Calvinist Quotes on God Determining All Evil

Calvinism is a belief in meticulious divine determinism over every thought, choice and event throughout human history–including your personal sins. Just think about the insidious implications of such a view. If a rapist or pedophile were to declare in a courtroom, “God caused me to do it!” we would denouce him as a liar or a lunatic. However when a Calvinist declares more a less the same thing behind their pulpit (substituting “caused” for “decreed” or “determined”), he is extolled as being biblical!

I cannot tell you how often I hear people retort, “That’s not what Calvinists believe! I’m a Calvinist and I don’t believe God predetermined all my sin!” My typical response is, “Well then welcome to Arminianism because you certainly can’t be a Calvinist.” Usually this is not received very well because they have already been indoctrinated and propagandized into believing that Arminianism is a man-centered, man-glorifying, anti-grace heresy. More often than not the people I speak of are novice Calvinists who have been hoodwinked into a high-Calvinist, Reformed theology by a Piper sermon that conveniently left out all the ugly, sinister implications and absurdities that accompany swallowing Calvinism in toto.

If you are a recent devotee of Calvinism I can only imagine that I have only precious seconds to prove the indisputable assertion that Calvinism-Reformed theology is founded on the tenet that God sovereignly predetermines (whether through hard determinism or compatibilism) every decision and choice humans make–including sin and evil.

Here are a list of quotes from leading, mainstream Calvinists over the years that speak of this inescapable fact (I offer follow-up comments to help clarify the remarks and to the best of my knowledge have taken no one out of context):

*All bold type and emphasis is mine*

John Calvin:

Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.[1]

 [The question must be asked—how are men held responsible for sinful choices that flow out of wills that are “governed as to move exactly in the course which God has destined?”]

 Men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction.[2]

[In Calvinism God is the logical origin and thus author of every sinful thought or choice men make. How else to explain Calvinism’s teaching that all our decreed decisions and deliberations are initiated by the “secret instigation of God” that he infallibly “brings to pass by his secret direction?”]

The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.[3]

[Calvinists are well-known for redefining free-will as being “free to act in accordance with our strongest desires.” However what they leave out is the pivotal point that God has also causally predetermined which desires act upon our wills. Here Calvin admits that for God to achieve a predestined, external action in a person, he must effectively “work in their hearts to make them will before they act.”]

The will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.[4]

[There is no getting around the logical implications of this. Whether a modern-day Calvinist admits it or not his theology is logically and necessarily undergirded by the premise that God’s will is the ultimate causal force behind every sinful choice and act of rebellion throughout human history.]

If God controls the purposes of men, and turns their thoughts and exertions to whatever purpose he pleases, men do not therefore cease to form plans and to engage in this or the other undertaking. We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged them against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will.[5]

[On the one hand Calvin wants to say that God’s will of decree regulates, turns and infallibly controls the thoughts and actions of every person. But on the other hand Calvin wants to preserve human accountability in making choices, so he asserts that God does not force his will of decree on anyone. How does God accomplish this? Calvin never tells us. Instead he appeals to unexplainable mystery seen in his cloaked phrase “wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men…” This is theological gobbledegook  in its highest form.]

The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should: why he deemed it meet, we know not… Man therefore falls, divine providence so ordaining but he falls by his own fault.[6]

[As is obvious Calvin believed God did not just foresee the fall of man, he unconditionally decreed that man would fall. Again Calvin seeks to cover his theological rear from getting blindsided by appealing to an incomprehensible mystery (“we know not”) and then adding in the qualifier “but he falls by his own fault.” Herein lies Calvinism’s greatest conundrum concerning a compatibilist account of freedom. Compatibilist Calvinists say our choices are wholly determined and caused by our desires. Yet Adam and Eve did not have any sinful nature and thus no inherent desire to sin or rebel. So how and why did they choose to sin and rebel? Arminians do have an answer because we understand self-determination to be the ultimate and final explanation for choice and behavior—rather than compatibilist “free-will” which maintains that all “free” choices have their origin in God’s prior decree.]

How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.[7]

[Here again Calvin wants to insist that God is the causal determiner of every sinful transgression and yet absolve God of all responsibility and culpability in foreordaining those sins. How does God do this? Calvin has no idea and again appeals to inscrutable mystery. The obvious problem is Calvinism creates mysteries where none should exist. There is no mystery as to how we can be held responsible for all the sins God causally determines—because God has not causally determined all our sins. There is no mystery as to how God can be the willing determiner of all your sins and not be the author of them—because God has not determined your sins. Calvinism makes God out to be a moral monster equal to the devil himself and appeals to mystery in order to extricate God from looking like the devil! The mysteries of Calvinism are just that—mysteries that solely exist in their own theological construct and are alien to biblical truth.]

I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors [non-Calvinists] happen only by his inactive permission… No, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility…”[8]

[In defending his view of sovereignty against his objectors John Calvin concedes that logically it must mean God is the ultimate author of everything he ordains. Moreover he argues that simply saying that God gives “permission” is not sufficient. He later attempts to say that our minds are too finite and stupid (“imbecile”) to comprehend the mystery as to why God would ordain the very sins he forbids us to do.]

What we must prove is that single events are ordered by God and that every event comes from his intended will. Nothing happens by chance.”[9]

[For Calvin and Calvinism in general “chance” is understood as being any choice of self-determination that lies outside what God has already unilaterally pre-chosen should occur. In other words God has chosen what each choice shall be and chance is defined as any event or choice that is free of God’s causal determinism of all choices before the world began. Whether it be the roll of the dice in monopoly, your decision on a menu, or whether or not to cheat on a test— in Calvinism the only thing God is “allowing” is his own choice to become realized.]

But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavours, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.[10]

[Here Calvin states that God inspires everything men do. Thus God inspires every child molestation, every lie, every act of adultery and every suicide. Accordingly God does not simply allow men to abuse their freedom to do evil—he in fact inspires the very evil men do.]

James White:

Calvinist theologian James White, in a debate with Hank Hannegraaf and George Bryson, was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?” To which Mr. White replied… “Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose… and God is responsible for the creation of despair… If He didn‟t [decree child rape] then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose.”[11]

[For a thorough refutation of White’s reasoning, click here.]

Scripture…teaches God’s sovereignty (providence, decree, etc.) and man’s responsibility. We usually call this “biblical compatibilism,” which we might summarize by saying that human beings freely chose what God foreordains.[12]

[Secondary causation, otherwise known as compatibilism, still results in causal determinism that precludes human responsibility in White’s theology. For in Calvinistic compatibilism God doesn’t just passively allow us to pick which bondage of sins our fallen desires “freely” pull us towards—he determines which desires we will have and which specific sins we will choose! In the end Calvinism can make no sense as to why God still treats people as moral agents who are responsible for the very same evil actions he causally determined and inwardly initiated for them to do.]

 

Vincent Cheung:

“God controls everything that is and everything that happens. There is not one thing that happens that he has not actively decreed – not even a single thought in the mind of man. Since this is true, it follows that God has decreed the existence of evil, he has not merely permitted it, as if anything can originate and happen apart from his will and power. Since we have shown that no creature can make completely independent decisions, evil could never have started without God’s active decree, and it cannot continue for one moment longer apart from God’s will. God decreed evil ultimately for his own glory, although it is not necessary to know or to state this reason to defend Christianity from the problem evil.”[13]

“Those who see that it is impossible to altogether disassociate God from the origination and continuation of evil nevertheless try to distance God from evil by saying that God merely “permits” evil, and that he does not cause any of it. However, since Scripture itself states that God actively decrees everything, and that nothing can happen apart from his will and power, it makes no sense to say that he merely permits something – nothing happens by God’s mere permission.[14]

[In declaring that every thought of man, even man’s sinful thoughts, are actively decreed by God, and that nothing happens unless God actively determines it (and not just permits it), Vincent Cheung leaves no stone unturned as to the extent of God’s divine determination over all things. Moreover, like John Piper, Cheung holds to the absurd and despicable Calvinist idea that God has divinely determined all evil—for his own holy glory.]

John Piper:

“So when I say that everything that exists — including evil — is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly, I mean that, one way or the other, God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son.”[15]

[Piper is coming under increasing pressure to detract his view that God ordained every sinful choice humans make for the sake of achieving greater radiance of glory. The view suffers in that it implies that God was not fully glorified before sin and now needs sin to make his glory “shine more brightly.” Even other Calvinists have been uneasy with Piper’s theology on this issue because it presents a God who has a need—sin—to achieve something righteous—glory. Notice also that Piper attempts to do damage control by shrouding his true beliefs behind the innocuous phrase “God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son.” What Piper really means is “God eternally conceived and causally determines every evil for the good purpose of glorifying his Son.” We are left wondering if perhaps Piper does not want to be this blunt and honest with his readers because he is afraid many will not have the “stomach” to handle such brutal truths. Unfortunately Piper is very reticent to be theologically honest and forthcoming in his popular sermons—especially with young people who are considering Calvinism. He will often borrow an Arminian framework of God not “preventing” evil and “permitting sin” to explain how God foreordains every event of evil without being the author of such evils.[16] In saying this Piper is being wholly inconsistent with his own theology and is therefore being theologically inconsistent and dishonest (misleading) with his laymen listeners and readers.]

“God is able without blameworthy ‘tempting’ to see to it that a person does what God ordains for him to do even if it involves evil.”[17]

[Piper has yet to be able to articulate a philosophically sound and coherent account of how our Holy God decrees the desires, motives and intentions of every man’s evil choices; renders it certain that they carry out those specifically decreed evils—yet all the while escapes the charge that he “tempts men” to do evil. Piper’s position is essentially that God does not actually tempt men to sin because that would make him morally culpable for sin. Instead Piper theorizes God only decrees all of our sin; sovereignly inclines all of our wills to commit that decreed sin—yet somehow remains morally un-culpable because he doesn’t tempt us to sin. What? This position would almost be worthy of humor given its irrationality if it wasn’t so tragic that Piper has managed to convince multitudes of others to think the same absurdity.]

J.I. Packer:

God… orders and controls all things, human actions among them…He [also] holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues… Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent. To our finite minds, of course, the thing is inexplicable.[18]

[Notice again how Calvinists are quick to find refuge in “unexplainable mystery” whenever they are pressed on explaining the logic of their convictions. If one drops the premise that all human desire and choice is rooted in God’s irresistible eternal decree then the mystery of how humans can be responsible for their actions disappears.]

R.C. Sproul Jr.

God wills all things that come to pass…God desired for man to fall into sin. I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that God created sin.”[19]

[This Calvinist theologian unashamedly takes Calvinism to its logical conclusion. That other Calvinists hold to the same view but don’t speak so openly and plainly to their masses is a cause for concern.]

Edwin Palmer:

“All things that happen in all the world at any time and in all history–whether inorganic matter, vegetation, animal, man or angels (both good and evil ones)– come to pass because God ordained them. Even sin– the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every evil thought, word, and deed in all of history… Foreordination means God’s sovereign plan, whereby He decides all that is to happen in the entire universe. Nothing in this world happens by chance. God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen that do happen. He is not sitting on the sidelines wondering and perhaps fearing what is going to happen next. No, He has foreordained everything ‘after the counsel of his will’ (Eph. 1:11): the moving of a finger, the beating of a heart, the laughter of a girl, the mistake of a typist even sinAlthough sin and unbelief are contrary to what God commands…God has included them in his sovereign decree (ordained them, caused them to certainly come to pass).[20]

[To concede, as Palmer does, that God unilaterally and unconditionally ordained “every evil thought” undermines the typical Calvinist defense (via Edwards and Piper) that human choice can be determined by God and yet humans can still be held morally responsible for the choices they make because freedom of the will is simply thinking upon and doing what we think and desire to do– and left to ourselves we will always desire evil. But if our evil thoughts and desires are themselves determined by God, as Palmer admits, the Calvinist argument is rendered meaningless. The mere fact that so many intelligent and sincere followers of God believe God unilaterally and unconditionally ordained “every evil thought” and “decides and causes…even [their] sin” is truly troubling and worrisome in that the view offers no sound reason as to why–in the end– God’s grace is not a license to sin. One can only speculate as to how many lives have been shipwrecked on the rocks of this extreme view of God’s sovereignty that provides every person a valid reason to absolve themselves of all guilt—for who can resist an irresistible decree of God to sin?]

W.G.T. Shedd:

“Sin is one of the ‘whatsoevers’ that have ‘come to pass’, all of which are ‘ordained’…Nothing comes to pass contrary to His decree. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which He abhors and forbids, occurs by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God… man’s inability to explain how God can make things certain, but not compulsory… is no reason to deny that [God] can do it or that he has done it.”[21]

[Here we are told that God foreordains the very evils he hates and abhors. Again the theology of Calvinism makes God indistinguishable from the activity of the devil! In fact Calvinism must logically affirm that every demon is meticulously controlled by God insofar as he has decreed every one of their acts of temptation and evil.]

God by his providence permitted some of the angels willfully and irrecoverably, to fall into sin and damnation…ordering that, and all their sins, to his glory.[22]

[Notice how Shedd, like Piper and Edwards, adopts a philosophy of absurd incoherence in attempting to use the language of “permission” to explain the fall and activity of demons, while simultaneously asserting a reality of divine determinism to explain the fall and activity of demons. If a teacher arranges an exam whereby she renders certain that all her students fail, it is meaningless to then assert she “permitted” them to fail. And again we find another Calvinist telling us that God determines all sin “to his glory.” Webb should have said “to his shame.” Only a Calvinist possesses the strange ingenuity to attribute sin to God’s glory and in so doing divest glory of all that qualifies it as such.

Gordan H. Clark:

I wish very frankly and pointedly to assert that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do it…” He goes on to assert, “Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makes God the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. There is absolutely nothing independent of him. He alone is the eternal being. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is sovereign.[23]  Some people who do not wish to extend God’s power over evil things, and particularly over moral evils…The Bible therefore explicitly teaches that God creates sin.[24]

[Unlike many of his Calvinist brethren who opted to shield themselves behind “mystery” as to how God can be the pre-determiner of sin without being the ultimate cause or author of sin, Clarke was not ashamed or too timid to admit the logical conclusion of Calvinist dogma—that being that God is the determinative cause of sin. He makes no attempt to lessen or soften Calvinism’s extreme view of God’s sovereignty to make it more palatable or agreeable but readily admits that God’s sovereignty, as logically seen through the lens of Calvinism, results in a God who determines, orders and causes the evil acts of all people. Why? Because “He alone is sovereign.” It is Calvinism egregious view of God’s sovereignty that is its foremost error and gives us little reason not to toss it in the rubbish heap of theology gone to seed.]

A.W. Pink:

“Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed. Moreover, there was more than a simple permission, for God only permits things that fulfill his purpose.”[25]

[Here Pink, the well-known Calvinist theologian, insists that sin entered this world as a result of what “God has eternally decreed” and that permitting is more or less a formality of means to bring into reality what he purposed unconditionally. When a Calvinists says, “God permitted the sin of X to occur” he is really saying, “God fulfilled the decree of X to occur.”]

John Frame:

“The Reformed [Calvinists] agree that God knows what would happen under all conditions, but they reject the notion that this knowledge is ever ultimately based on man’s autonomous decisions. Human decisions, they argue, are themselves the effects of God’s eternal decrees.[26]

[Here Frame admits that God’s knowledge of every human decision (i.e. sin) is ultimately not a result of knowing what humans autonomously choose. In Calvinism there is no “autonomy” of the will. We are more like the glove that fits on a hand. The glove moves but ultimately only in response to the movement of the hand. Our wills are thus God’s instruments to affect his decrees. In this sense Frame would have us understand that God knows all human decisions because he has decreed each decision. Our illusion of free will is merely a trick of the mind because we are constrained to time. The fact is, according to Frame, every choice we make is merely the effects in time of what God eternally decreed.]

Mark Talbot and John Piper:

“God brings about all things in accordance with his will. It isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those that love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects… This includes God’s having even brought about the Nazi’s brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child.” [27]

The above quote, which was edited and approved by John Piper for inclusion in his book “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”, is so morally repugnant, evil and contrary to the majesty and glory of God, the mere fact that any Christian leader could affirm it only goes to show how deeply entrenched Calvinism is in demonic deception. 1500 years ago at the Council of Orange, the Church had little tolerance for such blasphemous departures from the nature of God’s goodness and holiness, saying, “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.” (Council of Orange 529AD)

Conclusion: Calvinism makes much of the will of man being in bondage to sin, but it turns out this is only a formality in man’s experience–it is ultimately irrelevant. In Calvinism, man’s will is in bondage to God’s decretive will. Moreover this bondage is throughout one’s life! A Calvinist would be mistaken to think regenerated, saved persons somehow escape the “bondage of the will” they formerly incurred while in sin. That would be a conclusion that does not give Calvinism its full due. In order for a Calvinist to extoll God as sovereign it must be conceded that every sin, even sins made by Christians who are in Christ, is a sin that God decreed for them to make. Becoming saved changes this not one bit. There is ultimately no true freedom of the will to be gained in being a new creature in Christ—your sins are still determined just like they were before!

The result of such an extreme view of sovereignty is quite frightfully appalling. God tells us to put to death the deeds of our flesh and to walk in holiness, yet every time we give in to the flesh God’s meticulous predeterminism ultimately lies behind it all—such that we could not have chosen against God’s decree. Far from being removed from sin, Calvinism results in God being the conceptual author and primary cause of all sin! 

At its core historical, scholarly Arminianism has principally been motivated by an unceasing passion to protect and defend the holy and righteous character of God from the horrific implications of Calvinist theology.


[1] John Calvin, Inst. I.xvi.8. 1539 edition. Quoted in A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[2] John Calvin, Inst. I.xviii.l. 1559 edition. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[3] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (tr. J. K. S. Reid) (London, 1961)175f. (OC 8.358) See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[4] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God 177 (OC 8.360) (‘summam et praecipuam rerum omnium causam’). Cf. Inst. I.xviii.2 (1559). See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[5] John Calvin, Commentary on Is. 10:15. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[6] John Calvin, Inst. III.xxiii.8. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73
[7] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, 124 (OC 8.316). See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73)
[8] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 1.18.1 and 3:136, 138-39
[9] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Ch. 16, Sect. 4
[10] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172
[11] James White,  http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2011/08/why-it-is-important-to-go-back-to.html
[12] James White,  www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4324
[13] Vincent Cheung, “Problem of Evil,” http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/ProblemEvil.htm (March, 2013)
[14] Vincent Cheung, “Problem of Evil,” http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/ProblemEvil.htm (March, 2013)
[15] John Piper, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 44
[16] See John Piper’s sermon “Is God less Glorious Because He Ordained that Evil Be?” http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-god-less-glorious-because-he-ordained-that-evil-be (June, 2012). In that sermon Piper quotes Jonathan Edward’s answer to the question as to how God can be the ultimate cause and determiner of sin and yet not be its author.  Notice how Edwards relies on the Arminian language of “permission” to extricate himself from the dilemma:
“If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing… It would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” But, he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.”
Piper than goes on to quote Edwards further saying, “God is, Edwards says, the “permitter… of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the states of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permittedwill most certainly and infallibly follow.” As is obvious Piper is being wholly inconsistent with the logic of his own position. In Calvinism all men sin necessarily in virtue of God irrevocably decreeing that they sin irresistibly. For in Calvinism it is impossible for men to choose against God’s decree. It is pointless to say God permits what he necessitates through an irresistible decree. Piper is intentionally obscuring the true horror of Calvinism by softening his language and borrowing Arminian terms to escape the logical implications of his own theology. As one writer insightfully points out, “Such a view of permission as Edwards and Piper describe would be like saying that someone who controlled the mind and actions of another to sin in such a way that the person being controlled had no power to avoid sinning ‘permitted the sin’ because he ‘allowed’ the person to think and act just as he was irresistibly controlling the person to think and act.” Obviously this is hardly how anyone would understand ‘permission’ yet this fact does not give Calvinists like Piper pause. He intentionally obscures meaning. To say that God “permits” sin to come about through his infallible, determinative decree is to simply say God established a world whereby sin happens of necessity–via eternal decrees.  In the Edwards/Piper/Calvinist scheme, man is powerless to control his nature.  Man is powerless to choose or act contrary to “strongest motive force.”  Man, likewise, has no control over which motive will indeed be the “strongest” and so irresistibly move his will in a certain direction.  All these things are necessitated by the eternal all-encompassing decree of God.  Adam’s sin, mankind’s consequent fallen nature, and every subsequent thought, motive, desire, and act are necessitated by eternal divine decree. A person can no more resist or act contrary to the eternal divine decree than he or she could create a universe.  How then can we speak of God merely “permitting” these “necessitated” sinful acts?” See Ben Henshaw’s devastating critique of Piper’s sermon and reliance on Edwards ill-conceived theology at: http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-part-1-an-arminian-response-to-pipers-first-question/  (June, 2012).
[17] John Piper, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 24
[18] J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1961), 19-23.
[19] R.C. jr Sproul, Almighty Over All (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), 54
[20] Edwin Palmer,The Five Points of Calvinism, 24-25
[21] W.G.T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 32-33, 38-39 http://www.archive.org/stream/calvinismpuremix00shed#page/32/mode/2up
[22] W.G.T. Shedd, Calvinism: Pure and Mixed, 32-33 http://www.archive.org/stream/calvinismpuremix00shed#page/34/mode/2up
[23] Gordon Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation, (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed), 1961, 221
[24] Gordon Clark, Predestination. (The Trinity Foundation), 1987. 18
[25] A.W Pink, The Sovereignty of God, 2009, 162
[26] John Frame,“Scientia Media,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1075.
[27] Mark Talbot, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2006) 41-42
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About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I am unmarried yet blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an even more broken and apathetic church.
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92 Responses to Calvinist Quotes on God Determining All Evil

  1. tothemorning says:

    Thanks for the information. I lost my brother to this madness. It is a complicated matrix that redefines cruel as good. It is an intellectual lust-fest for those who gravitate to debate. I use to discuss the TULIP objectively but realized the intellectual arrogance that many thrived on. Now I am just angry for the pain that it has caused my family.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Sorry to hear that. So much of theology is involved in balancing multiple variables and possible interpretations of scripture. While every theological “system” has their own horse pills to swallow and their own areas of ambiguity and tension, it is ultimately about affirming a theology that glorifies God the most and preserves both his holy character and love from outrageous slander. Calvinists often think they are extolling God’s glory by extolling God’s meticulous divine determinism over all things, but they seem to suffer severe glaucoma of the mind in not seeing how this correlates into the most slanderous, un-glorifying implications. As Roger Olson highlights, leading Calvinists scholars fail to see their logical inconsistencies and the moral bankruptcy of Calvinism through a “sheer act of the will.” I love my Calvinist brothers and sisters…but I just can’t sit on the sidelines silent anymore. I see it filtering into pockets of Cambodia. It radically alters (negatively) the attitude of the individuals who embrace it. It breaks my heart to see Calvinists trying to convince young, impressionable Cambodians that “Despite the many scriptures that seem to teach it, Jesus actually didn’t die for the sins of everyone…nor does he genuinely desire to seek and save all…” I do understand your anger, but I encourage you to not let it sour you in your inner man–it will ultimately rob you of the simplicity and joy of life in Christ and leave nothing behind in its wake. God bless you…and your brother.

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  3. Now Dimly says:

    I followed Vincent Cheung for a while and we spoke via email. I appreciate his thorough logic, and the fact that he says what most Calvinists only insinuate, that God creates evil. Putting it off on “secondary causes” is like when kids playing tag realize they are about to get tagged, so they grab onto anything while quickly shouting, “Base!”

    • StriderMTB says:

      Great analogy and so true. Thanks for the comment. Although I disagree with him profoundly I have more respect for Cheung than I do many other Calvinists who try to evade and obscure the logical implications of their statements. It can be incredibly frustrating because of how they like to play “tag.”

  4. Have you listened to the video on the website? In any case, it seems White’s only answer for why someone is raped is because it has a purpose. White made the remark, something to the effect that if God decreed it, it had to have a purpose. He is actually muddying the waters of moral responsibility and thge nature of sin. If God decreed sin, it is because it has a “good” (if all good things come from God), then the sin – e.g. the raping of children – is sinful or evil only apparently but not in reality. Is that a fair assessment?

    • StriderMTB says:

      Yes I think your assessment is correct. Calvinism often collapses into a radical form of moral voluntarism or extreme divine command theory in which objective moral value is not grounded in God’s essentially good nature but in God’s will–which is not actually governed by his moral nature! In Calvinism God could say rape, child abuse and adultery are the new moral values and that kindness, compassion and love are now evil–because it really isn’t about God’s essentially good nature but his will. Specifically speaking to your point–yes– Calvinism is distinct from Arminianism in one key area. Arminianism asserts the view that God can sovereignly allow and permit the occurrence of free-will that brings about evil because he has a morally sufficient reason to permit it. Calvinism says quite another thing. In Calvinism God doesn’t actually allow or permit anything. He determines every sin and evil through an irresistible decree. (John Piper is being absurdly silly and dishonest when he tries to use Arminian terms like “God permits evil” as if God had to act as middleman between his decree and the outworking of his decree.) Since God is all-good anything that originates from his holy mind must also be good. Therefore if God’s mind is the ultimate, ordaining origin for the evil of rape, child abuse, abortion and adultery to occur than such things only have the appearance of evil–but from God’s perspective they are good. One more reason why Calvinism is morally bankrupt.

      I delve deeper into James White’s response here: https://atheologyintension.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/2174/

  5. nbanuchi says:

    White also says something to the effect (if I remember correctly) that God allows sin by negation (I think that was the word he used). That seems to mean God is not active in his permitting men to sin. If I have understood his meaning correctly, doesn’t that go against Calvin and what the Westminster Confession states?

    • StriderMTB says:

      If that is indeed what he says than he is not giving Calvinism its full due. But this is nothing new to White or Calvinists in general. It has survived for so long by evading and obscuring meaning and avoiding logical implications whenever they become to unpalatable for mass consumption. The Westminster Confession itself is a perfect example. On the one hand it says, “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass” (which means your sinful desires, thoughts and actions) but then they say, “But this doesn’t mean God is the author of sin.” They never bother to parse the difference between God’s mind being the logical origin of the sin of X and God’s mind being the author of the sin of X. It’s actually just nonsense. If we must do what we are determined to do through an irresistible decree than we are not free to act contrary to God’s decree. God doesn’t “allow” or “permit” anything in Calvinism! Any Calvinist that adopts such language is using sophistry. John Frame tries to say God “decisively inclines” the human will to do what God decrees. For some reason he thinks that sounds better than “force.”

      P.S. I also “love” how the Westminster Confession uses the word “whatsoever” (as in God ordains whatsoever comes to pass) as meaning everything without exception but when the Bible speaks in the same way (“whosoever wills let him come”, “God so loved the world that whosoever believes…”) they insist such usages do not mean everyone without exception.

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  7. THEOparadox says:

    Matt,

    Thank you for sharing this great collection of quotes and your thoughts on them.

    I can certainly understand not liking what you believe to be the unavoidable logical implications of Calvinistic theology. Fair enough. I hope you won’t mind my asking a few follow up questions.

    1. So, you deny that all events are ordained by God, correct? And your primary reason is that certain objectionable events have occurred, and you cannot conceive of a good God ordaining those events, correct? I want to be sure I am accurately understanding your position.

    2. Okay, assuming I have understood you correctly, what are the alternatives?

    Does God ordain any events? Which ones?
    What are the primary differences between “ordained” and “non-ordained” events?
    Is God aware of “non-ordained” events before they occur? Or does He learn about them as they happen?
    Can anything outside of God (i.e., creation) exist without His initial creative action to “ordain” its existence? If not, how do we separate this initial “ordaining” action on God’s part from the creature’s subsequent actions, so as to say that God in no sense “caused” or “ordained” some of the creature’s actions? At what point do a creature’s actions begin to be “non-ordained”?
    What is the relationship between “ordained” and “non-ordained” events? Do some “ordained” events depend on “non-ordained” events (e.g., does the “ordained” event, forgiveness, depend on the “non-ordained” event, sin)? How does God “ordain” the good events without “ordaining” the evil ones that must occur in advance?
    Does God have the power and authority to prevent “non-ordained” events?
    If God foresees and allows an event, is He not in some sense “ordaining” its occurrence?
    Do “non-ordained” events happen in such a way that God cannot be said to maintain any control over them, i.e. to cause, allow, or prevent them?
    If these events cannot be caused, allowed, or prevented by God, what is His relationship to them? Does He have any authority or power over them?
    In what sense can any event occur outside of God’s ultimate oversight and authority? Does He maintain any sovereignty over these events, and in what sense?

    I don’t expect you to answer all of these questions. My intent is simply to show that it is easier to object to Reformed theology’s answers than it is to propose a well thought out and Biblically grounded alternative.

    Thanks again, and have great weekend.

    Blessings,
    Derek Ashton

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  10. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, thanks for dropping by. You are right I won’t bother answering all your questions 🙂 I think I counted 19. As the quotes highlight and basic logic dictats Calvinistic ordination collapses into causal determinism. A molinist like William Lane Craig in some sense can say God ordains events in the world in the sense that he chose to actualize the world we live out of an infinite number of possible worlds–each a product of genuine free-will. To not court confusion a classical Arminian will want to avoid using “ordain” as an explanatory term for his view unless it is being used as a synonym for “wills”–as in God wills that sinful events occur in virtue of permitting them to occur for the greater good of preserving his original, sovereign intention to create man free. However when the Calvinist uses the term “ordain” he is talking about causal determination or foreordination of all thought, desire and action through irresistible decrees–down to what you typed to me and what I typed earlier that prompted you to type. Yes? It all becomes confusing vertigo. Whether hard determinism or soft (compatibilism) the end result is the same–we are not truly free to think, desire or act contrary to God’s determination.

    In Calvinism humans (even Satan) only do what they were determined or programmed to do in eternity past through God’s divine decrees–which cannot be resisted or overthrown. In that sense humans and the demonic are unable to think, desire or do contrary to God’s meticulous, causal decree. Do you deny this? As an Arminian I believe God has determined and ordained to create a world infused with genuine, moral freedom of the will–rather than beings who are little more than automatons with skin on. Have you ever had a thought, desire or action that God did not decree or determine for you Derek? If you think you have than welcome to Arminianism.

