Calvinism and Job: Something to Think About

Most Christians are familiar with the story of Job.  Job endured severe trials but did not curse God (though he did question God).  The emphases of the book are many.  It is probably mainly concerned with a faulty theology which claimed that bad things don’t happen to good people.  But how does any of this relate to Calvinism and Arminianism?

We are told in the first two chapters of Job that Satan presented himself before the Lord and the Lord pointed out the righteousness of Job.  It would appear that God was proud of Job’s righteous conduct and wanted Satan to take notice.  God was truly pleased with Job.

Satan takes God to task concerning Job’s righteousness and makes it clear that he believes Job fears God in faith and righteousness because God has shown favor on Job and Job has had a blessed life.  If Job’s circumstances were different, then he would likely respond differently, even to the point of cursing God. Consider Satan’s first challenge to God concerning Job:

Does Job fear God for nothing?  Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?  You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and fields are spread out throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. (Job 1:9)

Now let us keep in mind the presuppositions of Calvinism and try to make sense of Satan’s challenge.  If Job has faith in God and serves God in righteousness, it is entirely due to the irresistible influence of God’s grace.  God is the direct cause of Job’s faith and righteousness.  Why then would Satan challenge God in such a way?  Why talk about blessings and say that if only God would remove these blessings, or harm Job’s flesh, that Job would curse God to His face?  Why not say something like:

“Does Job fear God for nothing.  Doesn’t he fear you because you chose him to fear you from the foundation of the world and have caused him to serve you in faith and righteousness by that grace which Job cannot resist?  Remove from him your irresistible grace and then let’s see how Job responds.  Will he not curse you to your face?  Am I supposed to be impressed with your servant Job for doing what you have irresistibly caused him to do?”

I suppose that Satan may have been ignorant of the doctrine of irresistible grace, but I still find the entire confrontation and dialogue to be very odd given Calvinistic presuppositions.  In fact, I find most of God’s interactions with His creation to be very odd given Calvinist presuppositions.  Job is just one example of how a Calvinist may need to temporarily ignore such doctrines in order to read the inspired text.  No doubt some intelligent Calvinists will be able to explain why we should not think such conversations as that found between Satan and God in Job are odd given Calvinist presuppositions.  I am not saying that these passages disprove Calvinism.  I am just saying that they do not fit comfortably with Calvinist beliefs concerning how God interacts with human beings and exercises His sovereignty.  Since the Bible is full of many such interactions, it should not be surprising to Calvinists when people have a hard time believing that their doctrines are Biblically sound.  I welcome any comments or suggestions.

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86 Responses

  1. Great point, Ben.

    Sam

  2. Interesting. A couple of observations from where I sit . . .

    I guess by your argument as to how God interacts with his creation that the Open Theists may be on to something.

    You ask why would Satan challenge Job that way, as a your challenge to a C thought . . . didn’t Satan challenge Jesus? I am pretty sure Satan knew about Jesus and he still tried to make him fall.

  3. MI,

    Just a few quick comments as I am at the library and only have about five minutes. I will revisit this tomorrow.

    I don’t believe that God having exaustive forknowledge makes his interactions with humans any less genuine which seems to be what you are getting at with your comment concerning Open Theism. We could get more into that a little later.

    Satan is primarily challenging God, and not Job, in the story. It is the nature of the challenge which makes this story hard to harmonize with Calvinist presuppositions. Satan could have made God look like a fool for pointing to Job’s behavior based on the fact that God caused Job’s righteous actions irresistibly. But instead, he talks about Job’s response being due to God’s blessings and protection. That is the main point that you have not yet addressed.

    You are right that Satan tempted Jesus but it is not all that clear whether or not Jesus was capable of sin though it was certain that he would not sin. Christ’s impeccability has been hotly debated. It is also not clear that Satan’s arrogance wasn’t blinding him to the impossibility of his task since he was arrogant enough to challenge God’s authority long before his encounter with Christ.

    However, in the Job account we need to take into account God’s comments to Satan which sparked Satan’s response. That God would point out Job’s righteousness all the while knowing that His righteousness was the result of His own irresistible work seems very odd; and Satan’s response only makes the dialogue even stranger given Calvinist presuppositions. There is more to be said, but I am out of time. I will try to write more tomorrow.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  4. Thanks for the feedback. Just a few quick comments as I should get some work done today!

    I think you mischaracterize the C view of irresistibility. You said: “Satan could have made God look like a fool for pointing to Job’s behavior based on the fact that God caused Job’s righteous actions irresistibly.” There is no divorce of responsibility and sovereignty with the C view. Your statement infers that my righteous actions are caused, irresistibly, by God. That is not the C view.

    I think you are missing some of the point to Job. Let me first say that I am not claiming to be a theologian, nor have exhaustively studied the book of Job. However, having said that, the dialogue starts with God drawing Satan’s attention to Job. Satan then equates Job’s faithfulness to the things he has – the hedge of protection, if you will. This is what you wanted me to interact with, so here goes. . . .

    We don’t know why Satan said what he did. I have no idea why Satan would rebel against God, knowing (at least on some level) the rebellion is futile. Perhaps that is the reason. Perhaps Satan thinks that Job’s righteousness is due to his free will making the decision to serve God, and not due to any action on God’s part (yeah, I know pretty weak, but hey, it’s early, and I am in a hurry – it is also a bit more Pelagian than classical Arminian, but I think you can get the gist).

    Job is the perfect story of perseverance and sovereignty. We can debate forever on why Job persevered – you say by his choices (albeit aided by the HS), I say by his choices directly aided by the HS working on Job’s sanctification in conjunction with Job’s working on his sanctification. I think we can agree that the book of Job directly addresses God’s sovereignty, which is how I see the point of the story.

    Why did God do what he did in Job? To show his glory. To show that Job’s blamelessness and shunning of evil wasn’t due to what he had been given, but was because of God. If Satan could get Job to curse God by taking his physical possession and health, then Satan could show that God is not able to keep his children from falling – that man really is driven by the exterior rather than the interior.

    Am I reading Job with C presuppositions? Prolly. Are you reading Job with A presuppositions? Prolly. I adhere to the doctrines of grace because, taken as a whole, those doctrines summarize what I see happening throughout scripture. Do they account, perfectly, for every difficult verse? No way. No doctrinal system does. What is interesting, and maybe you can direct me to a source, is most of the A stuff merely tries to dissect C and point out flaws. Is there somewhere that the A system builds its case – I have read some of Arminius’ stuff, but any others? See, we can both spend lots of time picking apart the other system, and with some success. However, I find it more useful and persuasive to see how the system is built, then compare and contrast.

    At the end of the day, we are still in the same family, even though we may differ on some of the finer points. My theory: God allows the C and the classical A to keep each other sharp. Thanks for keeping me sharp.

    Sorry for the length. I’ll keep them shorter in the future! God Bless.

  5. MI,

    I am not a theologian or a Job expert either. Just a fellow truth seeker like yourself.

    I do not think that your theological emphasis is likely. Perseverance is certainly in view in Job as well as God’s sovereignty, but I think it is framed in the context of a test of faith. Job’s faith is tested through trials and he passes that test. Now if God preserved his faith and would not allow him to fall, then it was not really a test of Job’s faith. It was rather a test of God’s preservation of Job’s faith. This does not seem to me to be a very natural way to read the text.

    Was Satan really challenging God’s ability to preserve Job’s faith? That seems highly unlikely and I don’t find anything in the context to suggest that. Again, why did Satan not just say, “Job fears you because your irresistible grace will not permit him to do otherwise” rather than speak of blessings and protection? If Satan knew that Job’s success was tied to irresistible spiritual protection, then why challenge God with regards to physical protection? Nowhere is it affirmed or mentioned that God was responsible for preserving Job and not allowing his faith to fail. Notice Job 1:22 and 2:10:

    “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrong doing…In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

    The natural way to read this is that Job’s faith is being tested. The passages do not read, “in all this God did not permit Job to charge him with wrong doing…God did not allow Job to sin in what he said.” Such a thing needs to be read into the text.

    Again, why did Satan not just say, “Job fears you because your irresistible grace will not permit him to do otherwise” rather than speak of blessings and protection? If Satan knew that Job’s success was tied to irresistible spiritual protection, then why challenge God with regards to physical protection?

    My belief is that the book of Job is primarily concerned with three things:

    1) The dispelling of a false theology that asserted that bad things always happen to people as a punishment for sin (i.e. bad things don’t happen to good people).

    2) The importance of perseverance in the midst of suffering and trials.

    3) God does not owe us an explanation. Rather than question and complain to God we are called on to trust Him completely even when we do not understand why we are going through what we are going through.

    All of these emphases flow naturally from the text IMO, while the concept of irresistible divine preservation seems forced and foreign to the narrative as a whole.

    You are quite right that we bring our own presuppositions to the text, but we need to be honest in evaluating those presuppositions and be willing to challenge them when we encounter passages which do not comport well with them. That is why I appreciate honest dialogue with people like you. Therefore, the task at hand is to determine whose presuppostions allow for a more natural reading of the text?

    As for Arminian resources which build the case for Arminianism, I would refer you to the book list in the side bar. Denying certain aspects of Calvinism is itself an affirmation of the opposing system as well.

    I would recommend that you read Picirilli’s book, “Grace, Faith, Free Will” and “Why I Am Not A Calvinist” by Walls and Dongell (which is just as much a defense as a “picking apart”). I would also recommend Forlines’ “Quest for Truth” which has a good critique of Calvinist theology as well as a strong positive defense of Arminian Theology. A great website for a positive defense of Arminianism is “Arminian Theological Resources”-

    http://www.geocities.com/bobesay/index.html

    I also think that many of my posts present a positive defense of Arminian doctrines as well as numerous other blogs that are listed on my blogroll. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. Dear brothers,

    The irresistible grace in Calvinism addresses mainly regeneration. Would Satan have challenged God about Job with regards to physical protection if he already knew what the Apostle Paul would write in Romans 8:35-39? I think that Maritus Imperfectus also had some solid points that address your post & questions:

    First he wrote There is no divorce of responsibility and sovereignty with the C view, it seems that you think that once saved it is clear sailing to eternity for the Calvinist. Perhaps you could reference some Calvinist authors that hold to the view that you are espousing.

    Second he wrote Satan then equates Job’s faithfulness to the things he has seems clear from the text. Satan is under the impression that the only reason Job is faithful to God is because God has blessed & protected him, take away all of the physical blessings and Job will curse God. Tell me do you think that Job maintained his own faithfulness during the trials?

    The book of Job tells us that Satan, the Sabeans & the Chaldeans all did evil towards Job’s family & possessions. We also read that the fire of God fell from heaven and a great wind from the wilderness caused the house to fall on his kids and kill them. Now while we hold all three responsible for their actions please notice that none of that could of happened if God did not allow it or decree it to happen. What is the Arminian view on this? Would it be that God “permitted” it to happen, but did not want it to happen?

    One more thing, Ben when you wrote-

    Again, why did Satan not just say, “Job fears you because your irresistible grace will not permit him to do otherwise” rather than speak of blessings and protection? If Satan new that Job’s success was tied to irresistible spiritual protection, then why challenge God with regards to physical protection?

    Why would Satan ever challenge God? The only thing Satan sees or knows in this case was the blessings and protection that Job was experiencing. So to him it made sense, take those things away and Job will curse God. It seems obvious from Scripture that Satan is not seeing the picture clearly or why else would he ever challenge God or tempt God as he did in the wilderness.

    Praise be to God

  7. Hi, just found your blog through Parchment and Pen. Haven’t had much of a look (just a few posts) but will need to some time.

    You are right that Satan tempted Jesus but it is not all that clear whether or not Jesus was capable of sin though it was certain that he would not sin. Christ’s impeccability has been hotly debated.

    You may need to post more on that some time. Uncertain of the answer. Can God not lie or does he choose not to lie?

    I think with Jesus there is a suggestion that theoretically he could’ve sinned as a man. The encouragement that Christ was tempted like us but didn’t sin is one argument. The parallel to Adam (who did sin) yet Jesus (second Adam) did not is another.

  8. By the way, here are some of my thoughts on freewill over the last year or so: http://bethyada.blogspot.com/search/label/freewill

    I haven’t read much or your stuff yet so it may be things you have covered.

    Cheers

  9. bethyada,

    Glad that you stopped by. Is there a link to this site at parchment and pen?

    The issue of Christ’s impeccability is intriguing but very hard to reslove. One tends to either argue from Christ’s humanity, or his deity. If one focuses on His deity it seems impossible that Christ could sin. If one focuses on His humanity it seems likely that He could have sinned. The passage in Hebrews seems to view it that way. There is mystery in the union of humanity and deity and I am not sure one could ever be dogmatic on the issue given that mystery.

    I do think, with regards to this discussion, that because it is a legitimate question and one that may be impossible for us to answer, that it does not serve well as a definite example of Satan trying to accomplish something that he knew was impossible.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. Dear brother,

    The view that I am espousing is the C view that faith is an irresistible gift of God which God will not allow to fail in the elect. Are you suggesting that the gift of faith is only irresistibly given during the initial act of regeneration and that this gift later becomes resisitible? Perhaps you could reference some C authors who hold to that view.

    LOL

    Yes faith is a gift; surely you do not mean to imply that it is not? Second, we are told in Scripture that faith can grow and that we should pray for more faith to be given. Also, you seem to be implying that God believes for you if you are a Calvinist, again which Calvinistic author espouses such a view???

    The actions of Satan Himself are caused by God according to exhaustive determinism, which makes the narrative even more bizarre.
    And
    how do you harmonize the temptation of Christ in the wilderness with the passage in James which states that God cannot be tempted?

    Easy, the purpose/intention that each party had in mind was different. If you read Calvin, which I assume you have not, he addresses this very thing when discussing the book of Job and these verses.

    I do not want to get into a battle over this either and will just move on. Thank you for the warm interaction and gracious tone.

    Praise be to God

  11. Mitch,

    Yes faith is a gift; surely you do not mean to imply that it is not? Second, we are told in Scripture that faith can grow and that we should pray for more faith to be given. Also, you seem to be implying that God believes for you if you are a Calvinist, again which Calvinistic author espouses such a view???

    Is it inevitable that the gift of faith will continue once given in your C scheme? If so, then who makes it inevitable? Can that faith ever fail? If not, then why not? Just what are you trying to say here Mitch? It is plainly a feature of Calvinism that God infallibly preserves His elect in saving faith. That is all that I am saying. I never said that God believes for the elect in the C view, nor did I imply it. I have not misrepresented Calvinism in the least. If you are uncomfortable with what Cs believe than why do you call yourself a C?

    Easy, the purpose/intention that each party had in mind was different. If you read Calvin, which I assume you have not, he addresses this very thing when discussing the book of Job and these verses.

    And just where do these purposes and intentions come from? Are these intensions and purposes somehow independent of God’s meticulous control? If so then I don’t see how you can hold to exhaustive determinism. The only way to avoid this, as far as I can see, is to temporarily adopt the Arminian perspective in order to relieve the difficulty. If God determines all things then He also determines the intentions and purposes of all those involved in this narrative. Calvin’s “solution” solves nothing. It is just double speak. Calvin was hopelessly incoherent and self-contradictory when trying to both affirm exhaustive determinism and get God off the hook for causing sin.

