/preplans their every sin, because God ordains/preplans their every desire which determines their every sin. Most Christians when they are exposed to this implication of consistent Calvinism reject it because it makes God the author of all sin (i.e. he ordains every sinful desire that every person ever has, and these desires in turn force these persons to do the particular sins they do).

The second comment of yours that I want to highlight is this one:

“Naked Calvinism paints human freedom very differently than what most believers know of it from scripture and personal experience.”

By “Naked Calvinism” I take this to mean when pure Calvinism is exposed to the light, when the subtle subterfuges and semantic games are cleared away, when it is seen for what it actually declares.

Their conception of “free will” is very different from the conception of the vast majority of other people who hold the ordinary conception of free will (i.e. Yes I am free when I do what I want, but my freedom also includes the reality that I sometimes have and make my own choices, situations where there really are two different options accessible to me, I can choose either option and the choice that I make is up to me, my choice is not determined by my desires but is determined by me so I can want either option and choose either option). Again, if more people really understood what consistent Calvinism declares regarding free will they would reject it as both scripture and our own daily experience sometimes involves our actually having and making our own choices. This form of free will is present both throughout scripture and daily in our experience.

It is inescapable in our experience. For example anytime we engage in ordinary language use we have all sorts of choices that we have and make when we express ourselves. First there is the choice of whether or not we will express ourselves. Second, for those of us who know more than one language there is the choice of which particular language we will express ourselves in. Next, there are choices about what words we will use, how long or short our response will be, when we will make our response (now or later, now or after lunch, etc.). In a blog discussion like this there is the choice of whom we will respond to and whom we will not respond to. Any post that you see is a monument to all sorts of choices that that person has made when it comes to ordinary language use. And this reality of having and making these choices is just as real for the Calvinist who denies free will as ordinarily understood as it is for the Traditionalist who posts here

Robert

doug sayers

Sorry to butt in, Bill, but it would seem so when Gentiles do “by nature” the things contained in the law. (Rom 2:14) It is evident that unbelievers don’t do everything wrong.

If God can give Adam the ability to sin without a sinful nature then He could give fallen sinners the ability to repent in spite of their inherited corruption.

For what its worth to you, I finally gave up trying to explain how saving faith can be both irresistble AND volitional. (Don’t try this at home without Luther or Edwards close by!)

    Debbie Kaufman

    Doug: I would say as a Calvinist that the fact that unbelievers don’t do everything wrong(which I would agree) shows how powerful God is and how full of grace he is. Without God’s grace, there would be much more evil than we already have.

      doug sayers

      Amen Debbie. It is by the common grace of God that every sinner can avoid sin, repent, and believe the gospel.

    Bill Mac

    Doug: The choice to repent is not the same as choosing not to sin. Has God given unbelievers the ability to choose not to sin? I think we can all agree that mankind has a sinful nature and a desire to sin. LFW states that we have the ability to ignore both nature and desire and make choices contrary to both. That’s my question. If LFW is in fact what we as humans have, then anyone could, theoretically, live sinlessly despite having a nature and desires inclined toward sin, and without the indwelling of the Spirit.

      Robert

      Bill Mac wrote:

      “Doug: The choice to repent is not the same as choosing not to sin.”

      And I answered your question: at the present time none of us, believers or nonbelievers is able not to sin.

      “Has God given unbelievers the ability to choose not to sin?”

      No. They do not have it now, but in the eternal state believers will have it.

      “I think we can all agree that mankind has a sinful nature and a desire to sin.”

      Yes.

      “LFW states that we have the ability to ignore both nature and desire and make choices contrary to both.”

      No it doesn’t, that is a wrong definition of free will. For example it is not in my nature to fly unaided like a bird. If I have LFW does that mean that I can choose to fly like a bird contrary to my human nature which does not have flying unaided as part of its capacity?

      “That’s my question. If LFW is in fact what we as humans have, then anyone could, theoretically, live sinlessly despite having a nature and desires inclined toward sin, and without the indwelling of the Spirit.”

      No, No, No, for the billionth time, :-) in this present evil age no one has the ability to live sinlessly. And for the billionth time, :-) LFW is not the ability to choose to do whatever you want regardless of circumstances.

      Robert

        Bill Mac

        Robert: Perhaps you could supply me with your definition of LFW, because every definition that I read says that people with LFW always have multiple choices, and that those choices can be made without regard to nature or desire. If you are saying that unbelievers are not free to not sin, ie: that they must sin, then you are making the same point I am trying to make, viz, we are as free as our nature allows.

        To answer someone from earlier in the thread, I don’t believe God has LFW, because He is not free to go against His nature. He told us as much.

        You guys seem to be saying if God does not determine every action of every person, that is LFW, but that’s not my understanding of the term. If there is an official definition of the term, I’d be glad to see it because we are talking about two different things. Just saying “that’s not LFW” doesn’t make it so. The term has to mean something. Perhaps we wouldn’t be talking past each other if we were operating on the same definition.

          Robert

          Bill you wrote:

          “Robert: Perhaps you could supply me with your definition of LFW, because every definition that I read says that people with LFW always have multiple choices, and that those choices can be made without regard to nature or desire.’”

          I think a major problem in the definition that you allude to here is this idea “that those choices can be made without regard to nature or desire.” Proponents of LFW do not claim that our choices have no connection with our desires or natures.

          And regarding definitions of LFW let’s look at a few representative examples.

          Timothy O’Connor opens his presentation on free will with these words:

          “Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives.” (Timothy O’connor)

          Note he simply defines it as a capacity to “choose a course of action from among various alternatives.” So if I go to a restaurant and am given a menu with only one food choice on it, most of us would say that I really did not have a choice, if I was going to eat at that restaurant then I had to make that one choice. But most restaurants (or perhaps all?) are not like this at all; instead they present a menu that has multiple options so that you as a rational agent could “choose a course of action from among various alternatives.”

          Hugh McCann in a discussion of the famous “free will” defense makes some statements about LFW:

          “This is because we have free will, which is to be understood here in what is known as the libertarian sense. We exercise libertarian freedom in forming or executing an intention only if our deciding or willing is not the product of deterministic causation — that is, provided there is no set of conditions independent of our exercise of will which, together with scientific law, make it certain that we shall decide or will as we do. Independent conditions — our motives and beliefs, for example — may incline us toward one or another intention or action. But they cannot guarantee it, because what we decide and what we strive to achieve is finally up to us. “ (Hugh McCann)

          Now note that McCann points out that we act in the LFW sense if our willing “is not the product of deterministic causation”. He means that our choice is not determined, not necessitated. So LFW is the opposite of determinism. He goes on to explain what this means with the words “provided there is no set of conditions independent of our exercise of will which, together with scientific law, make it certain that we shall decide or will as we do.” In other words there are no conditions prior to your choice that force you to make a particular choice. If you have to choose one thing and it was impossible for you to choose the other thing, then your choice was necessitated, determined and hence not LFW. Lastly notice that McCann does not say that LFW involves choosing independent of your desires or nature: “Independent conditions — our motives and beliefs, for example — may incline us toward one or another intention or action. But they cannot guarantee it, because what we decide and what we strive to achieve is finally up to us. “ Note he says these things “may incline us toward one or another intention or action” but “they cannot guarantee it”. So they may influence us, but “we decide” what our choice will be. Something outside of us does not cause us and necessitate our choice.

