Why Free Will Instead of Determinism?

September 22, 2015

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
Follow @soteriology101 on Twitter HERE.
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I am a dog lover. I have always had a dog since the day I was born. I cannot imagine living life without having the faithful, unconditional love of a cute, cuddly canine.  I’m sorry all you cat lovers out there, for me there is no better pet in the world than a good dog!

Unlike cats, who could not care less about the people in their home unless a can opener is involved, dogs will drown you with praise if you return home after being away for 3 months or 3 minutes. Videos of dogs welcoming soldiers home flood the internet, but can someone direct me to a cat who would ever behave like the dog below when his owner returns home from protecting our country?

A couple of year ago I had to take our families beloved schnauzer, Rudy, to the vet and have him put to sleep for health reasons. He brought over 15 years of joy to our lives. It was a very difficult day. But it wasn’t long until we brought home a brand-new white schnauzer puppy (Summer) who has become a beloved part of our family.

While there is really no comparison between a pet and a human being, I do believe there are lessons to be learned. Why would we choose to adopt another puppy into our family knowing beforehand that she would mess on our carpet, chew up our valuables, bark at inappropriate times, and eventually bring back the grief of burying another pet? It is no surprise that a pet will be destructive to the home, loud at times, and inevitably cause grief upon her death. We know that for a certainty before ever beginning the adventure, don’t we? Yet we choose to get a puppy anyway. We could get a stuffed animal that looked just like a real puppy and put him by the fireplace for us to gaze upon and pat on the head as we pass by. So why don’t we? Why do we choose to purchase a puppy when we cannot control it’s every move? Why do we make an investment in owning a dog when we know full well that one day we will be grieved by her passing?

I believe the answer to this question helps us, in our finite limited capacities, to understand some of the motivation behind God’s creation of this world with free moral creatures. It’s like CS Lewis has so eloquently explained:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.” – C. S. Lewis

A toy stuffed animal can be controlled and manipulated to go only where we want it to go and do what we want it to do. It never makes messes or does anything outside our will. So, why do we choose the real puppy? More than that, but along those same lines, why do we choose to have children?

Before having children parents are typically very aware of the cost, trouble and grief that will most certainly come. Yet, many still choose to have children. Why? What drives us to take such a difficult path in our lives when other options are obviously available?  The simple answer…

Love.

To some theologically minded intellects this word can easily be passed by as pure emotionalism. Granted, this word has been so abused by humanity that it is understandable for people to grow skeptical of its usage. All kinds of gross teachings and practices have been excused under the banner of love. We love our cars, our houses, and even our hamburgers, but also express our feelings towards God and family with the use of this exact same term. For many the word has lost its meaning and I believe that devastates the right understanding of God’s nature, which undoubtedly is at its very core, LOVE (1 Jn 4:8).
The scripture is replete with examples of God’s loving character. The Bible also teaches that “love does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13). But, isn’t God seeking His own? Are we not taught that God is seeking to glorify Himself? Is this a contradiction? No. God is love and He is glorifying Himself. He is not glorifying Himself at the expense of His creation, however.  He is glorifying Himself at the expense of Himself for the sake of His creation. That is what LOVE is, after all!

There is a Christian couple in my church who recently traveled to Russia in order to adopt two baby girls.  Would anyone describe them as “seeking their own” because they chose to adopt two orphaned Russian girls?  They are about to experience a world with a lot more work and self sacrifice in order to care for these children, not to mention the financial investment. These girls will undoubtedly make messes, and cause grief.

But, every parent reading this blog also knows that these girls will make life exciting and bring inexpressible joy. So, in one way you could argue that the parents are “seeking their own” in that they are seeking to love and be loved. And there is joy in that. There is excitement in that. “It is a risk worth taking,” as Lewis described.

Because the joy of true love is so overwhelmingly worth it, the pain, grief and trouble that accompanies it seems small in comparison. Someone could have sat down with this couple before making their trip to Russia and explained to them in detail all about the sleepless nights, the arguments, the messes, and made them fully aware of all the potential grief to come, but we all know that would not have stopped them. They are going to choose love even with all the risks.

It is in giving that we receive. It is in loving that we experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. In a sense, loving is seeking it’s own because it’s in loving that we truly experience life that’s worth living. Love is giving of oneself for the sake of another, yet in doing so it is the most self-fulling, self-gratifying act anyone can possibly experience.

I suppose that for God to create a world with free moral creatures, who will cause trouble and make messes, is “self-seeking” in that God is experiencing the joy, pleasure and even pain of true love. I’m not sure we can fully understand how that works within the infinite, “omni-everything” attributes of our Holy God.  I do understand, however, why He might choose to create a world with free people rather than a world with toys. I understand because I would choose the puppy over the stuffed animal. I would choose to have a child over enjoying the carefree married life without the worry of kids. It’s a risk worth taking. It’s love.

For more on the inconsistencies of Theistic determinism CLICK HERE.

