Struggling With Regrets

Do you sometimes struggle with regrets? I certainly do.

Part of the glory of Christianity is the forgiveness we have in Christ Jesus. We should never cease to rejoice in the fact that the blood of Christ has cleansed us from the stain of past sins (2 Pet. 1:9). This forgiveness does not, however, always alleviate consequences from the poor decisions we made prior to trusting in Christ, nor does it always relieve us of the consequences of sinful decisions that we make after conversion.

David is a stunning example. God forgave David for his sin with Bathsheba, and against Uriah, but he still had to suffer tremendous consequences for that sin. His child died, and his son, Absalom, rose up against him, and was killed as a result (2 Sam. 12; 15-18). I would bet that David had regrets. He suffered the scars of his decisions for the rest of his life. Sin is devastating and regrets can be crippling.

While we all have regrets, we must not dwell on the past to the point of preventing us from growing. We cannot change the past, but we can still effect our future. We must learn from our mistakes and move on in the grace of God.

It would seem that regrets can only make sense, however, if we hold to a libertarian view of free will. Regrets are nonsensical if we believe that all of our actions are determined by decree and circumstances which are beyond our control. There is no point feeling regret for something you could not possibly have done otherwise; yet we still feel regret.

Do Calvinists feel regret? How do they work such feelings into their worldview? Do they temporally shelve their worldview when confronted with the experiences of daily human life? Do they somehow train themselves to have no regrets so as to conform their feelings with their belief in determinism? I am curious to know.

I used to enjoy listening to Calvinist Greg Bahnsen’s lectures on apologetics. His approach was presuppositional and he used this approach to demonstrate the incoherence of materialistic atheist thought. He would often point out that atheists do not live in harmony with the world view that they claim. They believe we are merely animals, for instance, yet honor their dead as if they have value beyond that which we would assign to animals. They deny absolute truths, yet are quite certain about their own belief systems, and very critical of others, etc. The atheist lives according to presuppositions that reveal the very God he or she denies.

I wonder that Greg Bahnsen seemed oblivious to such inconsistency in his own Calvinistic world view. I wonder what Greg Bahnsen thought of regrets. That we have regrets should tell us something about our presuppositions. I firmly believe that if we are honest with these presuppositions we will discover that only an Arminian account of free will and responsibility can make sense of the universal human experience of regret.

I am an Arminian primarily because I believe the word of God reveals the basic theological assumptions of Arminian theology. My convictions are based foremost on what I consider to be a more responsible exegesis of the Biblical data on salvation. That is not to say that our personal experiences have no worth or bearing on how we understand God’s word. Paul taught that men are accountable to God because creation is an undeniable testimony to his existence (Rom. 1:18-22). Bahnsen rightly noted that unbelievers actively repress this knowledge (Rom. 1:18).

I remember playing in my pool as a child and enjoying holding an air filled ball under water. I would hold it down as far as I could and then release it. I was amused by the way the ball would quickly rise to the surface and explode out of the water. I think that is what unbelievers do. They hold down the truth of God’s revelation. Every now and then they lose their grip and God’s truth explodes up into their face. When this happens, they can either respond to that revelation or quickly submerge the truth again.

I wonder how Calvinists can hold to their worldview without constantly struggling to re submerge the ball of reality that confronts them in everyday practical life. I believe that regrets are just one facet of reality that Calvinists should honestly deal with and examine.

I have many regrets. I regret that I turned from the Lord as a young teenager and was useless to him during that stage in my life. I regret that I never shared the truth with those who later took their lives during that time of rebellion in my life. I regret that I have often been disobedient to my Lord as a believer, and have often thwarted His efforts to use me and sanctify me. I regret when I have failed to restrain my tongue; or spoke before thinking, and allowed the words that passed from my lips to harm another human being. I regret that I did not boldly share the gospel with the strangers I sat next to at the laundry mat yesterday afternoon. I have many regrets. I do not focus on them to the point of being unhealthy, but I cannot help but to have them. I have them because I know that I am to blame for my actions, and should have done otherwise than I did.

It is true that God can, and often does, use these regrets to show us our need for a Redeemer.  This does not change the fact that our regrets are legitimate.  It is precisely because our regrets are legitimate that God can use them to reveal our need of Him in order to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  It still remains that if God controlled our every decision we should not regret our actions, even if God uses those regrets to draw us to Him. 

We need to also remember that believers have regrets as well.  God will use these regrets to bring us to a point of confession and repentance.  Our conscience troubles us because we know that we should have done otherwise.  It is this knowledge that God uses to bring us to a point of change.  However, the truth remains that our regrets could not be used by God to bring about change unless they were grounded in our power to choose.  The moment we say that we could not have done otherwise than we did, we remove any legitimate grounds for regrets and render them useless to God as a tool to bring about confession, repentance, and change. 

For this reason it is impossible to escape the logical implication that “should have” implies “could have”. We can develop a philosophy that says otherwise, but I do not know how we can keep the ball from ever coming to the surface again. If Calvinistic determinism be true, then I simply should not have regrets. All that I have done is just as God intended and decreed. Why should I regret that?

[Updated 4/22/08]

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76 Responses

  1. It would be extremely helpful if you define in a coherent way what you mean by libertarian free will. Perhaps I missed something, but I always thought that Arminius did not hold to libertarian free will as it is commonly defined.

  2. Dear Ben,

    Regrets are tough, but praise be to God for His mercy.

    I think Finney wrote that freewill is basically impossible to fully deny. You can say you don’t have it, but then contradict that view with the way you live. A wonderful thing about being human is our remarkable knack for being inconsistent.

    I think I bumped into Greg Bahnsen on a forum once. He struck me as very bright and pleasant to chat with. I had no idea he was an apologist.

    Anonymous,

    My two cents…

    Libertarian free will is the idea that what we do is not necessary, but rather we are able to do otherwise. That is to say given all preceding causes, I can chose to put on a red or blue shirt. It is not necessary for me to put on a red one. This is in contrast to compatiblism which says that giving all preceding causes one and only one outcome is possible.

    Arminius did hold to libertarian freewill.

    “The necessity or contingency of an event is to be estimated, not from one cause, but from all the causes united together. For after ten causes have been fixed, from which a thing is produced, not necessarily but contingently, if one be added from which the thing may be necessarily completed, the whole of that thing is said to have been done not contingently but necessarily.”

    http://www.godrules.net/library/arminius/arminius17.htm

    Arminius saw that causal determinism was a problem, and that if our actions are made necessary by prior causes, we are not free.

    God be with you,
    Dan

  3. If we have libertarian free will then why would we need the Holy Spirit when it comes to salvation? If we can decide for ourselves whether to reject/accept the offer then we would not need the Holy Spirit. Also, do we have libertarian free will before we even hear the Gospel? It seems that if we say we have libertarian free will only when we hear the Gospel then it is not really free and if we do have libertarian free will when hearing the Gospel then it should be possible to believe without the Holy Spirit. Another issue that needs to be resolved is that you can not hold to libertarian free will and at the same time to God’s foreknowledge. This is obvious for most advocates to libertarian free will and that is why a great number of them are embracing Open Theism. Of course there are many more problems with libertarian free will, but I will leave it at that

    Todd

  4. Regrets are something that we all have and they way I make sense of them is that I live in both the flesh and the spirit. While I know what I should do I stumble and fall into sin. It is because I have such disdain for sin now that I have regrets. While some Arminians believe that one can be completely sanctified in this life I am unable to say that. I know that I will not be completely holy until I get where I am going. I understand the difference with Arminians in effectual grace, but I have a hard time with following your logic here. You say that we are totally depraved and without God enabling us to respond then we can not come to Him, but why would we need the Holy Spirit? I assume that you are referring to prevenient grace when you talk of enabling man, but if that were true then it should be theoretically possible to respond without the Holy Spirit. It seems that you are not addressing the libertarian free will part of this. If I understand your response then what you are saying is that man does not have libertarian free will until & unless he is also experiencing prevenient grace. Unless God enables him then he is under the control of sin and not able to respond, that would pretty much refute the libertarian free will belief. Now are you saying that man only has this libertarian free will while being enabled by God and is that enabling occur mainly by prevenient grace? If that be the case then would man have this freedom after he rejects the offer or would he fall back under the control of sin and unable to respond? It seems very convoluted to me, but I could be missing what you’re saying so please tell me if I got it wrong.

    Todd

  5. If we determine what the “strongest desire” and we are the ones who decide certain decisions based on the weight that we ascribe to it then how can we not boast in our own salvation? I understand that God enabled us by exposing us to another influence and that the Holy Spirit convicts us, but how can one not boast that he made more use of this new influence than another? Oh well, I am getting sidetracked here so I will just leave it alone.