    Cs believe that God can only foreknow what He has determined to do. God cannot know the decisions, intentions, and purposes of humans before they happen unless He Himself knows that He will cause them to happen just as He determined. God can only know the future in Calvinism because He knows what future He will make happen. Therefore, it is nonsense to speak of the intentions and purposes of others in Calvinism because those intentions, purposes, and subsequent decisions are all caused by God according to His eternal decrees and intentions.

    No doubt you will say that I have misrepresented Calvinism again, but I am ready to stand my ground on that one.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Dear brother,

    No need to get all worked up over this:)

    Where do these *purposes* & *intentions* come from? The come from your corrupt and deceitful heart which desires those things freely.

    The only way that God knows the future in A is that he looks into the future to see how you respond and then plans his decrees accordingly. Of course you will say that God is timeless and all kinds of other mumbo jumbo, but the fact is that Arminians make God dependent on man and his responses.

    You also seem to be conflating the decree with the means, they are separate and you can freely read that in most Calvinistic literature.

    And just for the record when you make such wild claims as

    Calvin was hopelessly incoherent and self-contradictory when trying to both affirm exhaustive determinism and get God off the hook for causing sin.

    Would this mean that you have read & studied Calvin’s writings?

    Praise God for his mercy & grace

  13. Mitch,

    I am not worked up but I do find it somewhat annoying that you have more than once wrongly accused me of misunderstanding the C position. I would like to discuss this with you but when you make such claims and I prove that those claims are invalid, it would nice for you to at least acknowledge the error.

    Where do these *purposes* & *intentions* come from? The come from your corrupt and deceitful heart which desires those things freely.

    And who ultimately controls those “free” desires?

    The only way that God knows the future in A is that he looks into the future to see how you respond and then plans his decrees accordingly. Of course you will say that God is timeless and all kinds of other mumbo jumbo, but the fact is that Arminians make God dependent on man and his responses.

    This hardly follows. That God has exhaustive foreknowledge of man’s actions does not make Him dependent on man’s responses, especially when it was God Himself who sovereignly decided to give man free will and make salvation conditional.

    Your view says that God can sovereignly do anything except grant His creatures free will. You therefore make God dependent on your own understanding just as you deny His ability to foreknow free choices.

    Could you please explain how God created the universe out of nothing? If you cannot then I guess we can safely conclude that God could not have created the universe out of nothing just as it is “mumbo jumbo” to say that God has the ability to know a future that is to some extent contingent.

    You also seem to be conflating the decree with the means, they are separate and you can freely read that in most Calvinistic literature.

    And who controls these “means” again?

    And just for the record when you make such wild claims as

    Calvin was hopelessly incoherent and self-contradictory when trying to both affirm exhaustive determinism and get God off the hook for causing sin.

    Would this mean that you have read & studied Calvin’s writings?

    Yes I have. I have read the pertinent parts of the Institutes as well as some from his other works. I will gladly back up these “wild claims” if you want to press the issue. Here are two examples:

    “Again it is quite clear from the evidence of Scripture that God works in the hearts of men to incline their wills just as He will, whether to good for His mercy’s sake, or to evil according to their merits.” (E.P. 10:11)

    “Adam voluntarily deprived himself of the rectitude he had received from God, voluntarily gave himself to the service of sin and Satan, and voluntarily precipitated himself into destruction….For the proper and genuine cause of sin is not God’s hidden counsel but the evident will of man” (E.P. 8:5- emphasis mine)

    So God controls the will to evil and sin and yet the genuine cause of sin is man and not God. Do you really maintain that such claims are coherent?

    I respect your opinion Mitch and I enjoy discussing these issues with you but please do not play semantic games with me. I am not unfamiliar with C beliefs and arguments. I welcome you to explain these things to me in a way that makes sense. Otherwise, it seems as though you are just affirming contradictions and expecting me to accept them because Cs have been affirming these contradictions for years.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. Mitch,

    Welcome back. I don’t want to get into a battle over this passage. It is not decisive either way. I am only suggesting that it does not fit comfortably with Calvinistic presuppositions, and given Calvinistic presuppositions we might expect that the conversation and Satan’s challenge regarding Job would have been quite different.

    An easy escape is to claim that Satan was ignorant of God’s irresistible grace in Job. I can’t prove that he wasn’t ignorant of such things (though I personally find it unlikely) so it could very well conform to Calvinistic presuppositions on that count. If he was not ignorant of God’s irresistible grace, then his challenge regarding physical protections, etc. is very odd given Calvinistic presuppositions (have I said “presuppositions” enough?).

    Anyway, let me address you comments and questions.

    The irresistible grace in Calvinism addresses mainly regeneration. Would Satan have challenged God about Job with regards to physical protection if he already knew what the Apostle Paul would write in Romans 8:35-39?

    You and I have a different understanding of Rom. 8:35-39 because you and I have a different understanding of the resistibility of grace with regards to perseverance. So from my perspective, Satan’s actions would not have differed given Rom. 8:35-39.

    First he wrote There is no divorce of responsibility and sovereignty with the C view, it seems that you think that once saved it is clear sailing to eternity for the Calvinist. Perhaps you could reference some Calvinist authors that hold to the view that you are espousing.

    The view that I am espousing is the C view that faith is an irresistible gift of God which God will not allow to fail in the elect. Are you suggesting that the gift of faith is only irresistibly given during the initial act of regeneration and that this gift later becomes resisitible? Perhaps you could reference some C authors who hold to that view.

    I am not saying that Cs believe that ES means smooth sailing for the elect. I am only pointing out that Cs do not believe that the Lord will allow the elect’s faith to fail, since He is personally and solely responsible for infallibly preserving that faith.

    You seem to want to say that Satan was challenging God’s power to infallibly preserve Job’s faith. I don’t see how anyone could come to that conclusion by just reading the text, and I don’t think the dialogue between God and Satan reflects or supports that assumption.

    Second he wrote Satan then equates Job’s faithfulness to the things he has seems clear from the text. Satan is under the impression that the only reason Job is faithful to God is because God has blessed & protected him, take away all of the physical blessings and Job will curse God.

    So you assume that Satan is ignorant of the fact that God is ultimately responsible for Job’s faithfulness according to the C view.

    Tell me do you think that Job maintained his own faithfulness during the trials?

    I believe that faith is synergistic.

    The book of Job tells us that Satan, the Sabeans & the Chaldeans all did evil towards Job’s family & possessions. We also read that the fire of God fell from heaven and a great wind from the wilderness caused the house to fall on his kids and kill them. Now while we hold all three responsible for their actions please notice that none of that could of happened if God did not allow it or decree it to happen.

    I agree that God permitted these things. That is plain from the text. God wanted these things to happen only in the sense that He permitted them and no further. God allowed for Job’s faith to be tested within certain parameters and boundaries. Permission makes sense within an Arminian framework, but it makes no sense within a Calvinistic framework.

    Why would Satan ever challenge God?

    Maybe, in this particular case, because he knows that Calvinism isn’t true?

    The only thing Satan sees or knows in this case was the blessings and protection that Job was experiencing. So to him it made sense, take those things away and Job will curse God.

    So your answer is that Satan is ignorant of the truths of Calvinism. Fair enough. I can’t prove otherwise. I only contend that this seems very unlikely to me and probably to the unbiased reader as well.

    It seems obvious from Scripture that Satan is not seeing the picture clearly or why else would he ever challenge God or tempt God as he did in the wilderness.

    He may be challenging God because He knows that God does not infallibly preserve faith, which is what I have been contending from the start. As to the temping of Jesus I already addressed that. BTW, how do you harmonize the temptation of Christ in the wilderness with the passage in James which states that God cannot be tempted?

    The fact is that I have not even gone as far as I could go given Calvinist presuppositions. The actions of Satan Himself are caused by God according to exhaustive determinism, which makes the narrative even more bizarre.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  15. Dear brother,

    Please show me where I have accused you in such a manner? Of course I think you do not understand Calvinism, just like I assume you do not believe that I understand Arminianism. When I write that it “seems” and “implying” that is just what I mean, nothing sinister. Just when I read your comments that is the impression that I get, now you may not mean that or wish to convey that, but that is why I ask to get further clarification. Perhaps I should phrase it differently in the future, thank you for pointing that out and if any harm was done I humbly apologize.

    What is incoherent about those 2 quotes? I would point you to the Westminster Confession for clarification, but something tells me that you would not agree with that either.

    As for “means”, a good example would be Joseph. God decreed that Joseph would go to Egypt and he used his brothers as one of the “means” to get him there. Now we would both agree that his brothers were acting sinful and it was on them, but God was in complete control and he in no way is charged with sin. So who controlled the “means” in this case?

    Also, I am a compatibilist and before you say that is not possible to hold to that I would point you to some wise words that I have come across- Could you please explain how God created the universe out of nothing?…

    When you write-
    God has the ability to know a future that is to some extent contingent.
    Does that not mean that God is contingent on man to some extent??? Granted you seem to think *to some extent*, but how much is some and what does that *some* include?

    I respect you deeply Ben and value our interaction. You challenge me to look at my beliefs in a fresh way and I welcome that.

    BTW, how did you determine which were the pertinent parts from the Institutes? 

    Praise God for men like you!

  16. Is there a link to this site at parchment and pen?

    Patton posted a link to one of your articles in the comment section of this post (comment 24)
    http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2008/04/22/what-do-you-mean-by-free-will/#comments

    WordPress ate my last comment. I haven’t particularly read Calvin or Wesley but I have some thoughts on these concepts here: http://bethyada.blogspot.com/search/label/freewill

  17. Your blog keeps eating my comments, perhaps it is when I include links

    Is there a link to this site at parchment and pen?

    Patton posted a link to one of your articles in the comment section of his “What do you mean by free will post (comment 24)

  18. (I don’t seem to be able to do hyperlinks)

    I haven’t particularly read Calvin or Wesley but I have some thoughts on these concepts. My blog, label “freewill”

  19. Mitch,

    I appreciate that I could have been misunderstood based on what I said so I can understand your responses. I guess it was the fact that you kept assumning what I meant without asking for clarification and then challenging me to support what I was saying by quoting Calvinist authors. I will try to be less ambiguous in the future. I guess I just assumed that you would understand what I meant by my comments and that you were trying to dodge the implications. I now see that that was not the case.

    You and I have differnet concepts of what constitutes mystery. Calvinists, IMO, appeal to mystery in an attempt to affirm and approve of blatent contradictions in their theology. Contradictions are not mysteries, they are contradictions and demonstrate error.

    It is a mystery how God created the world because it is beyond our understanding. But if we affirm God’s infinite power than that is enough to affirm that He can create the universe even if it is beyond us. The same is true of exhaustive foreknowledge. I affirm that God can have exhaustive foreknowledge of the future because of His infinite ability and wisdom. Whether he can do it because He transcends time (and I don’t see how you can deny that God transcends time and call it mumbo jumbo) or some other way is immaterial. He can do it because He is God and has infinite abilitites which are beyond our understanding.

    I think you limit God by saying that if He doesn’t have exhaustive foreknoledge according to a way that you can wrap your finite mind around (i.e. He can only know what He intends to infallibly cause), then He cannot have such foreknowledge. I am personally uncomfortable with putting God in such a box.

    As far as saying that God both controls the human will to evil and that God is not the cause of that evil, well that is a contradicition and not a mystery. To appeal to second causes and such does not help. Does God soverignly cause all things or does He not? If He causes all things then He causes sin. I don’t see any way around it and I have not found any satisfactory explanation from any Calvinist that I have read or dialogued with. If you find no difficulty with such assertions or find it appropriate to call such things “mysteries” then I am happy to leave you to it.

    Again, that God soveriegnly chooses to interact with His creation does not make Him contingent on His creation. Do you deny personality to God and claim that by interacting with His creation He is somehow less sovereign even if He sovereignly chose to interact with His creation in such a way? Your definition of contingent would seem to necessitate that if God is not “contingent” then He must be the sole cause of everything humans do, which would include sin. That God knows something does not make Him contingent to that thing known. It just means that He knows it.

    As far as Joseph, we know that God worked out his brothers’ evil action for good, but we are not told that God directly caused those evil actions, though He foreknew those actions as certain.

    The “pertinent” parts are those that have direct reference to his thoughts on predestination. Most of the institutes is not concerned with that subject.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. bethyada,

    I think the blog assumes that multiple links are spam. I know that is one of the clues it looks at. I am not sure how many links it takes to be considered spam. I will have to look at the settings and see if I can change it.

    I did see the combox and the link that you followed here after looking over at parchment and pen.

    I have also checked out your blog a little and so far like what I have read. I hope you don’t mind me adding you to the blogroll.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. bethyada,

    I fjust figured out how to de-spam your comments, so they now appear where you posted them.

  22. Dear brother,

    I do not feel that I am putting God in a box when I affirm that God is in complete control and that we have “free-will”. Just because our finite minds cannot grasp the concept does not make it wrong. If you claim that I have to rely on “mystery” than that would equally apply to you and your view. I would venture to guess that we both would say that we have Scripture on our side and would run to our favorite proof texts. Brother our problem is in how we define “free-will”, rather than go down that rabbit hole I will just leave it. It does seem unfair to charge me with putting God in a box though.

    When you wrote-

    As far as saying that God both controls the human will to evil and that God is not the cause of that evil, well that is a contradicition and not a mystery.

    Is that not what happens when God hardens ones heart? Pharaoh is a good example, but it seems that we come at this from two opposite views and for that reason we will not see eye to eye on this.

    Also, perhaps one day you could write and elaborate on what you mean when you say that God has the ability to know a future that is to some extent contingent. I really would be interested in what that means and what it all entails. If you have written on that would you be so kind to direct me to where I could read & study it.

    Praise be to God

  23. Mitch,

    Does that not mean that God is contingent on man to some extent???

    Not God Himself, but His foreknowledge pertaining to libertarian agents. God knowing of things that transpire in wills not His own in no way goes against His independence, and those who argue otherwise are essentially arguing that God can only know things from within Himself, and cannot choose to do otherwise. This amounts to restrictions rather than ‘independence,’ since bound up in such an assertion are at least one of two premises,

    1. God is not capable of creating agents that can act independently of His decree

    and/or

    2. God is not capable of knowing the actions of agents that thus operate

    Both of which are lacking in any tenable scriptural or logical evidence. Contrary to your uninformed statements about God’s transcendence of time being “mumbo jumbo,” scripture speaks idiomatically of this aspect of His nature,

    But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)

    Time, mathematically speaking, being little more than a fourth dimension, it would be no difficulty at all for a being whose perception encompasses that dimension to see the end just as clearly as the beginning (as we can see the beginning and ends of a 2-dimensional graph rather easily since our perception extends to a dimension beyond that). To argue that God can’t know a contingent future until it occurs is to limit His perception of independent agents to being temporally bound.

    Also, perhaps one day you could write and elaborate on what you mean when you say that God has the ability to know a future that is to some extent contingent.

    This is simply saying that men to some extent or another have power of contrary choice. It is somewhat contingent in that our wills are not completely unbound (a sinner’s will for instance, is enslaved to sin), but can merely make some contrary choices. What occurs also cannot go outside the range of what God permits.