———-bonus material————-

I could stop there, and maybe I should, but I just finished listening to Dr. Jerry Walls presentation titled, “What’s Wrong with Calvinism?” In this presentation (at the 57:45 mark), Dr. Walls argues,

In a nutshell, our case against Calvinism is that it doesn’t do justice to the character of God revealed in Scripture. It does not accurately portray the holy One who is ‘compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love’ (Ps. 103:8), the God for whom love is not merely an option or sovereign choice, but who is such that his eternal nature is love (1 Jn 4:8).”

Walls goes on to make a case that God’s very nature is love therefore it is not even an option for Him to “not love His creation.”  For example, we would be repulsed by someone who breeds puppies for the purpose of torturing any of them.  Likewise, we would consider it evil for a father or mother to hate any of their own children who they chose to conceive. And, in the same way, it would appear to be evil for God to hate those who He chose to create. Walls argues,

“God cannot fail to be perfectly loving any more so than He can lie. You don’t have to have children, but if you do you take on an obligation to love them. God’s freedom was in the freedom to create, or not. He didn’t have to create. But once having created, as a necessarily good and loving Being, He cannot but love what He has created. Love is not an option with God…It’s not a question of whether or not God chooses to love, it is WHO HE IS…HE IS LOVE.”

This is not a weakness of God, Walls insists, but His greatest and most self-glorifying strength. Would you consider it a strength or a weakness that my character will not allow me to be cruel to my pets?  Is it a weakness that I am unable to willingly strangle one of my own children to death, as Walls argues? No! That is a strength! God’s inability to be unloving is not a short coming of God’s strength and power, but the greatest most glorifying characteristic of His eternal nature!  To declare God’s universal self-sacrificial love to the entire world reveals God for what makes Him so abundantly glorious!

Love.

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rhutchin

Pastor Leighton writes, “Why do we choose to purchase a puppy when we cannot control it’s every move? Why do we make an investment in owning a dog when we know full well that one day we will be grieved by her passing?”

We do “try” to control what the puppy does. We train it to stand at the door for bathroom breaks. We put it on a leash when we take it for a walk. We send the puppy to obedience school. None of these things takes away from the puppies free will – the puppy’s will is conformed to our will. Yet, we have determined so many things that the puppy does.

Is that not what God does? Are not sinners restrained by God so that they cannot do the evil they desire. Balaam wanted to curse Israel, but God would not allow it. Nebuchadnezzar had three men thrown into the fiery furnace. God restrains men yet they exercise free will to sin within God’s constraints on their sin.

God confronted Saul on the road to Damascus and Pail was never the same. He still exercised free will, mostly – “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.”

All that happens is God’s determinism – God’s providence – and there is no conflict with free will – only God control over that which people freely choose to do so that people only do that which conforms to God’s plan for their lives and for God’s history to unfold.

Andy

How does the “freedom of will = love” argument work when speaking of the new creation? Most Christians assume that once there, we will no longer have the possibility of sinning. Do you agree? If so, how does it fit with what you have said here?

Or, do you agree with C.S. Lewis’ implications elsewhere that those in hell might still choose heaven, or vice-versa?

    Lydia

    “How does the “freedom of will = love” argument work when speaking of the new creation?”

    This suggests you do not believe we can be “new creatures” here and now.

      Andy

      I don’t really know what you mean, so I can’t reply directly…I was referring to the new heaven and new earth spoken of in scripture…in eternity future…

      You yourself below repeated, “without choice, there is no love,”…so once we are resurrected at the end of the age, will we be able to CHOOSE to disobey God?

        Lydia

        “You yourself below repeated, “without choice, there is no love,”…so once we are resurrected at the end of the age, will we be able to CHOOSE to disobey God?”

        We will be dwelling with God so I think that is a moot point. I think we will have “choices” because I believe we will be on a redeemed earth. When the words “kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of heaven” are used in the Gospels, it is speaking of here on earth not some far off place or time. We are the kingdom of God if we are obeying Him now. Jesus Christ is our model. We are living between the resurrection (new life) and the redeemed earth. What we are and what we DO here will or will not transfer to the New Earth. This totally changes how we view life now. No, we don’t have to live as sinners. No, we don’t have to brag about being sinners. We can choose to live, think, do and be differently. We are not totally perfected but we are told to be”perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect”.

        This is why the concept of imputed guilt is so fatalistic. We need to stop teaching people they cannot help but be wicked though they repent and believe. Yes they can help it. WE are to reflect Jesus Christ back out into the world.

          Andy

          1. What does living on planet earth have to do with having choices? Is free will tied to this planet?

          2. Adam dwelt with God, yet he still sinned, so how is it a moot point? Will we be able, at any time for alln eternity, to reject God and sin again? Or will God remove that possibility from our range of choices?

    Robert

    Andy,

    Apparently you are unaware of the distinction between the capacity for making your own choices and your RANGE OF CHOICES because you ask:

    “How does the “freedom of will = love” argument work when speaking of the new creation? Most Christians assume that once there, we will no longer have the possibility of sinning. Do you agree? If so, how does it fit with what you have said here?”