    It does not appear that you believe in libertarian free will either though as one would find it conventionally defined. That being said it makes no point to go on about something that neither one of us adheres too. As for your question to me, it seems that you can not see both God’s control and man’s responsibility as simultaneous. Perhaps it is not apparent to you, but to me it appears that you are trying to cast a Reformed Calvinist into the mold of a “High-Calvinist” and it seems disingenuous. That would be like me trying to say that Arminians believe that works are a vital part of salvation or that for one to hold to a true view of Arminianism that one would eventually become an Open Theist.

    Todd

  6. Man is responsible before God and some natural things (creation) speaks even to fallen man (Rom.1) about God and God holds him accountable for such. A fallen man will sometines seek God but only the Holy Spirit can lead one to Christ.

    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/

  7. Hello Todd,

    Thanks for checking in again. You ask a lot of questions and I will try to briefly address them. It does seem, however, that you reject libertarian freewill, so I wonder how you make sense of regrets? I would like to hear your thoughts on that.

    You wrote,

    If we have libertarian free will then why would we need the Holy Spirit when it comes to salvation? If we can decide for ourselves whether to reject/accept the offer then we would not need the Holy Spirit.

    There are two issues being dealt with here. Most Calvinists are deterministic in their view of salvation becasue they are deterministic in their view of divine sovereignty. They would say that every decision we make must be determinied by God [whether that decision has to do with Christ, or what we have for breakfast], because unless God maticulously controls everything, He is not truly “sovereign”.

    Some Calvinists say that we are able to make free will choices with regards to mundane issues, but that we are incapable of making a decision for Christ due to the slavery of our nature to sin. I think this is a minority opinion. Even those Calvinist who might say we are “free” to make choices outside of salvation, define freedom in a compatibilistic sense [compatible with determinism]. This kind of “freedom” amounts to the ability to choose according to our desires. The rub, however, is that those desires are causally determined.

    This post was more concerned with everyday choices we make, and not so much dealing with how one can respond to God given that person’s depraved nature. That seems to be your major concern, however, so I will give you the Arminian perspective.

    Arminians affirm total depravity. We believe that sin has affected every aspect of our lives including our ability to make moral choices. We believe that if we were left to ourselves we would never seek after God. We also affirm that God can supernaturally work on the human heart to enable a faith response. We differ with Calvinists in that they believe that God causes a faith response. There is a big difference between enablement and causation. Arminians believe that God has made man in his image which includes the ability to make moral decisions and to determine ones own actions. We do not believe that man lost that constitution of his nature in the fall, only that man fell under the control of sin through willful rebellion. Therefore the need for God to enable man to respond in faith to Christ.

    For a more detailed treatment of the different views on free will, I recommend the following essay: http://www.geocities.com/bobesay/freewill1.html

    Another issue that needs to be resolved is that you can not hold to libertarian free will and at the same time to God’s foreknowledge.

    This is not hard to resolve. The only way that this would be a problem is if God’s foreknowledge were somehow causal. Arminians deny this. While God knows our future choices as certian, it does not follow that we made those choices of necessity. God can foreknow free will choices and His foreknowledge does not make them any less free.

    Think of it in terms of how we know the past. I know that Neil O’Donnel threw three interceptions in Superbowl XXX to cost the Steelers the Championship. That is certian simply because it happened. My knowledge of this past event does not mean, however, that O’ Donnel could not have chosen to throw the ball elsewhere on those three occasions, and avoided those interception. He was truly free to do so, though he, in actuality, did not.

    In the same way, God sees the future just as vividly as we see the past [and even more so], yet his knowledge of the future does not mean that we cannot make genuine free choices. Robert Picirilli has a helpful discussion of this subject in his book, “Grace, Faith, Free Will”. Divine foreknowledge in no way limits libertarian freedom.

    This is obvious for most advocates to libertarian free will and that is why a great number of them are embracing Open Theism.

    I am afraid you have been misinformed. Most Arminian scholars see no problem reconciling foreknowledge and libertarian freedom. Open theism is a minority position among those who call themselves Arminians.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Hey Todd,

    Let me try to explain it another way. We do not make decisions in a vacuum. We make choices based on what influences are brought to bear on us. Calvinists believe that these influences control us. Motives and circumstances push us around. We are controlled by our desires and we cannot control our desires. I deny this understanding of how we make decisions while affirming that all our decisions are based on some kind of influence.

    Here is the difference. Both Calvinists and Arminians would affirm that we choose according to our greatest desire. Arminians believe that the person, as a free agent, determines what the “strongest desire” will be and then chooses accordingly. We are the ones who give weight to a certain decision over another.

    Calvinists believe that motives and desires have a causal influence over us. They would say that we choose according to our strongest desire because our desire somehow has causal power. Our desires push us around. They have a weight all to themselves, rather than we, as free agents, assigning weight to these desires, etc. Does that make some sense?

    The issue then becomes: what influences us? If we are only influenced by Satan and our sinful nature, then we cannot choose outside of those influences. If, however, the Holy Spirit brings a new influence, and enables a faith response, then we are now capable of choosing according to that new influence. That is why we are unable to come to God without first being “drawn” by Him.

    Arminians believe that God draws us to Him through the power and influence of His word and the conviction [convincement] of His Holy Spirit. We only deny that this necessary influence is irresistible; and we believe the Bible fully supports this understanding of God’s grace.

    This is why I do not believe that it is “theoretically possible to respond without the Holy Spirit”, as you say.

    Arminians believe that God interacts with human beings through an influence and response relationship. Calvinists believe that God interacts with human beings through cause and effect. This is probably the most simplistic description of these differing theological perspectives on human freedom and God’s sovereignty.

    …would man have this freedom after he rejects the offer or would he fall back under the control of sin and unable to respond?

    I do not pretend to fully understand exactly how, when, and to what extent God influences the human will. I am content to leave that to God.

    As for your response to my question, I do not see how you have resolved the difficulty with regard to regrets. You seem to say that you have regrets because you struggle with sanctification. The problem is that, if Calvinism is true, it is God who is fully resposible for the level of your sanctification. If you fail to obey God, or grow in your sanctification, then that is just as God has decreed it. If you continue to struggle with sin, then that must be because God wants you to struggle with that sin and has not yet caused you to overcome it.

    Again, why should you regret something that you have no control over? If God doesn’t yet want you to overcome sin and has not yet caused that to happen, then you have nothing to regret. Are you suggesting that you should regret God’s eternal decree and sovereign control over you?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. If you truly believe in libertarian free will, meaning an agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at the same time it is within the said agent’s power to perform the action and also in his power to refrain from the action, and you take it to mean that you have the power of contrary choice then you can not logically hold to the exhaustive infallible foreknowledge of ALL future events by God. The two are always mutually exclusive and by holding to one you let go of the other. That is why I have stated already that the people that are consistent with their beliefs in libertarian free will are Open Theist. I pray that you can see that and that you will truly consider where that belief would lead you.

    Todd

  10. Does God know if you will be saved at the end? If He knows if you will be saved then can you change it in anyway? You are doing the very thing that Picirilli’s does in the book by just assuming libertarian free will without proving it. You may want to hold to both positions but if you want to be consistent than it is impossible. That is why I said that the people are truly consistent with holding to the libertarian free will view are/ are becoming Open Theist.

  11. …but how can one not boast that he made more use of this new influence than another?

    I think we could ask the same question regarding how people respond to God’s santifying grace; could we not? The Bible is clear that faith excludes boasting. Calvinists believe that this is due to faith being an irresistible gift, while Arminians believe it is because of the very nature of faith. See the following posts for more detail:
    http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/07/is-arminian-theology-synergistic.html
    http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/07/nature-of-saving-faith.html

    It does not appear that you believe in libertarian free will either though as one would find it conventionally defined.

    I define it as the power of contrary choice. I believe that is the conventional way of defining it. Feel free to educate me if that is not the case.

    As for your question to me, it seems that you can not see both God’s control and man’s responsibility as simultaneous.

    If you mean that I cannot see how God holds us responsible for things He causes us to do, then yes, I cannot see that. Feel free to explain it; and feel free to explain why I should regret things that I could not have done otherwise [which you have still negelected to do].

    Perhaps it is not apparent to you, but to me it appears that you are trying to cast a Reformed Calvinist into the mold of a “High-Calvinist” and it seems disingenuous. That would be like me trying to say that Arminians believe that works are a vital part of salvation or that for one to hold to a true view of Arminianism that one would eventually become an Open Theist.

    I am sorry Todd, but I fail to see how I have misrepresented Calvinism. I do not know of a single Calvinist that would suggest that we are capable of choosing other than we choose. Arminians believe that we have the power of contrary choice, while all Calvinists deny this. If it is so “apparent” to you how we can be held responsible for choices we could not avoid making, then please, feel free to explain it to me.

    I will ask you one last time; why should I regret doing things that I could not avoid, and that God determined for me to do? Why should I regret performing the very actions that God irrevocably decreed from eternity? Please do not answer with “sorry it isn’t apparent to you”, etc.