          And here is Alvin Plantinga’s definition of free will:

          “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.” (Alvin Plantinga)

          Note he says a person is free if “he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it”. If his action were determined then he would have to perform the action or he would have to refrain from performing the action. But if it is not determined, and he has LFW then he could make either choice (to choose to perform the action or to choose to refrain from performing the action). Plantinga elaborates on what acting freely means when he says that “no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determined that he will perform the action or that he won’t”. In all forms of determinism there is some sort of antecedent condition that forces you to make the choice that you make.

          But saying this is not at all the same as saying that our nature or desires do not influence our choices. In none of these descriptions of acting freely do we see any mention that free will means you can choose to do anything or that free will means that you can act against your own nature. LFW means the action is not necessitated, not determined by some antecedent factor that forces you to make your choice.

          I think the simplest way to describe this is to speak in terms of having and making your own choices. You have free will if when faced with differing alternative possibilities you can choose any of these available options. If your choice were necessitated or determined then you would have no choice, you would have to make the choice that you make. LFW is not being forced to make a choice between two different possible choices (e.g. I really can choose the steak or the prime rib on the menu the server hands to me!:-) )

          “If you are saying that unbelievers are not free to not sin, ie: that they must sin, then you are making the same point I am trying to make, viz, we are as free as our nature allows.”

          I think a problem that you have is that you are leaving out a possibility that most of us actually accept (i.e. that when God created human beings he created us with the capacity for having and making our own choices, put another way God’s design plan for human persons is that they have the capacities that will allow them to have and make their own choices from alternative possibilities, i.e that they could experience LFW). So if this is true, we are not acting against our human nature when we exercise libertarian free will, instead we are acting in line with our nature as God created it to be.

          “To answer someone from earlier in the thread, I don’t believe God has LFW, because He is not free to go against His nature.”

          But who said LFW means that you can go against your nature?

          Seems to me that whenever we make a choice it will be in line with our human nature. Again, I cannot choose to fly unaided like a bird as my human nature does not include the capacity for unaided flight. Now on the other hand, my human nature includes a mind capable of rational thought, capable of studying science and the laws of physics and aeronautics, and so capable of designing a jet airplane that can take me anywhere in the world!

          And if LFW **is** part of human nature then not only will you be acting according to your nature when exercising LFW, you cannot escape having free will at times.

          “You guys seem to be saying if God does not determine every action of every person, that is LFW, but that’s not my understanding of the term. If there is an official definition of the term,”

          There are some “official” presentations of LFW some of which I cited above.

          “I’d be glad to see it because we are talking about two different things. Just saying “that’s not LFW” doesn’t make it so. The term has to mean something.”

          It does mean something (again see above).

          “Perhaps we wouldn’t be talking past each other if we were operating on the same definition.”

          But that is just it, when non-Calvinists present their views on free will, they are operating from a different definition of free will then the Calvinist who is a determinist is operating from. The non-Calvinist defines free will as not being determined in your choices while the Calvinist defines free will as being determined in your choices.

          Robert

            Bill Mac

            Well, not all Calvinists (or Calvinistic people) are determinists. I believe we have free will in so far as our nature allows. But, as you have rightly pointed out, our becoming sinners is determined by our nature. We will sin. We cannot not sin. You are right that LFW is the opposite of determinism, but many advocates of LFW state that under LFW, our decisions are not just free of divine determinism (which is what people here seem to think LFW is) but also free of physical and metaphysical determinism (ie: nature and desires). That’s the definition I’ve been going by. The bottom line is: we will always act according to our desires, and our desires are shaped by our nature.

Bob Cleveland

How can natural man, who does not comprehend those things which are Spiritually discerned, comprehend the things of the Spirit, unless God does something to the man’s nature to allow it?

    doug sayers

    Great question Bob, which gets down near the heart of the whole controversy. We have Paul saying in Rom 1 & 2 that everyone can do “by nature “the things of the law and clearly see the inisible (spiritual) attributes of God. AND we have Paul saying that we are all “by nature” children of wrath, unable to comprehend the things of the Spirit. (Eph/1 Cor) The tension between these kinds of texts is solved by the common grace of God and the universal work of the Spirit, who convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. We are born corrupted by original sin but we are each also given the capacity to trust the Truth (In varying measures). Thus we don’t have the insurmountable Calvinistic problem of teaching that God expects sinners to that which He has not equipped them to do, or else…!

    We also don’t have to play semantic chicanery with the universal call. That is, promising salvation to those for whom Jesus (allegedly) did not die.

    We also don’t have to try and explain how saving faith can be BOTH irresistible and voluntary. (This is not a job for boys! Don’t try it at home without Luther and Edwards close by!)

    Robert

    Hello Bob,

    “How can natural man, who does not comprehend those things which are Spiritually discerned, comprehend the things of the Spirit, unless God does something to the man’s nature to allow it?”

    Contrary to Doug I do not believe this is a good question at all. The reason is that it assumes some Calvinistic notions that are false. The primary Calvinistic assumption here is the notion that a nonbeliever cannot understand spiritual things until their nature is changed (specifically they must be regenerated first and then they are able to understand spiritual things).

    There are clear reasons why this notion is false.

    First the Bible never says that a person must have their nature changed in order to understand spiritual things (nor does the Bible say that a person must be regenerated first before they can understand things). Second, the Bible says that faith precedes regeneration. As believers we receive our new nature when we are born again, not before that. Third this Calvinistic notion leaves out the powerful and necessary preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. It is this preconversion work of the Spirit that enables but does not necessitate a faith response. It is this work of the Spirit that enables the nonbeliever to understand spiritual things before they are born again, before their nature is changed.

    No one can believe, no one has the capacity to believe and trust in Christ alone for salvation *unless* the Holy Spirit reveals things to that individual. The Spirit must convict that person of sin; show them their spiritual condition that apart from Christ they are lost and headed for an eternity separated from God. The Spirit must show them who Jesus is and what he did and that he is the only way of salvation. The Spirit must show them that they need to repent of their sinful lifestyle and that only by belief and repentance can they be saved. There are other things the Spirit reveals, and yet my point is simple the Spirit must do this preconversion work in the person to enable them to have a faith response to the gospel. Without this preconversion work of the Spirit no one is able to believe.

    I do a lot of evangelism and have blessed to see many come to the Lord and become born again. While some believe after hearing the gospel once, for most people it takes a longer process of time. During this process, the Spirit reveals things to them including: that they are a sinner, that they are separated from God/spiritually dead, that their works or efforts cannot save them, that Jesus is God’s provision for atonement for sin, etc. Now the Spirit reveals these things to the nonbeliever enabling them to understand them **even before they are saved**, **even before they are born again**.

    Most of us can look back at our own conversions and remember how we became more and more open to God (and yet we were not yet saved). We can remember how the Bible was starting to make sense (the Spirit had to be doing that!). We can remember starting to understand things about Christianity and why Jesus was the only way of salvation. And we had all of this new understanding before we were saved, before we decided to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. We did not come to these new understandings of spiritual things on our own, we could only understand these things through the preconversion work of the Spirit. It is significant that the scripture says that the Spirit convicts the world (which is more than just those who end up becoming believers) of sin, righteousness and judgment (this indicates that many experience this preconversion work of the Spirit and yet not all of them eventually become believers, some continue to resist till their dying day).
    So the scripture does not say our nature has to be changed first before we understand spiritual things and both scripture and our own experience say that the Spirit in his preconversion work in the sinner, is the one who works in the nonbeliever enabling them to understand spiritual things even when they are not yet born again, even when their nature has not yet been changed.