    This is very similar to when someone (again usually a Calvinist) asks: if we have free will, will we be able to sin in heaven? Or conversely, if we will not sin in heaven does that mean that we do not have free will there?

    These questions try to create a contradiction between having free will and not sinning. They can be dealt with easily by considering the distinction between having the capacity to have and make choices (i.e. the capacity for free will) and an individual’s range of choices (the choices available to them).

    I like to illustrate this distinction by comparing myself with Donald Trump when it comes to buying million dollar properties. Both Trump and I have the capacity for free will, meaning that we both experience having and then making our own choices. But when it comes to our range of choices, when it comes to purchasing million dollar properties, things are very different. A person’s range of choices are those choices available to them considering the circumstances they are in.

    When it comes to purchasing million dollar properties, that choice is not within my range of choices, :-) though it is within Trump’s range of choices. :-) He can buy lots of million dollar properties, I cannot buy any: does it follow from this that he has free will and I do not? No, it only means that in regards to the choice of purchasing million dollar properties, Trump’s range of choices is different than mine.

    The same goes for the believer now versus the believer in heaven and eventually the eternal state. Our circumstances here include that we are not yet perfected, and the world/the flesh/and the devil are constantly pressuring us to give into temptation, to sin, to make the wrong choices. So as believers in this fallen world and condition we will continue to choose to sin at times, sin is still a choice within our range of choices. But in the eternal state we will be perfected (or glorified), we will no longer have the sin nature, the world/the flesh/the devil will have been eliminated AND OUR RANGE OF CHOICES WILL NO LONGER INCLUDE SIN. I am looking forward to this time when we will have choices (i.e. we retain the capacity to have and make our own choices, we have free will as ordinarily understood), but every choice will be a good choice, and sin and its effects will have been completely eliminated. We will still have free will, but our range of choices will not include sin.

    One last illustration of this, consider God before He created the world. He had the capacity to have and make His own choices and yet any world that He would choose would be a good world not an evil world. Because God has free will but with his morally perfect nature He cannot choose evil, cannot choose to sin, so He has free will but his range of choices does not include sinning or making the wrong choice or an evil choice.

      Andy

      Thanks for the reply, but would you say that if God had created the world and given the same limited range of choices we will have in heaven, would it somehow reduce our capacity to love him?

        Lydia

        “Thanks for the reply, but would you say that if God had created the world and given the same limited range of choices we will have in heaven, would it somehow reduce our capacity to love him?”

        If we are dwelling with God, we made our choice. I somehow think we might define love differently, too. In determinism, love is obviously determined as is faith.

        Bill Mac

        Presumably Satan and Adam and Eve were created perfect, without a sin nature (and thus a more limited range of choices than we have) and were able to choose to sin.

          Lydia

          “resumably Satan and Adam and Eve were created perfect, without a sin nature (and thus a more limited range of choices than we have) and were able to choose to sin.”

          That makes it sound like choice is sin.

          Andy

          I’m not sure I see how that makes sense. Adam and Eve would have had a LESS limited range of choices than we have:

          The way I see it:
          1. Adam, Eve, Satan: Able to sin, or not sin.
          2. Fallen human beings with inherited sin nature: Unable to not sin (less choices)
          3. Spirit-indwelt Belivers: Able once again to choose to sin, or not sin.
          4. Eternity, New Heaven & New earth Believers: Unable to sin.

          Now, #2 & #4 seem to LIMIT

          Andy

          OOPS, POSTED BEFORE I WAS FINISHED…MODERATORS CAN DELETE MY LAST HALF-FINISHED POST ABOVE:

          I’m not sure I see how that makes sense. Adam and Eve would have had a LESS limited range of choices than we have:

          The way I see it:
          1. Adam, Eve, Satan: Able to sin, or not sin.
          2. Fallen human beings with inherited sin nature: Unable to not sin (less choices)
          3. Spirit-indwelt Belivers: Able once again to choose to sin, or not sin.
          4. Eternity, New Heaven & New earth Believers: Unable to sin.

          Now, #2 & #4 seem to LIMIT a person’s WILL, and yet both are common beliefs among those who reject calvinism, so I’m wondering what their replies are.

          Bill Mac

          Andy,
          I’m just replying to Robert’s logic. He suggests that our range of choices is more limited once we are perfected and that sin is off the table. I’m just pointing out that we know of at least three perfect beings that chose to sin, so it doesn’t follow. Since Satan and his angels were presumably perfect AND living with God, then that argument doesn’t follow either.

          I see your point about fallen people (unable not to sin) but that only means we are unable to refrain from sin forever. There are times we still choose not to sin, even as unbelievers.

          Robert

          Bill Mac wrote:

          “Presumably Satan and Adam and Eve were created perfect, without a sin nature (and thus a more limited range of choices than we have) and were able to choose to sin.”