    Arminians believe God’s ultimate sovereign governance over this universe does not require that he meticulously determine every one our sordid, sinful choices to accomplish his ultimate purposes. Thankfully God’s sovereignty is greater than that. God has a perfect will and accommodating will. He has sovereignly chosen to allow his perfect will to be challenged for the greater good of his glory and our genuine love, worship and obedience. If you can’t understand why the Calvinist scheme utterly diminishes and belittles God’s glory and holiness, than you won’t understand why the Arminian perspective preserves God’s glory and holy character. Lastly God has ordained certain events but he does not need to meticulously predetermine the means to reach a predetermined, ordained end. Again–his sovereignty is greater than that.

    Lastly Derek you ask “if anything can exist can exist without God’s initial creative action to ordain its existence?” Yes– agent causation. We are the ultimate sources of our decisions. Our decisions are caused by ourselves and they do not need to be initiated by God’s will in order to occur/exist. Bottom line: God possesses libertarian freedom. God is not initiated or determined in his choices by something external to himself– and we also possess agent causation and libertarian freedom in virtue of being made in God’s image.

    Have a blessed week.

    • Robert says:

      Hello Matt,

      I have just come across your blog and in particular checked out your articles that show the problems with calvinism. You have a very good grasp of the logical implications of this system of theology. Consistent calvinism (i.e. consistent with its controlling presupposition that God ordained everything that comes to pass without any exceptions, according to a total plan in which God preplanned every detail of history) does reduce down to exhaustive determinism. As such it results in the same consequences as “hard determinism” (i.e. the denial of libertarian free will, which is what most people mean by “free will”; the elimination of personal responsibility; the elimination of individual thought, our thoughts are just as determined as everything else, etc.). As I am sure you have also noted, some calvinists try to evade these consequences of their own premises by resorting to mystery or paradox (i.e. claims that it is true we just cannot understand it, it is beyond us, when in reality they are presenting contradictions they refuse to acknowledge) or appeal to compatibilism (the form of determinism espoused by Hume and others who want to believe in everything being determined and yet people supposedly being free: only after “free” is redefined and limited to only doing what you want and not being “coerced” when you do what you want to do, but leaving out the heart of genuine free will which is to have a choice between alternative possibilities that are both accessible and available to the one making the choice).

      As you seem to understand all of this, your posts are very strong arguments against calvinism/exhautive determinism.

      Keep up the good work!

      Lastly you mentioned that you consider yourself to be Arminian. Are you aware of a group called SEA “Society of Evangelical Arminians”? You might find others there who are like minded and may provide you mutual encouragement in your desire to show the problems of calvinism and challenge the errors of this theology.

      Robert

      • StriderMTB says:

        Thanks for the comments Robert. I’ve been meaning to write my own thoughts on why some Calvinists appeal to compatibilism doesn’t escape determinism. In compatibilism we do what we most desire, but what we desire is ultimately determined for us by the divine will–so there is no real departure from hard determinism. Calvinists like to suggest we are slaves to sin so we have no choice except to sin. But in compatibilism a sinner isn’t even free as to what sin you will choose out of a variety of sins (like visiting porn site A or B). Then there is the Adam and Eve conundrum. They had no original sin problem. They had no sin nature–yet they chose sin. The Calvinist is forced to say God causally determined them to sin. Or they can always punt and appeal to mystery, but that is just an attempt to run away from their own dogmatic assertions. Then there are non-moral choices, like whether or not I will have the green jello or the red jello. In compatibilism these choices are all determined by the sovereign will of God acting externally upon me.

        You wrote they appeal to mystery or paradox because “they are presenting contradictions they refuse to acknowledge.” Yes–that really is the key.

        I’ve been meaning to connect with SEA. I have visited their website–very good stuff. Thanks.

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      You may be aware that there are “middle knowledge” Calvinists who affirm something similar to Molinism but in a compatibilistic construct rather than as a solution to the problem of libertarian freedom in light of God’s foreknowledge. Would you say these middle knowledge Calvinists are somehow less than truly Calvinistic in their theology?

      To take this a step further, what would you say to a person who holds to an Arminian view of causation while affirming the Calvinists’ TULIP? Would such a person be a confused Arminian, or a weird kind of Calvinist? 🙂 Well, more seriously, is the Arminian view of causation truly incompatible with TULIP? Does TULIP depend on causal determinism?

      Historically, Calvinists have taken a variety of positions, from a VERY SOFT compatibilism to a VERY HARD determinism. A.W. Pink (depending on the day of the week), Vincent Cheung and Gordon Clark are in the line of the hyper Calvinists who are most likely to espouse the hardest form of determinism without apology. You seem to extol this as being somehow “consistent.” Folks like Piper, Packer and Frame are more likely to express a compatibilism that affirms human freedom as a mystery within (and even upheld by) divine ordination. I have read Calvin’s discussion of free will in the Institutes; he is a textbook compatibilist.

      So I think it is a bit unfair for you to say Calvinistic ordination “collapses into causal determinism” and then disparage the softening statements of compatibilism offered by the more moderate voices in the group. This would be akin to me saying that Arminian free will collapses into Pelagianism (or perhaps Open Theism), while ignoring the Classical Arminian’s affirmation of Total Depravity (which strongly inhibits–rather, kills— libertarian freedom) and Prevenient Grace (which ackowledges the deadness and–gratefully–affirms our need for divine grace). I prefer to view the more moderate/mainstream Calvinists’ softening statements as evidence of a commitment to Biblical balance, preventing them from falling into the philosophical trap of hard determinism (the kind hypers veritably revel in). I do not see the softening statements as logical contradictions, but an attempt to be consistent with Scripture, grounded in the humility that confesses God’s ways are superior to our highest intellect.

      In any case, I suppose a big difference is that I cannot see how God can be God without ordaining all things; and at the same time I cannot see man’s God-given freedom as less than a genuine, morally responsible and unconstrained liberty. Here I am just agreeing with Calvin and other compatibilists. We insist that God can ordain everything without denying his creatures real freedom. We cannot turn from either of these conscientiously held convictions.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

      Blessings,
      Derek

      • Robert says:

        I want to comment on Derek’s post. I have seen Derek post in some places always attempting to defend (without success in my opinion) his cherished calvinism. He redefines the contradictions presented by his calvinist theolo;gy as paradoxes that escape our understanding. Frankly this is a cop out. No matter how much semantic game playing calvinists may engage in, this does not change the fact their theology produces obvious contradictions.

        So let’s look at Derek’s comments as an example of how this calvinist double speak operates.

        Derek observes:

        “You may be aware that there are “middle knowledge” Calvinists who affirm something similar to Molinism but in a compatibilistic construct rather than as a solution to the problem of libertarian freedom in light of God’s foreknowledge. Would you say these middle knowledge Calvinists are somehow less than truly Calvinistic in their theology?”

        Bruce Ware is such a calvinist (Terrance Tiessen used to be one as well before he was persuaded that calvinists ought not hold to middle knowledge). One of the problems with the position of Ware is that compatibilism by its definition and nature cannot involve libertarian free will and yet Molinism and middle knowledge presuppose middle knowledge. So Ware’s position is inherently unstable which is why very few calvinists endorse this view.

        “To take this a step further, what would you say to a person who holds to an Arminian view of causation while affirming the Calvinists’ TULIP? Would such a person be a confused Arminian, or a weird kind of Calvinist? ”

        I have a friend who is a well known apologist who holds to both TULIP in matters of soteriology and simultaneously affirms libertarian free will in non-salvation issues. He is not a “confused Arminian” nor is he a “weird kind of Calvinist”. Rather, he holds a minority view among calvinists. But he is not alone in this view as many professing calvinists affirm Tulip when it comes to their soteriology but then revert to LFW in their daily life and practice.

        “Well, more seriously, is the Arminian view of causation truly incompatible with TULIP?”
        Yes, as an Arminian believes in LFW and so denies irresistible grace which operates on deterministic ideas.

        “ Does TULIP depend on causal determinism?”

        TULIP may not **depend** on causal determinism, but consistent calvinism does so. Those who hold to consistent calvinism espouse the claim that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If that is true, then no one ever has a choice, they may engage in the process of making choices but they never ever have a genuine choice where they can choose either alternative possibility. Put simply exhaustive determinism precludes our ever having a choice. Elements of TULIP depend upon exhaustive determinism, specifically unconditional election and irresistible grace.

        “Historically, Calvinists have taken a variety of positions, from a VERY SOFT compatibilism to a VERY HARD determinism. A.W. Pink (depending on the day of the week),’

        That is both true and humorous. You would think that if God had predestined everything then at least he would have predestined those who got election right to hold the same views. Instead (assuming Calvinism is true and everything is ordained by God with no exceptions) He has predestined some of his own people to be confused and mistaken on free will and determinism!

        It should be noted that Derek is leaving out a very, very significant point about hard and soft determinism (i.e. compatibilism) here: both involve the same idea that EVERYTHNG IS DETERMINED. Determinists whether they be hard determinists or compatibilists both believe that everything is determined. If they are theological determinists such as calvinists they further believe that God has predetermined everything.

        “Vincent Cheung and Gordon Clark are in the line of the hyper Calvinists who are most likely to espouse the hardest form of determinism without apology.”

        Actually neither Cheung or Clark is a “hyper Calvinist”. This is a pejorative term used by inconsistent Calvinists in reference to more consistent calvinists. Cheung and Clark hold to consistent calvinism that everything is ordained by God: they also both believe in evangelism. Neither is a hyper calvinist, this is just a pejorative term by inconsistent calvinists like Derek to try to distance themselves from the more consistent Calvinists such as Cheung and Clark. But I have always found this to be both surprising and amusing as Cheung and Clark believe exactly the same things about election reprobation, the ordination of all events, double predestination, just as John Calvin himself did. You can compare their views with Calvin and they are identical. So you have these modern calvinists calling themselves Calvinists and distancing themselves from the views of Cheung and Clark. If these modern inconsistent calvinists were consistent they would distance themselves from Calvin as well and call him a hyper calvinist as well. But they don’t, they just say this about Cheung and Clark and others who are too consistent for them.

        “You seem to extol this as being somehow “consistent.””

        That’s funny, as Derek seems to be aware of his own inconsistency here. Fact is, a consistent calvinist will hold the identical same views as both Cheung and Clark when it comes to election, double predestination, free will, and determinism.

        “Folks like Piper, Packer and Frame are more likely to express a compatibilism that affirms human freedom as a mystery within (and even upheld by) divine ordination. I have read Calvin’s discussion of free will in the Institutes; he is a textbook compatibilist.”

        Actually that is not true at all. Piper and Frame are also consistent Calvinists who affirm the same things as Cheung and Clark and of course Calvin. Frame for example does not say that free will is a “mystery” nor does Piper. Instead they argue for traditional compatibilism (the same view held by David Hume) that a person is acting freely when they are doing what they want to do and not being coerced into doing what they want to do. Those are the two elements (1) doing what you want to do, and (2) not being coerced. They will argue that is sufficient for free will to be real and for God to be ordaining everything including the supposed freely made choices people are making. What they leave out because of their commitment to exhaustive determinism is the tiny little issue that if all is ordained, then no one ever has a choice. They have to do what God predestined they would do, it is impossible for them to do otherwise than what God ordained for them to do. If they are right about all being predestined, then we never ever have a choice. And you really are not acting freely if you do not have a choice. So they keep their determinism and keep their belief that God ordains everything: they just lose the reality that we sometimes have genuine choices. They call themselves compatibilists because they believe their view of free will (which is a truncated and artificial view) is compatible with God having ordained every event.

        “So I think it is a bit unfair for you to say Calvinistic ordination “collapses into causal determinism” and then disparage the softening statements of compatibilism offered by the more moderate voices in the group.”

        It is not unfair at all: if you understand the issues. Again both hard determinists and soft determinists/compatibilists BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING IS DETERMINED. The common denominator between hard and soft determinists is their belief in exhaustive determinism. So Matt is absolutely correct that their view “collapses into causal determinism”.

        And the attempts by soft determinism to “soften” things deserve to be disparaged as they involve semantic game playing and intentional evasions of logical implications. For example say we had a conscious puppet that had a mind and a will and a body. And say the puppet master controlling every thought and action of this puppet had the puppet do an action (let’s call it action X). This puppet when doing action X would be doing what it wants to do (since the puppet master controls what it wants and decides what it wants and controls it so that it wants what the puppet master wants it to want) and it would not be coerced (as it would not be acting against its will because the puppet master already controls and determines its will). So according to classic compatibilism as espoused by David Hume and now by John Piper and John Frame: the puppet is acting freely when it does action X as it is doing exactly what it wants to do and is not coerced against its will to do action X. the dirty little secret left out is that since the puppet master controls the puppet directly, completely and continuously, the puppet is only and always doing only the will of the puppet master.

        A friend of mine brings out another problem with compatibilism/calvinism. Say we go to a puppet show and a puppet during the show murders someone in the audience. Do we really for a moment blame the puppet for this murder? Or do we, since we know the puppet only and always does what the puppet master controls it to do, blame the puppet master for the crime? And yet calvinists who are compatibilists and believe that everything is ordained and controlled by God (i.e. they believe that God has puppet master like control over human persons) will then claim that the puppet not the puppet master is responsible for the murder! This is both irrational and contradictory. You cannot simultaneously maintain that the puppet master has this kind of control over the puppet and then at the same time blame the puppet for the murder. The only way you can correctly assign blame to the puppet is if that puppet is acting on its own, not experiencing puppet like control over its every action when it commits the murder. But if the puppet is truly acting freely when it does its action then it is not a puppet and not experiencing puppet master like control by another person. But if that is true then the puppet’s actions are not dictated by the puppet master, not controlled by the puppet master. The calvinist wants both to be true, that God exercises puppet master like control over the human person and yet the human person is supposedly acting freely. That is not a mystery nor is it a paradox, that is a straight contradiction often noted by non-Calvinists.

        “This would be akin to me saying that Arminian free will collapses into Pelagianism (or perhaps Open Theism), while ignoring the Classical Arminian’s affirmation of Total Depravity (which strongly inhibits–rather, kills– libertarian freedom) and Prevenient Grace (which acknowledges the deadness and–gratefully–affirms our need for divine grace).”

        Derek is wrong again here. Arminians affirm both LFW and depravity that is true. And holding to depravity does not “kill” libertarian freedom. Arminianism also does not collapse into Pelagianism as Pelagians deny the need for grace for a person to be saved while genuine Arminians affirm the necessity of grace for a person to be saved. Arminiansim also does not collapse into open theism either as Arminians affirm exhaustive divine foreknowledge.

        “I prefer to view the more moderate/mainstream Calvinists’ softening statements as evidence of a commitment to Biblical balance, preventing them from falling into the philosophical trap of hard determinism (the kind hypers veritably revel in).”

        Derek again is in error here. Let’s define the terms and briefly discuss the differences between a hard determinist and a soft determinist. Both affirm that everything is exhaustively determined. Both deny libertarian free will. The major difference is that the hard determinist denies that people are personally responsible for what they do: while the soft determinist affirms that people **are** responsible for what they do. So to use Frame and Piper as examples. They deny libertarian free will, they affirm that everything is determined and they affirm that people are responsible for what they do. If you understand soft determinism, then CALVIN, CHEUNG AND CLARK are soft determinists because all three denied libertarian free will, affirmed exhaustive determinism of all events by God, affirmed that each person is responsible for what he or she does.

        Derek by his “softening statements” is not protecting the soft determinism of Calvin, Cheung, Clark, Piper, and Frame: he is instead distancing himself from consistent calvinism. Derek is attempting to justify his inconsistent calvinism.

        “I do not see the softening statements as logical contradictions, but an attempt to be consistent with Scripture, grounded in the humility that confesses God’s ways are superior to our highest intellect.”

        The softening statements are not in themselves contradictions, instead they try to redefine the contradictions of calvinism as paradoxes or mysteries when in fact THEY ARE contradictions.

        “In any case, I suppose a big difference is that I cannot see how God can be God without ordaining all things;”

        Interesting admission by Derek here: he is admitting that he cannot conceive of how God could be God unless calvinism (God ordaining all things) is true. Apparently most other Christians (including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox , most Protestants and Independents) didn’t get that memo, and they don’t agree with Derek as they have no trouble at all denying calvinism and denying that God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass and yet affirming their love and trust in God.

        “and at the same time I cannot see man’s God-given freedom as less than a genuine, morally responsible and unconstrained liberty.”

        But if you believe in genuine free will, that people sometimes have choices then you could not be a compatibilist!

        “ Here I am just agreeing with Calvin and other compatibilists.”

        Other compatibilists such as Vincent Cheung and Gordon Clark????

        “We insist that God can ordain everything without denying his creatures real freedom.”

        Cheung and Clark also believe that people have “real freedom” as long as it it is defined in a compatibilistic way (i.e. doing what you want and not being coereced when you do what you want).

        “We cannot turn from either of these conscientiously held convictions.”

        A person can have very conscientious convictions and be dead wrong. For a recent example just look at the Tsarnaev brothers. Tamerlan had very strong conscientious convictions and look where it led him. In my experience it seems like everybody has conscientious convictions about what they believe, so that in itself is not enough to make their beliefs true. Truth is conformity to reality not just having conscientious convictions about something.

        Robert

  11. Prometheus says:

    I would love to see quotes from Luther, Wyclif, and John Huss. All three of them were ardent determinists. Calvin (in what I’ve read of his life) was actually a less belligerent guy than Luther. He seemed to tolerate other views of faith, including Catholicism. The only ones he would execute for heresy would be non-Trinitarians.

  12. kangaroodort says:

    In any case, I suppose a big difference is that I cannot see how God can be God without ordaining all things

    So you just can’t understand how that could be, right? Doesn’t make sense to you, huh? But I thought accepting something about God that doesn’t seem to make any sense was some sort of a spiritual virtue? It’s nice to know that even you can’t accept some “Theoparadoxes” (even if you should). 🙂

    • StriderMTB says:

      Hey Ben, really like your blog! It helped me out a few years ago when I was wrestling with some questions.

    • theoparadox says:

      Ben,

      I find it inconceivable simply because it is contrary to God’s Word.

      Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
      Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
      Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?
      Isaiah 46:8-11 “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”
      Eph 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will …

      It really has nothing to do with a paradox or being hard to accept. Any other misapprehensions you’d like to share? 🙂

      By the way, I have never argued that it is virtuous to accept things that don’t make sense. My clearly stated position is that it is sensible for Christians to accept all the teaching of the Scriptures–the whole counsel of God–even if they find some aspects hard to understand or explain.

      • kangaroodort says:

        I find it inconceivable simply because it is contrary to God’s Word.

        Fair enough. And can you understand why Arminians likewise find it inconceivable to hold that God exhaustively determines all things, because it is contrary to God’s word? But you don’t seem to be very open to that, especially considering your endorsement of Patton’s Irrationality post. In that post he assumes that Arminians can only have ulterior motives for rejecting Calvinism, since, according to him, Calvinism is just so obviously Biblical. Likewise, he paints it as quite the virtue to accept all that Calvinism teaches even if it is hard or impossible to understand. Your last paragraph is nice, but you load that with your presupposition that Calvinism is the only way to understand Scripture, and so those who do not see Calvinism are somehow not accepting the “whole counsel of God.” See what I mean?

        What I want to see is Calvinists stop with this nonsense and be willing to “accept” the idea that Arminians actually primarily reject Calvinism because, unlike you, we don’t see in Scripture- at all. We simply can’t find it in “the whole counsel of Scripture”, and so have no reason to “live with” the bizarre “paradoxes” Calvinism creates. When Calvinists can do that, the discussion can go forward in a meaningful way and we can have productive dialogue based on our differences of interpretation with a view towards accurate exegesis. But this sort of rhetoric from Calvinists like Patton and you makes that very difficult. It likewise makes it hard for us to take you seriously when you do want to press logic and reason against the Arminian view. That seems extremely arbitrary- a major case of special pleading.

        Just my 2 cents. Take it or leave it. I am not looking for a long debate, just hoping to help you see a different perspective (since you once chastised me for being closed minded, I assume you will be willing to carefully consider what I am saying).

        I will spare you the long list of prooftexts from my side that makes Calvinism “inconceivable ” to me.

        God Bless,
        Ben

        God Bless,
        Ben

      • kangaroodort says:

        Sorry about the double “God Bless” at the end of my post to you Derek. But I do hope that God will doubly bless you, just the same.

      • theoparadox says:

        Ben,

        Sure, I hear what you’re saying. As I have noted in the past, and even on your blog, Arminianism would be my next choice in a theology if there was no Calvinism. I do believe that most Arminians hold their views sincerely and with what they believe is strong Scriptural backing. In my mind, moderate Calvinism represents the best possible interpretation of the Bible as a systematic soteriology. Others see it differently, and that is okay. By the way, I have also encouraged Arminians to remain steadfast in their theology if they truly believe it is the most biblical approach.

        Triple Blessings on you,
        Derek

  13. StriderMTB says:

    Robert, I could not have said it better myself–good insight.

  14. StriderMTB says:

    Derek, I appreciate the valid attempt to define where you are coming from further. However I must be honest and ask, why? Think about it:

    You think there is a fundamental difference between hard determinism and compatibilism that would allow you to somehow retain genuine free-will to engrave the other side of your paradox coin. You think compatibilism departs from determinism because it offers the view that people freely do what they desire to do. But Derek what you desire has been determined! So let me ask you a simple question that I believe can help you see the why this is a fruitless endeavor:

    Derek, have you ever had a thought or desire that God did not sovereignly ordain for you to have?

    Please, please just answer the question with a yes or no–it’s really that simple. I’m not trying to trap you. I’m just trying to help you see that compatibilism gets you nowhere.

    Lastly, I am often perplexed as to where Calvinists can conjure up the motivation to try to dislodge people from their Arminian beliefs and persuade them of the merits of Calvinism. Derek, in your view hasn’t God determined who is an Arminian–and done so irresistibly? Whence comes the incentive to argue against a belief that God sovereignly ordained?

    Shalom.

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for your questions.

      Yes, I believe unreservedly that God, as per the Scripture verses listed above (and many others) has sovereignly and transcendently ordained everything about my life, just as He says in His Word, which I gladly embrace above my own best thoughts and reasonings.

      I am a little surprised at your last two questions. Surely you know the phrase, “God uses means,” which is often repeated by Calvinists when the doctrine of Providence is misinterpreted or misapplied. Providence is a “live” and enlivening doctrine, as opposed to blind fatalism, which can only lead to apathy and passivity. Belief in God’s providential and active use of means is part of the reason why Calvinists have often led the way in missions and Evangelism, as well as prayer and discipleship. They believe that God has ordained His people to be used as a means of good in this world.

      Moreover, I thank God that He has blessed me with the joys of interacting with fellow believers around these interesting topics. Whether you are convinced or changed is ultimately up to Him (though you also bear responsibility). Thinking deeply with my brothers is part of the good that He has ordained for me (and occasionally it is part of the suffering 🙂 ). This is also very often a means of sanctification. And it fills me with joy to see Christians gathered around the Scriptures and digging in for deeper understanding. Gifts freely given.

      Again, I am surprised that you ask these questions, since you do not seem to be ignorant of Calvinistic history and perspectives.

      It is important to remember that mainstream Calvinists have historically embraced both the hidden will of God (primarily as a lens for interpreting our circumstances) and the revealed will of God (as the standard by which our real choices and motives are judged). If the truth about God’s sovereign decree is applied in a way that violates Scripture (e.g. to excuse sin, justify apathy, or abdicate evangelism), it is self-defeating and obviously misappropriated. One learns to put the brakes on certain logical leaps that seem inevitable (much as Paul did in Romans 3, 6 and 9). Logic remarkably similar to Robert’s appears in Romans 3, where Paul addresses the very same kinds of apparently logical arguments and simply dismisses them as obviously unbiblical and unworthy of God.

      Would any of us say that Paul refused to accept the unavoidable logical implications of his doctrine? Well, that would be perilous!

      Romans 3:5-8 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

      Do you see the similarities in the extension of logic, wherein a genuine truth is misapplied? It is all to easy to “speak in a human way” and overlook the fact that we are dealing with divine truths, and not mere syllogisms. Studying these passages in Romans makes me hesitant to go running headlong after seemingly plausible arguments without referring back to Scripture again and again as the infallible guide.

      Blessings,
      Derek

      • Robert says:

        I took the time to refute Derek’s points. And Derek makes no attempt to respond to my post whatsoever. His only response is this:

        “One learns to put the brakes on certain logical leaps that seem inevitable (much as Paul did in Romans 3, 6 and 9). Logic remarkably similar to Robert’s appears in Romans 3, where Paul addresses the very same kinds of apparently logical arguments and simply dismisses them as obviously unbiblical and unworthy of God.”

        That is pretty arrogant of Derek, the logic that I engaged in, ACCORDING TO DEREK, is “remarkably similar” to what the apostle Paul addresses in Romans 3, 6, and 9. And ACCORDING TO DEREK Paul “dismisses them as obviously unbiblical and unworthy of God”. This is the height of arrogance being displayed here by Derek. And yet it is extremely common among Calvinists/theological determinists, just like Derek, to claim that the non-Calvinist when arguing with Calvinism is arguing with God, objecting to God, engaging in logic and arguments that are “obviously unbiblical and unworthy of God.”

        What theological determinists like Derek do is this: they are aware that in both Romans 3 and Romans 9 the apostle Paul presents people objecting to what he is teaching. Paul makes reference to the objections of the objectors and then gives very short curt responses that their questions are inappropriate and in some cases not even worthy of a response. Determinists then claim that when the non-Calvinist has problems with calvinism, presents arguments against calvinism, or even dares challenge Calvinism, he, the non-Calvinist has become the objector that Paul responds to in Romans 3 and Romans 9. Some even go further and claim that the objections being made by non-Calvinists are the same exact objections being made by the objectors that Paul is dealing with!!! How convenient.

        Once this equation is made, the determinist can then simply dismiss the comments of the non-Calvinist without dealing with them at all. This is quite a rhetorical move being made by calvinists like Derek. if they can equate objecting to calvinism or questioning calvinism or challenging calvinism to the objectors of Romans 3 and 9 and their objections, that is quite a coup!!

        Big problem though with this whole attempt by Derek and other calvinists/theological determinists. They ****ASSUME**** the Calvinistic view to be true and further assume that Paul held this calvinistic view as well. Both of those assumptions are false.

        Furthermore proper exegesis of these passages shows that Paul in both Romans 3 and Romans 9 is not correcting BELIEVERS who are questioning calvinism, BELIEVERS who are challenging calvinism. No, in both Romans 3 and Romans 9 Paul’s objector is a first century UNBELIEVING JEWISH PERSON. Check it out for yourself. It is particularly instructive to first exegete Romans 3 and pay close attention to the objections that Paul brings up. Once you have done this go to Romans 9 and you find nearly the exact same language and the exact same objections being brought up. And in both passages the objectors are unbelieving Jews.

        When Paul wrote Romans the majority of the first century Jews were rejecting Christ and instead trusting in their own keeping of the Jewish law to justify them before God (this is reference throughout Romans 9-11). As such, they were rejecting Paul’s gospel, casting aspersions at it and challenging Paul and arguing against Him and his gospel. Paul deals with this most directly in Romans 9-11 where he deals with this issue of: if his gospel of justification through faith in Christ is true, then why were so many first century Jews rejecting it and trying to justify themselves via their keeping of the law? Does this mean that God’s Word has failed? That God has not kept the promises made to the patriarchs?

        And anyone who has studied Romans carefully and closely knows that the structure of the book includes Paul making brief reference to some topic and then later developing it further in the book. This is why the objections in both Romans 3 and Romans 9 are so similar. Paul first brings them up in Romans 3 dealing with Jewish unbelief. He then comes back to this and further explains and elaborates on it in Romans 9-11.

        Theological determinists like Derek completely (and sometimes intentional) ignore the first century Jewish context of the book of Romans. So they then READ IN (i.e. eisegesis) their false beliefs of unconditional election into Romans 9 and make it proof text for calvinism.

        To take just one example theological determinists will argue that Romans 9:22 -23 teaches that God predestines some to damnation in order to display his wrath against sin. So they take the “vessels of wrath” in this passage to be nonbelievers in general. But the text is not even speaking of either eternity (and God’s plans or decrees made in eternity before the creation existed) or final judgment (when nonbelievers are assigned their eternal destiny). How can I say this? Because the text says that God had the right to pour wrath on these “vessels of wrath” but INSTEAD he was **patiently enduring them**. Could God be “patiently enduring” people who did not yet exist in eternity? No, he could only be “patiently enduring them” in real time, in actual history. And the text does not say that he actually was pouring wrath on them (which would be true if it were referring to the final judgment), it says he was justified in doing so, but instead was “patiently enduring them”. Will God be “patiently enduring” nonbelievers at the final judgment? No, if they are non-believers they will be eternally separated from Him, experiencing what is called in Revelation the “second death.” So Romans 9 is not discussing either God predestinating people in eternity or God pouring wrath on people at the final judgment. Instead it was referring to real history, when God had the right to pour wrath on these people and yet instead was patiently enduring them.

        And who are these people that he was justified in showing wrath towards and yet instead was patiently enduring?

        First century unbelieving Jews. These are the folks who Paul refers to as “vessels of wrath” in Romans 9. They are the same people he refers to as “enemies of the gospel” in Rom. 11. The same people described in Romans 11 as those who are broken off the olive tree but can still be regrafted in if they place their faith in Christ. The same people whom Paul said were experiencing a partial hardening in order to allow the Gentiles to come into God’s Kingdom. All of these things are all over Romans 9-11. And yet they are all ignored by determinists like Derek who take the objections of first century unbelieving Jews (referred to by Paul in Romans 3 and 9) and apply them instead to 20th century non-Calvinists who dare question their calvinism.

        Fact is, that Derek cannot answer the objections to his determinism because his determinism is a false system of theology whose first ideas were invented by Augustine and later systematized by the Reformers Calvin and Luther. The vast majority of Christians have rightly objected to, refuted, and challenged this false theology. We are not the objectors of Romans 3 and 9, rather, we are the truth tellers who challenge and refute and question a false theology that bring untold confusion, division and error into the church. Calvinism functions like a Trojan Horse. Once brought into the walls of the church it causes all sorts of problems. That is why it needs to be opposed as the error that it is. Fortunately only a very, very small minority of Christians hold these errors.

        Robert

      • theoparadox says:

        Robert,

        I’m going to take a moment to discuss my lack of response to your comments, which you have observed in the above post. One thing I have very little of is time. My job takes most of my mental energy and available hours on any given day. Dealing with the intricacies of things like Healthcare Reform legislation and ERISA compliance for 9-10 hours a day can be fairly draining! (not that I don’t enjoy it). Now and again, when I am relaxing, I like to post on my blog and perhaps interact with people such as we are doing on this thread. Challenges to my thinking are enjoyable, and thoughtful brothers who disagree are a pleasure to “argue” with!