    Robert

phillip

From the pen of Calvinist Vincent Cheung……..

“When speaking of freedom in our context, I always speak of freedom in relation to God – and that is why the issue immediately becomes clear. I can consistently use the same definition whether I am dealing with the nature of God, the decree of God, the nature of man, the nature of salvation, or determinism from a philosophical perspective.

Many Calvinists do not speak this way; rather, they say that we always choose what we most desire, but when they add that this is ‘freedom’ in a relevant sense, and that we are responsible based on this ‘freedom’, then I disagree. Instead, I deny any sense of human freedom and deny any relationship between freedom and responsibility.

Moral responsibility (or accountability) has to do with whether God has decided to judge us; it has no direct relationship with whether we are free. In fact, if we were free from God but not judged by God, then we would still not be morally responsible (or accountable). In other words, moral responsibility does not presuppose human freedom, but it presupposes divine sovereignty. We are responsible not because we are free, but we are responsible precisely because we are not free.

Also, Calvinists often affirm that Adam was free before the Fall. But again, I always speak of freedom relative to God, and from this perspective, I would say that Adam had no freedom whatsoever even before the Fall. To be ‘free’ from sin is irrelevant. The issue is whether Adam was free from God to choose to remain free from sin – he was not. In addition, I would not say that God permitted Adam to fall, but that God caused it. Many Calvinists would also disagree with me on this.

Compatibilists would hesitate to say that we are free from God, but they would insist that since we always act according to the strongest desire of the moment, that this is a real sense of freedom, and that this ‘freedom’ is the precondition for moral responsibility.

Let’s say that I have committed a murder. I was indeed free from other creatures when I made my decision, and I acted according to my own internal desire. But this desire was caused and controlled by God, and the fact that I would always act on my strongest desire (which is human nature) was also caused by God. But this amounts to saying that we have no freedom from God to abstain from murder, but that we only have an internal freedom from other creatures to abstain from murder.

Then, if we were to soften this and say that our desires are somehow not determined but merely permitted by God, then, even ignoring for now that this is unbiblical, we must still explain how it is possible for God to permit something without causing it, and yet immutably decree it to happen in a sense that is not merely an expression of prescience. If we can’t, then we are Arminians.

Also, if God merely permits us to do something, then I would also demand a metaphysical explanation on how it is possible for a creature to direct and control its own mind. That is, is it possible for a created thing to function at all under God’s bare permission without his constant causative determination? How?

Calvin himself wrote, ‘Indeed, not even an abundance of bread would benefit us in the slightest unless it were divinely turned into nourishment.’ This sounds like my occasionalism. There is no inherent ‘nature’ or power in bread that always works with the body to provide nourishment, but it must be ‘divinely turned into nourishment’ each time it is consumed.

This is Calvinism – it is a consistent application of divine sovereignty over everything. It is a denial of any form of dualism or deism. Thus I affirm that God controls everything about everything that is anything, including every aspect of every detail of every human decision and action, in such a way that man has no freedom in any meaningful or relevant sense.

In summary, libertarian freedom is indeed freedom, but it is unbiblical and impossible – there is no such freedom. On the other hand, compatibilist freedom is not ‘freedom’ at all (except from other creatures, which is irrelevant), but it is just a description of what happens when God controls every aspect of our decisions and actions, usually (not always) according to a ‘nature’ that he has also created in us. Both the words ‘compatibilist’ and ‘freedom’ are misleading.”

If only all Calvinists spoke/wrote with such clarity.

God bless.

doug sayers

Phillip, Vincent should try to incorporate some Bible into his arguments if he wants to be taken seriously by Bible believing readers.

Andy

Robert said: “Calvinists love to mislead folks…”

Perhaps it is partially comments like this that cause cals and non-cals to keep talking past each other. While I agree that talk about compatibalism often makes my head hurt and leans back toward determinism, and while there are likely SOME Calvinists who intentionally mislead, there are.likely many more who are honestly trying to describe what the bible teaches relating to sovereignty and freedom, Honestly seeking to define free will biblically, even if they admit is different than the normal accepted definition.

I am not willing to accuse them of “loving to mislead” any more than I would accuse a full Arminian of loving to mislead people about John 10, Hebrews 6, and eternal security…likely both are honestly trying to convey what they believe to be the truth.

    Robert

    Hello Andy,

    “While I agree that talk about compatibalism often makes my head hurt and leans back toward determinism, and while there are likely SOME Calvinists who intentionally mislead, there are. likely many more who are honestly trying to describe what the bible teaches relating to sovereignty and freedom, Honestly seeking to define free will biblically, even if they admit is different than the normal accepted definition.”

    You are correct my statement would have been more accurate had I written “many Calvinists . . .”. Not ***all*** Calvinists are deceptive, and yet in my own experience many are misleading others with their descriptions and definitions (especially when it comes to the term “free will”).
    “I am not willing to accuse them of “loving to mislead” any more than I would accuse a full Arminian of loving to mislead people about John 10, Hebrews 6, and eternal security…likely both are honestly trying to convey what they believe to be the truth.”

    This is not quite analogous to what I was talking about as you refer to “full Arminians” as “loving to mislead people about John 10, Hebrews 6, and eternal security”. You are referring to their interpretations of these biblical texts. They are not trying to mislead others when they present their interpretations of these texts. And Calvinists are not trying to mislead others when they present their interpretations of scripture either. THAT is not what I was talking about.

    What I was talking about was when someone intentionally holds back information fully knowing that by holding back information they are misleading another person. So for example when a Calvinist knows that **others** believe that free will includes the capacity to choose between accessible and available options (and yet the Calvinist really does not accept that, does not believe that at all, rejects that notion) and yet says to this other person: “I believe in free will too!” That is deceptive because the other person then thinks the Calvinist also believes that free will includes the ability to choose between either of two options **when in fact they do not**.

    Or take another example say a Calvinist is candidating at a church to be the pastor and is asked the question by the search committee: “Do you believe in free will?” And he knows these folks are not Calvinists and he knows that they believe that free will includes the capacity to choose between two options. If he does not believe that, if he holds to compatibilism, but simply answers “Yes” without explaining that he is a compatibilist who rejects the notion that free will includes the ability to choose from two different options. THAT IS DECEPTIVE. He knows what they believe and misleads them by withholding information, because he communicates with them **as if he believes in the exact same way as they do** (when in reality he does not, when in reality he holds a different view of “free will”). Now I have seen this kind of thing happen many, many times. Hence I should not say all Calvinists do this, but unfortunately the reality is that many do so.

    I must admit my background may be unduly influencing me here: I used to work with Walter Martin in counter cult ministry. And cultists often use the same terms as Christians but with very different meanings. And if they are not directly called on it, they will give the impression that they believe in all sorts of Christian terms (when in reality they are operating by a very different meaning for these terms, a meaning that is not at all what Christians mean by these terms). Having seen this so many times in the past, I see it unfortunately happening with many who use the same terms as others do but do so with very different meanings.