          According to Genesis everything that God made was very good (meaning desirable, what God designed each created being to be). I am hesitant to say they were created perfect, because in my thinking only God is perfect. I also believe that both angels and mankind were created with the capacity to have and make their own choices. If a being has that capacity and is not perfect as God is, does not possess a perfect moral nature as God does, I am not sure what it means to say “Presumably Satan and Adam and Eve were created perfect”? True the sin nature comes later after the fall for human persons, but even before the fall, mankind was designed as God desired them to be, but morally perfect? Also wouldn’t being created morally perfect include having a knowledge of good and evil and having a perfect knowledge of good and evil? Put another way, only God has a perfect knowledge of good and evil, humans do not and were never intended to have this attribute. Even in the garden before the fall, Adam and Eve do not have the knowledge of good and evil according to the text so how can you speak of them as being morally perfect?

          I am also not sure that we will be as Adam and Eve were before the fall when we are glorified. Seems to me that humans who are glorified are in a greater state of being than Adam and Eve were before the fall. In the NT glorification seems to involve both being made morally perfect (Adam and Even were not made morally perfect as they did not even have a knowledge of good and evil) and made physically perfect (a body that lasts for eternity). I also believe our direct knowledge of God when we are glorified will be greater than the knowledge of God that Adam and Eve had pre fall.
          Regarding their ability to sin, if they were created mutable and with free will then they could choose to sin. Adam and Eve also faced temptation via the serpent, so it was not like they were innocent and then sinned out of the blue. They were tempted to sin and gave into temptation. But again I would not compare them with what we will be like in the eternal state (when we will be perfected, in the direct presence of God, the world/the devil/the flesh will have been eliminated). It seems that our range of choices in the eternal state will not be the same as their range of choices in the garden. And Bill Mac you seem to be ignoring why our range of choices will be different in the eternal state (i.e. being perfected, the world/the devil/the flesh being eliminated, etc.) from theirs.

          Lastly regarding the concept of range of choices, I think everybody is very familiar with it, whether they have formally stated the concept or not. Just ask parents who value education for their children: why is education so highly valued by so many people? Because many believe that the greater the education the greater the range of choices that will be available to the person/their child down the line. Greater education means more possibilities, more money, more opportunities, and all of this people believe will increase their children’s range of choices. It also works conversely, if you are poor, and lack education this is seen by many as greatly restricting your range of choices.

            Bill Mac

            I think it boils down to the change in nature. If we are talking about our range of choices narrowing, it is in regards to our nature. Satan represents the ultimate in sin nature, and our natures are inclined that way when we are born. So much so that we cannot refrain from sinning (albeit not all the time). When we are saved, our nature inclines toward God, although not so much so that we refrain from sinning (although hopefully less and less as we grow in Christ). I think the heavenly state doesn’t mean we cannot sin (technically), but that sin will be so repugnant to us that it isn’t even on our radar. That may be what you are saying also but it helps me to think of it this way. I think Satan remains a problem in a way different from Adam and Eve. I think it is reasonable to assume he was created with a knowledge of good and evil and did not have a tempter.

            Of course none of this really answers the question. If the heavenly state allows us free will (and thus a capacity to truly love God) and a nature that completely abhors sin, then why not create humans that way to begin with?

            I think there is something more, something beyond our complete understanding. I think to achieve the heavenly state we MUST begin the process of perfection here, for whatever reason. I don’t consider myself a Calvinist anymore, but I still maintain that we are still living in God’s original and perfect plan. I don’t believe for a moment that the incarnation and redemption is a reactive solution to a plan gone wrong. I am going through Hebrews now, and twice (at least) the writer suggests that Christ Himself was made perfect by becoming human and living and dying as he did, so as to be our perfect High Priest. I don’t know what it is, but I think there is something about living here first, with its attendant difficulties, that is important.

              Robert

              Bill Mac,
              I agree with you I do believe the change in our range of choices will have a lot to do with a change in our natures. It seems to me that a glorified/perfected person is in another state than we are today and even in a different state than Adam and Eve were when they were first created. Again, they were innocent and unknowing when it came to morality. With us in our perfected state we will be morally perfect human persons who delight in God and HIs law and do so perfectly, without restriction and without the presence of sin.
              Regarding your question about why didn’t God start with that from the beginning: it appears from multiple scriptures that God has this thing about character (i.e.. he loves to see people develop it through trials, he loves to see people choosing to trust Him regardless of their circumstances, he loves to see people develop godly character, etc.) So it seems that when it comes to the creation and the nature of man God has multiple purposes going on: which include creating people who freely choose to love and trust and obey and worship Him, which includes the development of character through real trials and challenges, etc. He never says his purpose is that people would have an easy life or trial less existence. So he must have multiple purposes connected to these trials and this character development. There may even be purposes connected to trials and character development that we don’t know and may never know.

        Robert

        Andy,

        “Thanks for the reply, but would you say that if God had created the world and given the same limited range of choices we will have in heaven, would it somehow reduce our capacity to love him?”

        I am not convinced that you understood my post. I gave a distinction between having free will, which we all have, and individuals having differing ranges of choices (which sometimes explains why a person cannot make a specific choice). I shared this distinction because it explains how the believer is able to sin now but in the eternal state will retain the capacity for free will but will no longer sin. I gave examples including God himself, and you did not interact with them at all. As if you just dismissed what I said and now move to another question/which is just a way of asking your original question yet again: “but would you say that if God had created the world and given the same limited range of choices we will have in heaven, would it somehow reduce our capacity to love him?”