    If you think that I am misrepresenting Calvinism then please cite a Calvinist author who believes we have the power of contrary choice.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  12. Did God decree for His Son to be crucified? Did He know that Judas would betray Him? Even though God decreed the event to happen does that let the people responsible off the hook? It seems that you are having a problem in seeing that no Calvinist says that God is the cause of sin. You also try to have it both ways by saying that either you will persevere or you won’t and that whatever you do God will know. The point is God already knows if you will or if you won’t. If I understand you correctly you are saying that God is waiting for it to play out and then he knows. That is not the case though; God already knows all things and those things can not change. Before you were born He knew that you would have pancakes over eggs yesterday. Now could you have had eggs? No because then God could not have known for certain. That is why you can not hold to both. Show me one Calvinistic writer or confession that says that God is the cause of sin; I have not found one yet. So if you want to be consistent than you can not hold to both, but who cares about consistency right.

    As for your question, I can not say it better than I already have in a previous reply. You do not see God’s absolute sovereignty and mans absolute responsibility. While they appear contradictory you can not have one without the other.

  13. Just to add, all sides agree to free will. Calvinism just does not hold to libertarian free will for we see the inconsistencies just as some on your side have seen it and that is why they are going to the open Theism view.

    Todd

  14. Todd,

    The two are always mutually exclusive and by holding to one you let go of the other.

    You are quite mistaken. They are not mutually exclusive as I explained above. That God foreknows our actions as certain does not make those choices necessary.

    God foreknows the choices we make simply because we make them. Therefore, He knows them as certain. This does not speak to the nature of the choice. It does not tell us whether that choice was determined by the free agent, or by some other causal force. Foreknowledge is not causal. Again, I recommend Picirilli’s book for more clarification. I have provided a link to it in the right column of the blog.

    It seems strange to me that you are bothered by what you perceive to be mutually exclusive claims in Arminianism, but seem happy to accept mutually exclusive claims in Calvinism.

    You have still failed to explain how God rightly holds us accountable for actions that are predetermined according to His eternal decree. You have still failed to explain how regrets make any sense within a deterministic paradigm.

    You are welcomed to do so whenever you feel up to it. I look forward to it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. I think Todd’s will has been irresistibly coerced by Calvinism to accuse you of heading towards Open Theism.

    Did God decree for His Son to be crucified? Did He know that Judas would betray Him?

    Of course, but God didn’t cause the evil men do, but rather used it for His own purposes; notice He was delivered to death by both the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).

    You go on about foreknowledge with,

    You also try to have it both ways by saying that either you will persevere or you won’t and that whatever you do God will know. The point is God already knows if you will or if you won’t.

    and,

    If I understand you correctly you are saying that God is waiting for it to play out and then he knows.

    Incorrect, perhaps you should learn to actually read what the other person is saying before responding. Ben has clearly stated that he believes in God’s absolute foreknowledge, viz While God knows our future choices as certain, it does not follow that we made those choices of necessity. God already infallibly knows the future and has known from eternity past, that’s why it’s called foreknowledge.

    That is not the case though; God already knows all things and those things can not change. Before you were born He knew that you would have pancakes over eggs yesterday. Now could you have had eggs? No because then God could not have known for certain.

    You are errantly assuming that unless the future is non-contingent, then God can’t know it, effectively limiting God’s omniscience. Again you miss the point, God foreknowing the event does not mean that He necessarily caused it. He could have made a different choice, but God would have known that outcome instead, for foreknowledge is based on what will occur, what will occur isn’t based on foreknowledge. You are essentially arguing that the cart is pushing the horse. In short, not all future events are fixed by God’s foreknowledge, but rather, God’s foreknowledge is based on what will occur in the future. For your argument to stand, you would have to establish that the future was based on God’s foreknowledge, not vice-versa. But since you seem unwilling to grasp the concept, let me break it down in the most basic logical terms: Assuming God lets man X have the choice between waffles and eggs for breakfast,

    if(man X will choose from his own power of contrary choice to eat waffles)
    {
    God foreknows that he will eat waffles;
    }
    else
    {
    God foreknows that he will eat eggs;
    }

    No matter which choice he will make, God already knows it. Foreknowledge is based on the future, the future is not rooted in foreknowledge.

    So if you want to be consistent than you can not hold to both, but who cares about consistency right.

    Was that supposed to be a question? Perhaps when you can pull your head from the sand and grasp simple logic in properly discerning between cause and effect you can lecture us on consistency.

    As for your question, I can not say it better than I already have in a previous reply. You do not see God’s absolute sovereignty and mans absolute responsibility. While they appear contradictory you can not have one without the other.

    No one is arguing God’s sovereignty.

    Josh

  16. Does God know if you will be saved at the end?

    Yes.

    If He knows if you will be saved then can you change it in anyway?

    If God knows that I will be saved, it is because He knows whether or not I will actually persevere in faith or not. This is true only because He knows the future as certian. This, again, has no bearing on who is responsible for that perseverance. “Will persevere” [certainty] is not the same as “must persevere” [necessity].

    If I continue in my faith by continually surrendering to God’s work in me, then God will infallibly foreknow that as certain. If I fall away from the faith and cease to follow Christ, then God will infallibly know that as certain.

    I am sorry if this is not making sense to you. I don’t know how else to explain it. As I have said before, certainty does not logically imply that the nature of our choices are necessary. God’s foreknowledge is not causal, just as my knowledge of the past is not causal.

    That I know I chose to make pancakes yesterday instead of eggs does not mean I could not have made eggs. It only means that I did, in fact, make pancakes. I only know that because it is what happened. That does not mean it could not have happened any other way. It only means that it did not happen that way. If I had, instead, decided to make eggs, then I would know that as certian. My knowledge has no causal relationship to the choices I made yesterday, and God’s foreknowledge has no causal relationship to the choices I will make tomorrow, and so on.

    “Will happen” [certainty] is not the same as “must happen” [necessity]. It is really not that complicated. Once we understand the difference between certainty and necessity, all so called “contradictions” melt away.

    That is why I said that the people are truly consistent with holding to the libertarian free will view are/ are becoming Open Theist.

    Like I said before, Open Theism is a minority position among Arminians because most Arminians understand, unlike you and some Open Theists, that foreknowledge is not causal.

    It would seem that we will just have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I am still anxiously awaiting your answers to the questions I have posed concerning regrets, etc.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. One more thing:

    You said,

    You are doing the very thing that Picirilli’s does in the book by just assuming libertarian free will without proving it.

    Did you read Picirilli’s book, or just the reviews at Amazon? I seem to recall one of the reviewers making a similar comment.

    Please remember that I am not trying to “prove” libertarian freewill. Picirilli was not trying to “prove” libertarian free will either. What he was doing in the sections I recommended to you was demonstrating that libertarian freewill is compatible with exhaustive foreknowledge.

    I personally think it is rather silly to try to “prove” freewill, since we all believe in it deep down. We accept it by intuition. That was the point of my post. That we have regrets betrays that intuition, even if we try to suppress it by way of an adopted philosophy.

    I think the burden of proof rests with those who want to “disprove” libertarian freewill; and I, for one, have found such efforts very unconvincing.

  18. Todd,

    Thanks for your response. Like I said, we will just have to agree to disagree on this subject.

    As for how God can be sovereign and still allow for true contingencies, see my post, “God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will”

    http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/gods-sovereignty-and-mans-free-will.html

    Thanks for the interaction.

    Ben

  19. Ben,

    As always, I’m blown away by your patience. You should pastor!

    Great post!

  20. Todd,

    I think your point is a bit muddled, but somewhat on track. If one does a serious study of Picirilli’s work on divine foreknowledge and Open Theism view on the subject one would see that both share the same views on the mode of God’s knowledge. So when you say that the consistent Arminian is an Open theist you are correct. Where you get muddled a bit is in trying to argue that foreknowledge and predestination is the same thing when in actuality they are distinct concepts. Actually that is where most Arminians stumble as well in their understanding of the Reformed position. It appears that the same mistake is being made here in the believing that Calvinism teaches that foreknowledge is casual, when no Calvinist would say that because it is not. That is why you can not find it in any major Calvinistic works or in any statements of faith or confessions. Foreknowledge is the effect of the divine will and that is where you guys are getting hung up, it is not the cause. God is in control of everything whether it’s the rolling of dice, birds in the air, or the hair on your head. So from a Calvinist viewpoint the problem comes in by you guys putting foreknowledge and predestination as one concept, the very premise of your point is in error. I would pray that when you rightfully separate the two that you guys would be better able to understand the Reformed position.

  21. I think the burden of proof rests with those who want to “disprove” libertarian freewill; and I, for one, have found such efforts very unconvincing.