    “As far as saying that God both controls the human will to evil and that God is not the cause of that evil, well that is a contradicition and not a mystery.”

    Is that not what happens when God hardens ones heart? Pharaoh is a good example, but it seems that we come at this from two opposite views and for that reason we will not see eye to eye on this.

    Not at all, God can harden one’s heart by simply withholding His grace from them and not letting them understand truth, and can also turn the results of sinful actions to His advantage (e.g. Joseph’s brothers, Pharaoh, those who crucified Christ), but the sinful desire itself originates in men, not the holy God. God withdrawing His undeserved grace and allowing someone to sin of his own accord is a far cry from Him planning out and decreeing sin for him to commit.

  24. Good comments JC. I think you put it far more succinctly than I could have.

    I just finished (I think) a discussion dealing with the same issues (especially that of hardening and the limits of the will) at RM.

    http://reformedmafia.blogspot.com/2008/04/lords-purpose-for-absalom.html

  25. JC,

    You have to be careful with parentheses as it changes certain combinations to emoticons.

  26. Dear brother,

    The way that God then knows what transpires in a will not his own is he has to “see” the agent make a choice. Now you would reply that God is timeless and that man is bound therefore God “knows” what “contingent” future will transpire and therefore no problem. Still what that effectively does is say that God “knows” what you will do from an eternal standpoint because he sees the temporal “choice” that the agent makes and that then means that God is “somewhat contingent on man.”

    I always hate hypotheticals because it is hard to prove. That is exactly the problem with saying that we have the power of “contrary choice”. Let me try to see if I can flesh this out a bit. True story- I love cheesecake and I also love chocolate – the other day I am in line for lunch and as I get to the desert section I see a slice of cheesecake and a slice of chocolate fudge cake. Now I am in a bit of a pickle because I love both, but my waistline is also of concern so I cannot choose both. So what to do, for some strange reason I started thinking of my grandmother and how we always ate cheesecake. I picked the slice of cheesecake and that was that. Now what the power of “contrary choice” means is that if I were back in that same position I would/could pick the slice of chocolate fudge cake and I just do not see how that is possible. If everything were exactly the same, ie. same thoughts, emotions, memories, I would always pick the cheesecake.

    Scripture tells me that my desires are enough for me to be held accountable. Now I completely agree with you that our sinful desire originates in us and not God, can I explain how God is in complete control of everything and me still be free… no. That is too big for this little brain of mine to understand.

    Praise God for his mercy

  27. Thanks for the heads-up Ben, I’ll try to be careful with my unintentional emoticons.

    Mitch,

    I addressed the issue of God being contingent in the opening sentence of my reply,

    Not God Himself, but His foreknowledge pertaining to libertarian agents.

    as for the conundrum,

    I picked the slice of cheesecake and that was that. Now what the power of “contrary choice” means is that if I were back in that same position I would/could pick the slice of chocolate fudge cake and I just do not see how that is possible.

    Quite simple really: Just say, “chocolate please.” That argument would work only under the assumption that the factors involved irresistibly compelled you to make a choice, but influencing factors do not necessarily amount to compulsion.

    I’m glad that you accept that sinful desires originate in man and not God; but if exhaustive determinism is indeed true, and every spin of every electron, every quantum event, every neural pulse of every mind, and every thought and intent of every heart ultimately finds its origin solely in the decree of God, then it isn’t a hard inference that sin must ultimately be by God’s decree as well.

  28. I picked the slice of cheesecake and that was that. Now what the power of “contrary choice” means is that if I were back in that same position I would/could pick the slice of chocolate fudge cake and I just do not see how that is possible. If everything were exactly the same, ie. same thoughts, emotions, memories, I would always pick the cheesecake.

    I agree that if everything were the same (including your thought process) you would have made the same decision. However, if your thought process was different you might have chosen otherwise.

    The question is whether or not your thought process could have been different. You might have dismissed your thoughts about your grandmother and chosen the chocolate because you remebered hearing something about the health benefits of chocolate and figured it would make you feel less guilty for eating it. You might have looked at your waist line one more time and decided not to get either one. If you control your thoughts and desires then you control your decision, and are responsible for that decision. If God controls your thoughts and desires then He controls your decision and is responsible for that decision.

    Your thoughts went a certain way and you chose accordingly but you were in control of those thoughts. You determined what your greatest desire would be and chose accordingly. That does not mean that you could not have determined differently. It only means that you didn’t ( the difference between certainty and necessity).

    You have only said that you could not have chosen otherwise because you did not choose otherwise, which begs the question and conflates certainty with necessity.

    Just my thoughts. Take em’ or leave em’.

    Praise Him indeed!

  29. Dear brother,

    How would an electron spin without God? Can there be a quantum event without God?

    No need for an “irresistible” factor to make me choose the cheesecake, just my desire and all other influencing factors influenced me to make that choice. Now what is usually meant by the “power of contrary choice” is that none of that plays a decisive role in my decision. To my simple mind that just does not make sense. The reason we make decisions/choices is because of the “influencing factors” and our desires.

    As i stated, poorly i might add, it is impossible to prove this power of contrary choice.

    As for God being contingent on man, if i understand you correctly what you are saying is that GOD is not contingent, just his KNOWLEDGE is contingent. That would affect his plans though to some extent right? I have never heard an Arminian concede the point that God is in anyway contingent on man. I welcome your honesty and candor.

    Praise be to God

  30. Dear Ben,

    That pretty much nails it when you wrote-

    The question is whether or not your thought process could have been different.

    I hope that it is safe to say that you would think that my thought process could have been different and I think not. My decision was based not only on the active influencing factors of that day and my desires, but also all of my past or passive influencing factors that I had experienced up to that point. My relationship with my grandmother, my ability to remember such experiences, my feelings and emotions, all played a part in my decision.

    Of course I agree with you that IF things were different at that exact time I would/could of done otherwise, but that is not what is usually meant by “power of contrary choice”. What it usually means is given that all things stay the same and no new variable is added to the event I would/could choose otherwise. It seems that you agree with me that that is not true. I am basing that on this- I agree that if everything were the same (including your thought process) you would have made the same decision.

    If I have taken you out of context please correct me and I will apologize.

    Praise God for his love & mercy

  31. Ben calvinists like Mitch, refuse to accept the implications of their own thinking. If God predetermines EVERYTHING as they want to believe, then that will **include** our thoughts, desires, bodily movements, every thing about us. Or as one calvinist puts it: “He chooses our choices for us.” As you know, if this were true, then God is definitely the author of all events also making him the author of sin. Calvinists will refuse to accept this aspect of their own view however. Usually they will merely resort to the “you just don’t understand our view” plea. We do understand their view; they simply refuse to accept the logical consequences of their own view.

    I believe a helpful concept for us as noncalvinists to be aware of is what the philosopher Robert Kane calls **CNC type control** (i.e. Covert Nonconstraining Control). I believe that if you understand this concept then you can better show and understand the problems with calvinism/theological compatibilism.

    Here is an illustration of CNC: imagine a guy named “Joe” who is going to play a game of chess with a brilliant neuroscientist. This neuroscientist, let’s call him Frazier has the ability to completely control the
    bodily movements, thoughts, desires, values of another person, without that person knowing this control is occurring by means of a device that he implants in a person. Frazier implants this device in the unsuspecting Joe. So Frazier now completely controls Joe’s actions so that at a certain point in the chess game, Frazier controls Joe so that he makes a bad move, like needlessly losing the queen, which results in Joe losing the chess game to Frazier. Now if we were onlookers and aware of the situation and knew what Frazier was doing in regard to the chess move we would hold Frazier responsible for the “bad” chess move, more than Joe who could not have done otherwise in the circumstances. Joe’s actions were completely controlled by Frazier and up to Frazier. Nevertheless, if we asked Joe, if he believed that when playing the game of chess he was making exactly the moves that he wanted to make he would answer “Yes”. Joe truly believes that he acted freely when making his chess moves, and that he was not coerced into his actions at all.

    In reality, when it came to the bad move, Joe was not coerced into making the move against his will, (because Frazier controlled and dictated Joe’s will [and everything else about Joe] to do exactly what Frazier wanted to occur). Joe in fact did exactly what he wanted to do, and yet Joe could not do otherwise than what Frazier had determined for him to do. Now if we take this example and extrapolate it to all people and all of their actions and replace Frazier with God, I believe this properly captures the exhaustive determinism of the calvinist system. It leads to the fact that our every action is already predetermined by God and then we simply do the actions which we were predetermined to do (we live out the story that the author already has penned).

    Now in such a CNC controlled world, we may believe that we are acting freely, that we have free will in the libertarian sense (that we could do otherwise) and we may not sense that we are being coerced (i.e., being forced to do things against our will) nor constrained in our actions (i.e., being prevented from doing certain things). And the fact is that under CNC control we are not being coerced, but we can never do otherwise and so we are never really acting freely.

    If Frazier was to blame for Joe’s bad chess move and yet this kind of thing is happening with every one of our actions, then God is completely responsible for every event that occurs. And every event that occurs is exactly what God wants to occur.

    It must be understood that calvinism does not teach that people are coerced against their wills to do things, or constrained from doing things. And that in fact the person under CNC is doing exactly what he wants to do, doing what he desires to do. It is also true that he cannot do otherwise (he can not do anything other than what he has been predetermined to do), he does not have libertarian free will.

    Now could God have created a world where every person is under CNC control, where they do everything that God wants them to do every time? We might first want to distinguish between what God could do, and what God actually did. Looking about and observing both our own experiences and scripture, it appears that we sometimes have libertarian free will (unless God is being deceitful in his revelation to us; and unless our experience is illusory). But remember that if in fact we were under CNC control then we would experience this control but would not know that it was taking place.

    So the question then becomes: would God, the person with the character revealed in the bible create a world where we were all under CNC control? I would say No. I do not believe that God would do this because it would go against His character (just as God does not do irrational things he also does not go against His own character). Not if you want to create genuine persons who freely worship you and love you and have relationship with you. Not if you want genuine individual persons who do their own actions and make their own choices. It would also seem that a good and loving person would not do this kind of thing to another person. God is good and is loving, and it does not seem that he would engage in this kind of control of other persons.

    Noncalvinists have sometimes said when challenging calvinism that it makes people into robots or puppets. When making this point I believe that people without knowing the CNC concept were saying that God would not control us in the same way that a puppet is controlled by a puppet master or a robot is preprogrammed and impersonal. We do not believe that it is right to control other people in this way and believe that God would not do this with us as well.

    It is significant that in the bible when demons seek to possess a person, they seek to control the person and do not have any hesitation in violating human persons in this way. And yet for the believer who has the Holy Spirit, the Spirit leads us to do good, but he does not possess us or seek to control us. A voluntary submission is involved, a choice is involved and the apostles constantly appeal to people to make the right choices, to choose to obey God. Scripture also speaks of when believers do not obey the Spirit and the Spirit is grieved. It is difficult to understand how we could be completely under CNC control by God and yet then be grieving him or frustrating Him (compare how often Israel frustrated God in the Old Testament). On the other hand if God invites us to do things and then we choose to not obey, then the Spirit grieving makes perfect sense.

    So I suggest that noncalvinists get a good grasp of the CNC concept. If you understand it and how it captures the calvinist notion of God’s sovereignty as being his total and direct control of everything, then you will also understand why it is wrong, and why in fact God does not exercise CNC over us.

    Robert

  32. Mitch,

    How would an electron spin without God? Can there be a quantum event without God?/

    I never asserted either, I was simply expressing that if every single factor for every single event ultimately originates with the decree of God with no contrary choice on anyone else’s part, then sin itself must of necessity also be by God’s decree.

    No need for an ‘irresistible’ factor to make me choose the cheesecake, just my desire and all other influencing factors influenced me to make that choice. Now what is usually meant by the ‘power of contrary choice’ is that none of that plays a decisive role in my decision. To my simple mind that just does not make sense. The reason we make decisions/choices is because of the ‘influencing factors’ and our desires.

    But if one to an extent can change what he or she desires or choose between competing desires, then contrary choice is a logical possibility. If you could not have chosen otherwise, then the factors would indeed be ‘irresistible.’ I do find it odd that you reject the idea of contrary choice because it ‘doesn’t make sense’ (assuming a ‘Turing Machine’ view of the human soul), but can somehow handle the idea that God determines everything yet is simultaneously not the originator of sin.

    Let’s put this a different way: Did God have to make us? Did His desires absolutely compel Him to, or does He have the power that He could have chosen to not create you and I? I’d go with the latter, since ‘could have’ and ‘did’ are very different things. I realize that God having contrary choice does not necessarily mean that we do as well, but perhaps that will shed some light as to how such a concept is feasible.

    As i stated, poorly i might add, it is impossible to prove this power of contrary choice.

    Physically, yes. There is nothing yet in computational science to emulate it. Scripturally, 1 Corinthians 10:13 is substantial evidence of such.

    As for God being contingent on man, if i understand you correctly what you are saying is that GOD is not contingent, just his KNOWLEDGE is contingent. That would affect his plans though to some extent right?

    I would think so. Again, how this makes God Himself contingent isn’t really forthcoming, especially if He’s the one who has chosen to deal contingently with His creation at all.

  33. Dear brother,

    Just to be clear, are you saying/implying that an electron or quantum events are not under the direct control of God?

    Also, I fail to see how 1 Corinthians 10:13 proves/shows the power of contrary choice.

    Request for clarification, by saying that it was God that chose to make himself contingent then it means that he is not contingent??? Yet you seem to agree that God’s plans are affected/effected (never know which one to use) by the choices that man makes. How is that different than saying that God knows exactly what you will do because he “saw” how you would respond and what choices you make. He can do this because he is timeless and we are bound in temporal time. God then adjusted to how man would respond and the choices that man would make. That seems to be the overall gist of it.

    I will end with what I wrote in my last comment-

    Of course I agree with you that IF things were different at that exact time I would/could of done otherwise, but that is not what is usually meant by “power of contrary choice”. What it usually means is given that all things stay the same and no new variable is added to the event I would/could choose otherwise. It seems that you agree with me that that is not true. I am basing that on this- “I agree that if everything were the same (including your thought process) you would have made the same decision.”

    Now I am aware that this response was directed at Ben and I referenced his remarks and not your’s, but it seems applicable to our discussion as well.

    Thank you for the interaction and the gracious manner in which you are trying to teach this old dog some new things.

    Praise be to God

  34. Hello JC,

    “I never asserted either, I was simply expressing that if every single factor for every single event ultimately originates with the decree of God with no contrary choice on anyone else’s part, then sin itself must of necessity also be by God’s decree.”

    Right, if everything is predetermined then everything is a necessary event, there are no contingent events where things could ever go otherwise. As you note here: exhaustive determinism makes God the author of sin. But calvinists refuse to stomach the logical consequences of their own ideas so they will argue that everything is predetermined and yet that everything does not include acts of sin.

    “Let’s put this a different way: Did God have to make us? Did His desires absolutely compel Him to, or does He have the power that He could have chosen to not create you and I? I’d go with the latter, since ‘could have’ and ‘did’ are very different things. I realize that God having contrary choice does not necessarily mean that we do as well, but perhaps that will shed some light as to how such a concept is feasible.”