        God does not give “the same limited range of choices” we will have in heaven: rather in heaven due to major changes in circumstances including our being glorified/perfected, the world/the devil/the flesh being eliminated, our range of choices will be so different as to not include choices to sin.

        Our capacity to love him is predicated on our being capable of choosing to love Him and honor Him above all other gods. This is why idolatry is such a serious sin and so often talked about in the Old Testament: God desired for human persons to be capable of freely choosing to love and worship the true God over and instead of all other gods. But in order to be able to make this genuine choice, you have to have the capacity to have and make your own choices.

        Genuine love is based upon genuine choice, if you have no choice it is not love.

        Even a Calvinist such as you ought to be able to understand this simple concept.

        Ask your wife: if I had to love you and choose you to be my wife, if I had no choice, it was necessitated and completely out of my control, would THAT be exactly the same as if I freely chose to love you, freely chose for you to be my wife? See what she says, see if she sees no difference between being necessitated/determined to love versus freely choosing to love.

        And while you are at it, ask similar questions of your friends, is it the same to say that I had to make you my friend and I had no choice in the matter, as it is to say that I freely chose you to be a friend? Perhaps when these people give you quizzical and strange looks, and look at you as if you are insane, then you might wake up to the reality that genuine love is always freely chosen not determined/necessitated.

        And just as we want people to freely choose to love us, marry us, or be our friends, likewise God wanted human persons who freely chose to love and trust Him and worship Him rather than any other god.

          Andy

          ROBERT: “I am not convinced that you understood my post. I gave a distinction between having free will, which we all have, and individuals having differing ranges of choices (which sometimes explains why a person cannot make a specific choice).”

          **You are somewhat correct that I did not see a full answer to my question in your post, simply because it seems that you are employing a difference in terms (terms that must be defined to show their distinction)… that you would never allow a calvinists to get away with. A Calvinist might say:
          –> God gives people a real will with real choices they are responsible for, knowing that all people will use their free will to reject him, he elects some to give regenerate hearts that effectivly limits their range of choices such that they will certainly choose Salvation.

          ROBERT: “One last illustration of this, consider God before He created the world. He had the capacity to have and make His own choices and yet any world that He would choose would be a good world not an evil world. Because God has free will but with his morally perfect nature He cannot choose evil, cannot choose to sin, so He has free will but his range of choices does not include sinning or making the wrong choice or an evil choice.”

          **And yet, man, being created in God’s image, was given a free will that DID include sinning. Is this what was required for real love? As in this statement: “Genuine love is based upon genuine choice, if you have no choice it is not love.”? How does this fit with the Trinity? Does not the Son love the Father? Did the father give the Son a choice? What about the Holy Spirit? If their free will is intact even without the possible choice of sinning, why is that choice required for human free will?

          ROBERT: “Even a Calvinist such as you ought to be able to understand this simple concept.”

          *First, have I identified myself as a calvinist? If not, may I refer to you going forward as an arminian? Or should I let you decide for yourself if you want to be refered to one or not?
          **Second, I’m confused because a few weeks ago you were warning me away from the Calvinists teachings of Les Prouty as if I was not a calvinist and needed to beware of them. So do you think I am a calvinist or not?
          ***Third, do you believe that Calvinists are, in general, unintelligent people who can only understand the simplest of concepts? :-)

            Robert

            Andy,
            I note first that you completely ignored my point about asking your wife and friends about whether or not love is identical if it is necessitated versus if it is freely chosen.

            Regarding terminology, as I said in another place to Bill Mac, we all understand this notion of increasing or decreasing our range of choices, especially if we are parents and want our kids to have the best possible education. YOu may not like my terminology but people in real life, everday life opeate with this distinction in mind all the time. You wonder how love by human persons compares with love within the trinity: that is a completely unfair comparison because according to scripture God’s nature is love, so He loves by nature and does so perfectly. We humans on the other hand, are not by our very nature loving nor do we love perfectly. For us, we have to choose to love, it does not happen automatically. So it is unfair to compare the love in the trinity with our human love which is always chosen and not automatic. If you find a person who automatically loves and always loves and loves perfectly by nature, you show me, I haven’t seen one yet. Scripture tells us that love is a fruit of the Spirit which means it is not something that automatically flows from us. It is very unfair to compare the love of a perfect being who loves by nature and a human person who is not perfect and loves by choice.

            From your comments you appear to be Calvinist.