    In their work on why they are not Calvinist Wall and Dongell write this about libertarian free will, “Arminians rely on contested philosophical judgments at this point.” The reason they rely on philosophy to prove libertarian free will is because you can not find it in Scripture, but to some people that is not important to base their beliefs on Scripture.

    Dan,

    I will think on what you wrote. Thanks.

    Todd

  22. Dan,

    If you would, please explain exactly how Open Theism is consistent Arminianism, or how they “both share the same views on the mode of God’s knowledge.”

  23. This will be my last post on this subject as I fear that nothing else can be said on this, so I will try to be as clear and precise as I can be. If we truly have libertarian free will than we should not need the Gospel and Holy Spirit in order to have salvation. Libertarian free will means that I always have the option to do something counter to everything before and that there can be no cause for it otherwise it would not be free. It is not enough to say that we are exposed to only Satan and our own sinful nature because if we do have libertarian free will then I should still be able to choose differently without any outside forces or conditions. The minute we say that we need the Gospel and the Holy Spirit to convict us we place a condition on our libertarian free will to decide and that goes counter to the definition of libertarian free will. I need to stress again that both sides agree that we have free will, in fact the Westminster Confession has a whole chapter on it, but we disagree strongly with the view that man has libertarian free will.

    Todd

  24. Hmmm…you seem to be missing what exactly libertarian free will is. You state that, “Libertarian free will means that I always have the option to do something counter to everything before and that there can be no cause for it otherwise it would not be free”, but this view you espouse is incorrect, the teachings in scripture imply a limited free will. The human will by itself is not strong enough to overcome sin nature, so its freedom is limited in that respect (and if you don’t believe in limited freedom, try appealing to the second amendment to support building your own ICBM). Since our wills are in bondage to sin by nature, no man can be saved apart from the grace of God, where libertarian free will/contrary choice comes in is the fact that God’s grace is resistible by men.

    But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him. Luke 7:30

  25. I forgot, the Arminian only believes in libertarian free will while under the drawing of God. No drawing no libertarian free will. We will disagree on this so I will move on. Thanks for all the patience and time:)

    Todd

  26. I forgot, the Arminian only believes in libertarian free will while under the drawing of God.

    Heh heh, if we didn’t, it would probably be called ‘pelagianperspectives.’

  27. Again, Arminians do not deny the role of influence and antecedent “conditions”,

    This right here shows that you do not believe in libertarian free will as it is commonly held. You may keep saying that you believe in it, but it does not make it so.

    I did like the PelagianPerspective comment. Perhaps there is some truth in that.

    Todd

  28. Oh I see, so the rest of it is where you show libertarian free will???

    Like shooting fish in a barrel. LOL

  29. Again, if you hold to libertarian free will then to be consistent you must be an Open Theist. You may not like it, but it is what it is

    If I were you though I would not be all bent out of shape, seeing as you do not hold to the true libertarian free will definition. Anyways, this is your blog so I will leave it alone. Good luck!

  30. Dan,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    You wrote,

    It appears that the same mistake is being made here in the believing that Calvinism teaches that foreknowledge is casual, when no Calvinist would say that because it is not.

    I do not believe that Calvinists think foreknowledge is causal. I was only pointing out that foreknowledge is not causal because Todd seemed to think it was. I not only make a distinction between foreknowledge and predestination, but also between election and predestination [which many Calvinists conflate].

    Calvinists do believe, however, that foreknowledge is based on an eternal decree and that God knows the future because He will make it happen just as He decreed. So foreknowledge in Calvinism is simply God knowing what He will infallibly bring to pass.

    As far as this comment:

    …one would see that both [traditional Arminians and Open Theists] share the same views on the mode of God’s knowledge. So when you say that the consistent Arminian is an Open theist you are correct.

    You would seem to be way off base. Perhaps you need to clarify what you meant here.

    Thanks for your two cents.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  31. Again, if you hold to libertarian free will then to be consistent you must be an Open Theist. You may not like it, but it is what it is

    Why exactly this is necessary he still hasn’t elucidated. Even if we did have unlimited free will, it still does not logically follow that God could not know our choices, and hence would not necessitate Open Theism. If they say that man could just change his mind at the last minute contra God’s foreknowledge, they would be begging the question in assuming that God couldn’t foreknow the last-minute change. Like most Calvinists, he shops a few floors down from the critical thinking department.

    …seeing as you do not hold to the true libertarian free will definition.

    Ah! A nice, refreshing Belt of Equivocation!

  32. The reason they rely on philosophy to prove libertarian free will is because you can not find it in Scripture, but to some people that is not important to base their beliefs on Scripture.

    That is quite a bold and unqualified statement. Do you really mean that? I suppose you would say, then, that Calvinists deny freewill because the Bible overwhelmingly teaches that freewill is a myth. Is that what you think?

    Here is what I think. The notion of libertarian freewill is assumed and implied throughout Scripture. I personally do not know how an honest, unbiased, reading of Scripture could lead anyone to believe that human beings do not have the power of contrary choice.

    Perhaps that is why the early Greek fathers held to libertarian freewill despite many of them being brought up under fatalist Greek philosophies.

    I believe that Calvinists were forced to come up with philosophical alternatives to libertarian freewill in order to preserve their theological presuppositions.

    We don’t, to my knowledge, find determinism in Christian thought prior to Augustine [except among the gnostics], and if we do find determinism, it is extremely marginal.

    Even Augustine held to libertarian freewill after converting to Christianity from a gnostic deterministic sect. He only later fell back into his prior deterministic convictions while embroiled in debate with the Pelagians.

    The point being that, with the exception of Augustinians, determinism was never a historical feature of Christian thought. Why? Because it is so apparently implied and assumed in the Scriptures.

    My two cents. Take it or leave it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    BTW, I discuss one such Scripture that bears on this subject in the following post:

    http://arminianperspectives.blogspot.com/2007/09/calvinism-and-free-will-exegetical.html

  33. Let me clarify the following statement I made above:

    The point being that, with the exception of Augustinians, determinism was never a historical feature of Christian thought. Why? Because it is so apparently implied and assumed in the Scriptures.

    The “it” refers to libertarian freewill, and not to determinism as the sentence seems to imlply. Sorry if that was not clear.

  34. If we truly have libertarian free will than we should not need the Gospel and Holy Spirit in order to have salvation. Libertarian free will means that I always have the option to do something counter to everything before and that there can be no cause for it otherwise it would not be free.

    You seem to think that libertarian freewill implies unlimited ability to choose. We can only choose according to the options presented to us, and, as I already noted, the influences which are brought to bear on us.

    I could choose to cook eggs or pancakes for breakfast only because eggs and pancakes are available options for me. If I did not have eggs, then I could not choose eggs. It would not be one of my choices.

    I am not “free” to get payed twice what I am making right now, because my boss has denied me that option. I am “free”, however, to quit my job, and try to find a better paying one. There are, of course, limits to freedom. No one is denying that.

    It is not “theoretically” possible for an unbeliever to choose Christ without first being exposed to the gospel and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that the unbeliever doesn’t have the power to accept or reject the gospel once those conditions have been provided. In fact, that is the main point.

    The minute we say that we need the Gospel and the Holy Spirit to convict us we place a condition on our libertarian free will to decide and that goes counter to the definition of libertarian free will.

    It may go counter to your definition of libertarian free will, but it does not go counter to mine, as explained above.

    Again, Arminians do not deny the role of influence and antecedent “conditions”, we only deny that these influences and conditions are irresistible. The sinner can yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the gospel message, or yield instead to his or her sinful nature and continue in rebellion. There is nothing that necessitates either choice, except for the God given, self-determining, ability of the free agent. The sinner can only choose for or against God because he or she has been given both options and has been enabled to make that choice.

    I need to stress again that both sides agree that we have free will…

    Yes, but Calvinist define “free” in a rather strange way, i.e. the freedom to do what we cannot avoid doing; the freedom to do what God decreed for us to do; the freedom to do what we have been programmed to do, etc.

    …in fact the Westminster Confession has a whole chapter on it,

    Yes, a self contradictory chapter. You cited Walls and Dongell earlier; perhaps you missed the section where they pointed this out.

    but we disagree strongly with the view that man has libertarian free will.

    We seem to also disagree over what libertarian free will constitutes.

    This will be my last post on this subject

    Time will tell.

    Later,
    Ben

  35. Again, Arminians do not deny the role of influence and antecedent “conditions”,

    This right here shows that you do not believe in libertarian free will as it is commonly held. You may keep saying that you believe in it, but it does not make it so.

    It would seem that Scriptures aren’t the only things that Calvinists like to quote out of context.

    Here’s the rest:

    …we only deny that these influences and conditions are irresistible.