        Please don’t take my next words as harsh or overly critical. I don’t really know you or have any authority to sit in judgment, and that is not my intent. So feel free to disregard all of what follows. Prior experience and observation have shown me that interactions with you are not likely to be productive or enjoyable. I disagree pretty fiercely with Ben on many things, including some of his tactics, and I haven’t been shy about telling him so. But I have found that he is always willing to take a step back and show some consideration. I’ve gone around the same mountain with Roger Olson on numerous occasions over the past few years, and have found discussion with him to be gentlemanly, gracious, and always educational. Others on Dr. Olson’s blog and elsewhere have interacted similarly. When they don’t, I usually leave off. I have even had some easygoing interactions with Randal Rauser, where we disagreed in the extreme but still spoke to one another with kindness and respect.

        In contrast, I have found discussion with you to be unfruitful and frustrating. While there is merit to much of what you say, and you certainly present your case well, I have never seen you concede a single point to anyone, or even mention that their argument gave you pause to think. I have never seen you say you would need to consider a matter further. I have never seen you thank someone for their comment, apologize for anything you might have said out of turn, or show other forms of common courtesy to those you disagree with. Not that one has to do these things, but it makes the conversation feel more like … a conversation.

        You also respond with very long posts, making the same or similar arguments repeatedly. I just don’t have the time to read and respond to all of it, especially when I am already involved in discussion with two others on the same thread. Some of your posts are laced with less than charitable descriptions of your opponents, phrased in broad generalizations. Perhaps I am just lacking in patience.

        Again, I’m not trying to be your personal critic … but you mentioned my lack of response so I am sharing some observations by way of explanation. It may just be a difference in style. The bottom line is, one way or another, we don’t seem to be a well suited pair for discussions of this type. I think your style may be more suited to someone like Steve Hays — a Calvinist whom I carefully avoid interacting with, unless I can express complete agreement with his point (anything less is likely to break down into something I’ll regret later).

        In any case, it does not seem to me that it would be wise or productive for us to interact. My apologies for the part my own lack of patience and grace plays in that conclusion.

        To reiterate my disclaimer: I could be totally wrong about you, so feel free to ignore all of the above commentary as misguided and ill conceived tripe, and figure I am just too tired or unsanctified to interact properly with your arguments.

        Whatever the case, I wish you many blessings.

        Grace and peace,
        Derek

  15. StriderMTB says:

    So then Derek you concede that you have never had a thought or desire that was not pre-determined by God? Remember you are trying to argue that compatibilism is fundamentally distinguished from hard determinism because it doesn’t collapse into causal determinism. In fact you said I was being “unfair” to suggest that compatibilism and hard determinism both result in causal determinism. You now admit that the very “wants” and “desires” that make the cogs of compatibilism go round and round are themselves determined by God via a sovereign foreordination “of everything about my life” that you were not free to resist…or think, desire or act contrary to. There is no mystery or paradox. Everything has been determined!

    So tell me again how compatibilism doesn’t collapse into determinism? Let’s deal with this before we move on to your “use of means” and then your misappropriation of Romans 3.

    Shalom.

    • Robert says:

      Hello Matt,
      I want to discuss your observation and use it to show that the “compatibilism”/soft determinism/theological determinism/calvinism, whatever you want to call it: Derek’s espoused philosophy, if true means that we never ever have a choice (i.e. which means we never experience genuine free will).

      Matt you wrote:

      “So then Derek you concede that you have never had a thought or desire that was not pre-determined by God? Remember you are trying to argue that compatibilism is fundamentally distinguished from hard determinism because it doesn’t collapse into causal determinism. In fact you said I was being “unfair” to suggest that compatibilism and hard determinism both result in causal determinism. You now admit that the very “wants” and “desires” that make the cogs of compatibilism go round and round are themselves determined by God via a sovereign foreordination “of everything about my life” that you were not free to resist…or think, desire or act contrary to. There is no mystery or paradox. Everything has been determined!”

      Derek has already conceded that his every thought and desire is pre-determined by God.

      So what exactly does that mean, let’s use a very close to home illustration for Derek’ sake: Derek’s key strokes as he typed his posts. If Derek is correct that God has predetermined his every thought and desire, everything. Then that includes the key strokes that Derek typed when he types his posts and sent them to your blog Matt. If that is true, then Derek never experienced having free will as he typed the key strokes on this computer. That is true because in eternity God decided beforehand exactly what Derek would think, what he would know, what he would desire to type in his posts and even each individual key stroke as he typed his posts. Now here is the kicker, if Derek’s exhaustive determinism is true, then with every single key stroke he had to type them all and it was impossible for him to do otherwise. He could not have typed a single key stroke differently than he did in fact type. It was all preplanned, all decided beforehand by God. What this means is that if his every key stroke was ordained, then he never ever had a choice as to what he was going to type. He might have thought well I will say this instead of that, but that assumes he had a choice of typing this or that. But he had no choice, he had to type exactly what he typed. Now Derek may want to claim that he was acting “freely”, but this “freedom” is not freedom at all. It is an illusion, it is not real free will where you really could do this or that. Derek wants us to call his having every key stroke preprogrammed, “free will”. If his determinism is true he does not act freely and it is an abuse of language to call his compatibilism making room for genuine free will.

      This is why compatibilism has been mocked and rightly so, for it is an irrational position. It affirms a contradiction and expects us to believe it. Immanuel Kant referred to it as a “wretched subterfuge”. William James described it as: a “quagmire of evasion”. And Wallace Matson fittingly said of compatibilism that it is “the most flabbergasting instance of the fallacy of changing the subject to be encountered anywhere in the complete history of sophistry . . . [a ploy that] was intended to take in the vulgar, but which has beguiled the learned in our time.”

      And as you have correctly observed Matt, if his compatibilism is true, then seeking to persuade others that something is true or false is a joke: because if his compatibilism is true then the key strokes of ****all of us**** are all preprogrammed. We have to do what we do, believe what we believe, say what we say, and it is absolutely impossible for us to do otherwise. But rationality presupposes free will that you can choose to accept the truth and reject error.

      Robert

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for your response.

      Part of the problem here is that we are speaking two very different philosophical languages. We embrace opposing assumptions and presuppositions (although i would guess we fundamentally agree that Scripture is inerrant and Christ alone saves, by grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone?).

      Your arguments presuppose that freedom of will is incompatible with God’s pre-determinate counsel. If I agreed with this presupposition, I would find your arguments (and Robert’s) unassailable. However, do you have any argument to prove that this really is the case? Do you have a Biblical argument to prove this?

      My presupposition is that God’s all-determining will, eternal decree, and continuous providential action are not at all incompatible with creaturely freedom of will. I see God’s decree clearly taught in Scripture, so I cannot take that away without a total change of heart in terms of the exegesis. On the other hand, I live in a world in which I experience every moment the liberty of my choices. Uncoerced, unconstrained, and apparently including the ability to choose otherwise than I do. But alas, which am I to believe? God’s Holy Word or my undeniable experience?

      But wait! Another aspect of my experience has been my absolute and unquenchable rebellion. Only God’s sovereign grace could ever have changed my heart and altered my course. And yet by His grace I did not find myself constrained or forced to believe. I chose it freely; yet I could (and would) only choose it by sovereign, irresistible grace.

      But then again, God’s Word commands me to choose and holds me responsible for the choices I make. It nevertheless says I can have no good thing (faith and repentance included) unless God grants it to me by His mercy.

      So now I have God’s Word on both sides, and my experience on both sides. What can I do but hold on to both of them? I can’t explain how God sovereignly ordains all things and yet keeps me free to choose in ways that render me morally responsible, unconstrained, voluntarily motivated, and apparently not without other options.

      So I find myself embracing compatibilism — the belief that there can be a pre-determination of everything by an incomprehensible God without any diminishment of natural human freedom and responsibility. A million “rational” arguments against it won’t change my understanding of God’s Word or my experiences.

      To me, these matters are a great mystery. I view God’s sovereign decree and my freedom as much more complex than a mere philosophical “seesaw,” which would entail that any gain on one side necessarily results in a corresponding loss on the other. I conceive of my freedom as existing within and being upheld by His all-determining sovereignty.

      So I don’t see how compatibilism can ever “collapse” into mere determinism. It involves determinism, yes, certainly. But if you define determinism in a way that automatically rules out the possibility of genuine freedom, I can only say that my compatibilism does not involve that kind of determinism. I would actually join you in arguing against any determinism that rules out human freedom and responsibility. I would equally oppose any version of human freedom that rules out determinism. I refuse to close off these categories as if they are mutually exclusive, since there does not appear to be any compelling reason to do so from a Biblical, philosophical or experiential standpoint.

      So you see, we may well be talking about different concepts but using the same words. Do you agree that this may be the case?

      Do you think it is remotely possible that predestination and freedom are not mutually exclusive?

      Blessings,
      Derek

      • StriderMTB says:

        Hi Derek, again thanks for trying to clarify your views further. I do appreciate it. I’m not trying to be sarcastic when I say you are doing a good job of showing any reader who is toying with compatibilism the mental hurdles he must jump through in order to affirm it. With that said I must be bluntly honest and say you have done little else but confirm my worst fears: Calvinism is madness—and must be opposed at all costs for the sake of the gospel and humanity ☺

        Well…maybe that is a bit much ☺ but let me explain. I don’t think the “problem is we are speaking two very different philosophical languages” as you suggest. Rather one of us is using philosophical language in a valid manner and the other isn’t. There is only one philosophical “language” and we either use words and logic rightly or wrongly. More on that later.

        My greatest concern after reading your response is that you have a unique…if not unnerving talent to embrace unambiguous, clear contradictions but not see them as such. You are doing this by an act of sheer will, Derek. Surely you must see this. Only a will as resolved and self-determined as yours can so consistently circumvent the obvious, obscure the meaning of key terms (like free), be so dismissive of logical implications and ultimately embrace a deluded, incoherent philosophy that says we freely choose what we are causally determined to choose via a divine, irresistible decree.

        I’m not trying to attack you or disparage you, Derek. Nor am I saying you are not intelligent. You obviously have a gifted intelligence (me not so much) but to adopt your point of view one must literally embrace a mindset of confusing, incoherent absurdity and do so without losing one’s mind. I saw a clip of Piper in which he concedes that God determined all our besetting sins, but when challenged to explain how this could be he said something along the lines of, “Don’t think about it too much—you will go crazy. People that try to understand it can literally go crazy.”

        This is the price one must ultimately pay to be a Calvinist of the Edwards, Piper stripe. One must discharge all rationality and embrace a delusion—not a mystery, not a paradox but a delusion. What you are proposing is not a mystery—or even a paradox. It is as clear a contradiction as if I were to argue for the existence of a married bachelor. The Trinity—now that has aspects of legitimate mystery but there is nothing inherently contradictory about the Godhead being 3 distinct persons in 1 substance. However what you propose is no mystery.

        You are trying to propose the following:

        1) All our thoughts, intentions, motivations, desires and choices are causally predetermined for us through God’s decretive will, such that we are not FREE to think, desire or choose against God’s decree.

        2) Whatever we think, desire and choose to do we do so freely.

        You haven’t bothered to explain how this ISN’T a blatant contradiction. You just say it is isn’t. But that’s just not good enough–especially if we are going around telling people that God determined all their sins.

        You write:

        “So you see, we may well be talking about different concepts but using the same words. Do you agree that this may be the case?”

        Sorry Derek, that just isn’t accurate. Rather we are using the same words but you are consigning different meanings to them. If a choice is determined through an irresistible decree, thus making the choice necessary, then the choice is not FREE. You however don’t seem to grasp this pivotal point at all, which is why we are using the same words, but you are obscuring their true meanings.

        You asked: “Do you think it is remotely possible that predestination and freedom are not mutually exclusive?”

        Derek, let’s get honest for a sec. When you use the word “predestination” you have in mind an act of divine determinism that makes the EFFECT of the determinative decree necessary, and thus not free. The divine decree is the ultimate cause for everything that occurs. No one is free to act contrary to God’s divine decree. Our wills are just instrumental, secondary causes to bring about the divine will—no different than if I were to use the instrument of a stick to move a stone. The stick causes the stone to move, but I caused the stick to move in such a way that it moved the stone. That is the compatibilistic notion of secondary causation. In other words your definition of predestination ultimately means causal determinism. Why don’t you just accept this rather than fudge the issue?

        With that said the answer is “No”— causal determinism and genuine freedom are, and will always be, intrinsically mutually exclusive.

        Now– are biblical election, salvation and predestination mutually exclusive to freedom? Not at all. They compliment each other very well when one drops the special interpretations of Calvinism.

        You write:

        “So I don’t see how compatibilism can ever “collapse” into mere determinism. It involves determinism, yes, certainly. But if you define determinism in a way that automatically rules out the possibility of genuine freedom, I can only say that my compatibilism does not involve that kind of determinism.”

        Here Derek you are saying nothing more than:

        “If you define determinism the way it is philosophically and logically understood, then, yes, it would rule out the possibility of genuine freedom. But when I speak of “determinism” and when I speak of “freedom” I am rejecting the accepted, normal usages and definitions of such terms and consigning my own special, private interpretations to them, such that my compatibilism doesn’t involve the incoherent, logical problems it normally would if I were to adopt the proper, long-standing definitions.”

        Lastly Derek, my major concern is the effect your view has on foreign missions. Do we really want to go around telling people that God has predetermined all their sins through an irresistible sovereign decree? Just think about the implications of such a view: Jesus admonished us to pray, “Father who is in heaven…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” BUT in Calvinism it would read “lead us not into the temptation you decreed for us to be tempted by and deliver us also from the evil you decreed for us.” Come on man–just think about what nonsense your view collapses into! You would need to temporarily surpress or suspend your Calvinism to get anything of worth out of such verses. Yet not everyone has your special talent to be so “flexible” in not seeing both the logical and moral complications and contradictions of such a theological worldview. Is it fair for you to expect 3rd world people, untrained in “sophisticated thinking” to have some strained and heightened sense of philosophical thought that can explain away apparent contradictions by dwelling in a world of paradox?

        Though his posts may be lengthy, Robert rightly points out, your definition of freedom is doing what we were preprogrammed deterministically to do–down to every one of your key strokes and spelling mistakes. I just don’t see God’s sovereignty as being as insecure as your view appears to suggest. I don’t think God is scared of libertarian freedom, and from the beginning He knew He could reach his sovereign purposes without programming all of our thoughts and actions.

        Moreover Robert’s analysis is correct when he says that Calvinism acts like a Trojan Horse. This really is my biggest problem with Calvinism. They are not upfront and forthcoming with how they use terms! “God is sovereign for the sake of His glory!” the Calvinist says and the people agree. But under the guise of “sovereignty” a host of hidden assumptions and special definitions are smuggled in and not revealed until the “convert” has swallowed the hook down so deep he won’t spit it out when they tell him or her, “Oh—by the way God also decreed every one of your relationship destroying sins and temptations for His glory. If that seems to contradict a lot of the Bible, don’t worry about it. I don’t understand it either–It’s a mystery.”

        There is a reason Calvinism has resulted in untold division and confusion. Calvinism makes God’s moral nature morally ambiguous.

        That leads me to my last point. You seem to have great respect for the Bible and it appears that you really do believe certain scriptural passages require you to interpret them in a manner that extols God’s meticulous, causal determination of all things through irresistible, hidden decrees. But really Derek, it’s not as if the “other side” hasn’t dealt with these passages. Have you really plumbed the depths of how Arminians interpret the classic, Calvinist proof-texts? Have you truly read from the “horse’s mouth?” The very passages you have cited are quite easy to explain without affirming a divine determinism that causally controls your every thought and choice.

        Hopefully I will be able to post on many such verses soon–because if that really is where it all starts for some Calvinists– it is unfortunate and unnecessary.

        A big SHALOM to you,
        Matt

      • Robert says:

        I want to comment on Derek’s post as it provides such perfect examples with the reasoning errors and irrationality that Derek continues to engage in. Sorry if this is long but I really believe it needs to be said.

        Derek writes:

        “Part of the problem here is that we are speaking two very different philosophical languages. We embrace opposing assumptions and presuppositions (although i would guess we fundamentally agree that Scripture is inerrant and Christ alone saves, by grace alone through faith alone to the glory of God alone?).”

        We all operate by the same laws of logic, universally true logical principles. The problem for us (the noncalvinists here) is that Derek keeps asserting blatant contradictions. As we understand the nature of contradictions we also know that all views that involve such blatant contradictions are necessarily false.

        Derek likens the disagreement to “speaking two very different philosophical languages”. This is actually a good analogy but not for the reason Derek thinks it is. The problem is that Derek uses the same terms that we use but with different meanings. In the beginning of my Christian experience I worked with Walter Martin (a well-known expert on cults, author of the classic text on cults: KINGDOM OF THE CULTS). What I saw over and over again from these non-Christian cults is them using our terms, ordinary Christian terms, but with very different meanings. When this happens it always leads to confusion, frustration and lack of good communication. The same is true with determinists. They use the same terms the rest of us use but with their own meanings. We mean by acting freely that a person has a choice: they mean by acting freely that the person’s every thought, desire, movement, belief, action, bodily movement is directly controlled by God and simultaneously the person has free will and is acting freely. That is logical nonsense, it is irrational, it is affirming a contradiction. We point out this contradiction and they refuse to see it.

        “Your arguments presuppose that freedom of will is incompatible with God’s pre-determinate counsel.”

        It is, it has to be as it is a contradiction. But Derek has repeatedly affirmed this contradiction and then tried to pass it off as merely a paradox or a mystery or something beyond our understanding.

        “If I agreed with this presupposition,”

        If Derek agreed with this presupposition he would be rational. But he disagrees and so continues to assert his contradiction as true. And those of us who know logical principles again know that a contradiction is false it cannot be true.

        “ I would find your arguments (and Robert’s) unassailable.”

        If our arguments are “unassailable” that would only be true because we are operating by valid logical principles. I happen to think our arguments are valid and do show that Derek’s compatibilism affirms a contradiction. But Derek refuses to see this. He is so committed to his calvinistic theology to his determinism that what seems obvious to the rest of us, he just refuses to see.

        “ However, do you have any argument to prove that this really is the case?”

        Well besides the arguments both Matt and I have already presented, you might want to consider a famous argument by Peter InWagen called the “consequence argument” Van Inwagen shows that if all is determined, then factors outside of our control determine our every action and if this is so, then we are not acting freely.

        “ Do you have a Biblical argument to prove this?”

        There is no single argument presented in the Bible showing that compatibilism is a contradiction. This is not because that is not true, but because the Bible is not a philosophical textbook, its intent is not to present philosophical arguments. That being true, we are forced to an abductive argument (i.e. an abductive argument contains elements of both deduction and induction but involves coming up with the best explanation for the available data). Abduction occurs when you have a problem or issue and there are differing explanations for it. So you have to consider various differing explanations for it and arrive at the best available explanation for the problem or issue. For me it is very simple: free will as ordinarily understood involves not only making choices but having choices. So the question then becomes does the Bible present evidence that people sometimes have choices? If it does not, then determinism could be true. If it does, then determinism cannot be true (as exhaustive determinism if true means that we never ever have a choice). Or put it another way. A universal negative asserts that something cannot be the case, it is impossible that it be the case. Universal negatives are disproved by even a single contrary case. If someone claims that no crows are black, that is a universal negative. You disprove this by providing even one example of a black crow. And not only can you provide one example of a black crow you can provide many so this universal negative is easily refuted. What determinists do not realize, is that if all is determined then we never ever have a choice, it is impossible that we could ever have a choice. That is unwittingly asserting a universal negative. So any evidence both in the bible and in our own experience of a person having a genuine choice refutes exhaustive determinism. Derek asks for a biblical argument. It is this: any evidence in the bible that a person has a choice refutes exhaustive determinism. And not only is there one piece of evidence there is lots of evidence of people having choices.

        Take one example. In 1 Cor. 10:13 we are told that when we are tempted that God always provides a way of escape from this temptation for us. Well if we take that verse at face value that is clearly presenting evidence that people sometimes have a choice. In this case, the believer has a choice between giving into temptation or resisting temptation by taking the way of escape provided by God. This means the believer really can resist temptation. The vast majority of Christians reading this verse have no problem interpreting it and seeing that it clearly speaks of a situation where a person has a choice. If exhaustive determinism is true on the other hand, this makes a mockery of this verse. If ED is true, then say God predetermined the believer would give into temptation. If that is the case, then when the temptation came, God would provide the way of escape as he promises, and yet it would be impossible for the believer to resist the temptation. As his/her action is predetermined it is impossible that they resist the temptation. This is just one verse that clearly speaks of people having choices, there are many others all over the bible. And yet if ED is true, then all of these verses are misleading, deceptive, not true at all, because while they may seem to speak of people having choices in reality since their every move is predetermined they never ever have a choice. So we have a choice between going by the available evidence to the best explanation (again this is abductive reasoning) which is that we sometimes have a choice and so ED is false. Or we posit ED and must conclude that we never ever have a choice and that all allussions or direct references to people having choices in the Bible are illusion, are false, are misleading. Now I really do not believe that God is playing games with us, I believe that when he speaks about people having choices in the Bible, they really have those choices. But if they really have those choices then ED must be false as ED includes that universal negative that we never ever have choices. By the way, I discussed this argument with Alvin Plantinga and he thought it was a good argument. So while it may not be “unassailable” it has the endorsement of some very sharp Christian philosophers.

        “My presupposition is that God’s all-determining will, eternal decree, and continuous providential action are not at all incompatible with creaturely freedom of will.”

        That is again a clear statement of the contradiction, a contradiction that Matt and I see clearly but Derek refuses to see.

        “I see God’s decree clearly taught in Scripture, so I cannot take that away without a total change of heart in terms of the exegesis.”

        Scripture presents God as having decreed some things, but it does not teach he decrees all things. Again we may consider a principle of logic: is it always, never, or sometimes the case. I think it is obvious that the Bible does not say that God never decrees anything (so we can safely throw out NEVER). That leaves us with two remaining possibilities, that God decrees everything or that God decrees some things and not others. I suggest that careful consideration of the available evidence ought to lead us to the conclusion that he decrees some but not all things (that is the best explanation of all of the data of scripture).

        “On the other hand, I live in a world in which I experience every moment the liberty of my choices. Uncoerced, unconstrained, and apparently including the ability to choose otherwise than I do.”

        Another interesting admission by Derek. He admits here that is seems as if in his everyday daily experience that he has free will. That he sometimes has choices, that these choices are uncoerced, unconstrained, and even “including the ability to choose otherwise than I do.” So Derek openly admits here that his daily experience seems to include and involve sometimes experiencing libertarian free will (i.e. the ability to do otherwise, to have choices).

        “But alas, which am I to believe? God’s Holy Word or my undeniable experience?”

        But now Derek speaks of what he sees as a a CONTRADICTION.

        Between his daily experience where he seems to experience libertarian free will (“my undeniable experience”) versus “God’s Holy Word”. But this is not really a contradiction because Derek ASSUMES the calvinistic intepretation of God’s Word to be true. So the real contradiction here is between his daily experience/”my undeniable experience” VERSUS his calvinistic interpretation of scripture/”God’s Holy Word.”

        My big, big problem with this is that I absolutely agree that our “undeniable experience” daily is that we have free will. But I also believe the calvinistic interpretation if false, mistaken. That is the way out for Derek out of his own dilemma. He does not have to give up his “undeniable experience”, what he needs to give up is the mistaken exhaustive determinism interpretation of God’s Word. What he has in actuality is a contradiction between his “undeniable experience” and a particular interpretation of the Bible. I have a suggestion for him if he wants to remain a calvinist and not have to maintain this contradiction between his daily experience and the exhaustive determinism interpretation of the Bible: be like a friend of mine. I have a friend, Greg Koukl who is very involved with apologetics. Greg also is affirms the elements of TULIP. Greg also affirms that in our daily life we experience libertarian free will. What Greg does not affirm however is that he does not affirm exhaustive determinism. Greg is a really sharp guy, knows philosophy, knows theology and he affirms both libertarian free will in our daily experience and TULIP. Greg also does not have the same problems as other Calvinists who affirm ED: his views do not make God the author of evil. He does not have to reinterpret every Bible verse that speaks of people having choices. While I disagree with Greg on his soteriology (i.e. Tulip) I have to admit that in my opinion he presents the strongest view of Calvinism that I am aware of . It is like his view has the strengths of calvinism but not the really bad weaknesses. I suggest that Derek seriously consider this option. But if he adopts this option he has to give us his belief and commitment to exhaustive determinism. But look at what he would gain: he could affirm both his “undeniable experience” of libertarian free will and TULIP.

        “But wait! Another aspect of my experience has been my absolute and unquenchable rebellion.”

        But if all is predetermined then so is that rebellion! I would submit that his rebellion like the rebellion of all of us is not predetermined but freely chosen by us.

        “ Only God’s sovereign grace could ever have changed my heart and altered my course.”

        Greg Koukl believes that, and Arminians believe that as well. All who are biblical hold that we cannot be saved apart from the grace of God.

        “And yet by His grace I did not find myself constrained or forced to believe. I chose it freely; yet I could (and would) only choose it by sovereign, irresistible grace.”

        Now we have a contradiction again. Irresistible grace eliminates free will. If you are irresistible caused to believe then it was impossible for you to choose otherwise. If it was impossible for you to choose otherwise then it is not true that “I chose it freely”. Here Derek reverts to his determinism and affirmation of contradiction again. Anything that is irresistible is necessary and anything that is necessary eliminates free will. This is the two different languages again, this is the use of the same terms with very different meanings again.

        “But then again, God’s Word commands me to choose and holds me responsible for the choices I make. It nevertheless says I can have no good thing (faith and repentance included) unless God grants it to me by His mercy.”

        God the Holy Spirit reveals things to us when we are nonbelievers. He reveals things such as our sinful condition, our lost state, that Jesus is the way of salvation, that Jesus is the only way of salvation, that we must repent of sin and believe the gospel, the content and meaning of the gospel, etc. etc. etc. by revealing these things the Spirit enables but does not necessitate a faith response from the sinner. We don’t deserve this work of the Spirit nor do we seek it out, and yet He does it out of love.

        “So now I have God’s Word on both sides, and my experience on both sides. What can I do but hold on to both of them?”

        No, you have a CALVINISTIC INTERPRETATION on one side AND your “undeniable experience” of free will on the other. And that interpretation and that experience CONTRADICT each other. If you keep the interpretation you contradict your experience. Again it is better to reject the interpretation that involves exhaustive determinism.

        “I can’t explain how God sovereignly ordains all things and yet keeps me free to choose in ways that render me morally responsible, unconstrained, voluntarily motivated, and apparently not without other options.”

        Derek cannot explain how both can be true because it necessarily involves a contradiction. A contradiction again that he refuses to acknowledge. Some have departed from exhaustive determinism when they realized it was false, unfortunately becoming atheists (some of the most virulent atheists around are ex-Calvinists). Some like Greg Koukl are smart enough to realize that you can be a calvinist and affirm the five points/TULIP while also affirming libertarian free will. Seems to me that is the way that Derek ought to go if he is convinced that scripture teaches the five points. I can respect that even if I disagree with the position on soteriology. What I cannot respect is someone who keeps affirming a blatant contradiction and keeps claiming it is not a contradiction or tries to cover it up as a paradox or mystery.

        “So I find myself embracing compatibilism — the belief that there can be a pre-determination of everything by an incomprehensible God without any diminishment of natural human freedom and responsibility.”

        He continues to hold to the contradiction no matter what!!

        He even states as much:

        “ A million “rational” arguments against it won’t change my understanding of God’s Word or my experiences.”

        He should seriously consider the possibility that these “millions of rational arguments” against exhaustive determinism (and there are literally millions of Christians, the majority of Christians who have argued against it now and throughout church history) are actually good and valid arguments. Instead he says he is willing to jettison them all in order to keep his exhaustive determinism. That is very sad and completely unnecessary.

        “To me, these matters are a great mystery. I view God’s sovereign decree and my freedom as much more complex than a mere philosophical “seesaw,” which would entail that any gain on one side necessarily results in a corresponding loss on the other. I conceive of my freedom as existing within and being upheld by His all-determining sovereignty.”

        And here we have the appeal to mystery. Derek affirms the contradiction and then pulls the mystery card. I have pointed out at others times this is a cop-out. Instead of going with the available evidence (which includes his own daily experience of free will which he himself describes as “undeniable experience”). I don’t have much sympathy for someone who intentionally and despite being shown by others that they are affirming a contradiction, continues to do so and then tries to cover it up with an appeal to mystery. God gave us a mind to reason with, and he expects us to be honest with the available evidence, to not deny truth but to embrace and affirm it. He did not give us a mind to try to evade the truth and cover contradictions with appeals to mystery.

        “So I don’t see how compatibilism can ever “collapse” into mere determinism.”

        Derek just refuses to face the truth: hard and soft determinism (i..e compatibilism) as defined in contemporary discussions both hold in common the concept of exhaustive determinism. He can play semantic word games all he wants but nothing will change that reality.

        “ It involves determinism, yes, certainly. But if you define determinism in a way that automatically rules out the possibility of genuine freedom, I can only say that my compatibilism does not involve that kind of determinism.”

        Here Derek is denying compatibilism (which denies libertarian free will) while affirming what looks like libertarian free will. But that cannot be right as he holds to compatibilism that God decreed whatsoever comes to pass. So he wants to sound like a libertarian on free will while affirming compatibiism which denies libertarian free will. This is actually quite common among calvinists and a good example of how they use the same words but with different meanings.

        “I would actually join you in arguing against any determinism that rules out human freedom and responsibility.”

        Hard determinists argue that. Hard determinism is not the problem here, soft determinism is.

        Calvinists like Derek affirm soft determinism (it is called soft because it affirms exhaustive determinism just as much as hard determinism, but unlike hard determinism it affirms that people are responsible for what they do, hard determinists deny personal responsibility).

        “I would equally oppose any version of human freedom that rules out determinism.”

        And THAT is the crucial error, as long as he holds to determinism his espoused philosophy (soft determinism, the calvinistic interpretation of the Bible) will always contradict his own and everybody else’s daily reality where they in fact experience libertarian free will.