            If you want to call me an Arminian I don’t really care. I would say non-Calvinist would be more accurate for me (because I am Baptist and hold to eternal security and many believe that you cannot be Arminian and hold to eternal security). With regard to TULIP, I reject the calvinistic conception of depravity thought I do believe a person cannot come to faith unless they experience the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit (which you can call prevenient grace if you like). I reject unconditional election and favor corporate election instead. I reject limited atonement and affirm unlimited atonement. I reject irresistable grace, the preconversion work of the Spirit can be and often is resisted. I affirm eternal security, a genuinely saved person can never be lost or lose their salvation. So am I an Arminian Andy?
            I was warning you not to be misled by calvinists: but it does not follow that you are not a calvinist! :-)
            I used a figure of speech, this is so simple that anyone can understand it, including a calvinists such as you :-)

            Regarding the intelligence of calvinists, some of the most intelligent people that I know are calvinists, that does not mean they cannot be and are not mistaken. In fact that is one of the saddest things about calvinism: some of the most intelligent people have been taken in, duped, by this false theological system. But intelligence alone is not the most important criteria, we have lots of absolutely brilliant people who actually believe that life arose by accident, completely randomly! They are calleld scientists! :-) I love science but there are some incredibly smart scientists who hold some completely irrational ideas/spontaneous generation/life by accident/all of life and its complexity is all completley unplanned and merely a series of luckly accidents! From my reading and understanding of history the Nazis were brilliant men who used their intelligence to devise and bring about their “final solution” to the Jewish question! Intelligence is a great thing as long as it is used wisely and in a way that pleases Jesus and blesses other people. Are most calvinists intelligent? I would say so. Are they theologically correct? No way! :-)

Lydia

Rhutchin, I am convinced cats are from the Fall. Try determinism with a cat using Humane Society standards and no violence :o) Good luck.

Someone gave me one of those embroidered pillows that says: I just want to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.

Lydia

“All that happens is God’s determinism – God’s providence – and there is no conflict with free will – only God control over that which people freely choose to do so that people only do that which conforms to God’s plan for their lives and for God’s history to unfold.”

What is really scary is that makes sense to you.

Lydia

“I do understand, however, why He might choose to create a world with free people rather than a world with toys.”

Yes. That is because that is where real love resides. Without choice, there is no love. (Unless you are a sociopathic narcissist where deception and coercion are key)

And sadly, in order to deflect from this truth they even tamper with the Trinity and a pecking order therein instead of the real message of unified love.

    Andy

    1. Lydia, could you please explain 1 Corinthians 15:24-28?

    2. Just because one accepts eternal sonship does not make one a sociopath bent on coercion and deception…leadership structure does not require coercion: marriage, church elders, etc…

Lydia

Andy, Are you aware of how a Jew viewed the concept of “son”? I think people tend to forget Paul was a Jew. In John 5:18

“For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. ”

If Jesus Christ was not God in the Flesh, then what was the point? A lessor god went to the cross on orders? Where was Jesus in the OT? Ever think of that? Did the “Word” become flesh?

Take a look at Hebrews 1:3 (because we are looking at ALL scripture, right?) What would “sitting at the right hand” mean to that audience? Also look at 1 Col 15+. And there are plenty more.

Sometimes I think Christians should learn the Shema, too.

    Andy

    1. I don’t think I can name one adult Christian who doesn’t know that Paul was a Jew.

    2. I never said Jesus was not Equal with God, or was not God in the flesh, or was a lesser God, or wasn’t present in the OT…If you find someone who says such things, I hope you set them straight.

    3. I can see you have no response to the fact that 1 Corinthians says at the end of the world, the Son will Still be subject to the Father…

      Lydia

      “2. I never said Jesus was not Equal with God, or was not God in the flesh, or was a lesser God, or wasn’t present in the OT…If you find someone who says such things, I hope you set them straight.”

      They say it in the same way we have heard throughout history in other instances: Separate but equal. Same in essence, different in role (but the roles are eternally subordinate) And so on.

      “I can see you have no response to the fact that 1 Corinthians says at the end of the world, the Son will Still be subject to the Father…”

      And you had no response to the passages I referenced, either. John 5 did not show you that the Jews understood that claiming God as his Father meant he was claiming to be equal with God. Again, Paul was a Jew and he thought like a Jew. A son is equal to the father. Read 1 Corin 15 with that lens. Either that, or Paul thought differently than John? You want me to believe that there is equality in a pecking order. You want to sell me the world’s view. Look at this last bit in 1 Corin 15 v28

      “so that God may be all in all.”

      Now, what does that mean?

        Andy

        Lydia,

        “They say it in the same way we have heard throughout history in other instances: Separate but equal. Same in essence, different in role (but the roles are eternally subordinate) And so on.”

        >Do you not believe the Son has a different role than the Father? Would you try to convince me the 3 persons of the trinity are identical in every way? If so, what distinguishes them?

        “John 5….show you that the Jews understood that claiming God as his Father meant he was claiming to be equal with God.”

        >I agree.

        “Again, Paul was a Jew and he thought like a Jew. A son is equal to the father.”

        >Yes, per John 5, but a son ALSO obeyed his father and respected his wishes. You are taking equal too far here…It is not equal in every way imaginable. He IS NOT his father…They are distinct people, with roles that continue for life.

        “Read 1 Corin 15 with that lens.Either that, or Paul thought differently than John? You want me to believe that there is equality in a pecking order. You want to sell me the world’s view.”