    I knew you couldn’t resist taking another shot. Thanks for enlightening us once again.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  36. BTW Todd,

    Check out my newest post. It’s in honor of this fun discussion we have been having 🙂

  37. Again, if you hold to libertarian free will then to be consistent you must be an Open Theist. You may not like it, but it is what it is

    Yes, of course, and if you hold to determinism then to be consistent you must be a hyper Calvinist, right?

    If I were you though I would not be all bent out of shape, seeing as you do not hold to the true libertarian free will definition.

    I am not bent out of shape, and I am fine with you defining libertarian freewill however you like. I wasn’t defending your definition, but mine.

    Anyways, this is your blog so I will leave it alone. Good luck!

    Thanks. Stop by anytime.

  38. If anyone is still reading this has there been an Arminian rebuttal to Jonathan Edwards Freedom of the Will?

  39. I have never understood the confusion some have of free will with power or ability. Just because I will something does not mean I have the power to accomplish it. From whence does this equation come?

  40. If I am following your argument correctly, that may not be the case so I apologies and hope that you clarify, what you are saying is that God knows the broad plan in all things, but not the concrete things. If that is the case, and I believe that Picirilli would agree with that view, then one is left with admitting that God’s knowledge is dependent/contingent on the choice that man makes. It has to be in order for you to believe in libertarian free will because in libertarian free will man is the cause and since he has the ability of contrary choice his choice can not be known until he makes it. What you have done is constrained God by time and also made God dependent on man. If you understand that then you would see that it is not proper to call it foreknowledge instead it would be entirely proper to call it hindsight.

    On a separate note please tell me that you are not saying that Geisler successfully refutes Edwards? It seems odd since if you have read Edwards, I assume you have, you would know that he refutes Geisler’s reasoning in Freedom of the Will itself by answering a critic of his day that was making the same argument that Geisler makes. In order for Geisler to make the point that he wanted to make he would have to prove that man is sovereign and a self-caused entity, surely you are not saying that he showed that? To my knowledge, limited as it is, the only one that can claim that is God. Please know that just because a work has been challenged does not mean that it has been proven false. If that were the case then one could say that the Remonstrant’s were immediately challenged and their arguments exposed and proven wrong.

  41. Dan,

    If I am following your argument correctly, that may not be the case so I apologies and hope that you clarify, what you are saying is that God knows the broad plan in all things, but not the concrete things.

    No, I hold that God has exhaustive foreknowledge of every event both small and great.

    It has to be in order for you to believe in libertarian free will because in libertarian free will man is the cause and since he has the ability of contrary choice his choice can not be known until he makes it.

    Here’s where your logic breaks down: You believe that if we have power of contrary choice, that man’s choice can’t be known until he makes it. Since God is not constrained by time, He is capable of perfectly knowing which choices His creatures will make before they make them.

  42. If anyone is still reading this has there been an Arminian rebuttal to Jonathan Edwards Freedom of the Will?

    Yes. Many of Edwards’ contemporaries immediately challenged his reasoning and exposed his arguments as philosophically unsound. Among them were Methodists Richard Watson and Thomas Ralston. Daniel Whedon wrote a 438 page rebuttal called, The freedom of the will as a basis of human responsibility and a divine government. This is a very hard book to get a hold of, but John Wagner [editor of Redemtion Redeemed is currently editing the book and is planning to republish it within the next year or so.

    More recently, Norman Geisler exposed the flaws in Edwardian freedom in Chosen But Free.

    The common Calvinist refrain that Edwards’ work stands unrefuted is, in my opinion, wishful thinking.

  43. You both fail to see the point. There must always be a first cause, to say that man is the first cause begs the question because how can man be the initial cause if he is not a sovereign and self-caused being? Let’s use the eggs and pancakes example that one of you gave to show this contrary choice at work a bit more clearly. If I understand the libertarian free will position then you say that you could have had pancakes or eggs and you chose pancakes and God knew that you would choose that but that you had this libertarian free will to have chosen the eggs. I would say that you have not proven libertarian free will at all; in fact it appears to me that the example shows the opposite. If you believe that God already knew before the foundation of the world that you would pick pancakes then it logically follows that you were incapable of picking eggs. The only way that you can avoid that is by making God’s knowledge contingent on your choice. Sorry for the briefness of this reply, but I must go to work.

  44. You both fail to see the point. There must always be a first cause, to say that man is the first cause begs the question because how can man be the initial cause if he is not a sovereign and self-caused being?

    Oh no, I understand your point quite well, and have dealt with it in the past. Per your question, let’s see, how about, God granting him libertarian free will? Unless you wish to argue that God is so sovereign that He can’t delegate any kind of power of choice….

    …in fact it appears to me that the example shows the opposite. If you believe that God already knew before the foundation of the world that you would pick pancakes then it logically follows that you were incapable of picking eggs.

    You have it backwards, I am capable of either choice (in this example); God knows because I will choose, I don’t choose because God knows.

    The only way that you can avoid that is by making God’s knowledge contingent on your choice.

    Now you’re getting it. To assert that God knows the future exhaustively yet assume that His foreknowledge is not (at least in part) based on what choices we will make is to automatically discount any kind of libertarian free will. So yes, for there to be exhaustive foreknowledge and libertarian free will, God’s foreknowledge must to some extent be contingent upon the choices we will make, hence we argue that divine foreknowledge is not causal.

  45. Thank you! It is good to know that God is contingent on man and that you readily embrace that belief. All that is left to do is take a half step more and embrace your Arminian brother’s that hold to Open Theism.

  46. Nice attempt at equivocation Dan, but God Himself is self-existent, only His foreknowledge is contingent on His creations, and that only by His permission.

    All that is left to do is take a half step more and embrace your Arminian brother’s that hold to Open Theism.

    Typical slippery-slope. If you don’t like it when Arminians question how you as a determinist can pray and evangelize, I suggest that you not employ similar errors.

  47. I believe that I have already stated that foreknowledge is non causative, if you did not read that or forgot what I wrote please scroll up and refresh your mind. All I have done is use an example that you provided and shown that libertarian free will and God’s foreknowledge can not be held jointly. That is why I said thank you when you said that God is contingent on man. Perhaps your case would be better stated if you said something along the lines of ‘God being God has placed upon Himself a restriction to not know all things because He wanted to endow His created beings with the ability of libertarian free will. Knowing that if He knows before what will happen that the created being is not truly free He has given a power to man that He Himself does not posses. This of course in no way limits Him’… yada, yada, yada.

    Yet for some strange reason you want to cling to both libertarian free will and God’s full and exhaustive foreknowledge. I will leave it to the individual reader to see if that is a consistent view to hold even after showing that it is not logical. That is why I said that you are a half a step away from the Open Theist; the only thing that keeps you from it is your failure to be consistent. I believe that I have reasonably shown by using the example that you provided that your position is wrong and that you can not hold to both. You, in fact, conceded the point when you said that God is contingent on man. Now you may argue that it is a self caused limitation and you are free to do that, but holding to both is impossible.

  48. Dan,You wrote,On a separate note please tell me that you are not saying that Geisler successfully refutes Edwards? It seems odd since if you have read Edwards, I assume you have, you would know that he refutes Geisler’s reasoning in Freedom of the Will itself by answering a critic of his day that was making the same argument that Geisler makes. In order for Geisler to make the point that he wanted to make he would have to prove that man is sovereign and a self-caused entity, surely you are not saying that he showed that?

    I have not read all of “Freedom of the Will”, but I feel I have a pretty good handle on his arguments. I am going to try to read the entire work when I have the time, so that I can be sure I understand him and represent him fairly. BTW, have you read Picirilli’s book?

    When I said that Geisler exposed the flaws in Edwardian freedom, I meant essentially the same thing that you have said concerning where Geisler’s arguments fall short. I meant that Geisler demonstrated that Edwards had not successfully made his case, which is what you are saying concerning Geisler. In other words, Edwards has not proven that God could not have made free agents capable of making choices in a libertarian sense.In order for Edwards to make his case, he would have to prove that the mind or soul operates on the same cause and effect principal as the material world. He would have to prove that God is not capable of creating self-determining free agents. He would have to prove that motives and desires bear a causal influence on the human mind.

    Here is where I think Edwards’ logic is very suspect. He denies that man can have the capacity of causation, but then assigns such a capacity and power to motives and desires.Like I said, I have not read all of Edwards, so I will concede that I may not fully understand his argumentation. Perhaps you could summerize his arguments for me to critically examine.

    Please know that just because a work has been challenged does not mean that it has been proven false.

    I agree completely. We must also remember that just because someone will not concede that a certain argument has been refuted, does not, in reality, mean that the argument has not been refuted. As Bahnsen would say, “Just because someone won’t cry uncle, doesn’t mean you don’t have him in a hammer-lock” [paraphrase].

    I assume you are a determinist, correct? In an attempt to reel things back in to the subject of my post; how do you make sense of regrets given your deterministic presuppositions? Do you have regrets? If so, then why do you regret things that you could not have possibly done otherwise?