        “ I refuse to close off these categories as if they are mutually exclusive, since there does not appear to be any compelling reason to do so from a Biblical, philosophical or experiential standpoint.”

        There it is yet again: he continues to affirm the contradiction, it almost seems as if he revels in it, takes pride in his commitment to this contradiction. His mind appears made up, which is why he takes offense when others present good and valid arguments against his contradiction. And he does not care, as he himself states if they present millions of these logical arguments against his cherished contradiction. Sad really sad to see someone use their God given reason to affirm a contradiction and then defend this affirmation.

        “So you see, we may well be talking about different concepts but using the same words. Do you agree that this may be the case?”

        No we are talking about the same concepts but with different words. Matt and I see the contradiction between affirming exhaustive determinism and having choices/free will. We call this a contradiction, Derek calls it a mystery. Where we see lots of evidence against exhaustive determinism and good arguments against it: Derek says that it does not matter if there are millions of logical arguments against his contradiction he will keep holding it anyway.

        “Do you think it is remotely possible that predestination and freedom are not mutually exclusive?”

        No.

        Having choices which is what most of us mean by the word “free will” is incompatible with exhaustive determinism/predestination of all things. If one exists the other cannot exist. It is sad that Derek even admits there is tons of evidence against exhaustive determinism, against the Calvinistic interpretation that posits exhaustive predestination, namely his own daily experience. And yet he will choose to keep holding that contradiction “come hell or high water.”

        Robert

      • theoparadox says:

        Matt,

        I think we are getting down to the root issue here. If I “hear” you correctly, you are saying that you fundamentally disagree with the premise of Christian compatibilism (which is that God’s pre-determination of everything is compatible with [and not contradictory to] genuine human freedom), and you do not even think it remotely possible that it could be true.

        That last part presents a very strong claim of assurance in how divine sovereignty and human choices can relate to one another. You are not simply saying they DO NOT relate a compatibilistic way; you seem to be making the claim that they CAN NOT relate this way. The alternative would seem to be a view of divine sovereignty that does not involve pre-determination of everything. Again, I wonder how you distinguish between those events that are pre-determined and those that aren’t?

        Moving along, I find it fascinating that any thinking person would not consider the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human choices to be a mystery. In saying this, I should be careful to define my terms. By “mystery,” I mean an item or area of knowledge which God has not revealed to us explicitly through some means (e.g., the Bible, creation, etc.).

        I should also reiterate my definition of “compatibilism,” as mentioned above. It is simply the belief that divine pre-determination of everything does not conflict with genuine human freedom of choice. Jonathan Edwards affirmed this, but also went much further by actually proposing a theory of how it all works. I am not doing that (at least not right now). Although I admire Edwards’ attempt, I don’t view the results as something “revealed by God,” and thus I cannot claim the matter is no longer mysterious to me simply because someone has come up with what they think is a great explanation. Someone else may come up with a better one. Even so, until God reveals this, it remains an area of uncertainty for compatibilistic Christians who regard the Bible as their highest epistemological authority.

        I am honestly amazed that anyone can have so strong an assurance in ruling out the mere possibility (that God ccould possibly establish His sovereignty and our choices in a compatibilistic way) that they would even cast accusations of “irrationalism” at those who do affirm it.

        In short, I would like to see someone here (or anywhere) Biblically and logically demonstrate to me that it is impossible for God to use compatibilism (as I have defined it–which, by the way, is a standard definition) in His administration of the universe. In essence, can you show me that the concept of God’s pre-determination of everything and the concept of human freedom are genuinely contradictory?

        I am not asking whether they strike you as contradictory, if they feel contradictory, if they appear to be contradictory, etc. (or even if you find the idea to be dangerous from a practical standpoint). I am only asking for Biblical and logical proof that they ARE contradictory.

        The person who tries to do this faces a very significant problem: GOD is included in the equation! We are discussing a partly unrevealed relationship of metaphysical concepts which involve God’s management of His creation, the relationships of time and eternity, God and humanity (not to mention angels/demons and other entities we may not even know about), choice and freedom, responsibility and volition, etc.

        My contention is that the best Biblical and logical sense that can be made of the situation (taking all of the Biblical data and our own experiences into account) is that God mysteriously works (and remember, by “mysterious” I mean something He hasn’t explicitly revealed to us) in such a way that human freedom exists in harmony with divine pre-determination.

        I also believe that one can make a much stronger Biblical argument for compatibilism than for incompatibilism. But that is part of the reason I am a compatibilist.

        One additional note: to be clear, when I say a million “rational” arguments won’t convince me otherwise, I am referring to arguments that are purely based on human logic, and thus appear to be “rational,” yet do not take Biblical revelation into account. I tend to think that all of my Arminian brothers will agree heartily with me on this point.

        Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments and interactions.

        Blessings,
        Derek

  16. kangaroodort says:

    Derek,

    You wrote,

    I do believe that most Arminians hold their views sincerely and with what they believe is strong Scriptural backing.

    That is good to hear, but your rhetoric doesn’t always seem to suggest that and Patton’s post, which you endorse, doesn’t seem to suggest that either (as I documented in my response to him). Still, your comments here are refreshing, suggesting that it is a matter of exegesis and not whether or not we are willing to accept or “allow” for certain supposed tensions or paradoxes in Scripture. That is very important to remember in this debate.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    • theoparadox says:

      Ben,

      Thank you for your kind comment. I did not notice anything untoward in Patton’s post; however, I may have missed something. Either way, my “endorsement” of his post was directed solely at his affirmation of mystery/paradox in the subject matter discussed, and not necessarily an affirmation by me of every word and implication of the article. I have learned that I rarely agree 100% with anybody.

      At the same time, I have usually found Patton to be “fair and balanced” in his treatment of Arminians. Then again, nobody’s perfect.

      Many blessings,
      Derek

  17. Prometheus says:

    As one who very much dislikes Calvinism and in particular the Exhaustive Determinism, I nonetheless am frustrated by the way in which Derek’s critics are talking to him. First of all, it is often in the third person, saying “Derek” instead of “you.” Many are also making ad hominem attacks such as “refuses to see” instead of “doesn’t see” or even better, coming at it with a desire to converse. There is so much anger, which, while I understand hating Calvinist theology, is something that none of us should give into in our debating. I personally respect Calvinists who believe because they think the Bible says so more than the ones who try to only look at the philosophical side of things. While I agree that they should consider other options, I highly doubt that high-strung rhetoric will help.

    • kangaroodort says:

      Prometheus,

      Only one person is using third person here, and I agree with you on that. I personally don’t like that style at all and have addressed that very issue with the person you are talking about. I haven’t read through all of the comments, but I think I did read most of Matt’s and didn’t think his rhetoric was hateful in the least. He was being very straight forward and seemed to do his best to make sure Derek know that he meant nothing personal about it. Your comments are helpful though in that we all need to be very careful how we speak to each other.

      God Bless,
      Ben

  18. Prometheus says:

    Thanks, Ben.

    Sorry if I came out too strong.

  19. StriderMTB says:

    This is a good word for all of us to hear Prometheus. I do appreciate it…and I do think we need reminders like this…probably daily 🙂 I’m sure there are places where I can be less combative. Derek I do apologize to you if I came off too combative or arrogant. Let me share briefly where I’m coming from. I sometimes wonder how Jesus would have responded to a people who attribute both all things good and all things evil and sinful to his ordaining mind and ultimate handiwork. The closest we get to that is when Jesus (rather sarcastically) says, “Can a house divided against itself stand?” I can’t help but think it would make his blood boil– after all we are talking about rape, child abuse, causing children to stumble, etc.

    If Jesus had harsh words towards those that would dare cause children to stumble– saying it would be better for them if a millstone had been thrown around their neck and both cast into the sea– then I can’t help but think he would real in horror at the suggestion that his holy mind chose and decreed the very evils that would qualify as “millstone worthy.” I can’t help but think he would manifest a righteous indignation at the suggestion that he decreed every act of child molestation, abuse, abandonment and parents dying of AIDS. I work with kids who have come from such situations and I can tell you, it would be the end of their precious trust in the Lord if they were told that the God who loves them is the same God who causally determined the evils done against them–for his glory. Since I see it as the very anti-thesis of glory and all things true, good and lovely, I think, “My God–what if this stuff spreads further? What if this way of thinking gets into Cambodia?” The fact is though…it already has. And I have seen it rob people of compassion and incentive to extend mercy. Why? Because some people have a greater appreciation for logical implication than does Piper… and to be very honest, you Derek. Not everyone has the capacity to remain balanced on the see-saw of an alleged paradox. Rather they realize that if God chose it, determined it, decreed it– then hasn’t he more or less condoned it? If a person stepped on a land mine, then God determined they would step on a land mine… That means God wanted them to step on a land mine, God wanted them to be maimed for life. And if God wanted that to happen to them, why is it a tragedy? Why should I extend myself to help them overcome it? They have been cursed by God!

    So rather than pointing to the beauty of a Kingdom view that clearly sees good as good and evil as evil and motivates people to self-sacrificially serve and rescue those in bondage to evil, Calvinism ends up being substituted for Buddhist karma, which similarly has a view that everything that happens to you is the direct result of higher controlling force called Karma law.

    So I somewhat get emotional when I hear the other side discussing the incomprehensible horror of their views in a rather disengaged, philosophical voice. I call it the “plague” of cognitive dissonance that appears to be an epidemic among Calvinists. They do not allow themselves to fully understand or pursue the utter tragedy of what they believe– if they did I really think many would recognize it as house divided against itself. There is a reason people like Piper strip out all the tragic, logical consequences of a deterministic sovereignty when they first present it to new initiates. That is what troubles me the most. They are not forthright and upfront with the host of underlying, controversial assumptions inherent to statements like: “Reformed/Calvinist theology extols God’s sovereignty and glorifies Him the most!” Well–what Christian doesn’t want to glorify God the most? The problem is they are not being honest, they are not laying all their cards on the table. They don’t tell people God’s sovereign glory means He inspired and decreed the very acts of Satan. Satan becomes more or less God in disguise.

    This is one of the principal reasons I started my “Critiquing Calvinism” blog section. I’m seeking to put on the table the Calvinist cards that have long been hidden from view. I pray to God I can do it without becoming ensnared in a downward spiral of discussion–so I do need reminders like yours Prometheus. Thanks… and I luv you Derek 🙂

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  21. theoparadox says:

    Matt,

    Thank you for this excursus. I am excited to hear about your work in Cambodia, and wish you much success in serving “the least of these.” Arminian or Calvinist, those who roll up their sleeves to serve the poor are closest to God’s own heart. As David says, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor.”

    I share many of your concerns regarding the potential ill effects of Calvinism. Much of this can be characterized as hyper Calvinism (I sometimes refer to “high[per] Calvinism,” meaning anyone, whether “high” or “hyper” in his views, who over-emphasizes certain logical implications at the expense of other matters clearly revealed in Scripture).

    This is part of the reason I have embraced Moderate Calvnism, and devoted myself to deterring and opposing any form of Calvinism which:
    -denies or downplays human responsibility
    -calls God the author or direct cause of evil
    -uses God’s sovereignty as an excuse for sin
    -hinders evangelism/missions on the basis of election or other theological considerations
    -leads to apathy in service and devotion
    -elevates human logic above the revealed will of God

    In my view, Calvinism “done right” will actually result in the opposite effects, and to a greater extent than any non-Calvinist philosophy will. That is my conviction, and part of the reason I am a Moderate/Paradoxical Calvinist.

    To be honest, I would rather serve alongside a consecrated, moderate, and fair-minded Arminian who is growing in godliness than a cold high(per) Calvinist who is complacent and arrogant. A friend of mine, who is actually a Calvinist pastor in an A/G Church (working right alongside a non-Calvinist pastor for many years), stands with me in this conviction and refuses to make Calvinism/Arminianism a stumbling block to serving God faithfully as Christian brothers in this needy world.

    Blessings,
    Derek

    • Robert says:

      Derek made some more comments that deserve some response.

      Derek wrote:

      “I share many of your concerns regarding the potential ill effects of Calvinism. Much of this can be characterized as hyper Calvinism (I sometimes refer to “high[per] Calvinism,” meaning anyone, whether “high” or “hyper” in his views, who over-emphasizes certain logical implications at the expense of other matters clearly revealed in Scripture).”

      There are really two sorts of Calvinists today. Those who are consistent with their espoused theological determinism (that includes John Calvin himself, contemporaries like Gordon Clark and Vincent Cheung) and those who while espousing theological determinism are not consistent with their own premises. These are the calvinists who argue for everything being determined and yet want to hold that we have “genuine free will”. These are the Calvinists who argue against libertarian free will and yet live as if they have libertarian free will. Some calvinists such as Derek will sometimes invent the category of hyper-Calvinist to distance themselves from certain problems that come from consistent Calvinism. So they will say things like “the hyper calvinists deny genuine free will , but I don’t.” The problem is that anyone who holds to exhaustive determinism of all events DENIES FREE WILL as ordinarily understood (i.e. the majority of people believe that you only have free will when you have genuine choices and the choices that you make are up to you not decided by another person, including God) because genuine free will cannot coexist with exhaustive determinism (which is also why calvinists who are philosophically inclined view themselves as soft determinists, they have to *****redefine***** free will so that it involves doing what you want to do, not being coerced when you do it and yet not having genuine alternative possibilities available and accessible to you, you have to do the choice that you make and it is impossible for you to do otherwise).

      “This is part of the reason I have embraced Moderate Calvnism, and devoted myself to deterring and opposing any form of Calvinism which:
      -denies or downplays human responsibility
      -calls God the author or direct cause of evil
      -uses God’s sovereignty as an excuse for sin
      -hinders evangelism/missions on the basis of election or other theological considerations
      -leads to apathy in service and devotion
      -elevates human logic above the revealed will of God”

      There is no such thing as “Moderate Calvinism”, that is Derek’s invention.

      All of the calvinists that I know claim that human responsibility is compatible with exhaustive determinism. The vast majority of them affirm that God is not the author of sin and take great pains to try to argue their view does not logically entail this. So the calvinism Derek supposedly opposes here does not exist!

      “In my view, Calvinism “done right” will actually result in the opposite effects, and to a greater extent than any non-Calvinist philosophy will.”

      That is a sheer and dogmatic statement with absolutely no evidence given to support it or any arguments either.

      It is not CALVINISM “done right” that will result in the opposite effects of those Derek listed. It is CHRISTIANITY done right that will do so.

      And that is yet another problem with many Calvinists, they assume their theology **is** Christianity, or **is** the gospel (which also means that the rest of us do not have the gospel and are practicing a sub par form of Christianity).

      The good news was, is and always will be, Jesus and what he did, ***not*** calvinism.
      Consistent calvinism is not good news, in fact, for the majority of the human race it is the worst possible news!

      Which is also why my Catholic and Eastern Orthodox friends take joy in the gospel (and check out the attacks of calvinists against both Catholics and Eastern Orthodox people, you might think reading these things that no Catholic or Orthodox person could possibly have the gospel or be effectively living the Christian life) not in calvinism “done right”. I actually get along easily and well with Christians of other traditions if they hold the essentials and are actually living out the Christian life. For me an individual person’s character is more important than their particular Christian tradition. If character counts then we can get along with others who manifest and are seeking to manifest good Christian character. And none of us needs Calvinism “done right” to live the Christian life at all.

      “That is my conviction, and part of the reason I am a Moderate/Paradoxical Calvinist.”

      Again, there is no such thing as a “Moderate” calvinist, there are only calvinists consistent with their espoused philosophy and those who are not
      .
      And there is also not this category of “Paradoxical” Calvinist either. Again that is Derek’s invention.

      The words of Derek that caused the most concern however are his concluding paragraph:

      “To be honest, I would rather serve alongside a consecrated, moderate, and fair-minded Arminian who is growing in godliness than a cold high(per) Calvinist who is complacent and arrogant.”

      That starts out quite good. We should all prefer serving with committed Christians regardless of their theological tradition rather than “a cold high(per) Calvinist who is complacent and arrogant.” Speaking for myself I experience this principle all the time. I do prison ministry and have to work with various kinds of Chaplains. Some are Protestants, some are Catholics, some are even non-Christian (such as Muslims, which takes even more tolerance and humility). I do this because the goal is to get the gospel into the prisons and to share it with inmates. So I know all about working with committed believers from differing theological traditions. I don’t compromise any Christian beliefs but I also have to be able to get along with all types of people from all sorts of faith traditions. So we definitely should prefer a non-Calvinist with character over an arrogant calvinism.

      But the next comments however are extremely misleading:

      “A friend of mine, who is actually a Calvinist pastor in an A/G Church (working right alongside a non-Calvinist pastor for many years), stands with me in this conviction and refuses to make Calvinism/Arminianism a stumbling block to serving God faithfully as Christian brothers in this needy world.”

      This friend of Derek’s boasted about how he in a stealth manner presents the “doctrines of grace” to an unsuspecting youth group at this Assembly of God church. The actions of this friend of Derek’s are unconscionable and wrong. I started out at an A/G church and they don’t hold or teach Calvinistic doctrine. They are much more in line with Arminianism in their beliefs and practices. But if this friend’s actions were not bad enough, some Arminians including Ben who posted in this thread caught wind of it and confronted Derek about it. You should see Derek’s failed attempts at justifying the wrongful actions of his friend. What the friend did was wrong. He should not have tried to teach calvinism in a stealth manner. This wrongful action was compounded when Derek tries to justify it. If you hold calvinism then you should not be teaching it in a stealthful manner to young people (or anyone else for that matter). The right thing to do, is to go to a place where they hold calvinism, where you can freely teach it to likeminded folks without causing unnecessary division and confusion.

      This zealous effort by calvinists to try to convert non-Calvinists to their theology has sometimes led to some unseemly results and divisions.

      The Southern Baptists the largest protest denomination in the world now have this problem developing in their midst. For example one of their problems is with Calvinists not being open or honest with pastoral search committees (i.e. they are quiet about their commitment to calvinism and their calvinistic convictions during the interviewing process, until they get in, once in, they then attempt to convert the local church to calvinism). None of this is honest, none of this is right, and none of it can be justified. People need to be honest and forthright about their beliefs and you should not be teaching anything in a stealth manner.

      If you have the truth, then you openly proclaim it, present it, defend it, encourage others to embrace it, and live it out yourself.

      These stealth methods smacks again of precisely what non-Christian cults engage in, things I saw firsthand in the past. You don’t find Arminians or other non-Calvinists trying to take over Calvinistic congregations and convert them to non-Calvinism! And yet this is a serious and contemporary problem involving calvinists.

      People sometimes talk about unity among Christians. The unity is going to be based on holding to the essentials (things such as the trinity, the deity of Christ etc.) and manifesting Christian character (which again you don’t need calvinism for, my godly Catholic and Orthodox friends have great Christian character without calvinism). That is again why I can get along quite well with a Catholic or Orthodox person who loves Jesus, faithfully lives out the Christian life, though we definitely do not hold identical beliefs on some things.

      Robert

  22. theoparadox says:

    Matt,

    By the way, as a postscript, I am enjoying the conversation with you and don’t think you have come across as combative or unbrotherly. As the lone Calvinist commenting here, I also appreciate Prometheus’ appeal and agree with Ben that there is one commenter who “fits the bill.” My thoughts on this have been made known previously, so I will leave it at that.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  23. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, thanks for your very kind words as to the work I am privileged to be involved with and for your generous comments towards Arminians and working in concert with them. Moreover I do appreciate your attempts to articulate why you continue to believe divine determinism is compatible with genuine freedom of the will. Furthermore I do agree with you that we have gotten down to the root— that being that when one defines freedom as “choosing to do what one was determined to do by external factors beyond one’s control,” than of course I have no choice 🙂 but to agree that determinism is compatible with such “freedom.”

    Obviously I am putting “freedom” in quotes because your notion of freedom is simply a re-interpretation of freedom that allows you to circumvent an obvious contradiction. So I continue to be baffled why you say “genuine freedom.” That term is typically used by Arminians to refer to libertarian free-will, which implies genuine indeterminacy and contingency. Are you referring to libertarian free-will or are you again consigned your own, private interpretation to another word– “genuine?”

    What are your parameters for “genuine freedom?” Does it mean one is free to choose against an external cause acting upon him deterministically? If not– how is it genuine freedom? If I determine one of my students to fail by giving him a test that only contains invalid fill-in-the-blank options, can I still say he “genuinely failed?”

    If we are able to redefine terms when it suits us to make our points avoid logical implications, then there is very little reason to discuss the issue further and we are at an impasse. For example I feel as if I am saying, “John got married today so he is not a bachelor.” To which you respond, “I agree that John is now married but he is also still a bachelor.” When I try to point out the logical contradiction of such a statement, you respond, “Ah—yes I will grant you that it may have the appearance of a contradiction but it is not because I define a bachelor as being “one who is a married single.”

    Perhaps this is a poor illustration but it is what the discussion seems to have whittled down to from my perspective. You think doing what we are causally determined to do, and not free to act contrary to, is “genuine freedom.” We aren’t using definitive and crucial terms in the same (valid) manner and so it appears we have exhausted our points.

    In continuing this thought, I do find it a bit odd that on the one hand you say you appeal to paradox, but on the other hand you believe doing what we are divinely determined to do an acceptable definition for “genuine freedom.” So where is the paradox? The mystery disappears altogether! Freedom is simply redefined as doing what you were determined to do by causal factors outside yourself. There is no paradox!

    You say that I still have yet to offer a logical reason as to why your view is a contradiction—which of course is not true. I have done so repeatedly. What you are really driving at is, “Matt—you still have not offered a logical reason as to why my re-interpretation of freedom is incompatible with determinism.”

    But of course I strongly disagree with your special interpretation of “genuine” and “freedom.” Your definitions are artificial and so there is little that I can say.

    You state that my view is a view of sovereignty whereby all things are not pre-determined (I agree) and then you ask, “How do you distinguish between those events that are pre-determined and those that aren’t?” Quite easily. Events or choices that are pre-determined are determined and events that are not pre-determined are thus indeterminate and contingent.

    You also ask if I can offer a biblical proof or reason as to why compatibilistic determinism (a determinism which is causal and prohibits any choice against God’s determination) is illegitimate. Well I could just point out the fact that if universal, divine determinism via irresistible decrees is true, then all choices are rendered necessary, thus NOT FREE, and we are no longer in ultimate control of what we think or choose. Therefore I could just point to ANY example in scripture where a genuine, free choice is made to invalidate universal, exhaustive determinism.

    Or Derek… I could just point to the multitude of scriptures that speak of genuine indeterminacy and contingency, but the grand advantage you have is you can always appeal to “paradox” if the context takes on a tone of greater indeterminacy than your commitment to determinism can handle. So no matter what verse collapses into utter nonsense and absurdity (like sincerely praying that God not to lead us into the very temptations he decreed we succumb to, and delivering us from the very evils he decreed that we commit Mt. 6:13) and no matter what logical contradictions your view faces, you can always play your “paradox/mystery” card and say, “The contradiction only exists in God’s revealed will not his hidden will.”

    I find this advantage a tad unfair 🙂 Perhaps as an Arminian I can start saying, “Some people think the Bible is endorsing compatibilistic determinism—but actually it is not. It only appears that way in God’s revealed will that we are privy to see in part, but in his hidden will compatibilism is non-existent.” That would sort of be…hmmm a cop out, yes? 🙂

    In the spirit of acquiescing further 🙂 to your request for a biblical passage that counters compatibilism you may want to take a look at the following link that highlights 1 Cor. 10:13 (which Robert also highlighted). Personally I believe it is only one of a multitude of scriptures that lose all their homiletical force when interpreted compatibilistically.

    Lastly, let me offer a few comments in reply to one of your summary paragraphs. I do this to show why your view—EVEN IF IT WERE TRUE—is simply inaccessible or impractical to the average, thinking person. After the first wave of Calvinism-Is-The-Gospel missionaries are sent out to tell everyone that God’s sovereignty means he decreed all their unrighteous sins and acts of disobedience, secondary (paradox trained) missionaries would have to be sent out to do critical follow-up and instruct the masses how NOT to give in to the temptation to think too logically– but rather paradoxically.

    You wrote: (MY RESPONSE IS IN CAPS)
    “This is part of the reason I have embraced Moderate Calvnism, and devoted myself to deterring and opposing any form of Calvinism which:
    -denies or downplays human responsibility” (HOW ARE GOD’S IRRESISTIBLE DECREES FOR PEOPLE TO COMMIT THE MOST INSIDIOUS OF EVILS COMPATIBLE WITH HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

    “-calls God the author or direct cause of evil” (HOW IS GOD’S HOLY MIND THE FOREORDAINING ORIGIN FOR THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR BUT NOT THE ULITMATE AUTHOR OF THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR? WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD DECREEING THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR AND GOD AUTHORING THE SIN OF X TO OCCUR? ANSWER: PARADOX)

    “-uses God’s sovereignty as an excuse for sin” (BUT ALAS IF ONE DOES USE GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AS AN EXCUSE TO SIN— WOULDN’T SUCH AN EXCUSE TO SIN, AND THE SIN ITSELF, ALSO BE IRRESISTIBLY DECREED BY GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY? ANSWER: PARADOX

    “-hinders evangelism/missions on the basis of election or other theological considerations” (IT IS SAID GOD DESIRES ALL TO BE SAVED, NONE TO PERISH AND WANTS ALL TO COME TO A SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF HIM— YET GOD ACTIVILY WORKS AGAINST HIMSELF BY DETERMINING MANY TO PERISH. WHY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

    “-leads to apathy in service and devotion” (BUT ISN’T MY APATHY AND LACK OF DEVOTION PART OF THE “ALL THINGS” THAT GOD DETERMINED, SUCH THAT MY APATHY OR DEVOTION IS ULTIMATELY OUT OF MY CONTROL AND NOT REALLY UP TO ME? ANSWER: PARADOX

    “-elevates human logic above the revealed will of God” (BUT IF I ELEVATE HUMAN LOGIC ABOVE THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD—DIDN’T GOD DETERMINE ME TO DO SO? IF GOD DETERMINED EVERTHING I DO—GOOD OR BAD, WISE OR UNWISE—ON WHAT BASIS IS ANYTHING I DO TRULY BLAMEWORTY OR PRAISEWORTHY? ANSWER: PARADOX)

    I admire your enthusiasm and desire to remain committed to what you feel the scriptures teach, Derek. But in the end your compatibilistic determinism, despite your verbal protests (and lack of arguments to the contrary), does indeed collapse into causal determinism and invalidate genuine freedom. And thus there exists an obvious, fatal, self-defeating nature to your view.

    I don’t like to quote bomb… but William Lane Craig rightly notes:

    “There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so. One has not in fact been able to weigh the arguments pro and con and freely make up one’s mind on that basis. The difference between the person who weighs the arguments for determinism and rejects them and the person who weighs them and accepts them is wholly that one was determined by causal factors outside himself to believe and the other not to believe. When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”

    Shalom…and don’t forget to wish your Mom a Happy Mothers’s Day!
    Matt

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      This reply is well written, well argued, and very strongly stated. I am reeling with the force of it. Downright impressive, actually! Nevertheless, a few clarifications are in order, and I think I can escape the main thrust of your argument in the following manner:

      For starters, I have not invoked paradox in our discussion. I generally relegate this term to those cases where we can state at least two apparently contradictory propositions from Scripture. I do not use the term to indicate that there is no way to reconcile the propositions; rather, that the Bible itself does not offer a reconciliation. Thus we have an authoritative/inerrant/infallible paradox without an authoritative/inerrant/infallible resolution. I do not invoke paradox in the manner you suggest, as if it was a “get out of logic free” card. Rather, it indicates a special need for the application of logic–as well as a caution lest we rely on our logic more than the Word and elevate our own thoughts above Scripture.

      Your comments steer us in the direction of defining human freedom. This is a great angle. I need to mention that I have not at all defined freedom in the manner you suggest. Rather, I have been careful to define it both in terms of classical compatibilism (voluntary, uncoerced choice based on our own volition) and in terms of our actual experience of free choice (thus, “genuine” because it is our undeniable experience of real freedom–no special definitions here).

      So, as an example, when I chose my socks this morning, I am certain that I selected them with absolute freedom, in the followings ways:

      -I chose exactly the socks I wanted
      -No one forced me to choose the socks I chose
      -No one chose my socks for me (in the sense that the person’s choosing would prevent my choosing)
      -I could have chosen a different pair of socks (i.e., I possess the ability to choose a different pair of socks, or no socks at all for that matter)

      All of these things are clear from my experience of choosing socks, and I do not at all deny the power of contrary choice. However, I can further state the following based on a lot of Scripture:

      -God pre-determined which pair of socks I would choose this morning (in a way that does not contradict any of the above).

      Although I have not specifically invoked paradox, I have mentioned mystery. How all of those statements work together is certainly a mystery to me, since God has not revealed it. If asked, “Who chose your socks this morning, you or God?”, I would simply answer: “I chose my socks and God chose them.” The question presents a false dichotomy, and is akin to the question, “Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God or Pharaoh?” Scripture makes it undeniably clear that Pharaoh hardened his own heart … and yet God hardened Pharaoh’s heart as well. The same is said of the sin of Joseph’s brothers. Who meant for it to happen? Joseph states: “You meant IT for evil; but God meant IT for good.” The same event (“it”) is described as having two free agents choosing to make IT happen, and for two different and opposing moral reasons. Biblical Compatibilism preserves both the absolute freedom of God to choose everything, and, within that, the derived freedom of man to choose whatever is within his domain. Both Pharaoh’s hardening and Joseph’s betrayal present a mystery of divine sovereignty and human freedom, do they not?

      Notice that Joseph’s brothers weren’t somehow let off the hook because God “meant it for good.” No, they were responsible and they chose freely. Equally, the evil (the brothers’ sin) wasn’t celebrated, while the good outcome (God’s work) was. This is, to me, a perfect illustration of Romans 8:28. That verse, by the way, applies to “all things.”

      William Lane Craig (whom I respect greatly, by the way) overlooks the fact that multitudes have accepted determinism without any “vertigo” setting in. How can this be, given the strength of his point? In the case of Calvinistic theologians, it is avoided by holding to a Biblical balance and allowing the Scriptures to hold sufficient sway to prevent a false dichotomy from taking over.

      Some intelligent philosophers from Stanford University have defined compatibilism in this way: “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

      Are you willing to accept this as a standard definition? I accept it as a paraphrase of my own working definition, which is admittedly more theological in its framing.