    Robert

Justin

Wow, that might be the worst straw-man analogy I have ever seen. To compare a human will bound in sin to a woman simply not being interested in a man followed by date rape is absolutely ridiculous, and you should be ashamed of yourself. It’s easy to knock down arguments when you create them in a way that no person who actually believes in it would communicate it. Calvinism = date rape….very classy and level-headed. A great way to encourage your brothers and sisters in Christ to agree with your understanding of salvation is to equate their beliefs with date rape. Shameful. It’s people like you and articles like this that cause the hateful vitriol we are seeing surrounding this issue in the SBC right now. Let’s get past the childish and un-Christlike mudslinging.

    Braxton Hunter

    Well, I will attempt to respond to this comment with more restraint than it itself demonstrates. I am not saying that Calvinism = date rape but rather attempting to ground the analogy in a real world touchstone. I’m also not saying all humans are actual stormtroopers who wish to capture droids. You said, “It’s easy to knock down arguments when you create them in a way that no person who actually believes in it would communicate it.” This is not the definition of a straw man. A straw man would be setting up an analogy that does not represent, but rather misrepresents the view of one’s opponent and then knocking that down. Naturally, few Calvinists would communicate their own position in these terms. I clearly pointed out that there is a lack of clear explanation of calvinistic compatibilism which is the very reason for the analogy to begin with. If you would like to point out where the analogy fails to hit the mark then that would actually be a less “childish and un-Christlike” use of your time. I have done my fair share of dialoguing with my Calvinist brothers on this issue in live public debates, written materials and podcasts. They have always been done in a straightforward way out of respect to the Calvinist system, yet I have always tried to go above and beyond in showing my appreciation for my opponents in Christian love. That one cannot talk about these issues as much as I have without finally articulating a point in a way that directly offends someone’s sensibilities is merely the nature of the beast in theological debate and I would encourage you not to take a comments section that has been civil and try and force drama or violence into it. When I see my Calvinist brothers using terminology or analogies that make me cringe, I do not talk past them and sling my own mud, but rather attempt to address the issue they are raising. In short, do you have something substantive to say about the criticism or are you merely complaining about the analogy?

      Justin

      Brother, I simply want to point out that you are doing exactly what you accuse Calvinists of: talking past them. It’s much more helpful to actually explain your opponents’ position in a way that at least somewhat resembles the way they themselves would express it, and I would have expected one who boasts of his extensive debate experience to understand that.

      Here’s a major flaw in the analogy: it completely ignores sin. Michelle not loving Tom has nothing to do with a sin nature that “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” And Tom’s magic potion forces Michelle to love Tom, but that is nothing like loving God. Tom may have some great qualities, but he is infinitely far from God. Of course non-Calvinists don’t want to worship a date-raping God…neither do Calvinists. And that bears no resemblance to biblical Calvinism. Tom is not inherently worthy of love and adoration, but God is. Michelle is not in sin for not loving Tom. Tom is not merely unlocking Michelle’s bound desires (as a Calvinist may describe the human will bound in sin), but he is creating desires that are not inherent to her nature. Michelle loving Tom does her no benefit, but a human being loving God does him eternal benefit. The analogy simply does not hold at any level, and it only serves to distance the two sides of the debate. Your likening the Calvinistic God to a date-rapist is no different than Richard Dawkins’ atheistic argument that the Christian God is a cosmic child abuser. Neither is helpful, but they are merely inflammatory rhetorical devices unfit for respectful debate. The difference is, however, that yours is used on your own brothers and sisters in Christ.

        Braxton Hunter

        Thank you for calming the tone. First, I am not accusing Calvinists of talking past non Calvinists. I’m saying that Calvinists and non Calvinists talk past each other because of a confusion about compatibilism. Second, you are hung up on soteriological issues related to the analogy because you see it as an analogy of soteriology specifically rather than of compatibilism in general. That is to say you are adding all of the trappings of the whole salvation debate onto an analogy that is merely meant to show how compatibilism works. The fact is that on compatibilism God acts on man’s wants such that his actions will follow so that man’s “freedom” will be identical to what God determines. Salvation is only one thing. Compatibilism speaks to how man chooses in life in general. The analogy illustrates this quite well, I think, since the woman does what she freely wants to do, yet those actions are determined by her wants which have been in turn determined by the man. I think once you understand this distinction you will see that your concerns are misplaced. The analogy is not merely about salvation, but about human choice on calvinistic compatibilism in life in general. By the way, I do not boast in having a lot of debates on this issue. I have only had two and care to have no more. I only mentioned them so that you could see that I try to handle this issue in love. I have been more straightforward with you here than I ever have with anyone else, so far as I know, because I don’t like being insulted because someone misunderstood my words. I’m traveling from North Carolina back to Indiana now so I may respond to any future comments later or I may move on. I would recommend to anyone else who is interested, my most recent post on Braxtonhunter.com about why we should not become obsessed with this subject to the exclusion of more important matters.

          Justin

          My tone has not been any harsher than you saying that my perception of God is a date-rapist. Your attempts to belittle me with paternal language are unfortunate. Thank you for your straightfowardness, but I don’t think I misunderstood your words. The fault lies in the ambiguity of your analogy versus your apparent intent. The fact is, I didn’t insert soteriology into this debate, but it is inherent in it. Your analogy dealt specifically with loving God and not loving God, which is to say, salvation. Tom’s actions in your analogy clearly were meant to mirror God’s actions in salvation (according to your understanding of Calvinism). I just think it’s sad that you insist on handling your public remarks in the way that you have. You can certainly respond to this, but I’ll hang it up for now. I don’t see any fruitfulness in continuing this. Thanks.

            Braxton Hunter

            Justin, I dint know why you feel as though I’m belittling you. I’m not. I’m asking you not to be so aggressive and personal in your comments. I never said you perceive God as a date rapist. You still don’t get it. Sorry if that sounds belittling but now I can only throw my hands up in exasperation. Compatibilism is not synonymous with soteriology. Compatibilism speaks to soteriology at certain points. I’m explaining compatibilism. You don’t like the implications it has for soteriology. I can’t help you with that. I’m not playing the martyr card, but I’ve endured all the ad hominem insults I care to endure. Throughout this discussion you have talked past my point and talked to a confusion of my words.I could not ask for a better illustration. As far as Johnathan or any other commenter, your job is to address their issues and tone if you so choose, my job is to address those who speak to me. this was a perfectly peaceable discussion prior to your personal insults.

              volfan007

              Braxton,

              You have told him the truth as clear as can be. I’m not saying that Justin is doing this, but I’ve noticed that some Calvinists do this very thing, often, whenever they get into a debate with someone. It’s as if they start attacking things that have not been really said….maybe in some attempt to divert the conversation. It may be some feeble attempt to try to “win” the debate; some debating tactic that they like to use. I don’t know, but I’ve endured these type of things often in my discussions with some Calvinists. They twist our words. They claim that we’re saying something that we really wasn’t saying…..at all. They cry straw man. They claim that we’re misrepresenting Calvinism, and that we’re related to the Devil, himself, for doing so. It’s just exhausting.

              But, you have handled yourself well, and I appreciate it.

              David

        Johnathan Pritchett

        “It’s much more helpful to actually explain your opponents’ position in a way that at least somewhat resembles the way they themselves would express it, and I would have expected one who boasts of his extensive debate experience to understand that.”