    Thanks for your input.
    Ben

  49. Dan,

    I believe that I have already stated that foreknowledge is non causative, if you did not read that or forgot what I wrote please scroll up and refresh your mind.

    I didn’t say you did, I simply said we argue against that (which we’ve been doing with Todd), and by extension, similar beliefs that attribute all choices (including sinful ones) to the will of God.

    All I have done is use an example that you provided and shown that libertarian free will and God’s foreknowledge can not be held jointly.

    With stunning lack of success I might add.

    That is why I said thank you when you said that God is contingent on man.
    and
    You, in fact, conceded the point when you said that God is contingent on man.

    Wow, I said in just my last post that, but God Himself is self-existent, only His foreknowledge is contingent on His creations; people make mistakes, but now you’re resulting to outright dishonesty to discredit me?

    Perhaps your case would be better stated if you said something along the lines of ‘God being God has placed upon Himself a restriction to not know all things because He wanted to endow His created beings with the ability of libertarian free will. Knowing that if He knows before what will happen that the created being is not truly free He has given a power to man that He Himself does not posses. This of course in no way limits Him’… yada, yada, yada.

    Except one small detail…that is not our case, and no matter how much you blindly insist we are only a half-step from being Open Theists, reality is far removed from your fanciful conjectures.

    That is why I said that you are a half a step away from the Open Theist; the only thing that keeps you from it is your failure to be consistent.

    Then where are we inconsistent? Do tell.

    I believe that I have reasonably shown by using the example that you provided that your position is wrong and that you can not hold to both.

    All you said was that if God knew what the future is, then we couldn’t be truly free, yet you haven’t shown exactly why man can’t have libertarian free will and God still know the outcome of his choices. Assertion does not equal proof.

    Now you may argue that it is a self caused limitation and you are free to do that, but holding to both is impossible.

    Yet you still can’t explain why, and hence your case is logically bankrupt. Now, do you have something besides more unsubstantiated insistence and half-truths, or are you going to getting around to explaining exactly why a God who isn’t limited by time, magnitude of power, or knowledge can’t both grant men power of contrary choice and still know which choices they will make beforehand?

  50. Thank you! It is good to know that God is contingent on man and that you readily embrace that belief. All that is left to do is take a half step more and embrace your Arminian brother’s that hold to Open Theism.

    Allow me to have a little fun with this comment:

    Thank you! It is good to know that God [causally determines all things] and that you readily embrace that belief. All that is left to do is take a half step more and embrace your [hyper-Calvinist] brother’s that hold to [God being the author of sin].

    You have still not answered my question with regards to regrets.

    Till then…

    Ben

  51. Do you believe that God has libertarian free will as you define it?

    If I have misunderstood your view then I am sorry, when you say that God’s foreknowledge is contingent on man than it limits God. You believe that God limits Himself, if that is not your view than I missed what you were saying. If God limits Himself on just His foreknowledge then God can not know our choices – He limited Himself. Now why would He just limit that part of Himself? Where exactly does it say in the Bible that He limits His foreknowledge?

    Perhaps at this point we will just agree to disagree.

  52. Last point since I have not seen you address it. In the example of the pancakes and eggs do you not see that if God knew before you were created that you would have pancakes then it was determined? While to you it appears that you had free choice in actuality it is not possible for you to have picked eggs. If God is truly omniscient then your “choice” could not have been different and your belief that you had libertarian free will was just a delusion. You have not shown how libertarian free will can co-exist with God’s total omniscience. To say that yes it can because God can do whatever He wants seems silly, yet that is all I hear you saying. Yet you accuse me of having a logically bankrupt view when all I have done is taken the example provided and shown how it does not support your logic. WOW!

  53. Ben, as a Steelers fan, it should be obvious to you that Calvinism is true. Anyone who watched Super bowl XL must see that it was God’s sovereign influencing of the refs that enabled the Steelers to win the game. 😉

    -Kevin (still bitter Seahawks fan)

    PS I enjoy your blog.

  54. If the Reformed Arminian view is true and man has libertarian free will only when he is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit while the Gospel is preached (I believe that is your stance, that man only has libertarian free will under that condition), then what of the man that was never exposed to the Gospel? On judgment day that man, if he had any intelligence whatsoever, would say “Umm, excuse me but I had not been given this libertarian free will to make a free choice to come to you God, I was always under the influence of sin and Satan and my libertarian free will was never enabled since the Holy Spirit never worked in conjunction with the preaching of the Gospel to give me the opportunity that some of these people were given. How am I damned?”

  55. Dan,

    Do you believe that God has libertarian free will as you define it?

    Yes, albeit not with the same range of possibilities (e.g. He can choose to save or destroy, but can’t choose to sin).

    If I have misunderstood your view then I am sorry, when you say that God’s foreknowledge is contingent on man than it limits God.

    Don’t worry about it, I’m not mad; but how exactly is that limiting? If God simply chooses to respond to choices rather than micromanage, I’m not sure how He would be limited.

    If God limits Himself on just His foreknowledge then God can not know our choices – He limited Himself.

    I don’t understand, from where do you get the idea that God can’t foreknow our choices? I’m still not sure what you mean by “God limits Himself on just His foreknowledge,” I don’t recall saying anything like that.

    Now why would He just limit that part of Himself? Where exactly does it say in the Bible that He limits His foreknowledge?

    It doesn’t, that’s not what either Ben or I are saying. God has complete and exhaustive foreknowledge that is unlimited. That has nothing to do with whether He gave us libertarian free will or not.

    Last point since I have not seen you address it. In the example of the pancakes and eggs do you not see that if God knew before you were created that you would have pancakes then it was determined?

    And this is where you are not grasping the concept: The choice does not have to be determined for God to foreknow it. You’re employing logic similar to what is seen in the syllogism:

    What is foreknown is fixed.
    What is fixed is certain.
    What is certain is predestined.
    What is foreknown is predestined.

    The third point is incorrect, and hence the fourth as well. Something need not be predestined to be certain, for God can with all certainty foreknow a choice that He did not directly predestinate.

    While to you it appears that you had free choice in actuality it is not possible for you to have picked eggs.

    No, it is possible, but God already knows which possibility I will pick.

    If God is truly omniscient then your ‘choice’ could not have been different and your belief that you had libertarian free will was just a delusion. You have not shown how libertarian free will can co-exist with God’s total omniscience.

    Are you saying God can’t create a being with free will and still be totally omniscient?

    Yet you accuse me of having a logically bankrupt view when all I have done is taken the example provided and shown how it does not support your logic. WOW!

    You’ve shown nothing except that you can’t (or won’t) grasp that an atemporal God can foreknow freely made choices.

    To say that yes it can because God can do whatever He wants seems silly, yet that is all I hear you saying.

    Let me put it in perspective for you: For sake of argument, assume that God did give someone libertarian free will. By the logic you are employing, are you saying that a simple choice made within the framework of time by a created being can’t be foreknown by an omniscient God who transcends time itself?

  56. Anonymous,

    If the Reformed Arminian view is true and man has libertarian free will only when he is under the conviction of the Holy Spirit while the Gospel is preached (I believe that is your stance, that man only has libertarian free will under that condition), then what of the man that was never exposed to the Gospel?

    Man has libertarian free will either way, but it is in bondage to the sinful nature apart from the grace of God. As for the latter objection about judgment day, God isn’t obligated to show mercy to anyone.

  57. Libertarian free will says that we make our choices without any regard given to our nature or our brain. Seems like a giant leap of faith, but let us allow that we have libertarian free will. Why do we not have it in Heaven or Hell? Why must it stop, if God respects it so much why do we not have it for eternity? I am to believe that I have libertarian free will for 75 years, if I live that long, but not for eternity? Odd! When the Bible tells me that all my steps have been accounted for and that all my words are known before they come out of my mouth what does that mean to you? Seeing as I did not choose to be born to my particular family and in this particular place on earth, who do you suppose did decide? Would being born at a certain time, in a certain place, being surrounded by certain people have anything to do with how I view things?

    For God to be truly omniscient in the libertarian free will sense then He must know all possible experiences. Yet libertarian free will requires one to deny an outcome. What that means is that your free will choice has to deny knowledge rather than increase knowledge. If God is truly omniscient then He must know all possible outcomes and for Him to know an outcome then it means that someone has chosen it. Under the libertarian free will system however some outcomes must be denied. It seems clear that for God to be truly omniscient then all possible experiences must actually occur. What you are wanting is for God to know something that is never experienced and I would say that that is a contradiction. So I would have to agree that you could either have libertarian free will or an omniscient god, but you can not have both.

  58. Oh boy, more anti-freewillers coming out of the woodwork.

    Anonymous,

    Libertarian free will says that we make our choices without any regard given to our nature or our brain.