      In light of the Stanford definition, could you not just as well say that compatibilism “collapses into free will”? It actually “collapses” into neither, but upholds both. As discussed above, there is abundant Biblical backing for this idea that free will and determinism are both employed by God in His administration of the universe. What is more, all the Scriptures that seem to support “free will” fit nicely into compatibilism; and all the Scriptures that seem to support determinism fit into it. Thus a true compatibilist can avoid awkward and obviously slanted exegesis.

      On that note, Robert’s comment displays an uncharacteristic ignorance in its denial of the existence of a robust Moderate Calvinist stream in Reformed theology. The many Moderate Calvinists have historically agreed with “Arminian” exegesis of passages like John 3:16 (i.e., “world” means “world”) and I John 2:2 (i.e., “whole world” means “whole world”). Robert thus declares non-existent those multitudes of Calvinists who would actually support him in his own interpretation of key verses. It is an ironic twist! However, it gives me great hope that he may gain more knowledge of this important area of historical theology and warm up to a whole stream of Calvinists he was apparently unaware of. Maybe with some new understanding he will even choose to become one, as I did. 🙂 [bracing for Robert’s next fiery blast]

      I am examining the referenced article on I Cor. 10:13, and have found it interesting thus far. Thank you for the challenge.

      Blessings,
      Derek

      • Robert says:

        We may actually making progress here as Derek’s latest comments clearly show where the problem lies.

        Derek you wrote:

        “Your comments steer us in the direction of defining human freedom. This is a great angle. I need to mention that I have not at all defined freedom in the manner you suggest. Rather, I have been careful to define it both in terms of classical compatibilism (voluntary, uncoerced choice based on our own volition) and in terms of our actual experience of free choice (thus, “genuine” because it is our undeniable experience of real freedom–no special definitions here).”

        All of us agree, both libertarians and compatibilists, that a person who is being coerced is not acting freely. This is without controversy. Where the real difference comes in concerns the nature of “our actual experience of free choice”: does it involve alternative possibilities which are accessible and available to the person when making their choice (libertarians say Yes, compatibilists who are consistent say No).

        Derek you then provide a good and practical example where we can see the real difference between libertarian and compatibilist views:

        [[“So, as an example, when I chose my socks this morning, I am certain that I selected them with absolute freedom, in the followings ways:
        -I chose exactly the socks I wanted
        -No one forced me to choose the socks I chose
        -No one chose my socks for me (in the sense that the person’s choosing would prevent my choosing)
        -I could have chosen a different pair of socks (i.e., I possess the ability to choose a different pair of socks, or no socks at all for that matter)
        All of these things are clear from my experience of choosing socks, and I do not at all deny the power of contrary choice.”]]

        There are 4 assertions here. The first, we would agree, that a person when acting freely chooses what they want to do.

        The second goes to the fact we are not coerced when acting freely (we all agree on this).

        The third is true for the libertarian but not the calvinist compatibilist. If God has predetermined all events, then God decided beforehand what socks we would wear on a particular day. He made this choice before we made our choice, and our choice has to be his choice if all is predetermined.

        The fourth is where the major problem emerges. Derek says in this fourth proposition that “I could have chosen a different pair of socks”. Not if exhaustive predestination is true. If God say decided beforehand that Derek would wear a specific pair of brown socks today, then IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for Derek to “have chosen a different pair of socks”. There was no possibility that he could choose differently than what God had already predetermined.

        The libertarian, not believing that everything is predetermined does believe that some choices, such as the socks, are up to us, decided by us. As the decision is our decision we could go either way. But that ability to do otherwise is only true if libertarian free will is true, if compatibilism is false. Where Derek is confusing here is that he clearly claims to be a compatibilist who believes that God predestines all things and yet here he also at the same time claims to hold to something that only a libertarian can hold to (and THAT is the contradiction). You cannot simultaneously affirm and be rational in your affirmation, that libertarian free will (I could do otherwise, I can choose either way) is true and that everything is predestined.

        If there is any doubt that Derek holds to exhaustive predestination of all events, consider his next comment:

        “However, I can further state the following based on a lot of Scripture:
        -God pre-determined which pair of socks I would choose this morning (in a way that does not contradict any of the above).”

        So according to Derek, God predetermined which pair of socks he would choose this morning AND at the same time he could have chosen otherwise (he could have chosen another pair of socks then what God had decided beforehand that he would choose!).

        Derek then invokes mystery to cover this affirmation of two contradictory assertions:

        “Although I have not specifically invoked paradox, I have mentioned mystery. How all of those statements work together is certainly a mystery to me, since God has not revealed it. If asked, “Who chose your socks this morning, you or God?”, I would simply answer: “I chose my socks and God chose them.”

        What Derek leaves out here is that God chose the pair of socks Derek would choose to wear before Derek ever existed. God also controlled things in such a way as to make that choice on the part of Derek necessary (i.e. impossible for him to do otherwise). Again we see a clear difference between the libertarian’s whose view does involve the ability to do otherwise (i.e. we make the choice of socks, God foreknows what choice we will make, but it is not his choice which pair we will choose, it is our choice alone) and the compatibilists view (i.e. we may make the choice, but there are factors antecedent to our choice, God’s planning and God’s controlling things, that make our choice necessary, we have to make that particular choice and it is impossible for us to choose otherwise).

        “The question presents a false dichotomy,”

        Actually the question does not present a false dichotomy, it shows the difference between libertarian and compatibilist views very clearly.

        I am not going to get into Derek’s reference to Pharaoh or Joseph’s brothers as that is another issue: I want to stick to the clear differences that Derek’s comments bring out.
        Derek makes another questionable assertion:

        “Biblical Compatibilism preserves both the absolute freedom of God to choose everything, and, within that, the derived freedom of man to choose whatever is within his domain.”

        We also agree that God has an absolute freedom to make his own choices. But this claim there that man can “choose whatever is within his domain” is false under compatibilism. Going back to the socks illustration. If God predetermines everything, then we cannot “choose whatever is within his domain” as we can only choose what God decided beforehand we would choose. If God decided we would choose the brown socks, then we have to choose the brown socks and cannot choose any other socks in that situation (so we have no domain where we can make multiple different choices, we can only make the choice God predestined for us to make).

        Derek makes a mistake regarding the Bible when he writes:

        “This is, to me, a perfect illustration of Romans 8:28. That verse, by the way, applies to “all things.””

        That verse/promise is spoken**only** to believers. It says explicitly that it applies only to those who love God, so that verse does not apply to unbelievers. It cannot apply to all things as it only applies to believers. It is not a promise to both believers and unbelievers that all things work together for good for ALL OF US!

        “William Lane Craig (whom I respect greatly, by the way) overlooks the fact that multitudes have accepted determinism without any “vertigo” setting in. How can this be, given the strength of his point?”

        First of all, the claim that “multitudes” have accepted determinism is big overstatement. Look at church history and theological determinism is the minority position among Christians (e.g. Catholics and Eastern Orthodox reject it today). Second, those who hold this determinism are inconsistent with both the Bible that presents our having genuine choices that are up to us and our daily experience of having and making our own choices.

        Derek you then quote some philosphers:

        “Some intelligent philosophers from Stanford University have defined compatibilism in this way: “Compatibilism offers a solution to the free will problem. This philosophical problem concerns a disputed incompatibility between free will and determinism. Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism. Because free will is typically taken to be a necessary condition of moral responsibility, compatibilism is sometimes expressed in terms of a compatibility between moral responsibility and determinism.”

        And then amazingly ask:

        “Are you willing to accept this as a standard definition?”

        Standard definition of compatibilism or standard definition of free will?

        “In light of the Stanford definition, could you not just as well say that compatibilism “collapses into free will”? It actually “collapses” into neither, but upholds both.”

        Not true at all. Compatibilism does not retain the heart of free will (at least as understood by libertarians: ability to do otherwise, not only making a choice but having a choice).

        “As discussed above, there is abundant Biblical backing for this idea that free will and determinism are both employed by God in His administration of the universe.”

        Only if the scripture is **interpreted** to line up with determinism. And again the vast majority of Christians do not interpret the Bible in such a way that it lines up with determinism.

        “What is more, all the Scriptures that seem to support “free will” fit nicely into compatibilism;”

        Not true at all. The Bible verses that present people having a genuine choice between two different alternative possibilities do not fit determinism at all, they contradict determinism (e.g. 1 Cor. 10-13).

        “and all the Scriptures that seem to support determinism fit into it.”

        The scriptures used to support determinism involve misinterpretations of scripture.
        “Thus a true compatibilist can avoid awkward and obviously slanted exegesis.”

        Actually they cannot, just look at how “awkward and obviously slanted” their exegesis is of certain Bible passages such as 1 Cor. 10:13.

        “On that note, Robert’s comment displays an uncharacteristic ignorance in its denial of the existence of a robust Moderate Calvinist stream in Reformed theology. The many Moderate Calvinists have historically agreed with “Arminian” exegesis of passages like John 3:16 (i.e., “world” means “world”) and I John 2:2 (i.e., “whole world” means “whole world”).”

        Actually there are not that many “four pointers”, four pointers (who affirm the elements of TULIP and also unlimited atonement) are a minority position within calvinism. And other Calvinists the five pointers, view four pointers as being inconsistent with the Calvinist system.

        “Robert thus declares non-existent those multitudes of Calvinists who would actually support him in his own interpretation of key verses.”

        Again a gross exaggeration, there are not “multitudes” of Calvinists who affirm unlimited atonement. There are a few, but not “multitudes”. And I agree with the five pointers on this, those who are four pointers are inconsistent with the Calvinist system held by the vast majority of calvinists.

        “I am examining the referenced article on I Cor. 10:13, and have found it interesting thus far. Thank you for the challenge.”

        So let’s hear Derek’s attempt at interpreting that verse from a compatibilist perspective. If he attempts to do so, we will see some of that “awkward and obviously slanted exegesis”
        .
        Robert

  24. Robert says:

    “Prometheus” presented his/her concerns. I will address these and end with one of my own.

    Prometheus wrote:

    “First of all, it is often in the third person, saying “Derek” instead of “you.”

    I want to talk about this use of “third person” I need a clarification here as two of you have complained about my use of it here.

    When I first began posting on the internet I was involved in a large private discussion group. At that time I **always** wrote in the second person and so my posts would be full of “you wrote . . .” “you said . . .’ “are you trying to . . .” The moderator of the blog wrote me privately and said that if you use so many “yous” it may come off as accusatory, so you should avoid this and simply write the person’s name. He also said when many people were commenting it could be confusing saying “you” so if you wrote the person’s name you would avoid the confusion. Seeing as this moderator had a Ph. D. in computer technology and was a full professor at a major university in computer technology (if I mentioned their name you would instantly recognize the college and start thinking of their football team) I took his advice and began posting in the third person and by people’s names. And have been doing so ever since. Now I have folks saying they don’t like this style. So which is it? Lots of “yous” and coming off as “accusatory” or third person and people don’t like that style? Has internet etiquette changed in the last few years so that use of third person and a person’s name is frowned upon?

    “Many are also making ad hominem attacks such as “refuses to see” instead of “doesn’t see” or even better, coming at it with a desire to converse.”

    I have watched Derek post all over the internet, and over and over I have seen him present his contradictions and then try to cover them up or reframe them as mysteries or paradoxes. He has been contradicted over and over and over again on this. So this is not a case of someone who just innocently makes this error. This is someone being obstinate and sometimes I get frustrated by this obstinacy.

    “There is so much anger, which, while I understand hating Calvinist theology, is something that none of us should give into in our debating.”

    I think you misinterpret my passion against Calvinism, against the ideas. I hate the ideas, I believe them to be revolting and they lead to all sorts of confusion, and division and spiritual pride. With Calvinists themselves like anyone else, you take them on a case by case basis. Meaning there are some great calvinists with great character whom you can get along very well with, and there are some not so great Calvinists whom you cannot get along with very well (and note this is true with all groups, the same is true with any group you care to name). I strongly argue against the system and the ideas because this false system and these false ideas merit it. But attacking the system or the ideas is not attacking those who advocate them. And yet if you strongly attack the ideas and the system, since many hold their ideas as sacrosanct, they will take offense that you are attacking them. I am not bothered when someone attacks my ideas as that is not a bad thing at all. Attacking the person with personal attacks on the other hand is a bad thing.

    “ I personally respect Calvinists who believe because they think the Bible says so more than the ones who try to only look at the philosophical side of things.”

    Agreed, again it is a case by case basis. Some calvinists honestly believe the bible teaches this stuff and they have grown up with it and held it their whole lives. Others have just been converted to it, and like many new converts think it is the greatest thing invented and come across too strongly with it. Some of these folks are so committed to philosophy that that seems to be all that you get from them. If you present clear Bible verses against the system they blow a gasket and explode into very harsh and personal attacks of you and your faith and everything that they see as wrong with you. Phil Johnson calls these folks “cage style calvinsits”. There are so many on the internet that you seem to find them everywhere.

    “While I agree that they should consider other options, I highly doubt that high-strung rhetoric will help.”

    Again, I believe we are perfectly justified in strongly attacking the ideas and system. If you read my posts here I have not attacked Derek’s intelligence, questioned his salvation, mocked him, etc. all the things that Calvinists regularly and repeatedly done to me. I have been told by them that I am hell bound, lack intelligence, lack character, am a Pelagian, am a Semi-Pelagian, etc. etc. That stuff really does not bother me, as I have been a Christian for a while, am happily married, have a great family, great friends, am healthy, see lots of fruit in the various ministries I have been fortunate to have been involved in. I am thoroughly orthodox and hold all of the Christian essentials. I have friends who are from various faith traditions (including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc. etc.). and yet simply because I have dared to challenge calvinism and its system have been sent to hell by various calvinists. I worked with Walter Martin in counter cult ministry so I am very familiar with the nature of true heresy and serious error. Ironically, calvinism which holds to the essentials like the deity of Christ, the trinity, etc. appears to cause more confusion and division and harm in the Christian church then any of the non-Christian cults do. That is one of the reasons it must be opposed and opposed strongly.

    Lastly, I have my own concern when it comes to internet posting. I don’t understand why professing Christians post with all of these monikers which make them anonymous. Why not post by your name? If you have security issues as I do, then post by your first name. And yet I have seen over and over people posting with these monikers and making criticisms and hiding behind the anonymity these monikers provide them. I don’t understand that at all. Why do Christians need these monikers?

    Robert

  25. kangaroodort says:

    He also said when many people were commenting it could be confusing saying “you” so if you wrote the person’s name you would avoid the confusion. Seeing as this moderator had a Ph. D. in computer technology and was a full professor at a major university in computer technology (if I mentioned their name you would instantly recognize the college and start thinking of their football team) I took his advice and began posting in the third person and by people’s names. And have been doing so ever since. Now I have folks saying they don’t like this style. So which is it? Lots of “yous” and coming off as “accusatory” or third person and people don’t like that style? Has internet etiquette changed in the last few years so that use of third person and a person’s name is frowned upon?

    Robert, thanks for sharing this. I have mentioned to you before that I don’t like this way of posting and explained why, but you never offered this information to me before. Not sure why. But it helps me understand where you are coming from. I think you got some bad advice way back when. If people you were corresponding with didn’t personally complain that they thought you were being accusatory, I don’t see why that guy would have any reason to think that was the case. However, you have now had more than one person express why they have problems with the third person style of commenting. So you might want to take that into consideration as well.

    Lastly, I have my own concern when it comes to internet posting. I don’t understand why professing Christians post with all of these monikers which make them anonymous. Why not post by your name? If you have security issues as I do, then post by your first name. And yet I have seen over and over people posting with these monikers and making criticisms and hiding behind the anonymity these monikers provide them. I don’t understand that at all. Why do Christians need these monikers?

    People have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to use their real names. You can’t just assume that you are the only one who has a good reason. If the moniker is consistent, why should it matter? If one isn’t going to give all kinds of personal info., like a last name, address, phone # etc. what difference does it make if one comments as “Robert” or “kangaroodort” or whatever? Personally, I had my own reasons for wanting to post with a screen name as I just don’t have a lot of trust in the internet. Over time I ended up giving away both my first and last name. There are still times that I wish I hadn’t. So I respect people’s desire to remain anonymous, so long as they are consistent with whatever screen name they use (rather than posting as different people and actually acting like they are not the same person, as in sockpuppeting, etc.).

    God Bless,
    Ben

    • Robert says:

      Hello Ben,

      “Robert, thanks for sharing this. I have mentioned to you before that I don’t like this way of posting and explained why, but you never offered this information to me before. Not sure why.”

      Well I don’t consider myself to be very knowledgeable about computer technology and computer use. Hence I put my trust in a Ph.D in computer technology whom I thought **did** know a lot about it and also knew etiquette when it comes to posting.

      “But it helps me understand where you are coming from. I think you got some bad advice way back when. If people you were corresponding with didn’t personally complain that they thought you were being accusatory, I don’t see why that guy would have any reason to think that was the case.”

      Actually when he wrote me privately he did say that others had brought up that precise point that they felt all of my “yous” were accusatory. Since I was just starting out on the internet I did not mean any harm by the use of “yous” and since I had the moderator writing me to basically tell me to quit doing so. And considering who he was and who I was when it came to computers I came to what I thought was the reasonable conclusion of listening to his advice.

      It also made sense to me at the time as if you have lots of people posting just using “you” versus using the person’s name could be confusing. It also seems reasonable to me that there is nothing wrong with using a person’s name: why should they take offense at that?

      “However, you have now had more than one person express why they have problems with the third person style of commenting. So you might want to take that into consideration as well.”

      One thought I had was that I could combine the person’s name with “you”. So instead of writing “Ben wrote . . .” I could write “Ben you wrote . . .” In that way I would use “you” and also clearly identify whom I am referring to. What do you think of that suggestion Ben?

      Ben you also wrote:

      “People have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to use their real names. You can’t just assume that you are the only one who has a good reason.”

      I don’t make that assumption, and in my case I am using my real name, but only my first name for security reasons. Ben knows this, but others may not know so I will briefly explain. I work with a large prison ministry with thousands of inmates across the United States. Some inmates are very ingenious and will use any personal information (including your name) against you in clever cons and set ups. So in order to protect myself and family I do not post by my full name on the internet. Now I can understand if people have reasons like mine to limit their information. But that is not like these monikers that are not the person’s name at all.

      “If the moniker is consistent, why should it matter?”

      Because it seems to me that as Christians there ought to be a certain amount of personal-ness and informality in our interactions with one another. If we can’t even address each other by first name, there is something wrong with that, in my opinion. I don’t communicate with my family, friends or co-workers with monikers and we are supposed to be one spiritual family right?

      “If one isn’t going to give all kinds of personal info., like a last name, address, phone # etc. what difference does it make if one comments as “Robert” or “kangaroodort” or whatever?”

      Again, I do not advocate all sorts of personal information for both privacy and security issues. The difference between a first name and a moniker to me is that one is more personal and feels more like I am talking to an actual brother or sister in Christ not an anonymous person. But again this is my opinion, my personal preference, others may not feel the same way.

      “Personally, I had my own reasons for wanting to post with a screen name as I just don’t have a lot of trust in the internet.”

      Fully understood.

      “Over time I ended up giving away both my first and last name. There are still times that I wish I hadn’t.”

      Again fully understood.

      “So I respect people’s desire to remain anonymous, so long as they are consistent with whatever screen name they use (rather than posting as different people and actually acting like they are not the same person, as in sockpuppeting, etc.).”

      I understand the desire to remain anonymous for reasons of family protection and avoiding problems. I also have seen on innumerable occasions that people use these monikers to hide behind, not out of desire to protect themselves from internet predators, salespeople, etc. etc. But in order to attack others and then hide behind their moniker. I also have seen what are called internet “trolls” and they are almost always posting with monikers.

      I also doubt that Jesus and the apostles would have been posting via monikers if they had internet access. I mean do we seriously believe that the apostle Paul for instance would post as “the anti-circumcisionist” or “saved by da cross” or “ex-Pharisee” or “least of all servants of Christ” etc. etc. 🙂 ? I strongly doubt it. I think Paul would post as “Paul”. I think as Christians we ought to be at least personal enough to address each other by name. Perhaps I am naïve on this, but that is my opinion.

      Robert

      • StriderMTB says:

        Hey Robert, thanks for your contributions. I totally hear you on the anonymity of monikers. My reasons are both valid and selfish. If I sound like an idiot I don’t want it to come back and haunt me later 🙂 But I also hope to publish some children’s books in the future…and the sad fact is certain markets become more limited to you if your name is attached to controversy in the blogosphere. Also I find I can post with more freedom and less pride when I’m not actually defending my name. But I do somewhat understand the concern over the widespread trend.

        P.S. I’m a Lord of the Rings fan and Strider has a dear place in my boyhood heart. MTB are my initials.

  26. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, I enjoy reading your responses 🙂 However I feel you are summarizing my responses too much and doing so in a generalized manner that ignores key terms and allows you to bypass the thrust of some of my comments. It would help the discussion if you made a little more effort to quote me in my own words and respond to some of the key questions I raise. Otherwise we are just repeating ourselves and revisiting territory we have already walked through… and of course we can’t repeat our way to truth. Near the end of this response I’m going to resubmit some questions (and add some) that I think deserve more of an answer than you have given. For the sake of keeping the conversation on track I’m going to pass by the temptation to address some of your scriptural examples where you feel your view find’s support. I hope to address these and others in an upcoming post.

    The reason I continue to say your compatibilism collapses into nothing more than causal determinism (and therefore has no real distinction from hard determinism) is that compatibilism still entails the view that God sovereignly controls everything that happens in the world by causing everything that happens via the issuing of irresistible, determinative decrees. Moreover even compatibilists concede the fact that people ARE NOT FREE to reject or choose contrary to God’s predetermination of what they think, desire and do at every second of their life–but I’m wondering if you concede this too? We shall see.

    Is it not true that in your view every alleged “free” choice (such as your example of choosing which socks to wear) is nothing more than the effect in time of what God predetermined you to choose? As such your belief in exhaustive determinism is compatible with genuine freedom IF AND ONLY IF freedom is re-defined and re-interpreted as “acting in accordance with determinative, causal factors outside oneself” OR “acting in a manner that is consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself.”

    You don’t like this descriptions and state, “I have not at all defined freedom in the manner you suggest.” Well, Derek, pardon my being frank—but it makes no difference that you reject my description of your views. I’m arguing it is the logical entailment of your view! If it is not accurate than you must show why my definition does not accord with your view. I shall give you this opportunity below.

    I think you are having trouble recognizing the most basic implications of your view. I cannot accept your “standard definition” from Stanford because it hardly comes close to truly describing the philosophical and logical distinctives of compatibilism. It merely says compatibilism is the view that says determinism, free-will and moral responsibility are all compatible. This is merely to state the obvious contention Derek—the very contention we are discussing. As Robert also noted it doesn’t address how compatibilists define “freedom.” Therefore I am going to need you to wrestle with the underlying nature of your compatibilism in a more robust way if our conversation can continue.

    I would like to ask you a few very straight-forward questions that I think will require you to delve into your own view deeper than you have yet done so—at least in our conversation (most of them are just yes or no questions).

    1) If God decreed your sin before you were born and rendered it certain that you would sin in all the particular ways you do sin, then his mind is the logical origin for your sin. Therefore how can God’s predetermining mind and decretive will be the logical origin for the sin of X to occur but not be the author of the sin of X? Can you please parse the essential difference between God decreeing the sin of X to occur and God authoring the sin of X to occur?

    2) Can the underlying nature of compatibilistic freedom be defined as an agent choosing in accordance with determinative, causal factors outside oneself—i.e. God’s irresistible decrees? If not—what part disqualifies the definition as being truly descriptive of compatibilistic freedom?

    3) Are you free to choose contrary to what God determined you to “freely” choose, Derek?

    4) You stated: “No one chose my socks for me (in the sense that the person’s choosing would prevent my choosing).” No one is saying God’s determination prevents you from choosing Derek. The argument is that God’s determination prevents you from freely choosing a different pair of socks other than what God determined for you. I feel you are obscuring and dodging the real issue that is at the heart of our entire dialogue. So I ask you, “Are you free to choose a pair of socks that are different than those God determined for you to choose?”

    5) You stated: “I could have chosen a different pair of socks (i.e., I possess the ability to choose a different pair of socks, or no socks at all for that matter).” Derek, do you really possess the freedom and ability to choose a different pair of socks– that is to say socks different than those God determined for you? If not is your experience of freedom merely imaginary?

    6) If we do not have the genuine freedom to resist, reject or choose contrary to what God pre-determined us to choose, then how can you say compatibilism affirms, real, genuine freedom–which would entail having a genuine choice before making a genuine choice?

    7) If we are not free to choose in a manner contrary to God’s prior determination, and if every one of our choices is reduced to only one choice—the one determined for us, and if every choice is rendered certain (if not necessary) via God’s irresistible decrees, then in what true sense can it be said (as you state) that our choices entail “having an undeniable experience of real freedom?”

    It seems to me Derek the absence of causal constraints acting externally on our wills is really what makes freedom have any valid, definitive meaning. Do you disagree? This is the kind of libertarian freedom God possesses and we are made in his image. Do you think at minimum Adam and Eve had this kind of freedom before the Fall?

    As I see it, on the one hand you want to say humans posses real, genuine freedom. But on the other hand you want to say we are not free to use our genuine freedom freely—that is to say we are not free to choose against the ONLY choice we really ever had to begin with—the one determined for us before we were born. We are causally constrained by factors outside ourselves. Derek, your compatibilism only offers imaginary ability and freedom to choose otherwise—like different socks. You really don’t have this alleged ability in virtue of the fact there is only one choice available to you–the one God decreed. Do you concede this? And of course imaginary freedom is not real or genuine freedom. Compatibilists (like yourself…and Piper) often defend their re-worked, strange definition of freedom by saying things like “John Doe could have done otherwise had John desired differently.” But of course you leave out the principal point that it was impossible for John to desire anything different because John’s desires were themselves determined by God! The correct statement is: “John could have done otherwise had John had a different desire determined for him by God.” The entire alleged freedom of choice in compatibilism is merely “sleight of hand” for you still end up with nothing more than causal determinism in which fallen sinners are not even free to choose among various sins in their fallen state—such as whether to look at porn site A or B.

    Hume was a famous natural compatibilist who liked to say “an action is performed freely when the agent could have done otherwise, had the agent desired to” but Hume’s views on freedom were rightly shown to be an illusion by his critics because he had to concede (as a naturalist) one’s desires are themselves determined by one’s environment and genes. The only difference between Hume and you is that you hold that one’s desires are themselves determined by God’s decree and not impersonal forces of nature. Either way “free” choices are being controlled and determined by antecedent conditions and causes outside one’s control! Surely you can see why your compatibilistic belief in “genuine freedom” smacks of a farce.

    Lastly, glad to hear you also like William Lane Craig—he will go down as being one of the greatest debaters of our age. You mentioned the force of his argument fails because many compatibilists don’t suffer from a cognitive “vertigo.” Unfortunately I think you concentrated on this little word too much and dismissed the larger point he was making—how determinism (including compatibilistic determinism) cannot be rationally affirmed. My feeling is that compatibilistic determinists don’t succumb to “vertigo” of the mind because they aren’t actually consistent in their thinking! That is to say they don’t actually apply to their daily lives what they believe to be true in theory. If they really acted upon the belief that everything about their thinking, desiring and doing was ultimately outside their control—and they were merely vessels housing minds that can only act as God’s intermediate means to bring about some predetermined end—then I’m quite confident they would wrestle with the idea that the entire world is a vain spectacle existing in a cosmic charade in which we merely have the illusion of free-will.

    Lastly last 🙂 I stated you appeal to paradox when your view faces logical contradictions it cannot answer because your “pen-name” seems to embrace paradox as both a valid tactic and theological reality in relation to your views. You do admit that you look to paradox when we are presented with seeming contradictions that our human logic cannot unravel. But again–I must repeat if everything we think and do is causally constrained to the one choice determined for us– there is no paradox! There is no mystery! Everything is determined and freedom is illusory! Therefore the paradox or mystery is not in regards to determinism being compatible with freedom (because freedom is simply re-defined to suit determinism) but rather WHY God holds us morally accountable for the evils he causally determines us to commit via his irresistible decrees!

    But regardless of whether one appeals to paradox, mystery or incomprehensible enigma, the overarching point is your way of thinking to circumvent the appearance of contradiction or absurdity seems very privileged and dependent on Western, philosophical resources of ingenuity not accessible to the common man one might find on the mission field–this alone warrants it’s dismissal for me. Calvinism as a whole is a view that invites hyper-Calvinism (in all its vagaries) and one must be schooled in how not to think too “logically” about its most basic assertions (i.e. God wants you to be holy, but he decreed all your unholy sin, such that you can’t resist committing them. But don’t think God tempts you to commit such sins– he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin. He just renders it certain you will sin through an irresistible degree), etc.

    Shalom to you!
    Matt

    • theoparadox says:

      [Somehow my reply got posted under the wrong subthread, so I am reposting the content here for the sake of organization]

      Matt,

      Thank you for your response. You make some good points here. I probably have been too broad in summarizing your arguments. At this juncture, we seem to be advancing well into the subject matter, and I am going to switch to a more direct “quote/response” method (which will unfortunately result in longer posts) and try to precisely answer your exact questions. In fairness I should note that you have also been selective in what you have addressed in my posts. Although I did mention upfront that I didn’t expect you to answer all 19 of my original queries. 🙂

      It will take some time for me to respond to your 7 question groups and other points, so I will appreciate your patience as I compose responses (possibly in series form). I will be as concise as I can, and I’ll try not to make this into a book length treatise!

      I am not sure you will like my answers much, partly because they will largely consist of specific application of the broader points made previously. Clearly we approach these subjects from very different presuppositional stances. My aim here is to understand your stance better (while of course arguing against elements of it) and to have my own views thoughtfully challenged/refined. I really appreciate your willingness to dialogue reasonably over these issues. We don’t have to end up agreeing, ultimately, for this to be a fruitful discussion (it has already been fruitful, I believe).

      One additional note before I respond further: my answers shouldn’t be taken as the standard for all Calvinists or compabilists. At this level of depth, and with the kinds of challenges you are presenting, different Calvinists will take different approaches. Many would have better answers than I can offer, or perhaps be willing to provide more specificity than I am comfortable with, and most would probably narrow their definition of compatibilism much more than I have in using the Stanford (Plato subdomain) definition. Nevertheless, I will answer as quickly, concisely and directly as possible, representing my own particular approach to Calvinism and Biblical epistemology. And I think we are covering some fascinating ground, so, once again, thank you for your patience and charitable attitude.