        No. It is much more helpful to form an analogy, given the way the opponents explain their position, and then say, “well, this sounds a lot like that.” These things aren’t tested in the muddled middle. The cash value of Calvinism/Compatiblism fits that analogy.

        Justin, that you don’t like it is completely irrelevant. There was no strawman, but you certainly are committing ad honenim.

        “Here’s a major flaw in the analogy: it completely ignores sin. Michelle not loving Tom has nothing to do with a sin nature that ‘has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.’ And Tom’s magic potion forces Michelle to love Tom, but that is nothing like loving God.”

        Right, it is an analogy, but we can put it together. Tom (God) wants to love (save) Michelle. Michelle (sinners) don’t love back and can’t possibly love back even if they wanted to. Hence Tom (God) gives a love potion (irresistible grace) and Michelle’s wants and desires change. Hence, Tom (God) determines what Michelle’s wants are, which is Tom (God).

        Analogy fits. Again, you may not like it, but that is irrelevant.

        But, interestingly, you bring up some bogus notion that Braxton has ignored the sinful nature. Wrong. This makes your position worse, not better. Backing up the analogy further. Tom (God) has decided for Michelle and several other women that they would hate him by giving them a self-loathing potion (sinful nature) that would cause them to destroy themselves (determined Michelle and the others to sin and reject him), and then determined to pick Michelle, who Tom previously determined would not love him, to receive the love potion that makes her love him, and passes over the rest and they continue destroying themselves since they didn’t love Tom, even though he is the reason why they hated him in the first place.

        With libertarian free-will, God is not the author of sin, and yet still the author of salvation (since God decided to save believers) .

        On compatiblism (determinism), God is the author of all sin and evil, and ZERO amount of windbagging sophistry about secondary causation theory and schizophrenic two-will theories can shore up that charge, which is why we still charge it against Calvinism.

        On Calvinism, people are sinners by decree, not nature. On Calvinism, people are saved by decree, not Christ.

        “Your likening the Calvinistic God to a date-rapist is no different than Richard Dawkins’ atheistic argument that the Christian God is a cosmic child abuser.”

        Well, perhaps so, and Apologists for Christianity respond to the charges, not whine about the rhetoric. Likewise, Calvinists need to respond to the charges, not whine about the rhetoric. This is debate.

        “Neither is helpful, but they are merely inflammatory rhetorical devices unfit for respectful debate.”

        Wrong and wrong. First, debate is about rhetoric. Second, far from being unfit, it puts matters in perspective and brings clarity to the issues real quick and cuts out all the dancing around. God either is this, or He is not.

        Contrary to other whiny Christians, I applaud Dawkins for putting it in those stark terms. Truth must be tested at the fringes, not in dainty, safe abstractions that clutter up rather than cut to the center of it. If we Christians can not respond intelligently, Dawkins is right.

        Hence, we contend for the faith against Dawkins. But there is no sense in whining that his unflattering rhetoric raises issues, in a highly colorful and critical fashion, those things in the OT most Evangelicals would rather never talk about or read in Sunday School, or preach from pulpits anyway. I wrote a blog article thanking him for comments like, since it forces pansy Christians in America to wake up from the cushy slumber and defend the faith.

        In any case, if Calvinists can’t respond intelligently to these charges against it, however they are crafted, Braxton is probably right.

        Theological platitudes, bomfoggery, sophistry, and poetic-waxing nonsense won’t get it down for Calvinism. So please, pipe down the pseudo-piety and get some big boy pants on.

          Justin

          Well…thanks so much for clearing all that up. I had no idea that my “windbagging sophistry,” “bomfoggery,” “poetic-waxing nonsense,” and “pseudo-piety” were such a problem. You’ve just given us all a wonderful demonstration of the heart of anti-Calvinism. I certainly hope the good doctor will respond to that tone of yours, as he claims to be so concerned about it.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            You are welcome.

            Since you can’t refute the challenges, you attack the people with whining. I didn’t accuse YOU of windbagging sophistry. I couldn’t, because you didn’t engage in it because that would have meant responding to Dr. Hunter’s and my comments directly. All interaction to the actual arguments we present ultimately come down to sindbagging sophistry, poetic-waxing nonsense, and bomfoggery from Calvinists.

            It is just you have now encountered a chap who doesn’t mind saying it out loud. ;)

            But, feel free to prove me wrong, that you have responses to our content that won’t devolve into windbagging sophistry, poetic-waxing nonsense, and bomfoggery like we have long grown accustomed to hearing.

            On the other hand, I DID accuse YOU of pseudo-piety in this feux-outrage you display here in this comment thread towards Dr. Hunter.

            I don’t buy it at all, BUT if it was/is actual outrage, that is even more pathetic, not less. Either way, again, I will refer to the aforementioned big boy pants.

              Justin

              I hope and pray that you are not a pastor. I’m not arguing with you, not because there aren’t good arguments, but because you’re blind to them. Every so-called argument you made in response to me amounts to, “Uh-uh! You’re wrong and stupid!!” Just because you say something doesn’t make it true, and the loudest and brashest voice is often covering for empty arguments.

                Johnathan Pritchett

                Here is your problem, Justin.

                Your opening post, and every subsequent post has been attack people, not the arguments they present.

                You are right, you are not arguing with me, since you never presented any arguments at all. Just ad hominem drivel.

                Every argument I made to you went unaddressed.

                Now you make another assertion: “Every so-called argument you made in response to me amounts to, ‘Uh-uh! You’re wrong and stupid!!’”

                Back that assertion up. Which one of my arguments amount to that and why?

                That is the heart of my criticism. We welcome arguments and counterarguments. You started in with whining at Dr. hunter, and for some reason, continued under the delusion that this will be a winning strategy for you (it isn’t).

                This comment stream tells the story that you attack people, not their argument.

                Well, challenge/riposte brings ripostes to your challenges. Since you prefer whining about people rather than countering their arguments, that’s what you get.

                You created this, no sense in being hypocritical now and now start complaining about the pee you put in the pool.

                “Just because you say something doesn’t make it true,”

                No, I say things because they are true. Big difference. Though, you are most welcome to demonstrate they are not.

                “and the loudest and brashest voice is often covering for empty arguments.”

                Another assertion. You comment about supposed brashness and loudness and still refuse to counter ANYTHING, and stick with the strategy of whining about people.

                Prove I am blind to these secret arguments to defend your position. Present them. We’ve been waiting. Prove they are good arguments. I would rather talk about that than talk about your whining about the way I talk.

                But, aside from my supposed “empty arguments” you won’t even engage, your so-called “good arguments” are the actually the empty ones because they are non-existent with you forgoing them to engage in whining and ad hominem.

                But, speaking of empty, all the evidence of this comment thread is that YOU are the one who is empty here.

Bill Mac

Sorry to keep coming back to this, but Dr. Hunter clearly states that his understanding of LFW is that people can make choices apart from their desires. Since he rejects compatibilism, which says that man has no control over his desires, I assume that he means that people with LFW have the ability to change their desires, and to make choices completely contrary to their desires. Can someone give an example? Let’s forget divine determinism for a moment. Can someone give me an example of a choice that isn’t determined by a person’s desires?

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Sure.

    For some reason, Calvinists think they have a winner here with that question. However:

    “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7:19 (and 7:20ff just makes it worse, not better, for the determinist Calvinist philosopher)

    No amount of sophistry can rework that to mean something other than it plainly says.