    Entirely untrue, free will does not allow one to choose outside a range of possibility. A man cannot receive the gospel apart from the grace of God. I recommend you study up on what LFW is before you make such assertions.

    Why do we not have it in Heaven or Hell? Why must it stop, if God respects it so much why do we not have it for eternity?

    I don’t think it will stop; free will does not let one choose outside available options. With that in mind, despite having free will, one who has been glorified no longer has a sinful nature to draw him away.

    When the Bible tells me that all my steps have been accounted for and that all my words are known before they come out of my mouth what does that mean to you?

    It means that God knows the future.

    Seeing as I did not choose to be born to my particular family and in this particular place on earth, who do you suppose did decide? Would being born at a certain time, in a certain place, being surrounded by certain people have anything to do with how I view things?

    ‘God,’ and ‘yes.’ What does that have to do with having a free will?

    For God to be truly omniscient in the libertarian free will sense then He must know all possible experiences. Yet libertarian free will requires one to deny an outcome.

    Deny an outcome? What are you talking about?

    What that means is that your free will choice has to deny knowledge rather than increase knowledge.

    That makes equally little sense.

    If God is truly omniscient then He must know all possible outcomes and for Him to know an outcome then it means that someone has chosen it.

    No, it means that someone will choose it. God knows what that choice will be, He is not constrained by time to wait until the choice is made.

    Under the libertarian free will system however some outcomes must be denied.

    Can you explain that? I don’t see where you’re going with it.

    It seems clear that for God to be truly omniscient then all possible experiences must actually occur.

    No, not really. Why would you say that?

    What you are wanting is for God to know something that is never experienced and I would say that that is a contradiction.

    You are making very little sense in your argument, God knowing things that are never experienced does not come into our beliefs anywhere. I recommend you gather your thoughts and try to explain your views again.

    So I would have to agree that you could either have libertarian free will or an omniscient god, but you can not have both.

    God creates man with free will, free will decisions are made within time, God transcends time, therefore God can know what free will decisions a created being will make. Not that difficult.

  59. Lets look at a few of Dan’s statements, and see if they seem consistent:

    If you believe that God already knew before the foundation of the world that you would pick pancakes then it logically follows that you were incapable of picking eggs.

    Dan here posits that foreknowledge has a causitive aspect. We cannot freely do what God foreknew we would do. If God foreknew it, then we cannot do it freely. Conclusion: foreknowledge is causal.

    I believe that I have already stated that foreknowledge is non causative, if you did not read that or forgot what I wrote please scroll up and refresh your mind.

    foreknowledge is not causitive.

    Yet for some strange reason you want to cling to both libertarian free will and God’s full and exhaustive foreknowledge. I will leave it to the individual reader to see if that is a consistent view to hold even after showing that it is not logical.

    Apparently because foreknowledge is in some way causal. If it is for another reason, Dan has not yet expalined it. He has only objected that God’s foreknowledge would be dependent on man’s free choices, which is exactly why it is knowledge.

    If God’s foreknowledge [of man’s free choices] were not dependent on man’s free choices, then it would cease to be knowledge, and become a causitive force, the very thing that Dan seems to object to.

    If God limits Himself on just His foreknowledge then God can not know our choices – He limited Himself. Now why would He just limit that part of Himself? Where exactly does it say in the Bible that He limits His foreknowledge?

    None of this follows. God has the sovereign right to bestow His creatures with the power of contrary choice. That God creates people in such a way has nothing to do with limiting Himself. He is not “dependent” on them because He allows them the power of self-determination. The only way that we can say that God must limit Himself in order to grant free will, is to prove that it is contrary to His nature to do so.

    Dan is welcomed to demonstrate this. He is also welcomed to demonstrate how a God who causes our actions is not also the cause of sin. He rejects that God authors sin, but has not explained how this is logically consistent with his position. He has only asserted that no Calvinist believes God authors sin, which is demonstrabley false [See my latest post, and read the following link:
    http://www.imarc.cc/apolg/history7.html%5D. He has failed to explain how God can cause all things and not be the cause of sin.

    You, in fact, conceded the point when you said that God is contingent on man. Now you may argue that it is a self caused limitation and you are free to do that, but holding to both is impossible.

    No one said this. We only maintain that God’s foreknowledge of man’s free actions are dependent on those free actions. That is a far cry from saying “God is contingent on man”.

    Last point since I have not seen you address it. In the example of the pancakes and eggs do you not see that if God knew before you were created that you would have pancakes then it was determined?

    And now we are back to saying that foreknowledge is causitive. The question is not whether our choices are determined; but, rather, who determines those choices? We have argued that the free agent determines his or her choices, and that God infallibly knows those choices as fact. That these choices are determined in such a way does nothing to limit human freedom. Human freedom is inherent in the position since it is the free agent who determines his or her choices. That is what self-determinism means. That God foreknows does not mean that God determined. This is precisely why Dan has failed to make his case.

    To say that yes it can because God can do whatever He wants seems silly, yet that is all I hear you saying.

    If this is the case then Calvinists are among the “silliest” people on the planet. It is usually Calvinists who pound the pulpit with “God is sovereign, He can do whatever He wants; He can reprobate whom He pleases; He can save whom He pleases; who are you to talk back to God?, etc. etc.” The one thing Calvinists will not permit this “sovereign God” to do, is to endow His creatures with the power of self-determination. It is, therefore, the Calvinist who insists on limiting God, and not the Arminian.

    If God is truly omniscient then your “choice” could not have been different and your belief that you had libertarian free will was just a delusion.

    Here, again, Dan seems to attribute causitive force to knowledge.

    Dan seems to think he has made his case but I think he has much to prove. He needs to demonstrate why a sovereign God cannot endow His creatures with libertarian free will. He needs to demonstrate why an omniscient God cannot know the future self-determined actions of His creatures. He needs to explain how he can hold that foreknowledge is not causal while insisting that if God foreknows our actions, then they cannot be free.

    I would also like to hear how He gets God off the hook for sin, if He causes all things in a deterministic way. I would especially like to hear how he explains Satan’s and Adam’s rebellion without making God the author of sin. I would also like to hear him answer the question that has been repeatedly posed: How does he make sense of regrets within the context of a deterministic world view which renders impossible human power of contrary choice?

    When Dan decides to tackle these questions, without appealing to mystery [as he has made it clear that he finds such appeals unacceptable], then we can continue our dialogue. If Dan will continue to dodge these issues while trying to falsify the contrary view, then his comments will de deleted until he deals with them.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  60. Hey Pizzaman,

    I am sorry to hear that you are a Seahawks fan. That must be be very tough. I am also sorry to hear that you seem to believe that the Seahawks would have won Superbowl XL had it not been for some bad calls. What was the excuse this year when the Steelers pummeled them 21-0? 😉

  61. It strikes me that you guys are using two different definitions for foreknowledge in this discussion. It would seem that the Arminian side likes to define God’s foreknowledge in a strictly prescient way, but can such a position stand when Scripture is brought to bear on it? Perhaps you can show from Scripture that when it talks of God’s foreknowledge that it does so in only the prescient meaning of the term.

  62. Anonymous,

    The noun ‘foreknowledge’ (Gr. ‘prognosis’) denotes prescience by default, and should be taken as such unless the context clearly dictates otherwise, which it never does in scripture. If anyone proposes an alternate meaning, then the burden of proof rests on them to demonstrate why the normal meaning does not fit.

  63. It would seem that the verb form of the word is used five times in the NT, while the noun form is used twice. If you look at each of the verses in context than you would be forced to admit that to attribute the meaning to simply prescience is dubious at best. Look at Romans 11:2, doe sit mean simple prescience? Look at how Paul used it in Acts 26:5. How would you define it in 1 Peter 1:19,20? Did God simply know that Christ would be the Lamb? I would encourage you to look at the meaning of the word in context of Scripture. It is my belief that if one does that then you could not say that foreknowledge is as simple prescience.

  64. Anonymous,

    While it is conceivable for ‘proginosko’ (v. foreknow) to mean several things (as ginisko [know] has several meanings dependent on the context), the noun ‘gnosis’ only indicates cognitive knowledge throughout the Greek NT as well as the Septuagint. The noun for relational knowledge btw is ‘gnostos,’ not ‘gnosis.’ This makes sense from the connotation of the words, as there is a marked difference in saying, “I know this person” vs “I have knowledge of this person.”

    There being no contextual evidence against it, it stands to reason that the noun prognosis (as used in 1 Peter 1:2) is indicative of God’s knowledge of the future as opposed to the verbal form which could possibly take on other meanings. I’ve also heard some Calvinists try to stretch prognosis to mean fore-ordination, but this is based largely on a misunderstanding of Granville-Sharp’s rule.