    I was discussing this notion with Plantinga: the notion that God himself is the best example of what agent causation in the libertarian free will sense is like. Are God’s actions all necessitated? NO. He had the choice of creating the universe or not creating the universe. Are God’s actions necessitated by some other person who predetermines what God will do, or some other external factor outside himself? NO. Does God do things for reasons? Yes. Is God coerced into doing his actions? NO.

    So God is an agent who freely chooses to do his own actions for reasons and with regard to some of those actions could have done otherwise? Bingo! And if this God who acts in this way sovereignly decided to create mankind in His own image so that people are also agents that do their own actions for reasons and with regard to some of these actions they could have done otherwise? Is that possible? That is Plantinga’s point: if agent causation and libertarian free will can be true of God and can be seen to be coherent with Him, then it can also be true of us if God decides to create us that way (with a similar capacity to do our own actions for reasons, to do actions in situations in which we also could have done otherwise, to have real choices). It should be noted that most of the objections against agent causation when applied to God all fall apart. For example I have actually read some calvinists claim that agent causation, libertarian free will is an “incoherent” notion. Oh really? And yet these same people do not see God acting freely to be incoherent at all! They have no problem seeing it when it comes to God freely acting, but then it arbitrarily becomes incoherent if it involves us.

    Mitch wrote:

    “I have never heard an Arminian concede the point that God is in anyway contingent on man. I welcome your honesty and candor.”

    This claim by calvinists that God is never ever dependent upon the actions of man is contradicted by numerous scriptural examples. Take the blessings and cursings in the OT. God told the Israelites that if they did certain things, then he would bless them. If they did other things, then he would curse them. So God’s response was contingent, dependent upon, what they did. There are lots of examples of this in the OT, where God’s response to Israel is completely dependent upon/contingent upon what they in fact do.

    I believe we need to make a distinction between God’s **interactions** and God’s **being and attributes**. With respect to God’s being and attributes, He is absolutely independent, his nature and attributes being completely independent of any creature or what any creature does or does not do. With respect to God’s interactions, however, in some cases his actions, his responses, do in fact depend upon the actions of other persons. We also know that God responds differently to believers than he does to unbelievers. So are God’s responses and interactions sometimes dependent upon what we do, it sure seems so.

    “Again, how this makes God Himself contingent isn’t really forthcoming, especially if He’s the one who has chosen to deal contingently with His creation at all.”

    God is not contingent in His being and attributes. But when it comes to his responses and interactions with mankind that is a different story and you can read about it throughout the OT and God’s personal dealings with Israel.

    Robert

  35. Mitch,

    Just to be clear, are you saying/implying that an electron or quantum events are not under the direct control of God?

    What part of “I never asserted either” did you miss? God retains control of everything — the definition of sovereignty. Sovereignty however does not imply exhaustive control being exercised at all times.

    Also, I fail to see how 1 Corinthians 10:13 proves/shows the power of contrary choice.

    If we have a way to escape every temptation yet still fall to temptation at times, a contrary choice is much implied.

    Request for clarification, by saying that it was God that chose to make himself contingent then it means that he is not contingent???

    God choosing to deal with people contingently doesn’t make He as God contingent upon man (as if He could change based on what we do), it simply means that the way He treats individuals is contingent.

    Even if you would have made the same decision (given that you were to do it again), such is not proof that you were compelled to make that decision either time. If your desires and therefore thought processes are affected temporally by contrary choice, then comparing events with identical thought processes occurring is equivalent to stating “If I made the same choice again, would it be the same choice as before?” An identical train of thought would of course lead to an identical ultimate choice, but lower-level choices made beforehand drive on the thought processes, hence the initial decision point is not necessarily when you say “cheesecake.”

  36. Dear brother,

    So God does not exercise complete control all of the time? He could, but he chooses not too. Would that be what you are saying? So in this would there ever be a time when God does not control electrons or quantum events?

    I am not swayed by your 1 Corinthians 10:13, but no matter.

    When you say the way God treats individuals is contingent, i assume you mean that God treats individuals based on their choices. O.K., but that does not change the fact that God knows their choices after the choice was made. Now i assumed that you were saying that God knows the choice that man makes because God is timeless and man is temporally bound. Therefore God knows because he sees the beginning as clearly as the end. Still though, God is somewhat reflexive in his actions and decrees when it comes to man under this scenario.

    When you say that lower level choices made beforehand drive on the thought process- would they not in turn be derived the same way that the present choice was made? Meaning that we still have not seen how this power of contrary choice is applicable. For in each decision that we make it always goes back to our past lower level choices and the role they play in the present. Again, it seems that you agree that given the same train of thought that the agent would make the identical choice. I know that I am of rather feeble mind, but that admission would seem to go counter the argument for the power of contrary choice. What the power of contrary choice means is that even given the same train of thought you would/could make a different choice, yet to me you seem to be saying that is not true. hmmm

    Seems that the more we interact the more questions come to mind, probably my lack of understanding. Thank you again for taking time with me.

    Praise God

  37. I hope you don’t mind me adding you to the blogroll.

    Not at all, favour returned.

    I just finished (I think) a discussion dealing with the same issues (especially that of hardening and the limits of the will) at RM.

    I think his illustration is incorrect. I think Hushai’s advice appeared good on the face of it, I don’t think that God had to make obviously bad advice seem good. But my response is over there.

  38. Just a heads up. Robert left some comments last night but since it was his first time posting at my WordPress site they needed to be moderated first. I was only able to do that this morning so they now appear in the thread in between posts where they were intended to be when originally posted. I would encourage everyone to consider what he wrote. The issue of free will and determinism is an area of special interest to him and he has some great insight on the matter.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  39. Mitch,

    A few quick points. I think JC effectively answered you here:

    If your desires and therefore thought processes are affected temporally by contrary choice, then comparing events with identical thought processes occurring is equivalent to stating “If I made the same choice again, would it be the same choice as before?” An identical train of thought would of course lead to an identical ultimate choice, but lower-level choices made beforehand drive on the thought processes, hence the initial decision point is not necessarily when you say “cheesecake.”

    You quoted me earlier but I think overlooked the crux of my comment. The issue is whether you have control over the thought process that leads to your decisions. Do you control those thoughts? If you do then you can choose either of two (or more) ways depending on what your thinking is at the time of your decision and the weight that *you* assign to your options. If you are just “controlled” by motives and influences then determinism likely follows, but if you are “in control” of those things then that is the definition of free will and your choices are truly contingent up until they are made.

    Like JC said earlier. The issue is not whether or not influences play a factor. They certainly do. The question is whether or not those influences irresistibly push you around and necessitate your actions; or do you as a free agent determine which influences will win out? If the latter then you affirm libertarian free will and the God given capacity of the mind to make genuine decisions, i.e. the power of self-detemination.

    So who or what is ultimately in control? You or your motives and the influences that are brought to bear on you? If you say that influences and motives push us around and force us to make certain decisions then I would love for you to explain how these things can have the very controlling power that you deny to the agent himself.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. Hey Mitch,

    So God does not exercise complete control all of the time? He could, but he chooses not too. Would that be what you are saying? So in this would there ever be a time when God does not control electrons or quantum events?

    I believe some choices people make set events into motion that God did not specifically engineer, and He lets them run their course for a time. When a young child is horribly abused, I do not believe that God’s holy decree is exhaustively guiding every fiber of being in the perpetrator as he performs his sinful act. What nonsense. God foreknows such choices and allows them to be made, but the choice itself and resultant actions are solely the design of the sinful person. God may use the results of his wickedness, and will definitely exact justice, but to imply that every minute detail of such pure evil is completely guided by the hand of God is downright absurd. If you want exhaustive details, I recommend you interrogate the individual sub-atomic particles ( or waves according to some ). 🙂

    Still though, God is somewhat reflexive in his actions and decrees when it comes to man under this scenario.

    Not reflexive, anticipative, which says nothing about He as God being contingent.

    When you say that lower level choices made beforehand drive on the thought process- would they not in turn be derived the same way that the present choice was made? Meaning that we still have not seen how this power of contrary choice is applicable.

    If I’m understanding you correctly, I think you’re discounting contrary choices at the lower levels, then asking how they can apply to the high.

    For in each decision that we make it always goes back to our past lower level choices and the role they play in the present.

    There can be present low-level choices as well, even changes of mind.

    Again, it seems that you agree that given the same train of thought that the agent would make the identical choice. I know that I am of rather feeble mind, but that admission would seem to go counter the argument for the power of contrary choice.

    Not really, since the train of thought indicates what lower level contrary choices have and are being made, from which the higher is derived. If your higher level choices suddenly just up and violated all those, that would be little more than chaos comparable to an inexplicable allegiance shift in ‘professional’ wrestling.

    I am not swayed by your 1 Corinthians 10:13, but no matter.

    Then I guess my line of questioning for you is:

    1. Have you sinned since you’ve been a Christian? ( show of hands…mine going up )

    2. In that circumstance, do you believe that you were tempted to the point of having no possibile choice besides falling to it? In short, were you tempted beyond what you were able to endure?

  41. Dear brothers,

    In the above example that you have given about a young child being horribly abused I take it that you are saying that God is not in control or are you saying that God is in control he just “permits” it to happen? I assume he would “permit” because He does not want to interfere with the free-will choice by the perpetrator, but what about the young child?

    When you assert that some events are set into motion that God did not specifically engineer then that would imply that God is *reflexive* rather than “anticipative”, after all it is not like God is eagerly anticipating what will happen He already knows what will happen.

    What I mean to convey about the lower level choices is that they would function the same way as higher level choices. Given that it seems that we agree when it comes to the higher level choices that we do not have the power of contrary choice so why would we assume that we have it in lower level choices. Still not sure if I am being as clear as I can be here, but hopefully you get the overall gist of what I am saying.

    It seems that we have been discussing the power of contrary choice and how it works. Yet we have seen that it is not applicable, nor demonstrable, nor likely, nor true. Again what it means is given the exact same circumstances and train of thought that you would make a different choice. If we have the power of contrary choice it would be closer to us basing our decision on a flip of the coin, chaos and unpredictability would ensue and how would we ever be held accountable.

    Again I do not believe that we are “pushed around” or “forced” to make our choices we make them willingly from our corrupt nature. The question is how we determine which influences will win out in our decision making… I would say it is our desires, environment, history, etc. You could say that those all play a factor, but that in the end something else is involved and is completely autonomous from those things. Yet I have not seen anyone here show this power of contrary choice, in fact it seems to me that you have claimed to believe it but then affirmed the opposite of it by saying that the same choice would ultimately be made.

    May the Spirit give us the ability to discern the truth

    BTW, when I said that I was not swayed by your 1 Cor 10:13 I meant that you have not shown how it “proves” the power of contrary choice.

  42. Mitch,

    Personally, I don’t believe the burden of proof rests with those who affirm what everyone seems to inherently believe. I think the burden of proof rests with those who want to deny what seems to be very basic to reality. I wrote a post on regrets a while back which generated similar discussions. You can check it out here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/11/05/struggling-with-regrets/

    If we cannot help but choose as we do and our choices are just as God ordained them and intended them, then we should not regret any choices that we have ever made. However, regrets are probably a universal experience (as well as one that is illustrated in Scripture), and the fact that we have regrets betrays our basic and inherent conviction that we could have chosen differently than we did in those situations where we regret the choices we made. I don’t feel that I need to prove free will any more than I need to prove God’s ability to perfectly foreknow the future.

    I recommend you read the following essay by Robert Hamilton as well. He gives a good critique of both systems and gives strong arguments for why he believes the libertarian view is superior to the compatibilistic view. You will likely disagree but it is well argued and worth the read.

    http://www.geocities.com/bobesay/freewill1.html

    God Bless,
    Ben

  43. Mitch,

    In the above example that you have given about a young child being horribly abused I take it that you are saying that God is not in control or are you saying that God is in control he just ‘permits’ it to happen?

    Did I not explicitly state, God foreknows such choices and allows them to be made…?

    I assume he would ‘permit’ because He does not want to interfere with the free-will choice by the perpetrator, but what about the young child?

    Does God owe it to anyone to protect them from the wickedness of their neighbors?

    When you assert that some events are set into motion that God did not specifically engineer then that would imply that God is *reflexive* rather than ‘anticipative’, after all it is not like God is eagerly anticipating what will happen He already knows what will happen.

    You’re equivocating the meaning of ‘anticipative’ in this context. Anticipating a gift implies desire, anticipating an opponent’s gambit in chess is a different thing entirely. ‘Reflexive’ is an inadequate description that does not factor in foreknowledge.

    What I mean to convey about the lower level choices is that they would function the same way as higher level choices. Given that it seems that we agree when it comes to the higher level choices that we do not have the power of contrary choice so why would we assume that we have it in lower level choices.

    You’re not following. We have power of contrary choice at lower levels which in turn translates to contrary choice at higher levels. Such processes operate from lower to higher, not vice-versa. So to argue that the same trains of thought (which are fueled by lower level decisions) produce the same choices at higher level decision points is moot. One would have to take it for granted that the lower level decisions which drove the train of thought at all were not capable of being otherwise to argue for strict determinism.

    BTW, when I said that I was not swayed by your 1 Cor 10:13 I meant that you have not shown how it “proves” the power of contrary choice.

    Which is exactly why I posited the questions in my last reply, and which you have not answered yet. So when you assert that,

    “The question is how we determine which influences will win out in our decision making… I would say it is our desires, environment, history, etc.”

    Are you then affirming that the influences of sin sometimes ‘win out’ in a Christian’s decision making because they (along with other factors) are simply too much for us to choose otherwise? In your view, are Christians are in fact tempted beyond what they are able?

  44. dear brothers,

    God does not anticipate our move, he knows them. I fail to see how i equivocated the term; granted one has more of a desire and one has more of a predictive connotation, but surely you do not mean that God predicts our choices. i was under the impression that you think he knows them because he is timeless and we are bound, therefore God knows what we will do and therefore he has no need to “anticipate”. Again given that, why not just say that God has seen how we will respond and what choices we make and that he responds accordingly?

    I followed you as best i could, but saying that you have contrary choice at lower levels does not make it so. Again, when you state that given all things staying the same and no new variable being added then you would always make the same choice pretty much goes counter the theory of contrary choice.

    i will gladly concede that if the events were different or a new variable was added a different choice could be made, but that is not what is meant by the power of contrary choice.

    When i wrote about what determines our will i was addressing Ben not your questions on 1 Corinthians 10:13. As i stated you are giving conflicting ideas when you affirm contrary choice and then admit that all things being the same the same choice would still be made.

    Again you can clearly say that yes our nature, environment, desire all play a role in our choices but you are also saying that in the end all of those factors do not matter- instead there is a completely autonomous “power” that makes the choice independent of those things. Yet when i read the Bible i do not see this, what i do clearly see is that we make choices based on our nature & desire.

    Lord willing i will read those links this weekend and thank you for providing them for me. I pray that you both have a great weekend and enjoy the time that God has provided.

    Praise be to God

  45. Mitch,

    When i wrote about what determines our will i was addressing Ben not your questions on 1 Corinthians 10:13. As i stated you are giving conflicting ideas when you affirm contrary choice and then admit that all things being the same the same choice would still be made.