        >I simply want you to deal with texts that support your debate opponents views. If you are going to bring up this topic, you must want to talk about it. Also, I very much doubt “The world” cares about our views of the trinity. In fact, full equality in all ways for all things whatsoever fits more with the current American trends than roles of leadership do.

        “Look at this last bit in 1 Corin 15 v28: “so that God may be all in all.” Now, what does that mean?”

        While I am not remotely qualified to unpack all that God must mean when he says “God may be all in all,” I am not going to insert a chronological linking word that isn’t there. It doesn’t say that Jesus would be in subjection to God, “AND THEN,” AFTER THAT, God may be all in all…as if it’s something different than the preceding verses. It says, the Son himself will be in subjection to the one who put all things under his feet, SO THAT God may be all in all.” God being all in all explained as this state where the son is subject to the Father. As it says a few chapters earlier: “The head of Christ is God.” (Notice “IS” is present tense, written after the ascension, when Jesus had already gone back to heaven. God being all in all is God, having completed his rescue plan and defeated all enemies, even the enemy of death, ruling over all; and enjoying the perfect harmony of relationship with himself as 3 equal yet distinct persons who each fulfill their roles perfectly.

        Thanks for all the replies! I appreciate the chance to discuss these things…It’s no fun when nobody leaves comments!
        -Andy

          Lydia

          “They say it in the same way we have heard throughout history in other instances: Separate but equal. Same in essence, different in role (but the roles are eternally subordinate) And so on.”

          >Do you not believe the Son has a different role than the Father? Would you try to convince me the 3 persons of the trinity are identical in every way? If so, what distinguishes them?”

          Oh, I forgot Orwell. He wrote, “Some animals are more equal than others” in Animal Farm. :o)

          Andy, I encourage you to try not to use the word “role”. That is a part we play. A better word might be function. So as to the above, are you speaking of the Incarnation only or eternity past and future?

          >Yes, per John 5, but a son ALSO obeyed his father and respected his wishes. You are taking equal too far here…It is not equal in every way imaginable. He IS NOT his father…They are distinct people, with roles that continue for life.>

          I am hoping even your parents let you grow up. At some point they might be obeying you! IN the Hebrew mindset, any transaction or message from the son was like dealing with the father directly. You are arguing from a Western perspective.

          ” In fact, full equality in all ways for all things whatsoever fits more with the current American trends than roles of leadership do.”

          Andy, whose leadership model are you referring to? I spent 20 years in corporate training doing leadership, planning, etc. I sat under many a leadership guru. And I will tell you this: My prayer is that every adult believer matures and grows in holiness as they do not have a mediator. And they have same Holy Spirit I do. Now, what “roles” of leadership are you talking about? Titles, functions, modeling? Did you know that many “influencers” have no leadership function that people would recognize?

          And America is going plain old garden variety “oligarchy”. So is the SBC.

          “As it says a few chapters earlier: “The head of Christ is God.” (Notice “IS” is present tense, written after the ascension, when Jesus had already gone back to heaven. God being all in all is God, having completed his rescue plan and defeated all enemies, even the enemy of death, ruling over all; and enjoying the perfect harmony of relationship with himself as 3 equal yet distinct persons who each fulfill their roles perfectly.”

          How are you defining Kepahle here? As an authority pecking order? If so, you have a problem. The highest in the chain was not mentioned first. It is not chronologial as it would normally be in Greek. However, if we believe that God is the source for Christ it makes perfect sense. Just as man is the source for woman.

          And ironically, you can find each person of the Trinity referred to for some of the the same functions. There are several examples but here is one about the resurrection:

          In John 2 and 10 Jesus refers to raising Himself from the dead
          Romans 1 and 8 mentions the Spirit of God who dwells in us raised Him from the dead
          And a bunch of references to God the Father in Acts, Corin, Romans, Galatians, etc.

          (I would not dismiss All in All so easily. HE is also the One True God. Who was Lord of Host Army’s in the OT?)

Doug Sayers

Thanks Leighton. Very good illustrations and quotes.

Dr. James Willingham

Dear Dr. Flowers: I am glad you began with the story of a dog. With wry humor, I have often said that my ministry and that of 3 others and possibly two more began with a dog. His name was Sandy, and he was the family pet, livestock, playmate, and life saver to my maternal grandparents and various members of my family. Sandy was half Collie, half German Shepherd, an excellent family dog who played hide-and-seek with my mother, when she was a child. In addition to handling all kinds of livestock (e.g., mules and hogs), he saved my grandmother’s life, when a neighbor’s old sow got loose with her pigs and came into our yard to root up grandma’s flowers. Grandma, who probably weighed no more than a 100 lbs soaking wet, sailed out of the house, bent on driving that sow out of the yard and away from her flowers. The sow and pigs were moving along nicely until one of the pigs squealed and the sow turned and charged grandma. She ran backwards and fell over some wife lying in the yard. The sow was almost on her, when Sandy came around the corner of the house, like the Cavalry coming to the rescue. He took that sow out of the yard in high gear. Fast forward to my childhood. Sandy died after a long and distinguished career of service, and my sister and I decided to have a funeral for him. She was around 5 or 6 and I was 7 or 8. She sung Amazing Grace, and I preached Sandy’s funeral. Now I have been a preacher for 57 years, converted in ’57 from Atheism, called in ’58, ordained in ’62, and our son is a preacher and our pastor. My sister’s husband is a preacher, a DOM, and they, too, have a son who is a preacher and their pastor. And then their son has three sons, one of whom thinks he might be called to preach. A cousin has a grandson who will finish his university course with honors in December, and he plans to attend Southern Seminary. Another relative has a grandson who is a preacher, too. Just goes to show what comes from messing with a dog. Naturally, I kind of like the critters. Our son had one that I taught to say, “I love you” and “Hello.”