  65. If you study the usage of foreknowledge you will see that it always is in reference to a person/people, it is not used in God knowing events or certain actions. Look at Acts 2:23, here we see that it is referring to Christ not the act. When you look at Romans 8:29, 30 you see that it is referring to the person that he foreknew, not any act that he saw them do. Same in Romans 11:2 God knew the people not any action or event. If you take a careful look at 1 Peter 1:2 you will have to ask who it is referring too, I would say that we are told in the previous verse.

    In order for your view to hold you have to show that these passages are referring to God seeing certain acts or events, such as the act of repenting and believing. It seems obvious once we submit to Scripture that God’s foreknowledge is based solely on people and not on any action.

    This then falls right in line with Reformed thinking when it is stated that foreknowledge is not causative, it is in fact preceded by God’s sovereign decrees. In simpler terms, God’s foreknowledge is based upon His decree/purpose.

  66. Anonymous,

    As for,

    If you study the usage of foreknowledge you will see that it always is in reference to a person/people, it is not used in God knowing events or certain actions.

    and

    It seems obvious once we submit to Scripture that God’s foreknowledge is based solely on people and not on any action.

    Baloney. 2 Peter 3:17 uses it in such a way, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know [these things] before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.”

    Clearly has nothing to do with relational knowledge. Also, to know someone is to know about them as well, as in the case of Matthew 7:16:

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

    So knowing someone rather than some thing is not exclusive with cognitive knowledge.

    Look at Acts 2:23, here we see that it is referring to Christ not the act.

    Acts 2:23 has nothing to do with Christ being foreknown,

    “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”

    When you look at Romans 8:29, 30 you see that it is referring to the person that he foreknew, not any act that he saw them do. Same in Romans 11:2 God knew the people not any action or event.

    As cited from Matthew 7, for God to know them is also to know about them.

    If you take a careful look at 1 Peter 1:2 you will have to ask who it is referring too, I would say that we are told in the previous verse.

    Even if proginosko could mean relational knowledge in Romans, you can’t get around the fact that gnosis only refers to what is cognitive.

    In order for your view to hold you have to show that these passages are referring to God seeing certain acts or events, such as the act of repenting and believing.

    No, my view is supported by the regular definition of the word which is supported by the context, which you have been unsuccessful in casting any doubt upon so far. As I indicated previously, the burden of proof for your far-fetched interpretation lies with you.

    This then falls right in line with Reformed thinking when it is stated that foreknowledge is not causative, it is in fact preceded by God’s sovereign decrees.

    That would be foreknowledge according to election, not vice-versa as 1 Peter 1:2 indicates.

    In simpler terms, God’s foreknowledge is based upon His decree/purpose.

    So since whom He foreknew He predestinated (Romans 8:29), then let’s parse this out:

    For whom he did foreknow [based on foreordination in your view],
    he also did predestinate [foreordain] to be conformed to the image of his Son…

    Since foreordination (predestination) precedes foreknowledge in your view, then whom God did predestinate He did also foreknow, and therefore predestinated, and therefore does foreknow, and therefore predestinated….

    Thanks for the ‘insight,’ but I think I’ll stick with what it says.

  67. Read Acts 2:23 are you saying that it speaks of God foreknowing the act of crucifixion? What exactly does “HIM being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God…” mean to you? You still claim it is the act that He foresaw?

    Romans 8:29, 30 Look at how the pronoun being used here it’s not what He foreknew, but WHOM He foreknew.

    Again Romans 11:2 is it not referring to people?

    1 Peter 1:2 I have to ask you what is foreknowledge referring to? More precisely who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”?

    It seems clear that when Scripture refers to foreknowledge it is referring to people/person. What you are trying to make it say is that His foreknowledge is based on faith and repentance and while I agree that God knows who will have faith and repent this is not the object of His foreknowledge. If you think that your view is supported by the context then I will leave you to it. After all it is not for me to open your eyes, but to the only one that can. May all honor and glory go to the one true God!

  68. Anonymous,

    Most of what you said is hard to follow, but I think the following question is both fair and challenging:

    I am to believe that I have libertarian free will for 75 years, if I live that long, but not for eternity? Odd!

    I do not think that our future incorruptible nature constitutes a violation of free will. The regenerate believer desires to be comformed to the image of Christ. He or she longs to be fully sanctified and detests sin. The believer daily struggles against sin and practices surrendering his or her will to the will of God.

    When we reach eternity, and God makes us incorruptible, He will not be violating our free will, but fullfilling it perfectly.

  69. I take it that the Arminian side would agree that God’s foreknowledge includes not only those events that actually did happen, but also all the potential events that could happen. Meaning God knows all the possible outcomes, He is not limited in knowing only what did happen. Agreed so far?

    If that is true we are forced to say one of two things.

    1. God intentionally did not choose the universe that we are all in since He could have chosen the universe that Adam obeyed and there was no fall

    2. There was no universe where Adam did not fall for God to pick

    Now if you are right and all of God’s decrees are based on His foreknowledge then you have gotten yourself into a pickle. What you are saying is one of two things; either God could not create a man that would freely obey Him or that God intentionally created a universe in which out of necessity sinful man exists. I will leave it to you to think of the implications.

    Bill

  70. Anonymous,

    Read Acts 2:23 are you saying that it speaks of God foreknowing the act of crucifixion? What exactly does “HIM being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” mean to you? You still claim it is the act that He foresaw?

    It indicates that Christ was delivered by both God’s power and His foreknowledge of the evil acts of men. Not sure how you think that’s helping you out. Romans 8 and 11 I’ve already addressed in light of Matthew 7. Knowing someone is in many cases knowing about someone.

    1 Peter 1:2 I have to ask you what is foreknowledge referring to?

    Knowledge of the future.

    More precisely who are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father”?

    Those whom He foreknows will receive Christ.

    It seems clear that when Scripture refers to foreknowledge it is referring to people/person.

    That’s malarkey. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before (lit. ‘foreknow’), beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.” (2 Peter 3:17) And of course God’s foreknowledge as in reference to salvation pertains to people, this should come as no surprise since it’s people that He’s saving.

    What you are trying to make it say is that His foreknowledge is based on faith and repentance…

    Partially, I believe His foreknowledge as a whole is knowing the future, and since faith and repentance are aspects of those who will believe, it is grammatically correct to say ‘whom He foreknew’ of the elect.

    After all it is not for me to open your eyes, but to the only one that can.

    Yes, so I can also believe that God predestinates those He has foreknown, and He foreknows because He already predestinated them, because He already foreknew them, because He already predestinated them….Well, until my reasoning becomes circula– eh, I mean, ‘well rounded’ enough to accept John Calvin as my own personal expositor and receive such redundantly recursive reformed revelations, I’ll just have to muddle my way through scripture with such feeble tools as parsimony and intellectual congruency.

  71. Did God decree those evil acts or did He just see them take place?

  72. To Anonymous and any others:

    Please see my latest post “Got Free Will?” for rules pertaining to further interaction on this thread.

    Thank you,
    Ben

  73. J.C.

    Foreknowledge is only used in a few places in the New Testament and in either the verb or noun form its chief purpose talks of God’s action towards Christ or towards men, it is used as a witness to God’s activity as planned and directed by Him. If you try to define it as an impersonal constraint, such as destiny or fate, or even as an autonomy which removes itself from the normal course of world events, you would directly contradict the way the New Testament uses this word. Many blessings.

    Pete

  74. So Pete,

    If foreknowledge “is used as a witness to God’s activity as planned and directed by Him,” then let’s look at Romans 8:29 again,

    “For whom he did [plan and direct concerning], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

    What exactly is the effective difference between planning/direction and predestination?

    If you try to define it as an impersonal constraint, such as destiny or fate, or even as an autonomy which removes itself from the normal course of world events, you would directly contradict the way the New Testament uses this word.

    I define foreknowledge as just that: fore-knowledge. I have no idea what tree you’re trying to climb up in calling it an impersonal constraint or something removed from the course of world events, but rest assured, I’m not up there.

  75. It’s interesting to note that God also has regrets. For example in Gen 6:6 God regrets creating man, and in 1 Samuel 15:10,35 he regrets that he made Saul king.

    I am curious how the Calvinist would address the issue of God’s regrets? Doesn’t the Calvinist believe that everything that takes place is exactly how God intended it? How could God regret anything in the Calvinist system?

    This idea of God regretting also presents an interesting issue for the traditional Arminian view of God. The Open Theists point to regret as evidence that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge. However, I think it can be argued that God’s regrets are not due to a limitation of foreknowledge, but instead are a result of his consistent character. For God, the ends do not justify the means. He does not turn stones into bread for his convenience. He does what is most consistent with his character, even if he knows it that it will not work out down the road. This is particularly evident in the case of King Saul.

  76. […] Indeed, such convictions will eventually rise to the surface despite our best efforts to keep them submerged for the sake of our philosophy.  For more on this see my post Struggling With Regrets. […]

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