    “All things being the same” would mean that you controlled your thoughts and yielded to those influences and motives in the same way which would of course produce the same choice. That is not the point. The point is that you could have yielded to different influences and controlled your thoughts differently in the same situation and therefore made a different choice. There is no conflict, you just seem to not grasp what I am saying.

    To say “all things being the same” doesn’t help you at all. The question is did all things necessarily have to be “the same” including your thought process and what influences you yielded to by making your decision. The libertarian answer is “no”.

    I don’t know how else to explain it. If you cannot help but to yield in certain ways to influences and motives, then they are indeed controlling you (i.e. pushing you around). If you do not have to yield to those desires, influences, and motives, then *you* are in control. You cannot say that you cannot help but to choose according to a certain desire and at the same time say that the desire did not exercise irresistible control over you. Maybe I am missing something, but that is the way I see it.

    I highly recommend the off-site essay by Hamilton as it will address much if not all of what we have been discussing here. I hope you find the time to read it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  46. Dear Ben,

    I have read the Hamilton piece and as you predicted it does not convince me of your view:)

    It comes down to this for me, we make choices based on different factors some of which we control and some we do not. I do not believe that there is this ‘power’ that is completely autonomous that we have that makes the choice completely independent of those factors. Again if that were true we may as well just flip a coin when choosing something. Scripture tells me that my choices come from my nature and desire and that is enough for me.

    I believe with absolute certainty that God is in control of all things and that I have free-will. To you that is inconsistent and conflicting, to me it is the truth as I see it. Can I explain it to you or anyone else… no. Here is the great part though brother, I do not have to explain it:)

    I have to confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in my heart that the Father raised him from the dead and I do that everyday and twice on Sunday!!! I know that you are the same and it brings me great joy to interact with you in a gracious tone and manner that hopefully brings nothing but glory to our Lord.

    Praise be to God

  47. Mitch,

    You heavily equivocated ‘anticipate’ when you stated,

    “after all it is not like God is eagerly anticipating what will happen He already knows what will happen”

    The primary definition of anticipate is,

    “to realize beforehand; foretaste or foresee”

    See also: Foreknowledge

    It can be used to look forward to something as your quote above implies, though in this context its meaning is rather obvious.

    Again, when you state that given all things staying the same and no new variable being added then you would always make the same choice pretty much goes counter the theory of contrary choice.

    I didn’t state that, I addressed it with, Even if you would have made the same decision (given that you were to do it again), such is not proof that you were compelled to make that decision either time. The same choice being made more than once does not indicate that a different choice wasn’t possible, such “proof” being especially weak since it lies in the realm of untestable hypotheticals.

    Again you can clearly say that yes our nature, environment, desire all play a role in our choices but you are also saying that in the end all of those factors do not matter- instead there is a completely autonomous ‘power’ that makes the choice independent of those things. Yet when i read the Bible i do not see this, what i do clearly see is that we make choices based on our nature & desire.

    Despite the fact that I showed you plainly from scripture that we do in fact have a choice when it comes to temptation? If our choices are based on nature/desire, and we have two sets of nature and desire, then our choices won’t necessarily be deterministic. And, you still haven’t addressed the issue: When a Christian sins, is he/she tempted above what they’re able to endure?

    Good weekend to you too brother.

  48. Dear J.C.,

    Please know that I am not saying that we do not have choices per se, we just cannot seem to agree on how those choices are made. And no I do not think that a Christian can be tempted above what they are able to endure because our Father is always faithful. On a side note, do you think that non-Christians are tempted above what they are able to endure? Never mind, we need not go down that trail now:)

    We will agree that this lies in the realm of un-testable hypothetical’s, we both agree that sinners need to repent and believe.

    BTW, the word was anticipative and it means- anticipative – marked by eager anticipation; “an expectant hush”

    And this is what I found on anticipate-
    1. To feel or realize beforehand; foresee: hadn’t anticipated the crowds at the zoo.
    2. To look forward to, especially with pleasure; expect: anticipated a pleasant hike in the country.
    3. To deal with beforehand; act so as to mitigate, nullify, or prevent: anticipated the storm by boarding up the windows. See Synonyms at expect.
    4. To cause to happen in advance; accelerate.
    5. To use in advance, as income not yet available.
    6. To pay (a debt) before it is due.

    Hard to see it mean what you intended, but you could of used a theological dictionary. No matter though, I meant no disrespect and did not mean to equivocate.

    May our gracious Lord & Savior bless and keep you in all things

  49. Hey Mitch,

    I am about done with this conversation as it is clear we are not going to convince each other. I wanted to just address a few things.

    You keep speaking about choosing according to our natures. I thought Hamilton addressed that rather well in his essay but I would add a few things.

    1) If we are made in God’s image and part of that image is the ability of self-determination, then the capacity to freely choose (in the Libertarian sense) would indeed be part of our nature, i.e. it is part of our nature to be able to make free choices and so we choose according to our nature when we make free choices.

    2) I agree that we cannot choose completely independent of our sinful nature (which seems to be what you are getting at with your references to choosing according to our natures). It is an influence that is always brought to bear on us and in the absence of any other influences, we could not choose contrary to that nature.

    However, when another influence is brought to bear on us, there is no reason to believe that we cannot choose according to that new influence. This would be the case when the depraved sinner is convicted and enabled to believe by the word and Spirit of God.

    To say that we can only choose according to our nature even when other influences are brought to bear on us is, I believe, contradicted by Scripture. Adam is a prime example. His nature was “good” yet he chose to do evil. If what you are saying is applied to Adam, then Adam should not have been capable of doing anything other than that which was “good” according to his nature, which would render sin an impossibility for him. Yet we all know that Adam chose to disobey God which was certainly not “good” in any sense of the word.

    There is more that could be said, and I am not trying to continue an argument, just address some of your objections from my perspective. I appreciate the discussion and I learned a lot.

    I have just one personal question that I would like to ask if you don’t mind. Before embracing Calvinism did you believe that you did have free will in a libertarian sense; or did you always hold that your choices were born of necessity in any given situation?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  50. Dear brother,

    Before I embraced the doctrine of grace I was a downright Pelegian, maybe semi but one none the less. It is only after studying the Scriptures that I began to see the truth and it hit me that LFW does not exist. Again I do believe in choice I just do not see that this is made by a completely autonomous power and I do not believe that our choices are uncaused, but that many variables both internal and external play a role, hence I believe in compatibilism. I also saw that God controls everything and that nothing would happen without his consent or you could say permission. The problem that I see is that most of the time people say they believe in LFW and then proceed to put restrictions on it, rather than accepting it and all of the consequences and implications that arise from it.

    For example when you write-

    However, when another influence is brought to bear on us, there is no reason to believe that we cannot choose according to that new influence. This would be the case when the depraved sinner is convicted and enabled to believe by the word and Spirit of God.

    That is very compatibilistic to me and goes counter LFW. Again if you embrace LFW then influences do not play a decisive role and you are not capable of explaining why you make one choice over another. The minute you start talking about influences, desires or motives you leave behind LFW and are more in accord with compatibilism. I think your issue with Calvinism, I should say one of your issues:), is that you think that God’s decrees are fatalistic and that He is then the author of sin. Yet there has been volumes written on secondary causes and all standard confessions speak on the issue, but we will not see eye to eye on this.

    Thank you for the gracious interaction and your thoughtful responses. Hope you have a great week.

    Praise be to God

  51. Mitch,

    Yes, I do believe non-believers are tempted beyond what they can resist, but such a promise is not given to them.

    Please know that I am not saying that we do not have choices per se, we just cannot seem to agree on how those choices are made. And no I do not think that a Christian can be tempted above what they are able to endure because our Father is always faithful.

    ‘Choices per se?’ The problem with that is that ‘choices’ with only one truly possible outcome are not really choices. No matter how you slice it, if the temptation is at such a level and in such a circumstance that the only possible outcome is that a believer fall, then that would mean that he is tempted beyond what he is able to endure.

    Anticipative = “anticipating or tending to anticipate.” The latter point of the first definition you found (“[to] realize beforehand”) fits what I said just fine. Don’t sweat it, I wasn’t offended by anything you said, just a bit perplexed….

    We will agree that this lies in the realm of un-testable hypothetical’s, we both agree that sinners need to repent and believe.

    Amen to that.

  52. Mitch,

    That is very compatibilistic to me and goes counter LFW. Again if you embrace LFW then influences do not play a decisive role and you are not capable of explaining why you make one choice over another.

    I do not believe that influences play a decisive role if that means that those influences have irresistible sway over us. The reason we make one choice over another is because we choose to yield to one influence over another, i.e. we, as the free agent with the God given capacity of the mind to make genuine choices, give weight to one influence over another and choose accordingly. Compatibilism assigns weight to those influences which the mind cannopt help but to yield to. Big difference. Again, the issue is who is in control. Do you control the motives or do the motives control you?

    To say that we are influenced does not mean that we do not have the power to control those influences (to decide whether we will yield to them or not). To say that we are influenced is little different than saying that we have genuine choices. As I stated before, you assign power to motives and influences that you deny to the agent himself. If these influences, motives, etc. can exercise such control over the agent, then what basis do you have for denying the agent himself the same type of control?

    I am not sure where you are getting your definition of LFW from, but I assure you that very few, if any Arminians (who really understand Arminian theology) would deny the role of influences in decision making.

    Yet there has been volumes written on secondary causes and all standard confessions speak on the issue, but we will not see eye to eye on this.

    I am well aware of these arguments but I find them hopelessly contradictory and incoherent. Even some Calvinists admit to that and inappropriately appeal to “mystery” or “antinomy”; but like you said, we will not see eye to eye on this.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  53. I am reading Mitch’s posts and a key problem is that he does not seem to understand that if all events are predetermined (as he believes) then we never ever **have** a choice as normally understood. He calls himself a “compatibilist” not realizing what his own view entails.

    Take the simple example of me typing this post. If I **had** a choice, then I could choose to either type this post or choose not to type this post (both possibilities were real and available to me as choices, if I have a choice then I can actualize either possibility). On the other hand, if all events are predetermined then I could not actualize either possibility. I could (and would) only actualize the possibility which had been predetermined for me to do. If I could only do the one action which was predetermined for me to do, then it is impossible for me to have done otherwise, to have actualized the other possibility. But if it is impossible for me to actualize the other possibility, then I had no choice. So the person who believes that all events are predetermined cannot believe in the reality of choices as ordinarily understood. I have too much experience of having choices throughout my lifetime and the presence of people having choices in the bible to deny the reality of people having choices. And this is the heart of LFW, the claim that at least sometimes we have a choice, in some situations we can do otherwise.

    Mitch wrote:

    “Before I embraced the doctrine of grace I was a downright Pelegian, maybe semi but one none the less. It is only after studying the Scriptures that I began to see the truth and it hit me that LFW does not exist.”

    That is an odd claim, as both our common experience and the scriptures present clear cases of people having choices, being able to do otherwise in a situation.

    “Again I do believe in choice I just do not see that this is made by a completely autonomous power and I do not believe that our choices are uncaused, but that many variables both internal and external play a role, hence I believe in compatibilism.”

    Mitch may believe that he **makes** choices, but his exhaustive determinism does not ever allow him to **have** choices. And here he caricatures the LFW position. I do not know of any **completely** autonomous power either. As finite and created beings we have limitations and in all situations God can intervene so we are never COMPLETELY autonomous. I also believe that our choices are causes, caused by us (that is called agent causation as the agent causes his own actions). I also believe that many variables both internal and external play a role in our actions. And yet I don’t believe in compatibilism. What this shows is that Mitch does not understand or know the LFW position. He caricatures it and creates a straw man, but he does not deal with it as it is.

    “I also saw that God controls everything and that nothing would happen without his consent or you could say permission.”

    I also believe that nothing happens without his consent or his permission. God allows things to occur but he also intervenes in situations. I do not believe that God exercises what in a previous post (which Mitch completely ignored and made no response to) I called CNC type control. And yet CNC type control is what Mitch believes in. CNC type control has some major problems that Mitch makes no effort whatsoever to deal with.

    “The problem that I see is that most of the time people say they believe in LFW and then proceed to put restrictions on it, rather than accepting it and all of the consequences and implications that arise from it.”

    Mitch claims that the advocate of LFW is not allowed “to put restrictions on it, rather than accepting it”. If we are concerned about knowing the truth, then say we have a theory that gets it mostly right, does correspond with the truth, except for certain things about our theory. If we are really concerned about the truth then we will eliminate or modify whatever of our theory is wrong or not true. Correct? That’s what people genuinely seeking the truth do. But Mitch says that we are wrong in doing this with our thinking about LFW. He implies that it is false and then says it is not right for us to modify it, we’re just supposed to accept it as is. Mitch does not appear interested in the truth about LFW as he caricatures it, and then says of this caricature that we are not allowed to modify it but are just supposed to accept it?

    If we modify our theory or make changes to it, that does not mean our theory is false, rather, it means we are genuinely seeking the truth and modify our theory so that it does in fact reflect reality.

    “Again if you embrace LFW then influences do not play a decisive role and you are not capable of explaining why you make one choice over another. The minute you start talking about influences, desires or motives you leave behind LFW and are more in accord with compatibilism.”

    Mitch speaks of a “decisive role” that influences have. I think he means the necessitating role that influences have. For the determinist, there is some factor(s) that necessitates our actions, that causes our actions makes one action an event that must occur and cannot occur otherwise. Earlier he brought up our nature and desires as the necessitating factors. Others showed problems with this theory, but I will comment briefly on it as well.

    Jesus said that a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. Calvinists, like Mitch, attempt to use this as proof that our nature necessitates our actions. The calvinists will use various proof texts attempting to show that the nonbeliever having only a sinful nature is only capable of sin, cannot ever do any good actions. This attempt to argue from certain passages that our actions are determined by our natures falls apart however when dealing with believers. Believers have a new nature and yet we still sin. If our natures necessitated our actions then our new nature would necessitate that we always do righteous actions and we would never sin. But we still do sin. Does that then mean that the believer has a bad nature that is necessitating his sinful actions? Are we a schizophrenic tree that has both a bad nature and a good nature simultaneously, so we sometimes sin and sometimes do the right thing depending on which nature happens to be strongest at that moment? Or do both natures operate simultaneously so that our actions are always both good and evil? It is better to avoid all this nonsense and stay with how the bible presents things. In Romans 6 the apostle Paul urges the Romans to choose to use their members for righteousness rather than sin. In a word, Paul urges them as believers to choose to do the right thing. And it is a choice that we have and deal with daily. We are not persons with two competing natures, we are persons with competing choices. And we determine which choice we will make.

    “I think your issue with Calvinism, I should say one of your issues:), is that you think that God’s decrees are fatalistic and that He is then the author of sin. Yet there has been volumes written on secondary causes and all standard confessions speak on the issue, but we will not see eye to eye on this.”

    If all events involve CNC type control, if Frazier is choosing and determining every action that Joe makes, including his bad chess move, then the distinction between ultimate and secondary causes is eliminated. This distinction only makes sense where persons do their own actions based upon their own choices. God ultimately created us with a nature capable of making our own choices (this is especially obvious in the case of Adam before he fell). As secondary causes we then make our own choices and do our own actions. God is responsible for making us capable of having and making choices (so he is responsible for our creating us with a nature that is capable of choosing to do our own actions). We are responsible for the choices we make and the actions we perform. But if all events are predetermined and if God exercises control of us via CNC type control, then this distinction between ultimate and proximate causes is meaningless and destroyed. It is only the noncalvinist who can correctly speak of God being the ultimate cause and us being the proximate cause.