      More to come . . .

      Blessings,
      Derek

  27. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, sounds great. I also saw that your [above] post got submitted too far up so I deleted it to avoid confusion. We can just continue from here. I do concede that I have not covered or answered all the queries and comments you have submitted. I don’t have a problem with both of us being selective as long as we try to focus in on a central issue. I’m sure you have been in… or seen other debates where the discussion becomes too broad and the Calvinist throws out Romans 9 and the Arminian throws out John 3:16 and from there it digresses down to tallying up your number of proof-texts. I don’t have a problem with us appealing to pertinent scriptures as long as it relates to the specific issue we are examining and doesn’t draw us too far into an exegetical back-and-forth. With that said–I guess we should agree on what THE issue is. I think your initial challenge revolved around your contention that compatibilism was distinct from hard determinism in that it retained genuine freedom of choice and did not ultimately collapse into causal determinism. My contention was vice-versa. From there I feel our conversation has covered some good ground, and I would like to keep our discussion centered on your contention/defense that genuine freedom is retained in a Calvinist rendering of compatibilism that does not result in a form of causal determinism that invalidates genuine freedom. I’d have to double check, but I think most of my questions were related to exploring your mind further on the detailed particulars of your view and how such particulars end up either reinforcing and buffering your initial contention or weakening it. What do you think? Thanks for your time and willingness to dialogue Derek and God bless! 🙂

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      I believe you are stating the issues correctly. As requested, I am going to quote from your previous post and respond directly. This post will be an initial response to some of your preliminary comments and questions, and the next post will be directed to your seven question groups. There were several paragraphs following the questions, which may also spark some responses. So, I’m envisioning at least three posts by way of response to your full set of questions and comments from May 17. Here is the first part:

      You said: I think you are having trouble recognizing the most basic implications of your view.

      If by this you mean that I, as a compatibilist, fail to recognize that compatibilism is self-contradictory and refuse to accept the obvious truth of the incompatibilist viewpoint, then I agree — I am definitely having trouble recognizing this. But this would be similar to an atheist telling a theist, “You obviously don’t recognize the implications of your view, because if there was a God there could be no evil in the world; and since there is evil, there cannot be a God; don’t you see the logic here?” Of course, the theist doesn’t see the logic and will demonstrate that his position accepts and incorporates the existence of evil. He sees this as consistent with the view that God exists–something the atheist can neither comprehend nor accept (this is just an illustration; I am not at all implying you are an atheist!).

      You said: I cannot accept your “standard definition” from Stanford because it hardly comes close to truly describing the philosophical and logical distinctives of compatibilism.

      I am not asking you to agree with compatibilism as defined by the Stanford philosophers. I am asking you to recognize that they have provided a standard definition of the term, which fits perfectly with the way I am using it. This was in response to your claim that I am using my own special definitions. Are the Stanford folks using a special definition, too? It would seem that one is either a compatibilist or an incompatibilist (or perhaps one might claim to be agnostic on the question). I am certainly not an incompatibilist, and definitely not agnostic regarding this; so, although I may not explain compatibilism in the way you are accustomed to hearing it, I am nevertheless a compatibilist. I have not claimed to be an Edwardsian compatibilist (and certainly not a Humean compatibilist), and in fact have advised caution in accepting anyone’s extra-Biblical theory of how it all works. I am a compatibilist to the extent that I see it as Biblically necessary and Biblically defensible. This is not to say I agree with every philosopher’s version of compatibilism, or even the current prevailing view. I am simply saying I view determinism and free will as non-contradictory.

      You said: It merely says compatibilism is the view that says determinism, free-will and moral responsibility are all compatible.

      Yes, exactly. That is precisely the point. This is the definition of a compatibilist as opposed to an incompatibilist. It’s a straightforward definition that is not meant to be taken as an attempted proof.

      You said: This is merely to state the obvious contention Derek—the very contention we are discussing.

      Again, Matt, I am only trying to define my view as opposed to your view of my view, and show that my view does not depend on some special personal definition I invented. I am also showing that compatibilism does not “always collapse into causal determinism,” as you contend. My compatibilism is probably different from the type you are used to (and much different from the kind Jerry Walls argues against, as well). This does not make me an incompatibilist, does it?

      By the way, I would agree that some Calvinists present a version of compatibilism which does collapse into causal determinism. I disagree with them on this point. But there are many different kinds of Calvinist, and many different approaches to compatibilism, Many do not downplay freedom to the extent that their view collapses into causal determinism.

      You said: it doesn’t address how compatibilists define “freedom.”

      It is true that the mere definition does not define how I, as a compatibilist, explain or define freedom. But I have already defined my view of human freedom as the classical compatibilist’s “voluntary, uncoerced” action of the will in combination with our actual experience of free choice, with its obvious and undeniable sense of liberty. We are capable of doing other than we do, and as free as our everyday selection of socks, meals, pets, computers, guitars, books, words to write on a blog, etc. No one compels or forces our selection of these things. We select what we want from a broad range of possible choices. They are “possible” because we possess the ability to choose them, and they are “choices” because they are an action of the will that we select in distinction to the other actions of the will of which we are capable at the same moment.

      You said: Therefore I am going to need you to wrestle with the underlying nature of your compatibilism in a more robust way if our conversation can continue.

      I have wrestled and re-wrestled through this apparent dilemma, and I cannot seem to get the determinism or the free will to win the match. I maintain steadfast Biblical convictions in both of them. I have become convinced that they are friends who never actually fight against one another, but just wrestle for fun. It’s mere “play fighting.”

      I know these answers may not be what you were expecting; just wait until you see how I respond to your seven question groups! I suspect you will not consider my answers to be logically consistent. I think they are logically consistent; and more importantly I believe they are consistent with Scripture, both in what they affirm and in what they leave unsaid. And that is the ultimate aim of my position.

      Blessings,
      Derek

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for you patience as I post these responses. I am going to move on to your 7 groups of questions.

      You asked: 1) If God decreed your sin before you were born and rendered it certain that you would sin in all the particular ways you do sin, then his mind is the logical origin for your sin. Therefore how can God’s predetermining mind and decretive will be the logical origin for the sin of X to occur but not be the author of the sin of X? Can you please parse the essential difference between God decreeing the sin of X to occur and God authoring the sin of X to occur?

      Only the one sinning can author the sin. If God cannot sin, He cannot author sin. God can foreordain that a particular event will occur without making Himself the source or locus of the motive that makes the event sinful. As mentioned previously, in the example of Joseph’s brothers, God meant “it” (the specific event) for good, while they meant the very same “it” (the same specific event) for evil. The exact same event was freely chosen by them with an evil motive and nonetheless ordained by God with a good motive. God is utterly incapable of intending to commit moral evil, though He ordains to permit its occurrence through the will of the creature acting in opposition to His commandment. Thus, He gives the commandment (a good thing) which in the hands of a rebellious creature becomes an occasion for sin.

      On your view, why wouldn’t God simply refrain from ever commanding anything, and thereby render us sinless? Since sin could never happen apart from God’s contrary commands, would you say God’s commands make Him the “author” of sin? He did not have to command Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit. It would seem that He could have avoided a great deal of trouble by just letting them have the fruit, or by not putting that particular tree within their reach. If His intent was to prevent sin from happening, would He not have left it out of the realm of possibility? Since He brought it into the realm of possibility, is He the author of it? I have a reasonable, Biblical way of saying “no” to this question. Do you?

      On your view, which I assume includes exhaustive divine foreknowledge, how is God’s decision to actualize a world in which sin will definitely occur not an “authorship” of sin? Did He not predetermine and in some sense render evil certain by foreseeing it and choosing to actualize a world in which it would infallibly occur? If God has perfect foreknowledge of future events, and took the initiating action that led to evil’s occurrence, is His mind not the logical origin of the evil?

      In other words, the Calvinist is not alone in facing this apparent conundrum. However, I would rather view God as ordaining to permit evil purposefully than as foreknowing and initiating a process that infallibly leads to evil as a purposeless but wholly preventable side effect of creation.

      You asked: 2) Can the underlying nature of compatibilistic freedom be defined as an agent choosing in accordance with determinative, causal factors outside oneself—i.e. God’s irresistible decrees? If not—what part disqualifies the definition as being truly descriptive of compatibilistic freedom?

      Compatibilistic freedom allows for the possibility that we choose in accordance with God’s decrees.

      You asked: 3) Are you free to choose contrary to what God determined you to “freely” choose, Derek?

      Yes, I do possess that freedom, in simple terms. But the result of my freedom is that I will choose what God pre-determined. Since I don’t know what was decreed, I freely choose according to my own desires and without regard to decree. No one’s choice is influenced by a decree of which he is unaware (even if he is aware of the fact that there is a decree). We choose from the range of possibilities that we see before us. All of the possibilities are possible before we choose, and we are free to choose any of the possibilities. The fact that a decree of God mysteriously works in, under, and through our choice does not mitigate or invalidate the real freedom that is experienced by us.

      You asked: 4) You stated: “No one chose my socks for me (in the sense that the person’s choosing would prevent my choosing).” No one is saying God’s determination prevents you from choosing Derek. The argument is that God’s determination prevents you from freely choosing a different pair of socks other than what God determined for you. I feel you are obscuring and dodging the real issue that is at the heart of our entire dialogue. So I ask you, “Are you free to choose a pair of socks that are different than those God determined for you to choose?”

      Yes, I am free to choose any of the socks within the range of the possibilities presented, or no socks at all. Even mismatched pairs might be chosen, and I may even choose to wear them on my hands rather than my feet. All of these options are within the range of the possibilities presented, and I possess the freedom and ability to choose any of them. God foreknows and pre-determines the result, but from my perspective there are many possibilities and I make a perfectly free choice. From God’s standpoint, it is all pre-determined, but from mine it is open. Even knowing that there is a decree behind my choice cannot prevent me from choosing freely and voluntarily from the range of choices presented. In my actual experience, none of the possible choices were ever closed off to me. God decreed that I should be presented with a range of possible choices and experience the freedom of choosing, and yet He also decreed the outcome. He is quite a clever God! Perhaps He is much more clever than any philosopher or theologian will ever recognize. It is hard to imagine how clever and capable He is!

      You asked: 5) You stated: “I could have chosen a different pair of socks (i.e., I possess the ability to choose a different pair of socks, or no socks at all for that matter).” Derek, do you really possess the freedom and ability to choose a different pair of socks– that is to say socks different than those God determined for you? If not is your experience of freedom merely imaginary?

      It doesn’t appear to be imaginary, feel imaginary, or give any evidence of being imaginary. Everything about it is as real as anything else I experience in life. So, what prevents an omnipotent and all-wise God from decreeing that I should experience real freedom while choosing what He decreed for me? If He cannot do something this simple, what can He do? After all, Matt, this is God we are talking about. He is not limited in the ways we are. He can make it all happen however He wants.

      You asked: 6) If we do not have the genuine freedom to resist, reject or choose contrary to what God pre-determined us to choose, then how can you say compatibilism affirms, real, genuine freedom–which would entail having a genuine choice before making a genuine choice?

      Since the range of actual possibilities that are set before us (the range of options of which we are capable) includes choices that are not ultimately decreed, we must in some sense possess the ability to choose contrary to the decree. However, we cannot possibly “resist” or “reject” the decree because we don’t know the content of the decree. If we were to choose contrary to the decree, we would not even know we were doing so. To resist or reject something, we have to know what it is we are resisting or rejecting, right? Moreover, God decrees that the result of our free choice will be what He decreed. Resisting the decree would be like trying to stop the wind or swallow the ocean. Pure futility. Choosing something that isn’t decreed is in one sense impossible because whatever we choose is what was decreed. We can’t escape the free choice or the decree, and neither can mitigate the other. They are in perfect harmony. Why try to separate them or put them at odds?

      You asked: 7) If we are not free to choose in a manner contrary to God’s prior determination, and if every one of our choices is reduced to only one choice—the one determined for us, and if every choice is rendered certain (if not necessary) via God’s irresistible decrees, then in what true sense can it be said (as you state) that our choices entail “having an undeniable experience of real freedom?”

      We are free to choose in a manner contrary to the decree; we just won’t ever do so. This does not limit our freedom; it interprets the result of our free choice as a God-ordained event. The one choice that is ordained is identical to the one choice we freely choose, and vice versa. Again, we don’t have any way of knowing which choice is decreed, so we can’t be in any way constrained or prevented by the decree as we make our choice.

      You said: It seems to me Derek the absence of causal constraints acting externally on our wills is really what makes freedom have any valid, definitive meaning. Do you disagree?

      Not necessarily. But the decree is not a “constraint” that acts externally on our wills. It is certainly not an identifiable or tangible constraint. How did the decree “constrain” me when I chose my socks? I did not feel it, did not see it, did not know anything about it. I simply chose, and then thought, “Today God has blessed me with new white socks. Thank you, Lord. I am blessed.”

      You said: This is the kind of libertarian freedom God possesses and we are made in his image. Do you think at minimum Adam and Eve had this kind of freedom before the Fall?

      I would suppose they had compatibilistic freedom that could not exist apart from God’s providential ordination. They, being able to sin, had far less freedom than believers will have when we are glorified and made absolutely free to do nothing other than the revealed will of God. In the eternal state, He will not permit us to sin, and we will not view this as any kind of constraint. We will be “free indeed.” God did permit Adam and Eve to sin, which brought us all into bondage. But whether it is Adam and Eve in their initial form of freedom, fallen man under the cruel power of sin, glorified believers with no ability to sin, or everyday Christians struggling through life–the varying measures of freedom we experience are compatibilistic.

      I hope something here is helpful. I am not proposing a theory of how it all works, but simply restating what I believe is taught clearly in the Bible. It’s quite mysterious to me, with much left undefined. On the other hand, I am not too surprised that such lofty matters are ultimately beyond my grasp. Still, I don’t see any good reason to say God’s decrees are in conflict with genuine human freedom.

      Blessings,
      Derek

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Here is one more response addressing some of your final comments from May 17. At this point, I may be exhausting everything I have to say on these topics. However, feel free to challenge or ask for further clarification if you’d like.

      You said: As I see it, on the one hand you want to say humans posses real, genuine freedom. But on the other hand you want to say we are not free to use our genuine freedom freely—that is to say we are not free to choose against the ONLY choice we really ever had to begin with—the one determined for us before we were born.

      I do affirm “two hands,” but I don’t limit freedom the way you suggest here. At the moment of choosing, we usually have MANY choices in front of us. We choose one … and one was chosen for us. Both statements are true in their own way, and in a way that does not contradict. God has established our freedom in this way. But don’t take my word for it–listen to the man who asked God for wisdom (and received it).

      Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
      Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.
      Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?

      You said: We are causally constrained by factors outside ourselves. Derek, your compatibilism only offers imaginary ability and freedom to choose otherwise—like different socks. You really don’t have this alleged ability in virtue of the fact there is only one choice available to you–the one God decreed. Do you concede this?

      No, I don’t. We are not at all “constrained” by the decree. The ability and freedom we possess are not imaginary; rather, they are God-given. And God-ordained.

      Whether our choices are foreordained by God or chosen freely by us–or both–we only get one choice in any given situation, anyway. We act (or even refrain from acting), and at once the choice is settled. Our path instantly narrows into the one choice that had to be made. Why can’t my freely chosen choice and God’s foreordained choice coincide? Since the decree is only revealed when we look backward, it cannot constrain us as we look forward. Let’s say I choose the white socks again tomorrow morning. Then, just to prove to myself that I am free to make my own choices, I quickly switch to the blue socks. I walk out of the room with the smug confidence that I am the master of my own destiny (at least where socks are concerned). But as soon as I think back on the experience, I am instantly humbled by the realization that God ordained both the initial choice and the switch! The very ordination that could not inhibit my freedom when I was looking forward (at sock choices) acted to bind my freedom when I looked back (at the very same sock choices). In looking back, I see what was decreed but have no power to change it. In looking forward, I see only open possibilities. So I am perpetually caught in this bizarre present moment where the decree and my freedom are entwined in a mysterious interplay. I am prevented from focusing too heavily on either the decree or my freedom, but must view both simultaneously in this humbling yet exhilarating and inescapable locus of free/determined CHOICE. They are both there, all at once … and they agree.

      You said: The only difference between Hume and you is that you hold that one’s desires are themselves determined by God’s decree and not impersonal forces of nature.

      I would not say that this is the ***only*** difference. When God occupies the center of focus, the possibilities change dramatically. Hume would never have dreamed of what I am proposing.

      You said: Either way “free” choices are being controlled and determined by antecedent conditions and causes outside one’s control!

      Yes, but God (being God) can “control and determine” in ways that do not constrain us and do not hinder the genuine freedom He intends for us to have.

      You said: … glad to hear you also like William Lane Craig—he will go down as being one of the greatest debaters of our age.

      Totally agree! He is great (for a non-Calvinist) 🙂

      You said: You mentioned the force of his argument fails because many compatibilists don’t suffer from a cognitive “vertigo.” Unfortunately I think you concentrated on this little word too much and dismissed the larger point he was making—how determinism (including compatibilistic determinism) cannot be rationally affirmed. My feeling is that compatibilistic determinists don’t succumb to “vertigo” of the mind because they aren’t actually consistent in their thinking! That is to say they don’t actually apply to their daily lives what they believe to be true in theory. If they really acted upon the belief that everything about their thinking, desiring and doing was ultimately outside their control—and they were merely vessels housing minds that can only act as God’s intermediate means to bring about some predetermined end—then I’m quite confident they would wrestle with the idea that the entire world is a vain spectacle existing in a cosmic charade in which we merely have the illusion of free-will.

      I hope you can see now that I am both rationally affirming compatibilism and coherently applying it in daily life. This can be done if one strives for balance and pleads for grace to “walk the line.”

      You said: I stated you appeal to paradox when your view faces logical contradictions it cannot answer because your “pen-name” seems to embrace paradox as both a valid tactic and theological reality in relation to your views.

      I certainly affirm Biblical paradox, primarily as a feature of language which points to the limits of human logic and exalts the supreme epistemological authority of divine revelation. This approach solves a lot of problems and provides a satisfying exegetical, philosophical, apologetic and devotional feast table! For the Calvinist, it turns many theological debates into false dichotomies that can be solved by an appeal to balance. It also leaves one with many conundrums with which to wrestle.

      You said: You do admit that you look to paradox when we are presented with seeming contradictions that our human logic cannot unravel.

      Technically, I call it “mystery” when divine revelation does not reveal it; and I call it “paradox” when divine revelation gives us warrant to make apparently contradictory statements that require further explanation to be coherently understood. The main problem I see with our human logic “unraveling” a Biblical paradox is not that it is impossible to do, but that we are prone to put too much stock in our own explanations. We think that if we can explain something it is now “solved,” when really we have only come up with one of many possible solutions. Meanwhile, God alone knows which is the right one.

      You said: But again–I must repeat if everything we think and do is causally constrained to the one choice determined for us– there is no paradox! There is no mystery! Everything is determined and freedom is illusory! Therefore the paradox or mystery is not in regards to determinism being compatible with freedom (because freedom is simply re-defined to suit determinism) but rather WHY God holds us morally accountable for the evils he causally determines us to commit via his irresistible decrees!

      You are describing a different approach than the one I take. As I mentioned before, some Calvinists do take this approach. They call it compatibilism, and it is a form of that. But it is not the only form; it is a form of compatibilism that overemphasizes the determinism aspect. Fortunately, one can achieve a more balanced position, even from this starting point.

      You said: But regardless of whether one appeals to paradox, mystery or incomprehensible enigma, the overarching point is your way of thinking to circumvent the appearance of contradiction or absurdity seems very privileged and dependent on Western, philosophical resources of ingenuity not accessible to the common man one might find on the mission field–this alone warrants it’s dismissal for me.

      You make an interesting and somewhat pragmatic point here. Believers come with varying levels of philosophical sophistication and logical ability. One fascinating aspect of Biblical paradox is that it can be accessible to people at all levels; from children to the elderly; from low intellects to geniuses; from the spiritually mature to newbies. And paradox is a universal language that is found and valued in both Eastern and Western contexts, is it not? To be honest, I find it is also commonly mishandled.

      You said: Calvinism as a whole is a view that invites hyper-Calvinism (in all its vagaries) and one must be schooled in how not to think too “logically” about its most basic assertions (i.e. God wants you to be holy, but he decreed all your unholy sin, such that you can’t resist committing them. But don’t think God tempts you to commit such sins– he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin. He just renders it certain you will sin through an irresistible degree), etc.

      I simply disagree with this. The Bible is a perfectly balanced book that can enable all of us, whether Arminian or Calvinist (or whatever), to steer clear of the apparently “logical” but extreme forms of our philosophical and theological positions. If we are consistent with Scripture and allow it to work on us (and in us), we don’t have to slide into hyper-Calvinism or hyper-Arminianism. For a balanced Calvinist, the view forward (the view that is full of open possibilities) must always be regulated by the revealed will of God. Regardless of the mysterious decree, we will be liable to discipline and judgment if we use our freedom to violate the principles of Scripture. The good which He accomplishes in us is graciously rewarded; the evil which He permits in us will be dealt with in the process of sanctification and mortification; and we must continually confess our sins and repent, as the Word commands. Otherwise, we languish. I want to choose to be a vibrant and God-honoring believer–and then thank God that He chose that for me.

      In closing, I want to thank you for posing some very challenging questions and making strong arguments. I feel much sharpened, and hope you do too! Thank you, brother.

      In Christ,
      Derek

  28. Robert says:

    Hello Matt,

    Derek has provided a key statement that perfectly illustrates his error and why his entire view on free will is so confused and unstable and contradictory and mistaken. In a word, Derek calls himself a “compatibilist” and yet his OWN DEFINITION OF REE WILL is a *****LIBERTARIAN DEFINITION OF FREE WILL****.

    Note carefully what he says:

    “But I have already defined my view of human freedom as the classical compatibilist’s “voluntary, uncoerced” action of the will in combination with our actual experience of free choice, with its obvious and undeniable sense of liberty. We are capable of doing other than we do, and as free as our everyday selection of socks, meals, pets, computers, guitars, books, words to write on a blog, etc. No one compels or forces our selection of these things. We select what we want from a broad range of possible choices. They are “possible” because we possess the ability to choose them, and they are “choices” because they are an action of the will that we select in distinction to the other actions of the will of which we are capable at the same moment.”

    THAT is exactly what someone who holds to libertarian free will believes!!!!

    That our choices “are voluntary, uncoerced”.

    That “we are capable of doing other than we do”.

    That “no one compels or forces our selection of these things”.

    Derek’s definition also includes the fact that multiple alternative possibilities are accessible and available to us: “We select what we want from a broad range of possible choices.”

    Matt I think these quotes from Derek go to the heart of why his view is so confusing: he calls himself a compatibilist and yet by his own definition he holds to libertarian free will (i.e. that we can do otherwise, that we can select one option from multiple other available and accessible options).

    Matt I would not discuss this further with Derek until he owns up to this reality. You cannot simultaneously be both a compatibilist and a libertarian, and yet that seems to be exactly what Derek is trying to do. And again that is not paradoxical, that needs no appeal to mystery, that is instead a contradiction.

    Robert

  29. Robert says:

    Matt I recently heard a very good discussion of Calvinism, compatibilism and free will after a friend shared this link. It is Christian philosopher Jerry Walls discussing it. Walls does a very good job and shows the difference clearly and also the problems with it. Much of what Walls says applies directly here this discussion:
    It is here:

    Check it out at your convenience,

    Robert

  30. StriderMTB says:

    Thank you Derek for the time and effort you have given to explain your personal view of compatibilism and seeking to demonstrate how it retains an authentic free-will. However… as you probably have guessed 🙂 I have not found your arguments at all persuasive. In fact, to be quite frank, your answers appear to me to be quite inconsistent and contradictory. You personally may have escaped William Lane’s Craig description of how compatibilistic determinism results in confusing “vertigo” but I can’t help but be stricken with it upon reading your responses 🙂 But I want to give you a chance at the end to clarify a key issue.

    On the one hand you stated:
    “But I have already defined my view of human freedom as the classical compatibilist’s “voluntary, uncoerced” action of the will in combination with our actual experience of free choice, with its obvious and undeniable sense of liberty. We are capable of doing other than we do, and as free as our everyday selection of socks, meals, pets, computers, guitars, books, words to write on a blog, etc. No one compels or forces our selection of these things. We select what we want from a broad range of possible choices. They are “possible” because we possess the ability to choose them, and they are “choices” because they are an action of the will that we select in distinction to the other actions of the will of which we are capable at the same moment.”

    Here Derek—you are outright rejecting every logical implication of divine, exhaustive determinism and wholly adopting the indeterminate view of libertarian freedom… which your view seeks to argue against! You try to posit real possibilities, real choices and a genuine freedom and capability to choose amongst different actions of the will. YET as you have affirmed elsewhere you also hold that from GOD’S DETERMINATIVE VANTAGE POINT we can ONLY choose, WILL choose and MUST choose what God determined. Thus from God’s vantage point we are NOT CAPABLE of doing other than what we do—which of course is what God determined we do.

    You just can’t have it both ways Derek! You can’t say on the one hand that from God’s vantage point we possess other, alternative, possible choices in contrast to the one decreed for us, and then simultaneously on the other hand posit the view that from God’s vantage point the only real, viable choice is the one decreed for us— necessarily invalidating all other alleged “possibilities.”

    Your only way out of this conundrum is to essentially equivocate your usage of words in two different contexts or perspectives. In other words your view commits a unique equivocation fallacy by using the meaning of words like “possible” and “capable” and “free” and “choice” in two very different contexts. One context is our human experience or our perspective of ignorance in virtue of being unaware of what God has decreed. The other context is God’s decretive, deterministic perspective. You move back and forth between these contexts rather fluidly without recognizing that your word meanings, while seemingly viable in one context, are completely invalidated in another context.

    Let’s look at two examples:

    You stated:
    “Yes, I do possess that freedom, in simple terms. But the result of my freedom is that I will choose what God pre-determined. Since I don’t know what was decreed, I freely choose according to my own desires and without regard to decree. No one’s choice is influenced by a decree of which he is unaware (even if he is aware of the fact that there is a decree). We choose from the range of possibilities that we see before us. All of the possibilities are possible before we choose, and we are free to choose any of the possibilities. The fact that a decree of God mysteriously works in, under, and through our choice does not mitigate or invalidate the real freedom that is experienced by us.”

    You go on to state:
    “I am free to choose any of the socks within the range of the possibilities presented, or no socks at all. Even mismatched pairs might be chosen, and I may even choose to wear them on my hands rather than my feet. All of these options are within the range of the possibilities presented, and I possess the freedom and ability to choose any of them. God foreknows and pre-determines the result, but from my perspective there are many possibilities and I make a perfectly free choice. From God’s standpoint, it is all pre-determined, but from mine it is open. Even knowing that there is a decree behind my choice cannot prevent me from choosing freely and voluntarily from the range of choices presented. In my actual experience, none of the possible choices were ever closed off to me. God decreed that I should be presented with a range of possible choices and experience the freedom of choosing, and yet He also decreed the outcome. He is quite a clever God!”

    Here Derek it is quite obvious that your view can only “escape” the contention that it collapses into causal determinism and invariably invalidates humans possessing genuine freedom by reinterpreting freedom as “possessing and experiencing the ILLUSION of freedom from a human perspective.” In other words in seeking to deflect away the initial contention you jump out of one pitfall and right into another—that being that your view collapses into nothing more than having the experiential illusion of freedom. And of course having the illusion of freedom is no real freedom—which is what you want to argue for but can’t arrive at because your compatibilism cannot surrender the view that from God’s decretive vantage point there is only one choice we WILL and MUST make—the one he determined we make via an irresistible decree we are not free to choose against.

    Thus from God’s decretive perspective there are no real POSSIBILITIES of alternative choices outside the one he determined for us. And that is the whole point! God’s perspective is the sole lens that defines reality and truth for us Derek. And according to your own view, from God’s perspective we: 1) are NOT FREE to choose against his decree, 2) thus we have no genuine possibilities of real choice as if 3) alternative possibilities were actually competing with God’s decree and our free wills were the final and ultimate arbiter of decision.

    It makes no difference Derek if I FEEL like I am experiencing a genuine choice simply because I’m UNAWARE and ignorant of God’s prior determination that is causally constraining my will (from God’s perspective) to his decree.

    Our argument is not over “what we feel” or what we think “we are experiencing” but what IS in actuality.

    Again—God’s perspective is all that matters because it defines reality. And from everything I can see, your own compatibilistic scheme posits the view that from God’s decretive vantage point of reality, humans only possess the illusion of making choices and the illusion that other choices were JUST AS VIABLE AND POSSIBLE as the one they were determined to make. But in actuality—they were not free and not capable of choosing against God’s decree.

    Thus in the end Derek your view is unable to escape the contention that compatibilism posits a view of causal determinism that invariably invalidates GENUINE freedom of choice.

    You can avoid this conclusion only by denying that from God’s perspective of reality—the ONLY reality that really counts—we are not free to choose against God’s decree.

    However I confess that your comments were confusing and therefore maybe I misread you. I feel compelled to ask you three follow-up questions and give you one last opportunity to clarify your view before I respond more fully:

    1) FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE (not our human experiential perspective) do genuine possibilities of choice and outcomes exist other than what is decreed, and can they be chosen in contrast to what God decreed for us?

    2) FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE do humans possess genuine freedom and the ability to choose against his sovereign decree to do X?

    3) Using your analogy, FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE PERSPECTIVE were you genuinely free and capable to NOT choose the white socks or no socks at all?

    Thanks again for the dialogue Derek. It is very informative in many ways.
    Shalom, Matt

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for these additional comments and questions. How is it possible you still aren’t persuaded? 😉

      Well, to be honest, you are a great challenger and make excellent use of logic in your argumentation.

      By the way, this past weekend I watched the exact video recommended above. In it you will find Jerry Walls defining (and attacking) compatibilism in much the same way you have done here. Undoubtedly, it will resonate with you. I do think Jerry is spreading a misunderstanding by defining compatibilism so narrowly, since not all Calvinists mean what he means when they say “compatibilism.”

      As another side note, and in the interest of being very clear, I need to mention that my view is definitely not libertarian free will, although it obviously contains certain similarities or elements of agreement. No libertarian is going to affirm meticulous divine Providence/predestination/pre-determination, etc. as I do. I could be wrong, but in my understanding the advocate of libertarian free will is always an incompatibilist.