    Sophestry = “Yeah, but the ‘I’ really wanted to do the evil or the ‘I’ wouldn’t have” despite the fact that the text doesn’t suggest, imply, of infer anything of that sort.

    Another example is my diet and exercise. No, I do not “secretly somehow” really and more greatly desire to diet and exercise more than eating lots of junk food.

    Leave it to dry as dust philosophical windbags to totally not understand will. desire(s) and their relationship to volition.

    Common sense folk philosophy knows this whole notion of “always do according to greatest desire” is patently false. People make choices (acts of volition) all the time that are not in accordance with their greatest desires (or their preferences, or some trump card expediency desire, or whatever other goofy rebuttal one may wish to make). It is almost like people who assert that have never talked to real people. Desires can influence, but not determine.

    Anyway, we can just stick to my first argument, which is that the Bible says so…so that’s enough. No burden for the LFW folks on that one.

      Bill Mac

      If you are dieting, then you have a reason. There is something you desire (better health, weight loss, whatever) more than stuffing yourself.

      Leave it to dry as dust philosophical windbags

      Thanks for a crystal clear example of why we talk past each other.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        That is talking past one another. That is a comment about philosophical windbags who try to weasel out of obvious statements. People shouldn’t fall for it, and windbags should be called on it when they try. I never said Bill Mac is a philosophical windbag.

        Anyway, sure, people commit acts of volition (and not others) for various reasons (plural). That isn’t the point of contention.

        The (bare) assertion is that they do so according to their greatest desire, not simply a reason or desire. Big difference. It is that which I refute. It is a question begging assertion that people “really” desire one thing “more” than another. I actually desire more to stuff myself than I desire to diet, and asserting some philosophical question begging assertion to contradict phenomenological experience is a kin to Darwinists telling Creationists that the design clearly seen in nature really isn’t design… There is a reason the majority of believers reject that kind of nonsense too.

        And, of course, the Bible passage is still hanging there…so there’s that. Where does it say the “I” actually desires more to do the evil he does not want to do?

        Answer: Nowhere… To suggest otherwise is reading into, nay, adding to the text that which is not there, and in fact, speaks opposite to what is intended to be communicated…namely, the “I” doesn’t do what the “I” wants to do.

    Robert

    Bill Mac I believe that you have created an unnecessary false dilemma and are now riding hard on a confusion that you have created yourself. A false dilemma occurs when a person presents two options for consideration as if they are the only good or real option to be considered.

    The false dilemma you have created is manifested in the following words that you wrote:

    “Sorry to keep coming back to this, but Dr. Hunter clearly states that his understanding of LFW is that people can make choices apart from their desires.”

    Bill it seems that you are presenting two alternatives: (1) compatibilism (i.e. people’s choices are based upon their desires, their desires determine their choices) or (2) LFW means “that people can make choices apart from their desires”.

    Bill it seems to me that your error is in how you frame LFW (according to you it means “that people can make choices apart from their desires”.

    Go back to my restaurant example. I am given a menu and two of the available options are prime rib (which I love) and steak (which I also love)! :-) There are also other options as well that I love but for the sake of illustration and to make it easier say there are only two options on that menu that I love. Well I love prime rib so I have a desire for that, but I also love steak so I have a desire for that. If I did not love prime rib or steak I probably would not want to choose either one (who goes to a restaurant and pays hard earned money for some food they cannot stand?). I also hold to the reality of LFW. So when I choose prime rib or I choose steak my desires are most definitely involved in this choice.
    So it is false to say that LFW means “that people can make choices apart from their desires.”

    On the other hand what does compatibilism maintain: that our choices are DETERMINED by our desires. Whatever desire is “strongest” according to Johnathan Edwards is the one that will determine what choice you make (in Edwards’ theology our desires determine our actions/choices). Well a proponent of LFW rejects that our desires determine our choices.

    But, and here is the key, does rejecting that our desires determine our choices (i.e. rejecting compatibilism, rejecting determinism) mean that a proponent of LFW also believes that our desires are uninvolved in our choices?

    No.

    That is your false dilemma Bill, you are claiming that the two options are determinism (where our desires determine our choices) or LFW (which you present as meaning that our choices “are made apart from our desires.” But you leave out a third option, which as far as I know, is the one actually held by proponents of LFW.

    The third option is that (3) our desires are involved in our making of choices but DO NOT DETERMINE our choices.

    At that restaurant my desires are most definitely involved when I choose either prime rib or steak! But my desires do not determine my choice: I do.

    My desires are not some kind of entity within my mind that force poor ole me to choose what I choose. My desires do not force me to choose the prime rib rather than the steak (and vice versa). That is one of the major problems with Edwards, he treated human persons as if they were mechanisms, as if their desires forced them to make their choices, like clockwork, like a machine. But we are not machines we are conscious persons who choose our choices based upon reasons. We think about alternative options, weigh them, and deliberate as to why we should pick one and not the other.

    Back to the restaurant. Perhaps I am considering the steak and prime rib and notice that the Steak is the special of the day so it is half price. Well that is a good reason to choose the steak. On the other hand, a friend who goes to this restaurant a lot (it is my first time) tells me that the prime rib is much better than the steak. So that is a good reason to choose the prime rib. Other reasons may be involved as well. When I choose I choose what I want (so a desire is involved) and I do so for reasons. My choice is not haphazard or irrational it is actually very rational. Say I end up deciding on the prime rib. My desire for prime rib did not determine my choice. Rather, me, the personal agent, determined which choice I would make. Did I make my choice in consideration of my desires?

    Sure, but there are no such things as “desires” that act as causal entities which force us to make our choices.
    Rather, we, the person, make those choices for reasons. And you may not like my reasons at all, it does not matter. When a terrorist sets up a roadside bomb he desires to attack the US with his action. I don’t share that desire with him and yet I understand why he is doing what he is doing with that bomb. His desire and action may be evil but it is not irrational, it is done for reasons. Again most of us know this, that is why we often ask others “Why did you do it?” We know they make their choices for reasons and we figure if we know the reasons then we can understand why they did what they did.

    “Since he rejects compatibilism, which says that man has no control over his desires, I assume that he means that people with LFW have the ability to change their desires, and to make choices completely contrary to their desires.”

    And who makes choices “completely contrary to their desires”???

    Not myself or the other proponents of LFW that I know. We all make choices where our desires are involved.

    But that is just it, our desires are involved in our choices, THEY JUST DON’T DETERMINE OUR CHOICES.

    “Can someone give an example?”

    No need to, because when we make choices our desires are most definitely involved.

    “Let’s forget divine determinism for a moment. Can someone give me an example of a choice that isn’t determined by a person’s desires?”

    Easy, my choice of prime rib at that restaurant is an example of “a choice that isn’t determined by” my desires. My desires are involved, and they are involved when I deliberate about my options and then choose the prime rib (and they are also involved if I had chosen the steak instead).

    But saying ***they are involved*** is not at all the same as saying what determinists claim: that ***our desires determine our choices***.

    I determine my choices when I freely make choices: it is not my desires that make my choices nor do my desires determine or necessitate which particular choices I make. Edwards the theological determinist argued that our “strongest desire” forces us to make the choice (and how did he define the “strongest desire”: it is the desire that we act upon, that is actually vacuous and practically useless as the real question is why is that desire the one you act upon rather than the other desire?).