    JC was correct when he noted:

    “‘Choices per se?’ The problem with that is that ‘choices’ with only one truly possible outcome are not really choices. No matter how you slice it, if the temptation is at such a level and in such a circumstance that the only possible outcome is that a believer fall, then that would mean that he is tempted beyond what he is able to endure.”

    See JC gets it, he understands that if all events are predetermined then we can never do otherwise, WE NEVER HAVE A CHOICE. And that is a major problem with the “compatibilism”, exhaustive determinism which Mitch proposes: it eliminates the reality of us ever having a choice. But we do in fact sometimes have choices and the bible presents situations where people had choices as well. So if these choices are real then Mitch’s exhaustive determinism must be false.

    And these two possibilities are mutually exclusive: if one is true then the other is false and vice versa. The available evidence both from our own daily experience as well as the situations presented in the bible demonstrably establish the reality of choices and the falsity of exhaustive determinism/calvinism.

    Robert

  54. Dear brothers,

    Most of the definitions for LFW say that the free action/choice does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence, I do not believe that and I see that Scripture speaks against that as well. As a person that believes in compatibilism I believe that our choices have motives & desires and it is those motives & desires that we are judged on.

    It appears to me that we are equivocating the definition of determinism; I am fond of the definition that Laplace gives-

    “An intellect which at any given moment knew all the forces that animate Nature and the mutual positions of the beings that comprise it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit its data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom: for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain; and the future just like the past would be present before our eyes”.

    For even more clarification and to see the quote above I have provided the link
    here
    Hard to see what you would find offensive about that, but as stated numerous times we will not see eye to eye on this.

    Praise be to God

  55. Mitch writes:

    “Most of the definitions for LFW say that the free action/choice does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence, I do not believe that and I see that Scripture speaks against that as well.”

    You are making a very common error among calvinists like yourself: you commit the fallacy of false dilemma (it is either this or that, when in reality there are other and better possibilities). In your thinking, an action that occurs is either necessitated or uncaused. All events appear to result from some cause, so the claim that an event results without cause is absurd. You then associate LFW with the claim of an event being without cause. But this is a caricature, misrepresentation of the LFW view. I would claim that in addition to necessitating causes and random events (without an intentional cause) there are also non-necessitating causes. Our thinking is to start with God so consider what happens when God does an action. Is his action random or not involving a cause? NO. Is his action necessitated (meaning that he has to do the action and cannot do otherwise)? No. Take the creation of the world by God as our simple example. Was that event random and without cause? No. Was God necessitated in doing that action, so that He had to do it and it was impossible for him to have not created the world? No. So this action by God which is neither random/causeless nor necessitated, what is it then? It is clearly a choice made between two alternatives. And this choice was not necessitated, he did in fact choose to create the world but he also could have done otherwise and not created the world. So based upon the example of God alone, we know that some actions are done for reasons and yet those actions are not necessitated actions.

    Mitch do you believe that God’s action of creating the world was a necessitated action?

    And if you do not, then how can you then claim that all events result from a sufficient and necessitating cause?

    You make the claim again that: “I do not believe that and I see that Scripture speaks against that as well.” Where in the bible does it speak of necessitating causes? It does not. Where in the bible does it ever even come close to making the claim that all actions by persons (God or others) are all necessitated causes? You have no bible verses in support of your view and you simply make the dogmatic claim without evidence for your claim whatsoever.

    “As a person that believes in compatibilism I believe that our choices have motives & desires and it is those motives & desires that we are judged on.””

    I believe that our choices involve motives and desires as well, as do God’s choices. But where is the evidence both in scripture and in our experience that these events are all caused by necessitating causes? That we can not do otherwise but must do every action which we do?

    “It appears to me that we are equivocating the definition of determinism; I am fond of the definition that Laplace gives-
    [Laplace quote]

    I have to say Mitch that this is really sad. Laplace was a materialist, not believing in the immaterial soul of man, believing that everything was physical and operated by natural laws. His belief so well represented by the quote you present here was that everything is physical and if you knew the exact locations and all the natural laws operating then you could predict every event that will occur in the history of the universe. Big problem though, this world is not just physical and there is more to this world than just molecules in motion. Laplace is famous for also saying that we have no need for the existence of God to explain things (I believe his statement concerning the existence of God is that “I have not needed that hypothesis”).

    God created us with a physical aspect to our being and also an immaterial aspect to our being. And it is within this immaterial aspect that we find our minds, our souls, and where thoughts occur, reasoning occurs, and CHOICES OCCUR. In my experience those who are nonbelievers who deny the reality of the soul, deny the reality of the mind (our brains make us to things), deny immaterial realities, are the ones who would agree with Laplace. But not a Christian. The fact that you have to resort to a nonbeliever and materialist like Laplace to support your view shows how weak your view is.

    “Hard to see what you would find offensive about that, but as stated numerous times we will not see eye to eye on this.”

    I am not offended by the Laplace quote, I have run into too many nonbelievers who hold this kind of view and think this way, so it is no longer shocking or unusual. What is sad however is when a professing believer such as yourself adopts nonbelieving thought like this which is false in order to support a belief he wants to hold onto (compatibilism which is another false idea for a Christian to hold to). One of the reasons that I hold to LFW is that only in a Christian World view could you account for human persons being capable of LFW (some of the top Christian philosophers regularly use this fact to argue against the materialism of the atheists, e.g. J. P. Moreland). As Christians we can account for this reality of having and making choices (we are created in the image of God and in a way similar to the way He chooses to do actions not necessitated but done for reasons, we choose to do actions that are not necessitated but done for reasons). But if everything is physical as Laplace believed, then there can be no God, no souls, no minds, no language concepts, no rationality, and key to this discussion NO CHOICES BEING DONE FOR REASONS.

    Robert

  56. Dear brother,

    We are said to be created in the image of God, but which attributes are you holding that we have of God? I do not equate myself with God nor do I know all of His ways, they are too deep for me to wrap my mind around. Also, I fail to see how Calvinist such as me errs on the meaning of LFW; after all it is not my definition. The problem with LFW is that there is no sufficient condition or cause prior to your choice so how can you be held accountable? You speak at length about common experience, but what is common about making choices without a prior event or sufficient condition being present? I can easily say that I sin because I am tempted by my own lust/desire and that this is sufficient grounds for me to be judged. I am glad that you believe that our choices involve motives & desires, but this goes counter the definition of LFW. As for you asking where it says that our events are caused by a necessitating cause I am a bit perplexed. Do you believe that you make choices for no reason whatsoever? If so you are true LFW, but something tells me that you do not believe that. What would be the necessitating cause for me to sin… oh I don’t know maybe my lust is the cause or maybe I hate the light and love the darkness. For the LFW my choice would be based on nothing, I might as well just flip a coin because my desires and motives are not sufficient in making a choice. Perhaps you could give me an exegetical argument from Scripture for LFW, I have never seen one put forward but I also have not read *everything* available.

    You say that we make choices for reasons, what would those reasons be? Again, it seems that you claim to hold to LFW, but not by the standard definition of it. Perhaps you could also cite a reputable source that uses this definition of LFW that you seem to hold to. I would heartily agree that we make choices based on reasons and that these reasons are sufficient grounds, and in some instances caused prior to my choice, for me to be held accountable but I fail to see how using the standard definition of LFW one can be held responsible.

    Thank you for the gracious tone and for taking the time to interact with me.

    Grace and peace

  57. Hey Mitch, hope you’ve been having a good week.

    …but what is common about making choices without a prior event or sufficient condition being present?

    When you use the term ‘sufficient condition’ you apparently mean ‘unavoidably causing.’ I believe this is what fuels the incorrect definition of LFW that you espouse. The definition of LFW/contrary choice that its proponents hold in common is that at least some choices have more than one possible outcome, and hence are not irresistibly driven a particular way by externals.

    The problem with LFW is that there is no sufficient condition or cause prior to your choice so how can you be held accountable?

    By virtue of the choice itself. If nothing irresistibly moves you you to make the wrong choice but you choose to make it anyway, then you would be all the more accountable for it, because you had the option to do otherwise.

    As for you asking where it says that our events are caused by a necessitating cause I am a bit perplexed. Do you believe that you make choices for no reason whatsoever?

    Robert is correct, contrary to your claims, nothing in scripture supports such a philosophical viewpoint. All 3 of us have spoken about the effects of influences, and if you believe ‘libertarian’ means ‘uninfluenced,’ then your ‘standard definition’ of LFW is critically lacking, and I heavily question the source (it sounds more like a ridiculous straw-man, “oh no, if you believe in free will, then you must believe it can’t be influenced in any way”). I believe this is derived from how you view influence, which in your beliefs (from what I can tell, correct me if I’m wrong) drives the choice to only one possible outcome. Your question is framed incorrectly then, when you ask,

    “Do you believe that you make choices for no reason whatsoever?”

    You are actually asking,

    “Do you believe that you make choices without being irresistibly influenced to?”

    To which we can answer, “yes.” Does this make libertarian choices uninfluened? Not at all, it would be stupid to discount the role of influence, but they are just that: influences — not compulsions that taken together guarantee a specific outcome.

    Weird thought for you: If our choices are all inescapably determined by God, then has God unavoidably influenced some of us to believe that our choices are not unavoidably influenced? I wouldn’t choose to believe that.

  58. Dear brother,

    I have provided a standard definition for LFW and sited various sources in the other thread; perhaps you could show me where I am misusing the definition. It seems to me that you are equating LFW and choice as if they are synonymous when they are distinctly different. I can have a choice and still not have LFW, see the two are not the same and saying we have one does not mean that we have the other. Also, since our choice is not known before we instantiate it (seeing that our choice is not dependent on our desires or any prior causes/events) how does God know? Just to clarify it a bit more seeing as someone earlier said that God knows all possibilities, when does God know? So the question is not really how God knows, but when does he know? See if we have LFW then all God would know before we instantiate our choice is all of the *possibilities* that we have and he would know what each of those *possibilities* would bring about, but God would not KNOW until we instantiate our choice which possibility would be actualized. This is the crux of our difference, you think that you prove LFW by saying we have choices when in actuality LFW speaks to how we make choices. It is easy for me to say that we make choices by varied influences, some external and some internal, but LFW does not afford you that luxury. So again how do you make choices? By holding to LFW you are a saying that you are a completely autonomous agent and that your choices did not have any antecedent conditions that influenced you one way or the other.

    I am having a great week and today is going to be busy since it is Fed Policy day, so I will not be able to respond until this evening or tomorrow. I hope that your week is going well and that God is working in your life in a transforming way.

    Praise God for His mercy

  59. Mitch,

    The definitions you cited from Plantiga and Feinberg say nothing about LFW being uninfluenced and back my view of choices simply being not unavoidably caused (as uncaused does not equal uninfluenced); references from wikis and the like are irrelevant as they are little more than billboards of selective consensus.

    It seems to me that you are equating LFW and choice as if they are synonymous when they are distinctly different.

    No, I’m not. Contrary choice and LFW are equivalent.

    It is easy for me to say that we make choices by varied influences, some external and some internal, but LFW does not afford you that luxury. So again how do you make choices?

    Since you are saying that ‘choices’ are necessarily caused by influences, you are not asking how I make choices, you are asking how I am unavoidably caused to make decisions, which I’ve been telling you: I’m not. You are simply assuming that all choices are caused, then asking how they’re caused if I say they’re not caused. That’s nothing more than begging the question.

    By holding to LFW you are a saying that you are a completely autonomous agent and that your choices did not have any antecedent conditions that influenced you one way or the other.

    And again you equivocate ‘influence’ with ‘compulsion.’ No one is denying influence, and until you can understand the difference or establish that influence is equivalent to compulsion, then you are behind the discussion.

    Also, since our choice is not known before we instantiate it (seeing that our choice is not dependent on our desires or any prior causes/events) how does God know?

    Because His knowledge is not bound by time, hence the question of ‘when does He know?’ is fallacious (as if there could be a time He didn’t know something), since it errantly assumes that His knowledge is temporally constrained (we’ve already covered this). Kind of odd that you say that God’s ways are “they are too deep for me to wrap my mind around,” then turn around and cite lack of understanding as to how He can do things as evidence for your claims.

    I’ll ask the question again, if you truly believe that due to various influences, the choices we make never have a genuine possibility of being otherwise (e.g. when a Christian sins after being tempted, there was never really another possible outcome he could have instantiated), then how is such a circumstance not being tempted beyond what we’re able?

  60. Dear brother,

    Your decision are uninfluenced by prior conditions if you hold to LFW-
    It involves the agent being free to perform or refrain from an action because no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine what the agent will do. No One Like Him pg. 729 by John Feinberg
    The reason that your choice cannot be otherwise is because that is what you wanted to do at the time or you would not have done it. Your strongest desire and/or nature were how you chose at that particular time. Of course if things were different your choice might have been different but again that is not what is meant. If what you mean to say is “if I was to have that choice again with some difference in any influences, either external or internal, I could make a different choice” I could agree with that. What LFW says though is “if I was to have that choice again without any difference in any influences, either external or internal, I could make a different choice” I would not agree with that.
    As for God not being temporally constrained I would of course agree with that, but God also works in temporal time. So you failed to answer when God would know. By holding to LFW you make God *contingent* in some respects to man and his choices. Just saying that God is timeless and I believe in LFW does nothing for you.
    So choices are not caused, care to back that up with Scripture? Seems we are told why people make choices all over the OT and NT. Also, by saying that choices are not caused you are in fact saying that you are a completely autonomous agent and I would of course disagree with that as well.
    Oh well, I am about 45 minutes away from the Fed and need to start watching the market. Thank you for the time and patience.

    Praise God

  61. Mitch,

    No offense but — wake up brother! You highlighted “no antecedent conditions” but ignored the most important element of the definiton– “determine”. The definition does not deny antecedent conditions it only denies that those antecedent conditions determine our choices. “Determine” is plainly being used with regards to causation.

    The agent determines the choice which does not make antecedent conditions non-existant or a non-factor. It just means that those antecedent conditions do not hold irresistible sway over the agent which is what we have been stating ad nauseam . You are reading your presuppositions (i.e. antecendent conditions must be causal) into the definitions and then faulting us for not holding to your misreading. If you continue to do this then we are all obviously wasting our time discussing this with you.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  62. Dear brothers,

    I will try to wake-up from my delirium and pray that the Spirit open my eyes. The question is still how do you decide? It seems that you are saying that we decide by antecedent conditions and influences, but that they are not THE reason why we decide and if I ask what is THE reason you say nothing??? This just seems too easy for me, which is like saying that God knows because He is timeless. True, but since our choice was not actualized until we instantiated it in time what God would know is *possibilities* and not actualities. After all we are temporally bound by time and our choices are not determined by antecedent conditions and/or causal laws, so there is no choice for God to know until we actualize it in time. How do you get around that simple logic? I try to answer all questions posed to me and granted some are better than others, but I try. What I see you guys doing is saying it is because it is and that seems weak to me.