More seriously I have a picture of a man holding his Bible with eyes uplifted, my grandfather whom the Lord saved during my years with him and grandma on a share cropper’s farm in Arkansas, and he began reading his Bible and praying 3-4 times a day. I suspect that, while Sandy helped with all of that loving service, it was his prayers that explain what God had planned from all eternity. It is sad, and it grieves me to think that most folks do not seem to realize how lost we really are in our fallen state. God said to Adam: “In the day you eat there of, you shall surely die.” When Adam took that bite, he died right then and there, died spiritually, breaking all relations with God, except those that God initiated in dealing with one in such a condition. When Adam died spiritually, his will became subject to a godless nature, to a nature in which man sets enthroned (as he thinks), but, in truth, the father of man as our Lord said is Satan (Jn.8:44). Our Lord also said who ever commits sin is a servant, that is, a slave of sin. Addiction is slavery. Man’s enslavement to sin, self, and Satan is evident in many forms, drunkenness, drugs, sex, power, fame, fortune, you name it. Now the issue is what happened to the free will that man surely had in the Garden of Eden? It fell, too, becoming a slave. Man sins like the drunk who drives and kills someone (e.g., the doctor who killed a 21 year old ballerina a few years ago in this area). The people held the man responsible, and he went to prison for a short while. God holds sinners responsible for the sins they actually commit. And the greatness of His grace and love is seen in the fact that He planned to save totally helpless, cruel, evil, wicked sinners, making them His children. His decrees as a number of theologians have pointed out, including Zanchius, Gill, Boyce, Boettner, and others, not to mention preachers like Spurgeon, involve a permission to sin, letting the sinner do whatever he or she so desires only to an extent, the extent that fits in with God’s plan to save the innumerable multitude of sinners mentioned in Rev.7:9. The idea of permission, of course, gives an asymmetrical nature to revealed theology as it concerns salvation. All men are doomed and destined for Hell, because they choose to commit sin at the inclination of their desires and nature. God’s word is quite plain: This world is full of mad men. In fact, Eccles 9:3: “Also, the hearts of the children of men is full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”(ESV) And Gen.6:5, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” God planned for the salvation of such sinners, continuing with Noah the process which He had begun with the promise to Eve of the seed that should crush the head of the serpent. That seed was Christ who came to seek and to save sinners, to save the lost, like Saul of Tarsus, who said he was “the chief of sinners.”

Andrew Barker

Dr JW: I’m glad to see you are fully recovered and so soon ! ;-)

Jim P

The Genesis account of Adam and Eve brings clarity about where the conflicts of ‘will’ rests. The Apostle Paul presents Adam as openly defiant to the will of God for himself and the world. Clearly it made Adam accountable for his actions. He had no excuse. Eve’s excuse had some validity it seems.

1Tim. 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Rom. 5:12 ¶ Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

I feel the understanding of the problem of sin should be viewed from the perspective of ‘rebelling’ against God yes, but also for God’s purposes for one’s life and not simply a doing of this wrong or that wrong.

Many people do wrong in the world yet do not know the wrong they do, like Eve. It is the knowing of the wrong and doing it that changes everything.

The problem of sin entered the world because Adam was responsible to God in a way he did not want to be, i.e., He became accountable, he knew what he was doing and just did it. The Christian life and the problem of sin should be views from this perspective, not simply an action here or there, but as a cooperative work toward a shared purpose with Christ.

D. Morgan

Quite simply, calvinism is a philosophy, and Paul warned us in Collossions 2:8 not to fall captive to philosophies. That many calvanists are quite intelligent is not a surprise. Trusting in one’s own intelligence and acumen was another trap we have been warned of.

    rhutchin

    Philosophy, by definition, is the study of the general and fundamental nature of reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. The Calvinist take this and say that the Scriptures are sufficient for this. The Calvinist then draws from the Scriptures such wisdom as God has given man. When Paul speaks of not falling captive to philosophies, he qualifies it, “…hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” As Calvinism says that all depends on Christ – the Scriptures – the Calvinist approach, thus Calvinism, would not be that which Paul warns against in Colossians 2.

Randy Seiver

Perhaps there is no one left here who is still discussing this issue, but I would like to pose this question. Is obedience that is caused by God genuine and meaningful or does it lose its significance if God causes it?

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