    What he missed is that our desires are not entities that cause our choices, we are not mechanisms in which our desires dictate and force our choices.

    The reason that my choice of prime rib trumps the alternative option of choosing steak is because ****I**** choose which desire I am going to act upon. Again we all know this from direct personal experience, we may have conflicting motives about something, what determines which motive or desire that we act upon? We do. We choose which option will be our choice and which option will not be.

    Our language reflects these simple realities as well. If we were considering the crimes committed by an inmate we would not ask: “Ok, so which desires forced you to commit crime X?”

    Instead we would ask: “Why did ***you*** do it?” And part of the criminality attached to their actions is that they chose to act upon an evil desire when they committed the criminal action rather than another desire which would have led them to have done otherwise. For example, Joe acted upon his desire to attack the other gang when he pulled the trigger, when he also had a desire not to pull the trigger. We find Joe guilty and he is blamed because while he could have chosen not to pull the trigger instead he chose to pull the trigger.

    Robert

Robert

Bill Mac,

You wrote:

“Well, not all Calvinists (or Calvinistic people) are determinists.”

Actually all who are consistent Calvinists *are* determinists (i.e. a consistent Calvinist is one who believes as the Westminster confession that “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass” put in plain twentieth century language a consistent Calvinist believes that God predestines every event that comprises history).

Speaking of “determinists” Bill Mac how do you define “determinism”? Perhaps we are talking past each other because you are operating from a different definition of determinism than I am.

“I believe we have free will in so far as our nature allows.”

And what does that mean?

“Our nature” is not an active entity in the world that causes things to occur.

“You are right that LFW is the opposite of determinism,”

So does that mean those who believe in LFW believe in free will and those who believe the opposite do not??? :-)

“ but many advocates of LFW state that under LFW, our decisions are not just free of divine determinism (which is what people here seem to think LFW is) but also free of physical and metaphysical determinism (ie: nature and desires).”

I talked about this mistake in another post (i.e. our desires are involved in our choices but do not determine them).

“The bottom line is: we will always act according to our desires, and our desires are shaped by our nature.”

We act and our desires are involved, but our desires do not cause our choices (talked about this in the other post as well).

And what does it mean to say: “our desires are shaped by our nature?”

Just exactly how does that happen? Sounds like you believe that our nature determines our desires and then our desires determine our choices. Nice imaginary causal chain there!

Sadly there is no such thing as a “nature” that determines what desires we will have, nor is there some entities called “desires” that determine our choices. This all sounds quite philosophical and theological (and it is popular among Calvinists). But this talk of “nature” and “desires” acts as if these are ***actual entities*** in the world causing things to occur or not occur. The reality is that there are no such entities, no such forces in the world or in our minds or anywhere else. “Natures” and “desires” have no causal force at all.

Speaking of our natures is providing a description of our capacities (but this description is not a reference to a causal force that causes things to occur). Likewise, speaking of our desires is providing a description of what we **want**. But these “wants” are not a reference to actual causal forces that cause things to occur.

I may have a **desire** for food, but that want does not cause my actions. Some have freely chosen to abstain from food in order to make a point politically. Or we may just choose not to act on our desire for food by waiting until later to eat. Or we may instead of satisfying our desire for food with a full lunch or dinner, just choose to have a snack like a banana. The point is that we make choices all the time and our choices involve our desires but are not determined or caused by them. If you want to know why someone makes a choice better to look at their reasons for making a choice rather than their desires.

Robert

    Bill Mac

    Robert: Let me first say that I appreciate your engaging my arguments here rather than just insulting me. I haven’t commented on SBCToday in ages, but this topic was interesting to me, and I began commenting to try to learn more about the perspective being offered here. Obviously I’ve got my own views that I’m not afraid to articulate, but I didn’t come on here just to try to win an argument, or attempt to make someone look foolish.

    Some have freely chosen to abstain from food in order to make a point politically

    So in this case it would seem that the desire to make a political point is, for the moment, greater than the desire to eat. I see your points, but I don’t think they are logical. I don’t like brussel sprouts. I am free to eat them, but I am not free to like them. In that case I certainly am acting against one desire, but I may have another. Perhaps I’m eating it to make a point, or because it’s healthy, or because I lost a bet. Most people have a strong desire to live, but they may have a stronger desire to save someone else’s life. Even when it comes to sin, we are perfectly capable of desiring and at the same time not desiring sin. Our nature and our desires are complex and often competing.

    Back to my original point: It seems that the inevitability and necessity of people becoming sinners suggests that LFW is not completely true, even if exhaustive determinism isn’t true either.

    For what it’s worth, I can live with being an inconsistent Calvinist. I’m not a determinist, but I don’t believe our nature, desires, or wills are inviolate to God. I don’t think exhaustive determinism of all things is necessary, but I think God is free to determine whatever He wants.
    Thanks

      Robert

      You quoted one line of what I had said and then wrote:

      “Some have freely chosen to abstain from food in order to make a point politically
      So in this case it would seem that the desire to make a political point is, for the moment, greater than the desire to eat. I see your points, but I don’t think they are logical.”

      I believe that all of my points have been logical, it is just that you don’t want to accept them! :-) Which is fine, that is your choice. :-) And a choice I fully expected you to make (you have to hold onto to your Calvinism despite the facts). You have brought up multiple misrepresentations of LFW which I have refuted and you have no answers for these refutations. So the issue here is not logic but prejudice, you are biased in favor of Calvinism and all facts that contradict it will be reinterpreted or ignored. I noted that each time you brought up some problem I addressed it and then you just went to some other problem (cf. reminds me of when we deal with skeptics of the Bible, they bring up one alleged problem or “contradiction” we deal with it, and then they just bring up another one, we deal with that, and it just keeps going, they are arguing in line with their prejudice against the Bible).

      But I want to make an important point here that your statement here brings up.

      You talk about the “desire to make a political point” being “greater than the desire to eat”. That is not quite accurate. When we are reasoning about a choice that we are going to make, we always do so in light of what is important to us, what we value. We compare our values when it comes to a choice between two alternatives. We think about our values and then tie them in with what we want to do/our desires. The person who “desires to make a political point” first had the value of being a witness to their political views. They then decided that abstaining from food was a way of showing their allegiance to their values. When we go out to dinner differing values are present in our thinking: one value is saving money (so we look for specials and discounts); another could be friendship (we know the owner or people who work there) another could be spending quality time with our spouse, etc. We form our desires in line with what we value (except for basic physical needs like food, water and sleep where our desires are formed from physical realities and our value system).

      Often when someone is faced with a decision between two alternatives it is not their desires that determine their choice it is their values that influence how they choose. What do they value more in this situation? The person with certain values in regards to their political views may consider that more important than the need for food. So it was not the desire for food versus the desire for witnessing to their political views: rather, they valued their political views more than their need for food. Many times when we are thinking about a choice, we think about and consider our values and our final decision is based not on our desires driving us but our values. And we then desire what we desire based upon our values.

      “I don’t like brussel sprouts. I am free to eat them, but I am not free to like them. In that case I certainly am acting against one desire, but I may have another. Perhaps I’m eating it to make a point, or because it’s healthy, or because I lost a bet.”