    What LFW says is that if I was to have that choice again without any difference in influences, be it either external or internal, I would choose differently. That makes no sense to me and seems to go counter even my basic intuition. You say that the agent determines the choice, well how? It cannot be because of antecedent conditions and/or causal laws; while you seem to agree that they might play a factor they do not play the pivotal factor. What plays the pivotal factor? Just saying you does nothing to say how you choose, it just says that you choose, again I agree you choose what you do willingly and freely but how? It seems that you like the word irresistible, but the only reason something would be “irresistible” is because that is what you desired above everything else. I pray that I am not just reading my presuppositions into antecedent conditions being causal, but they do cause us to think and act and respond in certain ways that if we did not have those antecedent conditions we would behave differently.

    I am truly sorry if I am ignorant and blind and just not willing to see your points, but I do not see what you see. I apologize for wasting your time and thank you for the overall gracious tone that you have shown me.

    Praise be to God

  63. Ben,

    Exactly. Well said. I saw this problem going on with Mitch bafflingly quoting some definitions that completely contradicted his main claim, and was tempted to chime in myself.

    One problem is that there is more than one definition of LFW. Some people do define it as choices made with no cause or influence at all. But hardly any Arminians really subscribe to that particular definition, but do subscribe to contra causal freedom, which is also known as LFW. Calvinists often want to latch onto the implausible form of LWF and knock down the straw man. But that obviously does not help the discussion, nor is it fait to Ariminians. It would be much better for Calvinists to deal forthrightly with what Arminaisn actually believe.

    Besides, it really does not matter what one calls a specific definition. Even if Mitch wants to continue to deny the obvious fact that we do not hold to the definition of free will he is trying to attribute to us, he should deal with the definition that we actually do hold, no matter what ne calls it (it just so happens that it is is one standard definition of LFW).

  64. I like this quote from Norman Geisler defending LFW of the fashion that we are advocating.

    “On this view a person’s acts are caused by himself. Self determinists accept the fact that such factors as heredity and environment often influence one’s behavior. However, they deny that such factors are the determining causes of one’s behavior. Inanimate objects do not change without an outside cause, but personal subjects are able to direct their own actions. As previously noted, self determinists reject the notions that events are uncaused or that they cause themselves. Rather, they believe that human actions can be caused by human beings. Two prominent advocates of this view are Thomas Aquinas and C S Lewis.

    Many object to self determinism on the grounds that if everything needs a cause, then so do the acts of the will. Thus it is often asked, What caused the will to act? The self determinist can respond to this question by pointing out that it is not the will of a person that makes a decision but the person acting by means of his will. And since the person is the first cause of his acts, it is meaningless to ask what the cause of the first cause is. Just as no outside force caused God to create the world, so no outside force causes people to choose certain actions. For man is created in God’s image, which includes the possession of free will.”

  65. I want to take some things that Mitch writes and show the problems for the sake of other noncalvinists who are reading these posts.

    “It seems to me that you are equating LFW and choice as if they are synonymous when they are distinctly different.”

    If you read in the philosophical literature on this topic you keep seeing the phrase “could have done otherwise” coming up again and again in connection with LFW. It seems that advocates of LFW all hold ton the principle of “could have done otherwise”, meaning that if you did one action in a particular situation you also “could have done otherwise” had you decided to actualize a possibility other than the one that you did do. I believe there is an even easier way to present LFW (and my goal is to provide a way for any Christian to show the problems with calvinism) and that is by focusing on whether or not we HAVE CHOICES in a situation or not. I was talking with a top level philosopher (hint for those philosophically inclined, he is the originator of the distinction between guidance and regulative control and the leading semi-compatibilist, :-)) about the nature of choices and the reality or unreality of choices. And he made an interesting distinction: he said that the determinist can believe that we **make** choices, but not that we **have** choices.

    Say we are at the ice cream store and considering which flavor of ice cream to buy. If it is Baskin Robbins 31 flavor Ice Cream parlor we have presumably 31 different possibilities from which to choose. Now say that God had predetermined every event that occurs, every outcome. If that were true, then in each and every case, whenever I go to Baskin Robbins I will choose whichever flavor (or not choose any flavor) God predetermined for me to do every time that I go there. So say that God had predetermined that I was going to have chocolate ten times in a row on ten separate occasions. Then what would happen: I would make the choice of chocolate 10 different times in a row just as God had predetermined that I would do so. With regard to those 10 times, is it possible that I could have selected some flavor other than chocolate? NO, if God predetermined it, then it would be impossible for me to choose any other flavor than chocolate. Now each of those ten times when I picked, selected, chose the chocolate flavor ice cream, was I MAKING A CHOICE. Yes, I would be making a choice in each case. Now comes the key to seeing the difference between LFW and the claim that all events are predetermined by God. With regard to those ten times did I ever HAVE A CHOICE? The answer is NO if all events are predetermined. To have a choice means that I could select one or the other, that both possibilities are open possibilities and accessible possibilities that I could choose in that situation. If I really HAD A CHOICE, then I could select chocolate or some other flavor.

    But if every event is predetermined by God, then I NEVER HAVE A CHOICE. And it is this universal negative that needs to be pressed against the calvinistic compatibilist claim that all events are predetermined. They don’t seem to realize it, nor do they want to realize it, that if their view is true then we never HAVE A CHOICE, ever. Now that is a strong claim and not the position that you want to have to argue. And those familiar with logic know that in order to refute a universal negative proposition you only need one counter example and it is refuted. And I say look at your own daily experience and also the bible and see if there are ever instances of any choices. If there are, then the claim that God has predetermined all events which entails the further claim that we never have any choices, is false. And demonstrably false.

    When I have engaged other calvinists in the past on this point they have not been honest about what their view logically entails. They will argue that their view allows for the making and even the HAVING of choices (note that Mitch claims that he believes that we have choices: though his view eliminates this possibility), when in fact, it allows for making of choices but never HAVING CHOICES. That is also part of the reason I have not provided examples from scripture of people having a choice in a situation, to certain people. I have provided numerous daily examples of choices (including one of my favorites, our use of language where we make choices all over the place!) and they were always intentionally ignored. So why should I provide scriptural examples to someone who isn’t playing the game honest?

    In this thread JC brought up a clear example where we HAVE A CHOICE (i.e., 1 Cor. 10:13 and dealing with temptations: we can choose to give into the temptation and sin, or we can choose to resist the temptation by taking the escape route that God always provides, either way we choose, we have a choice). Actually, it might be fun, while we are on this subject to share bible verses with one another where people **have** choices or could have done otherwise. Each of these verses makes the case against exhaustive predetermination of all events that much stronger.

    “I can ***have*** [my emphasis] a choice and still not have LFW, see the two are not the same and saying we have one does not mean that we have the other.”

    This is just a false statement. If you HAVE a choice, then that means that you could do what you end up choosing as well as choosing something else in that situation, which means that you had LFW (all versions of LFW hold to the principle that “you could have done otherwise” which I believe is easy to explain by talking about “having a choice”).

    “Also, since our choice is not known before we instantiate it (seeing that our choice is not dependent on our desires or any prior causes/events) how does God know?”

    This is just pure unbelief. First of all, I do not need to know **how** God knows future events (and I would argue that we do not know how God knows anything whether it is the present the past or the future) in order to affirm **that** God knows the future. From my understanding of scripture (contra the open theists and others who deny exhaustive divine foreknowledge) God knows every future event. Since some of those future events involve our choices, I conclude that God knows those as well. It is **unbelief**, not faith, that claims that God cannot know future outcomes if Libertarian free will is involved. And I have no burden to explain **how** God knows what He knows, just as I have no burden to explain how God created the world out of nothing, how God does miracles, how God became flesh, etc. etc. I need only take His Word for it: if he says that He does X or knows X, then He does X and knows X.

    “So the question is not really how God knows, but when does he know?”

    He always knows what He knows.

    “See if we have LFW then all God would know before we instantiate our choice is all of the *possibilities* that we have and he would know what each of those *possibilities* would bring about, but God would not KNOW until we instantiate our choice which possibility would be actualized.”

    Mitch is now arguing that God cannot know future actions if they involve LFW, just another display of unbelief. Why is it impossible for God to know what possibility we will freely choose to actualize before we do so? Does God say that He cannot know that, or does God say that He knows all things?

    “This is the crux of our difference, you think that you prove LFW by saying we have choices when in actuality LFW speaks to how we make choices.”

    Actually LFW involves the fact that we sometimes **have** choices. As to **how** we make choices, there are differing explanations. My own explanation following Alvin Plantinga and John Searle is that we do our intentional actions for reasons. And Plantinga argues that we do this because we are made in the image of God so we act in a way similar to the way He acts (God acts freely as his actions are not necessitated nor are they random/chance events, instead they are self-determined and done for reasons).

    Robert

  66. Mitch,

    As for God not being temporally constrained I would of course agree with that, but God also works in temporal time. So you failed to answer when God would know.

    Um, God working temporally does not mean His knowledge is constrained temporally, therefore the question is still just as invalid as asking “when did God start existing.”

    By holding to LFW you make God *contingent* in some respects to man and his choices.

    And again we’ve already covered this, you’re confusing God being contingent for God dealing with people contingently.

    Also, by saying that choices are not caused you are in fact saying that you are a completely autonomous agent and I would of course disagree with that as well.

    That doesn’t follow. God allowing some measure of contrary choice does not make one completely autonomous.

    After all we are temporally bound by time and our choices are not determined by antecedent conditions and/or causal laws, so there is no choice for God to know until we actualize it in time. How do you get around that simple logic?

    The assumption of ‘there is no choice’ is spoken from the perspective of a temporally bound agent and mistakenly applied to God’s omniscience, and thus logically untenable.

    What LFW says is that if I was to have that choice again without any difference in influences, be it either external or internal, I would choose differently.

    Could choose differently, or in this case, could have chosen differently.

    Just saying you does nothing to say how you choose, it just says that you choose, again I agree you choose what you do willingly and freely but how?

    By asking ‘how’ choices are made beyond the scope of libertarian free will, you are again simply assuming that libertarian choices are caused.

    It cannot be because of antecedent conditions and/or causal laws; while you seem to agree that they might play a factor they do not play the pivotal factor. What plays the pivotal factor?

    Case in point, if the will is libertarian, then the will itself plays the pivotal role, you are assuming that something else must play the pivotal role and therefore also assuming that choices are caused. Your questions amount to: “What causes our choices if our choices aren’t caused?”

    So choices are not caused, care to back that up with Scripture?

    I already have from the implications of 1 Cor 13, which you have yet to deliver substantial answer to.

  67. Hello Arminian,

    Thanks for sharing the quote by Norman Geisler. Geisler holds to the view that might be called “agent causation” or “self –determinism”. In my opinion this is the strongest version of LFW as it is modeled on God himself (when he acts his actions are neither necessitated nor random/chance events, but are self-determined, his own freely chosen actions).

    The quote you shared was:

    “On this view a person’s acts are caused by himself. Self determinists accept the fact that such factors as heredity and environment often influence one’s behavior. However, they deny that such factors are the determining causes of one’s behavior. Inanimate objects do not change without an outside cause, but personal subjects are able to direct their own actions. As previously noted, self determinists reject the notions that events are uncaused or that they cause themselves. Rather, they believe that human actions can be caused by human beings. Two prominent advocates of this view are Thomas Aquinas and C S Lewis.

    Many object to self determinism on the grounds that if everything needs a cause, then so do the acts of the will. Thus it is often asked, What caused the will to act? The self determinist can respond to this question by pointing out that it is not the will of a person that makes a decision but the person acting by means of his will. And since the person is the first cause of his acts, it is meaningless to ask what the cause of the first cause is. Just as no outside force caused God to create the world, so no outside force causes people to choose certain actions. For man is created in God’s image, which includes the possession of free will.”

    Besides Geisler, C.S. Lewis, and Aquinas, others who espouse this view include Alvin Plantinga, J. P. Moreland, Roderick Chisolm, John Searle, Thomas Reid, etc. etc., and it seems that Aristotle held to this as well. Plantinga strongly argues that many of the objections to agent causation (e.g., that it involves randomness, that it is incoherent, etc. etc.) break down when we consider the example of God acting. Geisler also makes this connection as well. Most people have no problem understanding that when God created the world he did not have to do so (i.e., his action was not necessitated) nor was it a random action (i.e., it was intentional and done for reasons) and he could have done otherwise (he did could have chosen not to create the world, so his action of creating the world was a freely made choice in the LFW sense).

    Besides the example of God Himself, we have our own daily example. When we do intentional actions and freely make choices from accessible alternative possibilities, we are not necessitated in our actions nor are they random. Rather, they are done for reasons. And they are our own freely made actions so we are responsible for them. And we sometimes know that we could have done otherwise, as JC brought up, because we sometimes experience regret. Regret makes no sense if our action was necessitated or random. It does make total sense however, if we really could have done otherwise/we really had a choice and made the wrong choice.

    Robert

  68. Yeah, Ben made an excellent post about regrets sometime back. I loved his closing sentence:

    “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?”

  69. Sorry JC, I mistakenly thought that you had written that piece on regret. You are right, Ben did a great job. I sometimes catch calvinist friends expressing regret, they don’t like it when I remind them of Ben’s point: if God predetermined it all for His glory then you should never have any regrets guys! They should always be pleased too, since everything is always going exactly according to plan. Do they live as if **that** is true? No, they just can’t seem to live out their exhaustive determinism very well in the real world.

    Robert

  70. Dear brothers,

    I have tried to see it from your point of views, but alas I cannot with good conscience see what you see. It still seems to me that you take the easy way out and something tells me if I tried it you guys would roast me for it.

    I fail to see what is accomplished or answered when you write-
    Um, God working temporally does not mean His knowledge is constrained temporally, therefore the question is still just as invalid as asking “when did God start existing.”
    If we are temporal agents and we are the sole cause for our choices then how can God know our choices before they are actualized, are you saying that God knew our choice before we even made them? If so how would that prove the power of contrary choice?

    Let me see if I can argue like I see you guys arguing your case. Scripture plainly states that God is in control of everything and that God works all things after the counsel of his will. Now I know that all means all so that settles that, now I also know that we are held responsible for our actions and choices. Can I reconcile the two in my pea brain, no. And I have no burden to explain **how** God knows what He knows, just as I have no burden to explain how God created the world out of nothing, how God does miracles, how God became flesh, etc. etc. I need only take His Word for it: if he says that He does X or knows X, then He does X and knows X.

    Well that was easy, thank you all for your time and God bless.

    Hallowed be His name

  71. Mitch,

    I fail to see what is accomplished or answered when you write-
    ‘Um, God working temporally does not mean His knowledge is constrained temporally, therefore the question is still just as invalid as asking “when did God start existing.”‘

    It was a concise answer to the misguided question of ‘when’ God knows something.

    If we are temporal agents and we are the sole cause for our choices then how can God know our choices before they are actualized, are you saying that God knew our choice before we even made them? If so how would that prove the power of contrary choice?

    Again, you are applying temporal constraints to God, pretending His knowledge is bound by ‘before’ and ‘after’ conditions as our own is. This is essentially arguing, “well I can’t do it, so how can God?” The metatemporal qualities of God’s knowledge don’t prove LFW by itself, it simply shows that He already knows what our choices will be even if they are libertarian. If an appeal to lack of understanding to refute such a view of God’s knowledge were valid, then we Creationists would be in a lot of trouble.