      In my view the decree does not affect what we are capable of doing, inherently. It speaks to what we will do, but not in a “constraining” way because we will do it freely.

      As a further disclaimer, we haven’t even gotten into the ways human depravity hijacks our abilities and choices. I am approaching this from the broadest perspective of what it means to be human, rather than the narrower perspective of what it means to be a fallen human.

      You said: “You just can’t have it both ways Derek!”

      The question is not whether I can have it both ways, but whether God can create it both ways. Can He? If He can’t, what are His limitations?

      I maintain He can run the universe in a way that:

      A) Conforms to His Word; and
      B) Might ultimately be beyond the reach of our logical limitations

      To concisely answer your three questions: I cannot imagine what things might look like from “God’s decretive perspective.” I do not have access to this angle, and it is simply beyond my comprehension. Except as God has revealed His mind in His Word, I have only the human perspective to go on. While I do not deny that God’s perspective is reality, our access to that reality is limited to the window He has provided through His revelation in Scripture and in nature. Beyond this, it is all just mystery and speculation.

      Finally, what do you make of this passage:

      Acts 4:27-28 “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

      Were Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles and peoples of Israel acting “freely” and in an “unconstrained” way when they did whatever God’s hand and plan had predestined to take place? Were they doing God’s will? Were they sinning? Did they have the ability to do otherwise?

      Whose mind was the logical origin of the great sin they committed in “gathering together against God’s holy servant”? Would they have done this (and could they have done this) if God had not planned and “predestined” for it to happen? On your view, was God the “author” of their sin? How was He not the author, on your view, if He planned and predestined what they did?

      The revealing window of Scripture clearly gives us some heavy things to wrestle with! Do you think simple libertarian freedom, or simple determinism, is sufficient to account for all of the complexities God expresses in His infallible Word? Or do we need to wrestle our way toward something much more comprehensive, much more nuanced, and much more mysterious?

      Thanks again for all of your thoughtful challenges and questions.

      Blessings,
      Derek

  31. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Robert, thanks for the plug. I have yet to read Jerry Walls but I have heard of him. I will check out that link.

  32. StriderMTB says:

    Hey Derek, buddy… pal… 🙂 You’re not wanting to give an actual answer to the 3 questions I posed because you intuitively know that from God’s decretive standpoint or perspective there are no genuine possibilities and there is no genuine freedom or capability to do otherwise than what we are determined to think, desire and do. Your only answer is essentially to say:

    “I cannot imagine what things might look like from ‘God’s decretive perspective.’ I do not have access to this angle, and it is simply beyond my comprehension.”

    But Derek you DO have access to God’s decretive standpoint/perspective and you admit it. In fact you wrote:

    “From my perspective there are many possibilities and I make a perfectly free choice. From God’s standpoint, it is all pre-determined, but from mine it is open… God decreed that I should be presented with a range of possible choices and experience the freedom of choosing, and yet He also decreed the outcome.”

    Here you are simply saying nothing more than: “From our human perspective we possess the ILLUSION of acting freely and having genuine possibilities of choice because our ignorance of God’s constraining decree gives choice the appearance and illusionary experience of being “open”– but in reality (from God’s standpoint) all is determined and we are not free to choose against God’s determinative decree.”

    So Derek by your own admission from “God’s standpoint” there is only one determined choice and one determined outcome that will and MUST occur–the one outcome decreed by God. (“Will” is not sufficient Derek because God’s decrees are irresistible and MUST occur necessarily). God’s will of decree constrains all possibile outcomes down to ONE outcome and thus renders null and void all other alleged possibilities. I can’t help but think that you now want to feign ignorance over “what things look like from God’s perspective” because you intuitively know that to honestly answer my 3 follow up questions would be the total undoing of your own compatibilistic argument… and that is simply too difficult for you.

    So I think my initial contention stands. Calvinistic compatibilism–even your own version– ultimately collapses into causal determinism that invalidates genuine freedom.

    I will try to address some of your additional comments and questions (plus verses) in an upcoming post. I may be traveling out of Cambodia this weekend but hopefully can find the time soon.

    Thanks again and have a great weekend!

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      Very well done! You have identified an apparent hole in my argument which seems to show that I have either:

      A) misspoken/overstepped when I previously expressed something as if I was aware of it “from God’s standpoint;” or
      B) inconsistently claimed that I DO ***and*** DO NOT have access to God’s perspective.

      You are pressing me to cross more T’s and dot some additional I’s! I appreciate the force of your argument, especially as it points out some critical distinctions that need to be made.

      Allow me to restate the fact that I have not claimed to be completely agnostic on the question of “God’s perspective,” but have left room for this only as expressed in His Word.

      I believe (and I think you agree) that God’s Word teaches exhaustive divine foreknowledge. So I can make a statement such as, “from God’s standpoint, it is all pre-determined” simply on the basis of His revealed attribute of foreknowledge. What I don’t and can’t know–because it is not expressed in the Bible, as far as I can see–is how God’s decree limits the human possibilities involved in the freedom He has decreed (from His perspective). This would seem to be the point of your three questions, and it is a point at which I must honestly claim a rather gaping ignorance. If God has decreed a merely illusory freedom for His creatures, then I will have to concede your argument. But I can’t know, from His perspective, whether my freedom is merely illusory. I only know that from my perspective it is real. On the other hand, I do believe that He decrees the experience of volitional freedom that I engage in everyday, unavoidably, which argues that there is something very “real” about it!

      To summarize, God’s foreknowledge offers Him the perspective that all is pre-determined. But that would seem to hold true on both of our views, if you are a classical Arminian of the “exhaustive divine foreknowledge” variety. I am somewhat assuming this in our discussion, for lack of knowing better. And if I am correct, then you would have to agree, I think, with my statement that from God’s perspective all is foreknown/pre-determined (this goes back to my argument about God choosing to actualize a world for which He infallibly foresees all of the facts and circumstances that will ever occur, including sin and evil and eternal torment).

      Perhaps I should have more carefully stated, “From God’s perspective, the outcome is entirely foreknown.” Although I don’t see any major difference between “foreknown” and “pre-determined” as it relates to our discussion here.

      The bottom line is that even if God’s perspective is one in which all is foreknown AND pre-determined, on my view He also decreed our undeniable experience of freedom, and I can only assume (based on certain Biblical texts) that the freedom I experience is both genuine and compatible with the immutable decree.

      I hope this makes a little bit of sense out of the ***apparent contradiction*** I expressed. 🙂 As you know, for a contradiction to actually exist, one must claim that A and non-A are both true in the same way and at the same time. In this case, I do claim that two apparent opposites are true at the same time, but definitely not in the same way.

      Admittedly, you have backed me a bit further into the corner and thereby forced a few more critical distinctions in my position. I am genuinely (and not in a merely illusory way) curious about your thoughts regarding some of my questions. I look forward to hearing further from you on any points you would like to tackle.

      Blessings,
      Derek

  33. StriderMTB says:

    Hey Derek, sorry for the delay. Hope all is going well. This has been a good dialogue and I thank you. I will probably collect our responses from this comment section and post it up as its own blog entry for easier reading for those interested.

    In my last post I sought to point out your compatibilistic view does indeed collapse into a form of causal determinism that invalidates genuine freedom. I pointed out that from God’s standpoint or perspective everything we think, desire and do has been determined by an irresistible decree that we are powerless and incapable to choose against. In other words we are not genuinely free and therefore the TRUE MYSTERY is not how determinism is compatible with free-will, but why God holds us morally accountable for determined choices that originated in his decretive will—not our will.

    You do concede that from God’s decretive standpoint everything we think, desire and do is indeed determined by God such that the outcome is rendered certain.

    You state:
    “God foreknows and pre-determines the result… God… decreed the outcome.”

    Now the problem is you feel compelled to affirm real possibilities of contrary choice and genuine free-will to do otherwise (libertarian free-will) because you state that from your human perspective you feel a genuine sensation that you are experiencing free-will and that genuine possibilities are open to you–even though you also insist that God unilaterally determined (not just foreknew) which “possibility” you must choose via his decree. Thus your will did not whittle down all the possibilities down to one choice, God’s decree accomplished that for you. Your “choice” is just an intermediate, instrumental effect in time to bring about God’s decree that cannot fail…yet you still want to retain a belief in genuine possibilities and contrary choice. Is this all sounding confusing? Because it is to me 🙂 Your point seems to be that you are blissfully unaware of what God determined–until you choose what he determined. You are saying more or less that our ignorance of what God determined is a sufficient foundation for our “genuine freedom.”

    You state:
    “The result of my freedom is that I will choose what God pre-determined. Since I don’t know what was decreed, I freely choose according to my own desires and without regard to decree.”

    But Derek, being “unaware” of God’s decree isn’t the point at all. Being ignorant of the fact that a mad scientist has placed electrodes on my head and is determining each chose I make doesn’t therefore mean my choices are free! The point is your view holds that God’s decree causally constrains our wills to choose only what he pre-determined. That is the very anti-thesis of free-will. You continue to invent special definitions to the word freedom, Derek. You now think that freedom = being unaware of what God determined you choose before you choose.” However you simultaneously try to assert that your view ALSO posits genuine possibilities of choice.

    You state this as follows:

    “All of the possibilities are possible before we choose, and we are free to choose any of the possibilities. The fact that a decree of God mysteriously works in, under, and through our choice does not mitigate or invalidate the real freedom that is experienced by us.”

    In other words you feel committed to the view that God both determines our choice and the view that we are free to choose among various possibilities because you EXPERIENCE the sensation of choice from your human perspective. But I’m not interested in any feeling derived from the human experience. I’m interested in what is true in reality. So at that juncture I asked you the qualifying question: “Are we genuinely free FROM GOD’S DECRETIVE STANDPOINT to choose against the choice he determined we choose?”

    Obviously the answer is “NO.” If it is “yes” then we really have plunged headfirst into a downward spiral of vertigo where determinism can now mean “doing what is undetermined.” I believe William Lane Craig’s point continues to hold sway over your view yet again 🙂

    I was disappointed 😦 to see you side-step the force of the question entirely and strangely argue that you cannot possibly know an answer. I think your exact words were:

    “I must honestly claim a rather gaping ignorance.”

    Derek, I have no problem claiming ignorance over a host of issues—such as the incarnation and kenosis of Christ. But you are claiming ignorance over the most basic of logical implications. Because you posit two claims that are contradictory (determined outcome / possible outcomes), your own view logically requires you to answer of necessity to avoid sounding absurdly incoherent.

    I believe your reticence to answer either “yes” or “no” is due in no small way to your appreciation of the role of logic. You rightly discerned that if you honestly answered “NO—we are not free from God’s standpoint to choose contrary to his decree” it would logically consign your alleged experience of free-will to be nothing more than merely the illusion of free-will and the illusion of having choices and possibilities unconstrained by God’s determinative decree. If not for the obvious logical implication, why else would you refuse to answer the question candidly???

    I found your dismissal of the question(s) slightly ironic. On the one hand you seek to side-step / avoid the question because you intuitively recognize the role logic can play in invalidating your argument. But on the other hand when you come face to face with an incoherent, illogical contradiction intrinsic to your view (i.e. humans possess freedom of contrary choice to only choose that which God irresistibly determined we choose) you all of a sudden want to depreciate the role of logic as being too limited to speak to the issue–and again appeal to mystery.

    Why not just own up to the obvious, logical implication of your position and then immediately toss logic to the wind completely and say, “In reality from God’s decretive standpoint we are not genuinely free to choose against what he decreed/determined. But on the other hand we possess a genuine freedom to choose against what God determined.”

    I believe you don’t take this route because you know this is an actual contradiction (not simply “apparent opposites” as you suggest) and at the end of the day you actually DO appreciate the value and role of logic despite your misgivings as to its alleged limitations concerning our discussion.

    It is rather evident to me that if we are not genuinely free in reality (from God’s decretive standpoint as to what reality will consist of) than our human experience of choice and having genuine possibilities is merely illusory.

    Yet again when I pressed you on this you stated:

    “But I can’t know, from His perspective, whether my freedom is merely illusory. I only know that from my perspective it is real. On the other hand, I do believe that He decrees the experience of volitional freedom that I engage in everyday, unavoidably, which argues that there is something very “real” about it!”

    YES Derek! I can only give a hearty “amen” to your last statement. But I would only argue that the reason you are experiencing genuine volitional freedom that “unavoidably argues there is something REAL about it”—is because YOU ARE EXPERIENCING GENUINE VOLITIONAL FREEDOM! 🙂 Your will is not determined every second of the day by God! Every day you wake up the reality of life presents you with genuine possibilities over which color socks you wear and what sins you commit. These choices are truly up to you! You are not experiencing an illusion of freedom but genuine, indeterminite freedom. But of course—for all the reasons spelled out— if that is true then compatibilistic determinism is false!

    Now this leads to an underlying fundamental point I have picked up from our dialogue. You feel obligated to believe in meticulous, exhaustive divine-determinism because you believe certain scriptures lead you to that conclusion. You also think God’s foreknowledge of what we freely choose is to place free-will in the same category as God unilaterally and irresistibly determining what I do. But this is not so. Since my choice as to what I ACTUALLY do is what constitutes God’s foreknowledge–God’s foreknowledge would not act deterministically on my will. They are not the same at all. More can be said of this. In my next post I will seek to address these areas as well as additional comments you have made…and lastly seek to answer questions you have posed to me. It may be another day or two. I’m on the road traveling at present.

    Shalom.

    • theoparadox says:

      Matt,

      The irony of our discussion is that I, as a Calvinist, am in the position of arguing for free will, and you, as an Arminian (I think), are in the position of arguing against free will (on the grounds of assuming divine determinism to be true). In this strange discussion, we have somehow forced one another to argue from what is usually considered to be the other side!

      Just to be extremely and redundantly clear about my position … it boils down to the following:

      1. Scripture and the believer’s experience support both divine determinism and genuine free will of some sort (though not exactly the libertarian variety).
      2. An omnipotent God is capable of rendering us genuinely free while determining everything (without introducing any real contradiction from His own perspective).

      I will be unambiguously stalwart in refusing to ascribe any–even apparent–contradiction to God’s perspective; He sees everything with crystal clarity. Yet I am not at all shy about ascribing great limitations and even apparent contradictions to our perspective. Our paradoxical human perspective is even expressed in Scripture:

      Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”

      I ask myself: How does God view the “many plans” in our minds, from which we are choosing, in light of His ONE purpose (“THE purpose of the Lord”) that stands?
      And I answer: In a divine way that is outside of my comprehension, because I am siting here looking ahead at my “many plans,” and behind at His “the purpose” that has stood.
      (yes, I talk to myself) 🙂

      This is not really a rebuttal or defense — I am just re-clarifying my position so that you do not find yourself unintentionally arguing against a “straw man” version of it.

      By the way, in your last post I found both your point about the mad scientist and your distinction regarding foreknowledge to be very powerfully argued. Purely from a “debating” standpoint, these were excellent responses!

      Great idea to collect and re-post the whole conversation. We have covered some ground that would seem to be rarely addressed in these types of discussions.

      Now I will be quiet again and listen to your further thoughts . . .

      Thank you and God bless,
      Derek

      PS – I hope your trip is going well.

  34. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, thanks again for your patience. It has been a frustrating week of traveling. One of our older boys from the Cambodian home I oversee got accepted to a great university in Thailand. I left with him last week but he was issued the wrong visa. We tried to fix the problem in Thailand but were unsuccessful for the most inane reasons that accumulated to the point of taking a few years off my life 🙂 We had to take the long journey back to Cambodia and have been waiting on the embassy here to issue him the correct visa in the hope that he can return to Thailand tomorrow…but delays keep arising. I would rather not think God predetermined it before time began but has allowed it and will ultimately use it for our good IF we respond to it appropriately (i.e. not killing any embassy workers) 🙂

    I would like to begin by laying out some needed borders to frame our discussion from this point on. I am committed to the view that God has not decreed or predetermined all evil because I am committed to a hermeneutical principle I have coined “The Principle of Moral Perfection.” (PMP) God, in virtue of being God, is the greatest conceivable being, yes? And it is greater to be morally perfect than not to be morally perfect, yes? As such it seems rather obvious and morally obligatory to hold that a being who has predetermined all evil is less morally perfect than a being who has refrained from predetermining all evil.

    We are told that God hates evil and wickedness and loves righteousness, that God abhors evil and wickedness and that he is provoked by evil (would God decree his own provocation?). Moreover we are told that God cannot lie, cannot be tempted by evil nor tempt others to commit evil (much less decree that they commit evil!) and that God’s eyes are too pure to behold evil (much less decree it as certain!). Therefore I find that both logic, morality and biblical consistency require me to be committed to the view that God is morally perfect and therefore not the ultimate origin and cause of evil in virtue of sovereignly decreeing all evil and rendering it certain (if not necessary).

    If the “Principle of Moral Perfection” (PMP) is true than we are bound by it just as much as we are bound to the basic principle “God exists.” With this in view I think you can understand why it is incumbent upon us to return to passages that apparently at first glance seems to violate PMF and ask ourselves, “Are there other possible, valid interpretations available that do not violate PMF?” I have become convinced that there exists no Calvinist proof-text that cannot be re-interpreted in a manner consistent with biblical exegesis and which does not violate PMF.

    So those are my cards I am putting on the table. We both approach this topic with preconceived assumptions that guide what we are willing to concede—that I admit. It is important that we understand this because the divide between Calvinism and Arminianism cannot be resolved through simply appealing to scripture.

    If it could it would have been at some point in the past 500 years. Both sides are using scripture—sometimes the same ones! But scripture alone is not sufficient. A person can have all the mosaic pieces available and still construct the wrong picture because he is working from an incorrect framework in how the “pieces fit.” The scriptures are like such mosaic pieces—and we are all to aware of how they can be moved and shuffled around to support a host of wrong theologies like Oneness Pentecostalism, Mormonism, etc. The argument can only be “won” by recognizing which framework is correct. Frameworks ultimately determine what we filter in and what we filter out, what is possible to concede to and what is impossible to allow.

    Your framework is that God has meticulously determined and planned every evil thought, desire and choice—such that it MUST take place (because you assume if that is not true God could no longer be extolled as sovereign?) Moreover you assume the scriptures support your notion that God has decreed every evil choice throughout history.

    In contrast my framework is that if the Principal of Moral Perfection is true—if God’s nature truly is morally perfect and righteous—then the claim “God decrees all evil and renders it certain” is a false claim. The question then is, “Whose framework is correct?” I can’t think of a greater cause to defend than the glory, holiness and righteousness of God against false, theological claims that logically hold him to be the ultimate origin, determiner and author of every evil (the claim is too dangerous and insidious to “punt” to mystery or paradox every time the need arises to absolve God of moral responsibility or escape logical implications). I truly feel the very character and glory of God is at stake in this discussion Derek. I hope you can appreciate that fact—for it is where most Arminians are coming from today. (I honestly wonder where you are coming from? Fidelity to scripture? What would make you want to defend the thought that God unilaterally decreed everything from the color socks you choose to child abuse, domestic violence and the “script” of every perverse porn film?)

    Thankfully Calvinists have not cornered the market on God’s glory—despite the attempts of Piper to convince Christendom otherwise. Indeed Arminians like myself believe high-profile Calvinists, like Piper, have so thoroughly made God out to be morally ambiguous that “God’s glory” has become indistinguishable from a cosmic being of supreme power willing whatever. But God cannot “will whatever.” God cannot lie and cannot tempt men to commit evil. Yet in Piper’s portrait, God’s exercise of supreme power “becomes the good” rather than being dictated “by the good.” No longer is God’s morally perfect nature the paradigm of goodness that determines God’s willful use of power. Instead God’s will and exercise of raw power determines what is good. (This is a form of radical voluntarism i.e.– something is right simply because God wills it).

    All of this is misguided. God’s glory is ultimately not his exercise of will through supreme, raw power—but his moral perfection that determines the use and LIMITS of divine power. God’s perfect goodness is his glory! That is why God literally said to Moses, “I will cause my goodness (glory) to pass before you and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you” (Exo. 33:19).

    I’m slightly digressing to make a point–sorry. Just to be clear, my underlying contention is that the Arminian framework preserves God’s glory and moral perfection whereas the Calvinist framework makes God the cause and author of evil (the very antithesis of glory). You can deny this but you have yet to parse the difference between God’s holy mind decreeing that evil occur and authoring that evil occur.

    Every theological school of thought has its own “horse pills” to swallow. Ultimately it is about choosing a theological position that has the least amount of interpretive problems and preserves God’s holy character and glory from derision. With that said let me address some of your additional comments and then some of the verses you believe commit you to the framework that God decreed all your decisions—including your sin.

    You state:

    “Scripture and the believer’s experience support both divine determinism and genuine free will of some sort (though not exactly the libertarian variety).”

    There is little I can say to this claim that I haven’t already said. First your earlier concession that genuine freedom must entail genuine possibilities “to do otherwise” IS the libertarian position! Secondly the weakness of your view is that from God’s decretive standpoint we are not genuinely free to do other than what God decreed. God’s decree acts deterministically upon our wills and from God’s decretive standpoint we are not free to choose contrary to God’s determination. You don’t deny this because you intuitively know to do so renders divine determinism—and thus your view— meaningless. Moreover in your view multiple possibilities or outcomes do not REALLY exist because you concede that only one outcome has been determined (and therefore must occur). In the end your view posits merely the illusion of free-will in that we are ignorant of God’s decree before we choose in accordance with God’s sole decree. And of course the reason we choose in accordance with God’s decree is because God’s decree causally constrains our choice to one—the one he determined. Thus again your view collapses into causal determinism that invalidates genuine freedom, genuine contingency and genuine possibility.

    But you deny all this. You deny that humans are merely experiencing the illusion of free-will and you assert that genuine possibilities of choice REALLY exist—despite the fact that every result and outcome has been predetermined. You admittedly cannot resolve the logical dilemma and obvious contradiction inherent to your view and so you again appeal to inscrutable mysteries. You state:

    “I am not at all shy about ascribing great limitations and even apparent contradictions to our perspective.”

    Yes we are limited in our knowledge—I agree. But you are asserting contradictions that are in every sense incoherent and absurd. Derek, no matter what I say that logically or scripturally invalidates your view, you can simply say, “The contradiction only exists in our human perspective.” It is un-falsifiable because it can’t be challenged by argument, logic…words! This seems to me a tad dangerous—if not gnostic. You are more or less saying your view is absurd from our human perspective but its ultimate truth lies hidden behind the curtain of mystery and exists in the realm of a secret, hidden perspective known only to God.

    I think we have both exhausted all we can say on this matter—so we have to let any undecided readers decide (presumably freely?) for themselves 🙂
    What is left is your contention:

    “Our paradoxical human perspective is even expressed in Scripture.”

    To prove your point you sought to enlist Proverbs 19:21 ‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.’”

    And before that you highlighted:

    Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

    Proverbs 20:24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?

    I see these verses abound all over Calvinist forums and so in my next post I will attempt to deal with the common use of Proverbs by Calvinists to draw forth proof-texts to substantiate a view of meticulous, divine determinism. I hope to highlight why your use of Proverbs is ill-conceived from the start.

    I may be back on the road tomorrow but will try to post it up if time allows. Again I want reconfirm that I have enjoyed the dialogue. If I ever sound flustered or blunt just know it comes from a good place 🙂 Sometimes blogs are a poor medium for debate and reflection.

    • THEOparadox says:

      Matt,

      You bring up many interesting points here. I am compelled to respond to a few of them, as follows.

      You said “I am committed to the view that God has not decreed or predetermined all evil because I am committed to a hermeneutical principle I have coined “The Principle of Moral Perfection.” (PMP) God, in virtue of being God, is the greatest conceivable being, yes? And it is greater to be morally perfect than not to be morally perfect, yes? As such it seems rather obvious and morally obligatory to hold that a being who has predetermined all evil is less morally perfect than a being who has refrained from predetermining all evil.”

      In theory, this all sounds pretty good. However, skeptics use this type of argument against Christian theists when they assert that a morally perfect God would never create a world in which evil exists with His knowledge or by His permission. It does indeed appear that an omnipotent, loving God could create a world free of evil (and the possibility of evil). He did not do so; thus a non-Christian would argue that He either does not exist or is not the greatest conceivable being in terms of His power and love. How would you answer these arguments of skeptics, since they themselves appear to be able to conceive an even greater being than the God of the Bible as you understand Him to exist?

      There is one major flaw in the argument, and I answer with this slight alteration: “God, in virtue of being God, is the greatest inconceivable being.” I strongly distrust the ability of human conceptions to rightly apprehend an incomprehensible and transcendent God. (based partly on Isaiah 55:9)

      Looking at your comments in general, I am not sure you grasp the articulate nuances of Calvinistic theology. Calvinists clearly and emphatically affirm that God is ONLY GOOD, ALL GOOD, and SOLELY RESPONSIBLE for EVERY GOOD that occurs. God is both entirely innocent of evil, completely victorious over it, and never subject to its tyranny. Think about the implications of these statements. Do you agree with them? Do you think it is possible that in your zeal to preserve God’s innocence you may have compromised other important attributes? It is all too easy to overcompensate. This is part of the reason we have to be guided by Scripture.

      You said “Therefore I find that both logic, morality and biblical consistency require me to be committed to the view that God is morally perfect and therefore not the ultimate origin and cause of evil in virtue of sovereignly decreeing all evil and rendering it certain (if not necessary).”

      Decreeing/ordaining evil is not the same as originating it. If God is the ultimate cause of everything that occurs–even on your view–how is evil exempted? Is it any better to say that evil occurs with God’s foreknowledge and permission, and that He could prevent it but chooses not to? If you affirm that God knows about and permits evil, then in some sense are you not committed to the belief that He willed it and is its ultimate cause? I think we would both agree that God is the ultimate cause of evil, and yet not it’s origin or author (because He is incapable of desiring to do evil). Do we even disagree on this point? I recently discussed this at length with Roger Olson in the comments at his December 2012 post entitled, “Calvinism and the God-as-Author Analogy.” You might find that conversation interesting.

      You said “If the “Principle of Moral Perfection” (PMP) is true than we are bound by it just as much as we are bound to the basic principle “God exists.” With this in view I think you can understand why it is incumbent upon us to return to passages that apparently at first glance seems to violate [PMP] and ask ourselves, “Are there other possible, valid interpretations available that do not violate PMF?” I have become convinced that there exists no Calvinist proof-text that cannot be re-interpreted in a manner consistent with biblical exegesis and which does not violate [PMP].”

      Calvinism does not violate or deny God’s moral perfection. It exults in the triumphant display of it, and rejoices in the fact of it. You seem to be saying that God’s moral perfection and His foreordination of all things are mutually exclusive. I take this as a false dichotomy, along with your assertion that foreordination and freedom are incompatible. What prevents God from foreordaining in a way that does not invalidate freedom or implicate Him in evil? Is it a lack of power, ability, wisdom? I believe strongly enough in his omnipotent wisdom to suppose that He can accomplish these things, and I think highly enough in His moral perfection to suppose that He can do it without violating His holiness, justice, purity, or goodness. I would question whether you or I possess enough moral perfection to be competent in judging God’s decision to permit evil as a means of glorifying Himself. After all, some of the evil He has permitted is OURS! So our view of moral perfection may need some alteration (via Scripture and the work of the Spirit).

      You said “It is important that we understand this because the divide between Calvinism and Arminianism cannot be resolved through simply appealing to scripture. . . . Both sides are using scripture—sometimes the same ones! But scripture alone is not sufficient. . . . Frameworks ultimately determine what we filter in and what we filter out, what is possible to concede to and what is impossible to allow.”

      Scripture is sufficient when rightly handled. The problem is that we don’t always want it to say what it says, so we start downplaying what we don’t like and emphasizing what we do like. I believe you have done exactly this in your argument regarding the book of Proverbs (more on this later). Part of my appeal to Biblical paradox is based on a rigorous commitment to taking all of Scripture at face value all the time, as far as is humanly possible, even if it doesn’t seem to fit the system. This makes you think more, leaves you without an explanation sometimes, and takes your trust in the Bible through tests that result in an increase of faith faith and understanding. I am convinced that system-driven exegesis is actually a hindrance to sanctification. Although it is impossible to be completely unbiased, it is well worth working toward.

      You said “Your framework is that God has meticulously determined and planned every evil thought, desire and choice—such that it MUST take place … Moreover you assume the scriptures support your notion that God has decreed every evil choice throughout history. In contrast my framework is that if the Principal of Moral Perfection is true—if God’s nature truly is morally perfect and righteous—then the claim “God decrees all evil and renders it certain” is a false claim. The question then is, “Whose framework is correct?” I can’t think of a greater cause to defend than the glory, holiness and righteousness of God against false, theological claims that logically hold him to be the ultimate origin, determiner and author of every evil.”

      Classical Calvinism (all the way back to Augustine, at the very least) affirms that evil is ordained only by permission. It is not ordained in the same way that good is ordained, because God is not at all evil but is entirely good. The creature is the origin, author and direct cause of evil. God simply ordains to permit this. If He gave us libertarian freedom, without directly causing good in us, evil would be the only possible result. The reason I say this is that I believe so strongly in God’s moral perfection and omnibenevolence that I cannot conceive of the possibility of any good ever occurring apart from His direct causation. “There is none good but God alone.” “Apart from You I have no good thing.”

      You said “I truly feel the very character and glory of God is at stake in this discussion Derek. I hope you can appreciate that fact—for it is where most Arminians are coming from today. (I honestly wonder where you are coming from? Fidelity to scripture? What would make you want to defend the thought that God unilaterally decreed everything from the color socks you choose to child abuse, domestic violence and the “script” of every perverse porn film?)”

      God only decrees to permit evil; he does not author it, directly cause it, or even allow it apart from the creature’s own autonomous volition. So, while the decree includes everything that occurs (both good and evil), God’s direct causation and authorship only includes the good. He ordains that the creature is allowed to do evil only as a means for Him to do even more good. From your perspective, how does God get credit for the good that occurs? Can good happen apart from His direct authorship? Further, when a person is committing a horrific crime such as you mentioned, do you believe that God’s sheer mercy is keeping him alive and thereby in some sense permitting him to do the horrific things he is doing? Do you believe that God is actively doing the “good” of extending that person’s life, even as the person does evil? Is God showing mercy by allowing that person to live? Or does this thought somehow violate God’s moral perfection and implicate Him in the evil that is being done by that person?

      You said “God’s perfect goodness is his glory! That is why God literally said to Moses, “I will cause my goodness (glory) to pass before you and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you” (Exo. 33:19).”