      Notice here Bill that in your discussion of our choosing in your last line here you make reference to choosing in light of our values (“Perhaps I’m eating it to make a point”= whenever we are “making a point” you can be sure one our values is being considered: “or because it’s healthy” = another reference to a value, many people value being healthy so they make their choices or at least try to, in light of their value of being healthy; even “or because I lost a bet” is pointing to a value, that we want to pay our debts, fulfill our obligations).

      “Most people have a strong desire to live, but they may have a stronger desire to save someone else’s life.”

      Again this is pointing to two competing values. One is the desire to continue to live the other is to “save someone else’s life” because one of our values is preserving the lives of others.

      “Even when it comes to sin, we are perfectly capable of desiring and at the same time not desiring sin. Our nature and our desires are complex and often competing.”

      Actually it is more accurate to say not that our desires compete with one another but that our values do (e.g. should we obey man = the value of civil obedience to governing authority, or should we obey God = the value of obedience to God). One of the constant themes in the NT is are we going to live in light of the values of the world system or in light of the values of the Kingdom of God?

      “Back to my original point: It seems that the inevitability and necessity of people becoming sinners suggests that LFW is not completely true, even if exhaustive determinism isn’t true either.”

      I think you are wrong here. People sinning is not by necessity. With Adam and Eve they freely chose to sin and they did not even have a sin nature! In our case as with theirs, we sin by choice not necessity. That is why sin is blameworthy, because you made the wrong choice and you should have and could have made the other choice. And your claim here that LFW “is not completely true” is ambiguous. LFW most definitely is real and we all experience it daily (every time that we have and make a choice in which there were two different available and accessible choices). But LFW is not an end it is a means to an end. The ultimate reason that God created us with the capacity for LFW, with the capacity to have and make our own choices was so that we could choose to worship him, choose to love him, choose to obey him, choose to glorify him.

      “I’m not a determinist, but I don’t believe our nature, desires, or wills are inviolate to God.”

      What does that mean? If you mean that God is sovereign and can intervene in anything, then anyone who believes that God is sovereign and does as He pleases believes that.

      “I don’t think exhaustive determinism of all things is necessary,”

      It is for consistent Calvinism. Check out the quotes from Vincent Cheung above he is the perfect illustration of someone who **is** a consistent Calvinist, who believes that God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass.

      “but I think God is free to determine whatever He wants.”

      And does that include that God is free to create human persons who experience LFW?

      Does that include that God is free to provide an atonement through Jesus for the whole world not just a preselected few?

      Does that include that he is free to determine a plan of salvation in which not everyone is saved and yet those who are saved freely choose to trust Him and follow him?

      Robert

        Bill Mac

        Hi Robert,
        I don’t disagree with you about values. We have competing desires based on competition between physical needs, instinct, values, etc. In the end, we do what we want, even if there are other, competing wants that are suppressed, at least for the moment. I’m not sure we are on different pages here.

        “People sinning is not by necessity” I have a harder time with this one. I agree about Adam and Eve, but what about their progeny? People are not sinning against their will, but it would seem that every single person in the history of the planet, except for Christ, has exercised that will to sin. You brought up values, rightly so. A person’s nature, and values, and desires lead them to sin. Every single one. A person is not able to choose not to sin, every single time. At least no one has yet.

        Seriously, even though I’m a Calvinist, I’m deliberately trying not to come here to defend Calvinism. That is an exercise in futility, especially on this site. I’m trying to understand what people mean by LFW. The definition is not consistent among its adherents.

        “What does that mean? If you mean that God is sovereign and can intervene in anything, then anyone who believes that God is sovereign and does as He pleases believes that.” Is that true? I’m pretty sure that there are people who believe that God would never interfere with a person’s will.

        “It is for consistent Calvinism. Check out the quotes from Vincent Cheung above he is the perfect illustration of someone who **is** a consistent Calvinist, who believes that God does ordain whatsoever comes to pass.” I don’t care about being consistent. I don’t like someone else telling me what I have to believe. I don’t believe in inherited guilt, as an example.

        “And does that include that God is free to create human persons who experience LFW?
        Does that include that God is free to provide an atonement through Jesus for the whole world not just a preselected few?
        Does that include that he is free to determine a plan of salvation in which not everyone is saved and yet those who are saved freely choose to trust Him and follow him?”

        Of course.

Lydia

“Contrary to other whiny Christians, I applaud Dawkins for putting it in those stark terms. Truth must be tested at the fringes, not in dainty, safe abstractions that clutter up rather than cut to the center of it. If we Christians can not respond intelligently, Dawkins is right.

Hence, we contend for the faith against Dawkins. But there is no sense in whining that his unflattering rhetoric raises issues, in a highly colorful and critical fashion, those things in the OT most Evangelicals would rather never talk about or read in Sunday School, or preach from pulpits anyway. I wrote a blog article thanking him for comments like, since it forces pansy Christians in America to wake up from the cushy slumber and defend the faith. ”

Amen! Let us eat our Wheaties.

btw: I can remember looking up compatiblism the first time I heard it used in conjunction with a discussion on free will. I was flabbergasted that people actually believe it. I still am.

Duane

Something that seems to be getting lost in all of this discussion is that the Scriptures speak directly to this issue. The Bible advises us that none are without sin. If the Bible informs us that none go through this life without sinning, then we can be sure that none reach the finish line without having sinned (Rom. 3:23). The Bible also indicates that no one, left to his or her own devices, would seek after God (Rom. 3:11). What the Bible does not say, however, is that our inability to go through life without sinning at least once also extends to an inability to make Lot’s choice between life and sure destruction – a concept which both Calvinists and Arminians fail to grasp. In other words, there is nothing in Scripture that indicated man is incapable of responding to God as He draws us through the revelation of creation (Rom. 1:20), through the conviction of His moral law, written on the heart of every man (not just some few elect) (Rom. 2:15), and through the power of the written and spoken Word (Rom. 1:16, 10:14-17, Heb. 4:12).

Furthermore, the question of whether or not a person can live without sinning under the Law is irrelevant with respect to salvation. Let me say that again: the question of whether or not a person can go through this life without sinning under the Law is IRRELEVANT with respect to salvation. Why? Man is not condemned on the basis of sins committed under the Law, for which Christ offered sure and complete atonement, but on the basis of his rejection of the one and only Son of God (1 John 2:2, John 3:18-19). Conversely, no man has ever been or ever will be saved by the Law – only condemned. Since the fall, man has always been saved by grace, through faith (Rom. 3:28, 4:1-5, All of Galatians).

The Scriptures are crystal clear on this issue. The only way to muddy them is to invent the idea of God having a “secret will” that is separate from (and in conflict with – there is no way to deny this without altering the meaning of words away from their common understanding) His express will as revealed to us in Scripture – an attribute that we should be hesitant to ascribe to the Almighty – especially in view of the fact that Satan’s strategy from the very beginning has been to question whether God said what He said, and then to question whether God actually meant what He said.

Gerald

Let’s go back to the original question from Bill Mac, “Wouldn’t libertarian free-will mean that unbelievers are free to not sin?” The answer is NO. Why? Because an unbeliever is already in sin because an unbeliever has already broken at least one of first four commandments, which are as follows;

“3 “You shall have no other gods [b]before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself [c]an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not [d]leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who [e]stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

You may ask “how can this be?” the answer is “the unbeliever has made himself his own god”. See Romans 1:18-23 NASB: “18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth [a]in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident [b]within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not [c]honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and [d]crawling creatures.”

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