      Totally agree. This is a critical exegetical connection that is also well supported throughout the New Testament.

      You said “Just to be clear, my underlying contention is that the Arminian framework preserves God’s glory and moral perfection whereas the Calvinist framework makes God the cause and author of evil (the very antithesis of glory). You can deny this but you have yet to parse the difference between God’s holy mind decreeing that evil occur and authoring that evil occur.”

      Calvinism says that God is not the direct, sole or originating cause of evil; and certainly not its author. He permits it. I addressed the difference in previous comments, and have now done so again.

      You said “Ultimately it is about choosing a theological position that has the least amount of interpretive problems and preserves God’s holy character and glory from derision.”

      I disagree. Faithfulness to Scripture — and full submission to God’s truth expressed there — is the most important factor in evaluating any theological system. Affirming God’s truth according to Scripture will not prevent scoffers from deriding His character; in fact, it may only provoke them to further mockery (unless God changes their hearts).

      You said “With that said let me address … some of the verses you believe commit you to the framework that God decreed all your decisions—including your sin.”

      Do you believe that God foresees your sin? Does He have the power to prevent it? Does He willingly permit it? How is this different from decreeing to allow you to sin?

      You said “Yes we are limited in our knowledge—I agree. But you are asserting contradictions that are in every sense incoherent and absurd.”

      What contradictions have I asserted? Where have I stated that any given proposition is both true and not true in the same way and at the same time?

      You said “Derek, no matter what I say that logically or scripturally invalidates your view, you can simply say, “The contradiction only exists in our human perspective.” It is un-falsifiable because it can’t be challenged by argument, logic…words! This seems to me a tad dangerous—if not gnostic. You are more or less saying your view is absurd from our human perspective but its ultimate truth lies hidden behind the curtain of mystery and exists in the realm of a secret, hidden perspective known only to God.”

      Sure it can be challenged. It can be challenged by the Word of God. I am not at all saying my view is absurd from the human perspective; rather, I am saying that my view agrees with God’s Word, reflects God’s revelation, and may possibly be difficult to explain (in terms of mere human logic) at some points where God has not directly spoken. That is a far cry from absurdity! On the other hand, it is bordering on absurd to suggest that my view has any kind of connection with or similarity to gnosticism. The proper name of the hermeneutic I am representing here is presuppositional Biblical epistemology. How are we to know things that God has not revealed? When it comes to His eternal workings, which He has not seen fit to describe to us in detail, it could be a bit presumptuous for us to think our application of human logic is going to lead us to a detailed understanding.

      You said “If I ever sound flustered or blunt just know it comes from a good place. Sometimes blogs are a poor medium for debate and reflection.”

      This is a tough conversation to have with anyone anywhere, especially when there are strongly held convictions on both sides. I appreciate your gracious attitude, which is all too often missing from these discussions.

      Blessings,
      Derek

  35. StriderMTB says:

    I had time late tonight… I’m sure I will regret it tomorrow morning 🙂

    In your last response you called to aid Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.”

    Does this verse dictate that God meticulously determines and controls everything humans do—such as molesting children? The Principle of Moral Perfection would say “no.” Therefore let us look at other possible interpretations of which I can readily think of two:

    (1) Far from saying man’s plans originated in God’s decretive mind and that man is merely the intermediate instrument to bring about God’s decree, the verse actually grounds man’s plans in the mind of man—not God. Secondly God’s sovereignty is best seen in overruling man’s ingenuity and evil to bring about his sovereign purposes. There is no violation of PMP in saying God can use, direct and steer man’s own sinful intentions (known to God because he knows our characters) to ultimately fulfill his purposes. That is to say God can exploit man’s plans to fulfill his own purposes. His purposes can trump ours! Again his sovereignty is best seen in overruling evil by exploiting evil for his own good purposes. But it quite another thing to say God decrees evil SO THAT he can bring about good purposes.

    For example you bring up the story of Joseph and how God meant for good what the brothers meant for evil. The “it” you reference is Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt—not the wicked characters of the brothers. And God does no wrong in planning or purposing that Joseph be a slave in Egypt. We owe our very lives to him and if God wishes that I become vulnerable and subject to the evil whims of men such that I serve his overarching purpose as a slave so that good can come, that is God’s prerogative. However we most note the hatred and jealousy of the older brothers arose out of their own wicked hearts and minds (i.e. many are the plans in man’s mind” Pr. 21:9). God did not HAVE to create it within them or decree their evil characters before the foundation of the world in order to later exploit their jealousy and sin to achieve his own good intention (“meant it for good”). Such is the nature of true, God-glorifying sovereignty: overruling evil for good—not causing all evil to bring about some good. Vastly different.

    (2) All of the above entails one possible interpretation of Prov. 21:9 that avoids violating PMP. But even then I am cautious in thinking the writer wants us to think of this verse as denoting a universal truth applicable without exception. Another possible interpretation is to rightly assume Proverbs is intended to GENERALLY instruct—not the wicked but the one seeking wisdom. Therefore when a person submits their plans to God—as the scriptures advise us (“commit your way to the Lord”), the Lord is faithful to ensure “his purpose will stand” in our lives. This is all the more credible when we realize Prov. 21:19 parallels Proverbs 16:9 which states “the human mind plans the way, but the LORD directs the steps.” Yet 16:9 is prefaced earlier in 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and he will establish your plans.”

    Similarly Proverbs 20:24 “A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” need not mean that God determined the steps of a rapist to his victim. If it were intended to mean that every person’s steps and path is ultimately controlled by God’s irresistible decrees, then what do we do with the multitudinous verses that advise persons to depart from the path of evil, wickedness and foolishness and adopt the path of wisdom? It is much more likely to assume that the writer of Proverbs is saying that the person who has committed his path to the wisdom and guidance of God will more often than not find himself to be on a journey of faith where full disclosure and understanding is often beyond our grasp. Proverbs 3:5-6 puts it this way:

    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding, but in all of your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight (i.e. direct your steps).”

    Does that sound Calvinistic? Not at all–because the onus is on us to trust the Lord and submit to him in order for our paths to be directed! Yet it is speaking to the same issue as your proof-text of Proverbs 20:24. This leads to my basic contention that any attempt to ground a universal, deterministic sovereignty in Proverbs is ill-conceived from the start. It is wholly irresponsible for us to read Proverbs in a manner divorced and isolated from the overall emphasis of Proverbs—that being to instruct one in the way of the Lord. Calvinists invite many contradictions when they seek to universalize these passages into doctrines and principles that deterministically extend exhaustively to all.

    Lets examine why.

    Proverbs is thoroughly understood by scholars to be within the genre of “wisdom literature” which was not all that uncommon in the ANE culture. It was a form of literature that sought to articulate general wisdom for society to follow.

    Proverbs in not a book where we should seek absolute doctrines of universal, binding truths. If we do we have on hand dozens of contradictions and falsehood. For example there are highly skilled people in this world who have remained unknown and unrecognized by kings and rulers despite Proverb 22:29 saying otherwise. A soft answer does not always turn away wrath (15:1). Humility and the fear of the Lord do not always bring riches as Prov. 22:6 asserts. Nor do we find that the wise always inherit honor and that fools on this earth are always shamed and brought to disgrace (3:35). Rulers are not always friends with the kind and pure of heart (22:11). Training up a child in the way of the Lord does not guarantee that he won’t depart from it as 22:6 states. Proverbs asserts that the Lord will ensure that the righteous never go hungry and that the desires of the wicked are never realized (10:3), but this is also not universally true. We live in a corrupt world where the wicked do prosper and even Paul said he suffered great hunger.

    One can go on and on. Should we assume that Proverbs is so untrue to many instances of life that it is contradictory, errant and fallible? Not at all—the genre is general wisdom. And IF, Derek, Proverbs contains many passages that are clearly unfulfilled and tenuous in their universal binding nature, why are you so confident in believing your enlistment of Proverbs 21:19 is announcing a universal truth that God purposes and predetermined everything that occurs?

    You didn’t mention Proverbs 16:33 but I see it so often on Calvinist forums (one of Pipers favs) that I would like to deal with it. Any Arminian would concede that God in his power is more than capable of determining the outcome of any casted lot—we just feel the Calvinist is overstepping his case in teaching that God determines every throw of the dice in every monopoly game based on this verse.

    Moreover this verse is not without its historical context. It was not uncommon in the history of Israel to attempt to discern God’s will in a particular matter by casting lots. For instance when the faithful of Israel gathered together before the Lord to seek his council they would ask that the decision of the lots come from the Lord, such as in Joshua 18:8 where we find that Joshua cast lots for his men “before the Lord” or in 1 Samuel 14:41 where lots are cast to determine guilt between Saul and Jonathan. Many scholars think the Ephod, Urim and Thummim were inanimate objects of divination like flat coins or dice in which the priest or king prayed for God to UNIQUELY manipulate the objects to reveal his will. The writers of the O.T. would not have believed every roll of the dice or every lot cast in every gambling foray was equally manipulated and determined by God! Yet Calvinists would have us believe Prov. 16:33 is asserting such a universal rule.

    In the N.T. we also find a situation in which the disciples gathered UNIQUELY before the Lord to seek his decision by casting lots to fill Judas’s spot as the 12th disciple. These are specific cases where men are seeking the will of the divine and God in turn seeks to reveal his specific will. God is more than capable of honoring their faith. That is the key—it is done in faith. There just isn’t good warrant for the Calvinist to universalize this passage deterministically over every bounce of the gambling dice in Vegas! Common sense tells us Prov.16:33 is extolling God’s ability to intervene (at will) into random lots cast, but that such intervention is contextually appropriate to situations where God has a specific course in mind and controls the lots in accordance with his guidance in a certain matter.

    So in sum Derek, if we cannot universalize a host of passages in Proverbs without undermining the book…we ought not to assume that the passages you (and many other Calvinists) cite are intended to unveil a universal theme of exhaustive, divine determination.

    There are still substantive comments you have made I want to respond to…plus your enlisting of Acts and the predetermined crucifixion of Christ. I will address those next.

    • Robert says:

      Hello Matt,
      I really liked your comments on Proverbs. So many calvinists attempt to proof text from certain verses in Proverbs to “prove” their determinism. Again having had lots of experience with non-Christian cults I have seen this kind of thing many, many times before. When people proof text in this way they ignore the genre (Proverbs is wisdom literature and includes exaggerations and figurative language) and the context (most things have conditions attached to them). Matt you made so many correct statements that I will not quote them all, I will only add some details.

      The Proverbs 19:21 verse does not say that “all the plans in the mind of a man” were predestined for him to have by God. It simply states that when there is a confrontation between man’s plans and God having purposed something, God’s purpose will always win out.

      In discussing this verse you wrote that: “That is to say God can exploit man’s plans to fulfill his own purposes. His purposes can trump ours! Again his sovereignty is best seen in overruling evil by exploiting evil for his own good purposes.” That is a good way to put it, God can (and does) use or exploit even the evil choices that people plan and then make. The best example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. God knew that if Jesus came in the flesh and said and did what he ended up saying and doing, that evil men would then plan to kill Jesus via the Romans and their right to execution by means of crucifixion. God used the evil planning of the Jewish leadership to achieve a great good. Could the Jewish leadership have done differently? Yes, and yet God via his foreknowledge knew what they would in fact do. This is why the references in Acts bring up both that these evil men had evil plans and also God’s foreknowledge in explaining the crucifixion being part of God’s plan of redemption.

      “For example you bring up the story of Joseph and how God meant for good what the brothers meant for evil. The “it” you reference is Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt—not the wicked characters of the brothers. And God does no wrong in planning or purposing that Joseph be a slave in Egypt. We owe our very lives to him and if God wishes that I become vulnerable and subject to the evil whims of men such that I serve his overarching purpose as a slave so that good can come, that is God’s prerogative. However we most note the hatred and jealousy of the older brothers arose out of their own wicked hearts and minds (i.e. many are the plans in man’s mind” Pr. 21:9). God did not HAVE to create it within them or decree their evil characters before the foundation of the world in order to later exploit their jealousy and sin to achieve his own good intention (“meant it for good”). Such is the nature of true, God-glorifying sovereignty: overruling evil for good—not causing all evil to bring about some good. Vastly different.”

      The story of Joseph is another example, like the crucifixion, where God via his foreknowledge knew what evil people would freely choose to do. And Joseph suffers because of evil choice after evil choice being made by evil people. God foreknew these things would occur knowing that at the end Joseph would end up in power and with authority over the food supply which would then spare his own people from the worldwide famine. In each of these cases the evil people freely made evil choices, their evil choices were not necessitated or predestined by God. Instead God allowed them and foreknew what the outcome would be.

      “Proverbs 3:5-6 puts it this way:
      “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not lean on your own understanding, but in all of your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight (i.e. direct your steps).”
      Does that sound Calvinistic? Not at all–because the onus is on us to trust the Lord and submit to him in order for our paths to be directed! Yet it is speaking to the same issue as your proof-text of Proverbs 20:24.”

      And as I sometimes point out to people, God gives certain promises in the Bible (such as submit to Him and he will direct your path) but if you don’t do what it says then you cannot expect the positive outcome which is promised. So what happens if you don’t submit to the Lord, if you go your own way, go by your own understanding? You end like the evil Kings of Israel who brought in idolatry and led the people into idolatry and compromise. You cannot do your own thing like Ahab and then expect God to direct your path! And this brings up a major theme both in Proverbs and in the whole Old Testament: obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings suffering, sin, and cursing.

      A very popular Calvinist proof text is to bring up the King whose heart is moved like the waters. Calvinists ignoring the entire OT and the many verses in Proverbs itself that speak of submitting to God and not leaning on your own understanding and THEN having God direct your path. If you examine Proverbs carefully every reference to a King is a positive one, how the King should rule with wisdom and justice, etc. etc. And yet in the history of Israel they had some really bad Kings who did their own thing, did not follow God or submit to Him. So I take the reference to the King’s heart being in the hand of the Lord and being directed by Him to not be a blanket statement about all Kings in Israel’s history. Instead in line with the other promises about God’s guidance in Proverbs, it is saying that the righteous King who does submit to the Lord, who does not lean upon his own understanding but trusts the Lord, He will be directed by God the way he should go. In other words, that verse is conditional upon the King being righteous, doing the right thing. If he does so, then God will direct Him. And this goes with the whole OT where there was a constant contrast between good and evil Kings. The good Kings being directed by the Lord the evil Kings going against God, forsaking God’s way, doing their own thing, and leading people to idolatry and compromise.

      “This leads to my basic contention that any attempt to ground a universal, deterministic sovereignty in Proverbs is ill-conceived from the start. It is wholly irresponsible for us to read Proverbs in a manner divorced and isolated from the overall emphasis of Proverbs—that being to instruct one in the way of the Lord.”

      Right, you have to interpret Proverbs as a whole and also interpret Proverbs in light of the rest of the OT scripture.

      “Proverbs is thoroughly understood by scholars to be within the genre of “wisdom literature” which was not all that uncommon in the ANE culture. It was a form of literature that sought to articulate general wisdom for society to follow.”

      Actually the format of Proverbs is an older person instructing a younger person about how to live wisely. As such the younger person is told about wisdom and given contrasts between the wise and the fool, the wise and the scoffer, the wise and the slothful, etc. etc.

      “Proverbs in not a book where we should seek absolute doctrines of universal, binding truths. If we do we have on hand dozens of contradictions and falsehood. For example there are highly skilled people in this world who have remained unknown and unrecognized by kings and rulers despite Proverb 22:29 saying otherwise. A soft answer does not always turn away wrath (15:1). Humility and the fear of the Lord do not always bring riches as Prov. 22:6 asserts. Nor do we find that the wise always inherit honor and that fools on this earth are always shamed and brought to disgrace (3:35). Rulers are not always friends with the kind and pure of heart (22:11). Training up a child in the way of the Lord does not guarantee that he won’t depart from it as 22:6 states. Proverbs asserts that the Lord will ensure that the righteous never go hungry and that the desires of the wicked are never realized (10:3), but this is also not universally true. We live in a corrupt world where the wicked do prosper and even Paul said he suffered great hunger.”

      Right, Proverbs says what is true in general but not in every instance. But the genre involves strong contrasts to make points, figurative language to illustrate. It is not meant to be teaching timeless truths where there are no exceptions. Again it is about a younger person learning to live in a wise way.

      “So in sum Derek, if we cannot universalize a host of passages in Proverbs without undermining the book…we ought not to assume that the passages you (and many other Calvinists) cite are intended to unveil a universal theme of exhaustive, divine determination.”

      Exactly!!!

      Robert

    • THEOparadox says:

      Matt,

      Thank you for taking time to work through some of the Scripture passages I mentioned.

      You said, “In your last response you called to aid Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” Does this verse dictate that God meticulously determines and controls everything humans do—such as molesting children? The Principle of Moral Perfection would say “no.”

      Does God foresee every evil that occurs? Does He have the power to prevent it from occurring? (if not, what power does He have over evil?) Does He permit evil, or does it happen outside of His control? If God permits evil when He could prevent it, do you think this violates PMP? Does PMP dictate that God never foresees or allows evil?

      The purpose of the Lord that stands — no matter how horrific the evil that occurs — is to bring about greater good.

      You said, “Far from saying man’s plans originated in God’s decretive mind and that man is merely the intermediate instrument to bring about God’s decree, the verse actually grounds man’s plans in the mind of man—not God.”

      In other words, God decrees to permit man to do what man wants to do? That sounds very familiar. The creature is always the originator of evil.

      You said, “Secondly God’s sovereignty is best seen in overruling man’s ingenuity and evil to bring about his sovereign purposes. There is no violation of PMP in saying God can use, direct and steer man’s own sinful intentions (known to God because he knows our characters) to ultimately fulfill his purposes. That is to say God can exploit man’s plans to fulfill his own purposes. His purposes can trump ours! Again his sovereignty is best seen in overruling evil by exploiting evil for his own good purposes. But it quite another thing to say God decrees evil SO THAT he can bring about good purposes.”

      What is the difference between allowing evil in order to bring about good and decreeing to allow evil in order to bring about good? Is the “good” of overcoming evil His eternal purpose? Did He foresee it from eternity? Then why not decree to allow it?

      You said, “For example you bring up the story of Joseph and how God meant for good what the brothers meant for evil. The “it” you reference is Joseph being sold as a slave in Egypt—not the wicked characters of the brothers.”

      The point is that the same evil event which was “meant for evil” by the brothers was simultaneously “meant for good” by God. Did God foresee and choose to permit the wicked characters and actions of the brothers? This was the human motive and means for Joseph to be sold as a slave in Egypt. Was God in control of this evil, such that He could have prevented it?

      You said, “And God does no wrong in planning or purposing that Joseph be a slave in Egypt. We owe our very lives to him and if God wishes that I become vulnerable and subject to the evil whims of men such that I serve his overarching purpose as a slave so that good can come, that is God’s prerogative. However we most note the hatred and jealousy of the older brothers arose out of their own wicked hearts and minds (i.e. many are the plans in man’s mind” Pr. 21:9).”

      What you are describing here is in perfect harmony with Calvinism. Can you apply this same logic with regard to other horrific evils? Does God “plan and purpose” them? If not, how do they occur apart from His planning and purposing?

      You said, “God did not HAVE to create it within them or decree their evil characters before the foundation of the world in order to later exploit their jealousy and sin to achieve his own good intention (“meant it for good”).

      Calvinists do not think God creates evil within people. However, if the sin of Joseph’s brothers was foreseen and permitted by God in order to bring about what He planned and purposed, did they have the ability to choose otherwise? As you know, I would answer “yes.” Your view would seem to indicate “no.” If this is the case, were they morally responsible?

      You said, “Such is the nature of true, God-glorifying sovereignty: overruling evil for good—not causing all evil to bring about some good. Vastly different.”

      How about eternally purposing to allow a pre-defined amount of evil in order to bring about vastly more good?

      You said, “Does that sound Calvinistic? Not at all–because the onus is on us to trust the Lord and submit to him in order for our paths to be directed!”

      Sure it sounds Calvinistic. We believe in the proper balance of human choice/responsibility and God’s sovereignty. We do not in any way deny human choice/responsibility. We also believe in the principles of Law and Gospel, so it is natural that we are commanded and held responsible. Again I am concerned that you may not be aware of the historic/classical Calvinistic approach.

      You said, “This leads to my basic contention that any attempt to ground a universal, deterministic sovereignty in Proverbs is ill-conceived from the start. . . . Proverbs is thoroughly understood by scholars to be within the genre of “wisdom literature” which was not all that uncommon in the ANE culture. It was a form of literature that sought to articulate general wisdom for society to follow. Proverbs in not a book where we should seek absolute doctrines of universal, binding truths. If we do we have on hand dozens of contradictions and falsehood. For example there are highly skilled people in this world who have remained unknown and unrecognized by kings and rulers despite Proverb 22:29 saying otherwise. A soft answer does not always turn away wrath (15:1). Humility and the fear of the Lord do not always bring riches as Prov. 22:6 asserts. Nor do we find that the wise always inherit honor and that fools on this earth are always shamed and brought to disgrace (3:35). Rulers are not always friends with the kind and pure of heart (22:11). Training up a child in the way of the Lord does not guarantee that he won’t depart from it as 22:6 states. Proverbs asserts that the Lord will ensure that the righteous never go hungry and that the desires of the wicked are never realized (10:3), but this is also not universally true. We live in a corrupt world where the wicked do prosper and even Paul said he suffered great hunger.”

      I believe this is a misguided and dangerous approach to exegeting the Wisdom Literature. Proverbs certainly contains general observations about the world and people as you indicate, but it also contains absolute and unobservable truth about God. Is the fear of the Lord ALWAYS the beginning of wisdom? Does God ALWAYS hate evil? Does He ALWAYS possess wisdom? Is He ALWAYS righteous? In Proverbs, truths about God’s nature and acts are not just general observations; they are revelation concerning matters we are incapable of observing.

      You said, “Should we assume that Proverbs is so untrue to many instances of life that it is contradictory, errant and fallible? Not at all—the genre is general wisdom. And IF, Derek, Proverbs contains many passages that are clearly unfulfilled and tenuous in their universal binding nature, why are you so confident in believing your enlistment of Proverbs 21:19 is announcing a universal truth that God purposes and predetermined everything that occurs?”

      Because the things the Proverbs reveal about God are not generalized. They are God’s self-revelation, and are not reflecting human observations. They are the Holy Spirit’s unveiling of God’s hidden ways.

      You said, “You didn’t mention Proverbs 16:33 but I see it so often on Calvinist forums (one of Pipers favs) that I would like to deal with it. Any Arminian would concede that God in his power is more than capable of determining the outcome of any casted lot—we just feel the Calvinist is overstepping his case in teaching that God determines every throw of the dice in every monopoly game based on this verse.”

      Which roll of the dice IS God in control of? Which rolls are beyond His control? When does He find out the outcome of the game? Does He allow it? Could He have prevented it?

      You said, “Moreover this verse is not without its historical context. It was not uncommon in the history of Israel to attempt to discern God’s will in a particular matter by casting lots. For instance when the faithful of Israel gathered together before the Lord to seek his council they would ask that the decision of the lots come from the Lord, such as in Joshua 18:8 where we find that Joshua cast lots for his men “before the Lord” or in 1 Samuel 14:41 where lots are cast to determine guilt between Saul and Jonathan. Many scholars think the Ephod, Urim and Thummim were inanimate objects of divination like flat coins or dice in which the priest or king prayed for God to UNIQUELY manipulate the objects to reveal his will. The writers of the O.T. would not have believed every roll of the dice or every lot cast in every gambling foray was equally manipulated and determined by God! Yet Calvinists would have us believe Prov. 16:33 is asserting such a universal rule.”

      What would be the point of saying something OBVIOUSLY manipulated by God is under God’s control? That would be stating the obvious, no?

      You said, “There just isn’t good warrant for the Calvinist to universalize this passage deterministically over every bounce of the gambling dice in Vegas! Common sense tells us Prov.16:33 is extolling God’s ability to intervene (at will) into random lots cast, but that such intervention is contextually appropriate to situations where God has a specific course in mind and controls the lots in accordance with his guidance in a certain matter.”

      Does God foresee and allow the results of die rolling? When does He not foresee and allow the outcome? If you affirm that God both foreknows and permits the results of every die roll, aren’t you saying in some sense He wills/ordains them all?

      You said, “So in sum Derek, if we cannot universalize a host of passages in Proverbs without undermining the book…we ought not to assume that the passages you (and many other Calvinists) cite are intended to unveil a universal theme of exhaustive, divine determination.”

      Unfortunately, this view undermines God’s self-revelation, and downgrades it to the level of general observations about people and the world. Calvinists believe God is as morally perfect and meticulously sovereign as He reveals Himself to be throughout Proverbs. Your approach here would seem to reduce His self-revelation to mere generalization and human observation. What you are overlooking is that the point of many verses in Proverbs is to reveal eternal truths and principles about God that are consistent yet UNOBSERVABLE, in sharp and vivid contrast to the earthly realities generally noticed by humans.

      Blessings,

      Derek

  36. StriderMTB says:

    Thanks Robert– I really like your additional thoughts and I appreciate them. I especially liked your comments about the “king” in Proverbs. I sometimes wonder if some of those passages involved Solomon having his own personage in view. In that sense God directing the king’s heart like water would be to merely say “my heart is receiving guidance from God.” Yet even here I’m sure Solomon would have us understand such guidance is preceded by a posture of submission. When Solomon later cast off submission to God and fell into female enticements that led him astray, he forfeited much of his earlier communion and God-directed walk. It would be odd indeed to think God directed “like water” Solomon’s heart to worship and submit to other gods. Thanks for continuing to stop by.

    • Robert says:

      Hello Matt,

      “Thanks Robert– I really like your additional thoughts and I appreciate them. I especially liked your comments about the “king” in Proverbs.”

      One of my mentors once said to me, if you cannot live out the Bible passage that you are interpreting, then you did not interpret it correctly. His point was that the Bible must be read and interpreted so that it is applied. If we apply this principle to the book of Proverbs we find a lot of very practical instruction. The book is not meant to be a proof of determinism nor is it meant to teach exhaustive predestination of all events. Instead, it is much less loftier, much more practical. Some of its repeated themes include the importance of submission to God and not trusting in your own reasoning but trusting God more, the differences between living wisely and living foolishly. None of this has anything to do with determinism. If exhaustive determinism were true, then we would simply be whatever God predestined us to be and there would be no freedom regarding choosing to be wise rather than foolish, choosing to submit and trust rather than trust in yourself, etc. etc.

      “I sometimes wonder if some of those passages involved Solomon having his own personage in view. In that sense God directing the king’s heart like water would be to merely say “my heart is receiving guidance from God.” Yet even here I’m sure Solomon would have us understand such guidance is preceded by a posture of submission. When Solomon later cast off submission to God and fell into female enticements that led him astray, he forfeited much of his earlier communion and God-directed walk. It would be odd indeed to think God directed “like water” Solomon’s heart to submit to Baal worship.”

      Solomon himself is in fact a perfect example of the wise and good king versus the foolish and evil king. When Solomon lived out the principles he talked about in Proverbs, choosing wisdom, submitting to God, then he was directed by God and blessed as was his Kingship. But he also departed from the right principles in Proverbs and started trusting in his own wisdom, making foolish choices, not submitting to God. That is when he engaged in compromise, married women to form political alliances trusting in his own understanding. Solomon is thus a perfect illustration of the principles presented in Proverbs. When he submitted to God properly and did not lean on his own understanding he was blessed and things went well and God directed his heart. But when he departed from the path of wisdom, God did not direct him to compromise, to marry all those women, to trust in his own understanding and making political alliances rather than trusting in God. Solomon in fact is a perfect example of how it looks when you submit to God and God directs your heart like water versus what it looks like when you lean on your own understanding, depart from God and God is no longer directing you. And the same principles apply to us as well.

      Robert

      • StriderMTB says:

        Hi Robert, your last paragraph astutely sums up my entire thought process on the essence of Proverbs and a proper vs. improper interpretive approach. But course…I’m so long winded I will be responding to our friend Derek with a treatise 🙂

        Derek, very sorry for the irresponsible delay. My travels into Thailand had many unexpected hiccups. I have started writing some thoughts down and hope to give it some more time tonight or tomorrow. I’m expecting it to be long…because I will be seeking to both respond to your hermeneutic and explain my position in regards to the problem of evil. Thanks for your patience.

      • theoparadox says:

        Matt,

        No hurry, my friend. It seems like we could go on for quite a long time with the point/counterpoint and lots of interesting subtopics. Obviously this all requires some time and thought. Unfortunately, no one’s mind is likely to change! But it is respectable to hear and understand one another and then respectfully disagree as brothers.

        I sometimes think the whole Calvinism/Arminianism debate boils down to theodicy. So I’m particularly interested in hearing your thoughts on the problem of evil. And in some ways that will take us back to the point of your original post.

        Blessings,
        Derek

  37. StriderMTB says:

    Hi Derek, my response has definitely stretched beyond what would be reasonable to post up in this comment section. I decided to extend my thoughts on the problem of evil in addition to addressing (what I believe to be) your very awkward use of Proverbs as evidence that God determined everything men do–including sin and foolishness. I hope to post up our entire dialogue in a series of numbered posts by tomorrow night and cap it off with my latest response. I was hoping to do it tonight but I agonizingly lost a good chunk of my response today and spent most of my time trying to recover it to no avail. Of course when finished you are welcome to respond to it and it can be added in. Shalom.

  38. StriderMTB says:

    Hey Derek I finally got around to posting up our dialogue properly in numbered parts. I was going to post up my latest response tonight but I just now saw that you replied to two comment threads and not just one. I never saw your second one from June 10th where you address the Principal of Moral Perfection in more detail and interact with more of my comments. I based my latest response completely ignorant of the fact that you had scrolled up and addressed earlier statements of mine in more detail. Soooo I need to rework my reply. Thanks again for your patience.

  39. StriderMTB says:

    Hey Derek, I finally found the time tonight to crunch out my reply. Here are the two links in response to your two posts on June 10th. Blessings, Matt
    PART 1:
    https://atheologyintension.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/debate-on-calvinistic-compatibilism-part-24-matt-responds-part-1/

    PART 2:
    https://atheologyintension.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/debate-on-calvinistic-compatibilism-part-25-matt-replies-part-2/

    UPDATE: Those interested in reading how this conversation on compatibilism wrapped up can find the entire dialogue by clicking HERE.

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