    Let me see if I can argue like I see you guys arguing your case. Scripture plainly states that God is in control of everything and that God works all things after the counsel of his will. Now I know that all means all so that settles that, now I also know that we are held responsible for our actions and choices. Can I reconcile the two in my pea brain, no. And I have no burden to explain **how** God knows what He knows, just as I have no burden to explain how God created the world out of nothing, how God does miracles, how God became flesh, etc. etc. I need only take His Word for it: if he says that He does X or knows X, then He does X and knows X.

    You didn’t really equate the first form of argument with anything specific we’ve stated thus far. I personally see no problem with taking God at His word rather than trying to selectively filter His omnipotence and omniscience through my own understanding (Ooh, our minds which function in time can’t foreknow libertarian choices with certainty, the same must obviously be true with God’s knowledge which spans eternity past to eternity future!). Again, I find it odd that you write off the fact that God possesses libertarian free will by stating that God’s ways are beyond you, yet also argue that God can’t know libertarian choices based upon lack of understanding as to how He could.

  72. Mitch,

    You have already taken the easy way out on several occasions. You have ignored or dodged several questions and challenges regarding your compatibilism and have affirmed blatant contradictions in your system under the blanket of mystery. We have given mystery its proper place– that which is beyond our understanding. Contradictions are not beyond our understanding. They are perfectly understandable and reveal error. If you can happily affirm contradictions in your system then you have no right to criticize another system for not making sense or being inconsistent.

    The passages you paraphrase reveal again your tendency to read you presuppositions into the text. The texts do not say how God works all things together after the counsel of his will. It does not say that He does this by meticulous deterministic control. You assume that is the only way God can accomplish his will and then hold these passages up as a proof text for your assumptions.

    I think the Arminian gives proper place to God’s omniscience with regards to his sovereignty while Calvinists seem to down play God’s infinite wisdom and focus only on His power. I discussed this in an earlier post here:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/gods-sovereignty-and-mans-free-will/

    I appreciate the fact that you have continued this discussion despite being outnumbered in this thread. That is not an easy thing to do and maintain a gracious tone but I think you have done that and I commend you for that. I hope that we have at least gained a better understanding of each others’ view points even though we continue to disagree. I hope you will continue to stop by and read my posts. I think the series on Ralston’s view of the will should help clear up misunderstandings as well as present a strong defense of the Arminian position.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  73. Ben, just a short note on this. I’m not the intelligent Calvinist you mention in the post, who could easily explain things, but I must admit that I love the book of Job and am not conscious of any of it bothering my soteriology.

    Here’s the element that I would like you to think about: This whole challenge to Calvinism rests on the assumptions that Satan is (a) privy to God’s decree re: the elect, and that (b) Satan at this time in revelation history had an expert understanding of Biblical soteriology, and that (c) even if he had those two, there’s no way his own insanity would’ve warped his thinking on this issue.

    If any of a, b, or c is not in fact the way it is or was, then this whole thing falls apart completely. The force of your argument rests absolutely on the cogency of Satan’s. Good call, Ben. 🙂

  74. Gordan,

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving some thoughts, and thanks for bringing things back to the point of the post.

    As I mentioned, this dialogue between Satan and God is not a silver bullet against Calvinism (no more than your post on Ahithophel’s advice was a silver bullet against Arminianism) but I do think it challenges Calvinistic presuppositions in light of an unbiased reading of the text itself. Let’s consider your points.

    a. Satan may not be privy to God’s eternal decree.

    Before I can answer this, I would need a little more info. from you. Do you mean that Satan is unaware of any decree at all, or that he is simply unaware of which people God has secretly elected?

    b. Satan is ignorant of the fact that God infallibly preserves the faith of the elect.

    An appeal to Satan’s ignorance can alleviate the problem but not without raising questions regarding the context and theological emphases of Job as a whole. I have already dealt with this above to some extant.

    An unbiased reading of the text would suggest that Job’s faith is being tested according to Satan’s challenge and God’s permission. Now if God were going to infallibly preserve Job’s faith then it is hard to understand what the point of this encounter was.

    If the purpose of this encounter being recorded was to teach the doctrine of God’s infallible preservation of the elect, then we would expect that this theme would come out at some point in the narrative. However, the concept of God’s infallible preservation of Job’s faith does not present itself in the least and seems to run contrary to the narrative itself. It is not much of a test if God guarantees that Job will pass and personally makes sure of his success.

    Maybe I am wrong but I would bet that if you had anyone read this narrative without being committed to Calvinism or being decidedly against Calvinism, any such person would see this as a test of faith, and no such person would conclude that the point of the narrative is to demonstrate God’s infallible preservation Job’s faith from just reading the text. The context and emphases of the book run contrary to Calvinistic presuppositions, which was the point of the post.

    c. Satan is insane and his thinking is warped.

    Again, I can’t prove this to be false but see no indication of this from the text itself. There is no hint of Satan being insane to challenge God and Job in the way that he does throughout the entire narrative. If such were the case then we should expect to find some indication of this along with an emphasis on God’s infallible preservation of Job’s faith. We find neither present in the text which means that the Calvinist must take extreme liberties with the text in order to conform it to Calvinistic presuppositions which was, again, the point of the post.

    So if anything, while you have preserved your Calvinism, you have still managed to prove my point quite nicely 🙂

    God Bless,
    Ben

  75. Dear brother,

    Since it was God that offered up Job would it not make sense that God already knew that Job would stand firm? Are you implying that God presented Job up to Satan without knowing if Job would remain true? Also, since God surely knew that Job would stand firm and not forsake God, then could Job *really* have forsaken God and Satan win the trial? It is hard to see this working in Arminian theology without sacrificing some basic truths about God that has been revealed through Scripture.

    Praise be to God

  76. Mitch,

    I am not implying that God did not already know the outcome. That only speaks to the certainty of Job’s faithfulness and not to its necessity. If not for the genuine nature of the interaction with Satan there would be no faithfulness on Job’s part in the midst of such trials for God to foreknow.

    You may want to think of the implications of Calvinistic foreknowledge and eternal decrees with regards to the genuineness of God’s interactions with His creatures. I personally think that the Calvinistic worldview has bigger difficulties to overcome in that area.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  77. Dear brother,

    Just so that I understand you properly, you would say that God’s knowledge of Job’s faithfulness was *certain* but that God’s knowledge did not necessitate the outcome? I would think that since God was the one that offered up Job then it would entail that God’s knowledge was *necessitating* the outcome, unless you want to say that a different outcome could of transpired. I would say that God’s knowledge did *necessitate* Job’s faithfulness because no other outcome could of transpired in this event. The only way that God’s knowledge could not have *necessitated* Job’s faithfulness is if things could of turned out otherwise. It seems that you agree that would not have been possible in this scenario.

    Also, if God *knew* for *certain* that Job would remain faithful, then am I right that you would still say that God was “genuine” in his interaction with Satan?

    I will keep praying about these difficulties that my worldview leads too and hope that by God’s grace and the Spirit guiding me that I stay true to the revealed word of God.

    Praise be to God

  78. Hey Mitch,

    God’s actions did not necessitate Job’s faithfulness due to His foreknowledge of that faithfulness because God’s foreknowledge is not causal. It is just knowledge.

    That God foreknows His interactions with us and the outcomes of those interactions does not make those interactions any less genuine at the time they occur. Calvinists believe this as well even though they have a different understanding of how God knows things, which I believe makes it even harder to preserve the genuine nature of those interactions, (i.e., God only foreknows His intentions according to His decree–what He will infallibly bring to pass).

    Free Will Baptist F. Leroy Forlines expressed the Arminian perspective this way:

    “He saw, then, everything that He sees and is doing now. He is the same God now that He was then. Everything that He is doing now is just as real as it would be if He had not known it in advance.” (The Quest For Truth, pg. 396)

    We have already had a very long discussion with regards to the difference between certainty and necessity as it relates to God’s foreknowledge in the combox of the Struggling With Regrets post. You are welcome to look there to gain a better understanding of the Arminian perspective on that issue. I am not willing to re-visit that in this thread.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  79. Mitch,

    Here is another helpful link, a great article by Robert Picirilli dealing with the differences between certainty and necessity with regards to exhaustive foreknowledge of truly contingent human choices.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Picirilli.%20Foreknowledge,%20Freedom,%20and%20the%20Future_0.pdf

  80. Dear Ben,

    Thank you for providing that article by Picirilli, I have just one question. In this example would you not agree that God’s knowledge was a necessitating event? After all, it was God that offered up Job to Satan and it would seem that by doing that no other outcome could have transpired. If, as Picirilli writes, no other possibility was possible then God’s knowledge would in fact have necessitated Job’s faithfulness. Perhaps I am missing it, but your point would be valid if it were not God that offered Job up for the trial. Then I could see that God’s knowledge would not necessitate Job’s faithfulness, even though it was certain.

    Praise be to God

  81. Dear Ben,

    Clarification from my previous post, when I wrote
    If, as Picirilli writes, no other possibility was possible
    I did not mean to imply that he agreed with me, I was just saying that was his definition of necessity.

    Praise God

  82. Hey Mitch,

    I am glad that you are beginning to understand the difference between necessity and certainty, but your question seems to suggest that you are still not quite seeing things clearly.

    The fact that God mentioned Job to Satan rendered Job’s faithfulness to the subsequent test of faith certain but not necessary (and that only because Satan freely chose to respond to God’s mention by challenging him though God knew as certain what Satan’s response would be, etc.).

    Job still freely responded to the test faithfully without that positive response being necessary, i.e. Job was not faithful because he had to be faithful, while it was certain that he would actually be faithful. Will be faithful (certainty) is still not the same as must be faithful (necessity).

    That God was involved by allowing for the test of faith really has no effect on Job’s faithful response besides helping to provide the opportunity for that response. Job’s response was still free though God already knew it as certain.

    Hope that helps,
    Ben

  83. Dear Ben,

    I fear that I cannot see it your way and pray that I never will. You say that Job’s faithfulness was certain, but not necessary and I could not disagree more. If you are correct and a different outcome was possible in this case then Satan would have triumphed and that can never be. While the saying “certain but not necessary” seems good and logical the more I think on it the more I see the uselessness of it. God works all things according to His will and He does that by knowing for certain that things will come to pass. So in this example Job’s faithfulness was certain, but his faithfulness was also necessary so that God’s greater purpose would be accomplished. Could a different outcome have been known for certain by God and he used it to accomplish his purpose, absolutely. Here is the key though, the event was *certain* and God knowing that planed to bring about his purpose and thus made the event not only certain, but also necessary.

    Taking the example in the paper of a fork in the road, God knows whether you will choose left or right and he knows that for *certain*, but he also has a plan for you based on your choice so in that it is also *necessary* for you to choose the one that is *certain*. By choosing one route over another you have closed the possibilities that come with the un-chosen path. God knowing all things as *certain* plans his overall purpose on those certainties and thus makes them also necessary. So while you say that just because something “shall/will be” does not mean that it “must be” I do not see how you separate the two when it comes to God. He knows what “shall/will be” and uses that to bring about his purpose and that then entails that it “must be”.

    Hope you have a great weekend!

    Praise be to God

  84. Hey Mitch,

    A few quick comments regarding what you have written here:

    I fear that I cannot see it your way and pray that I never will.

    I mean no offense Mitch, but that is a very closed minded approach and seems to demonstrate that you simply refuse to understand the distinction because you do not want to accept the implications. It is like praying, “Lord, if what this guy is saying is true, please don’t reveal that truth to me. I refuse to accept it even if it is true because I am very comfortable with my beliefs as they are right now, even if they are wrong.” I like it better when you say things like:

    I will keep praying about these difficulties that my worldview leads too and hope that by God’s grace and the Spirit guiding me that I stay true to the revealed word of God.

    Since you have closed your mind to the Arminian perspective I am not sure what the point would be in continuing to help you understand things. The fact is that when certainty and necessity are understood as defined, then there is no room for conflating the two as you insist on doing. The distinction solves the supposed problem entirely and you even seemed to admit this earlier when you wrote:

    Perhaps I am missing it, but your point would be valid if it were not God that offered Job up for the trial. Then I could see that God’s knowledge would not necessitate Job’s faithfulness, even though it was certain.

    Yes, you are missing it. That God provides the opportunity for Job to be tested does not necessitate Job passing the test. It really is rather simple. You made a helpful statement in your last comments:

    Could a different outcome have been known for certain by God and he used it to accomplish his purpose, absolutely.

    Here you seem to grasp the concept rather well but your presuppositions take over when you conclude:

    Here is the key though, the event was *certain* and God knowing that planed to bring about his purpose and thus made the event not only certain, but also necessary.

    Which simply does not follow. Again, you see God’s foreknowledge as primary, rather than the actions of the agents. Job’s actions were not based on God’s knowledge. God’s knowledge was based on Job’s actions. When you come to understand that rather simple point and stop trying to conflate certainty with necessity, you will see clearly enough that this event does not lead to the determinism you wish to impose on it. No matter how many times you say that what is certain cannot also be contingent, it is just not the case. I liked the observation that Picirilli referenced in his article that even if God did not know the future it would still be certain. And certainty does not imply necessity (though what is certain could be necessary though it could also be contingent) regardless of God’s knowledge of such events.

    The plans God makes in response to His knowledge of our actions and choices do not render those choices necessary. It says nothing at all about the nature of the actions and choices themselves, whether they be necessary or contingent. I am sorry if you cannot see that, or rather refuse to see that, but it is clear as day to me, and I know that it is clear as day to many who hold to this view. Truly, it seems that we may just need to agree to disagree and leave each other to our respective views. Thanks for the interaction and may God bless you as you continue to seek His truth.

    Ben

  85. Hi Ben,

    I want to comment on some of your comments because I believe the distinction between necessary and certain is very important and when ignored or conflated leads to some unnecessary errors.

    “The fact is that when certainty and necessity are understood as defined, then there is no room for conflating the two as you insist on doing.”

    Every event that actually occurs is an event that did in fact occur. So it is **certain** that that event did in fact occur. Necessity on the other hand means that the event must have occurred in exactly the way in which it occurs, that it is impossible that not have occurred or have occurred in any other way. Libertarian free will is present where a person has a choice between different possibilities (either of which he could actualize if he chose to do so). If you have to do something and could not do otherwise than you do not have a choice.

    We are often told that we ought to start with God when it comes to knowing truth. OK, consider when God created the universe. That creation of the world occurred with certainty, it did in fact occur, and occurred the way that it did. But did it have to happen and did it have to be that way? Was God necessitated in creating the world? No, he chose to create the world, and create it the way He wanted to. But he did not have to create the world, so the creation of the world is an event that is certain, but not necessary. Or take God saving us. If God dealt with sin purely on the basis of justice, then all who sin would die, no one would be saved. But God also deals with sinners in mercy, meaning that He can choose to save people if He wants to. And regarding mercy God himself says that having mercy on people is His choice (he has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires, Romans 9:18). God has mercy (fortunately, upon all of the human race, see Romans 11:32), and when that occurs it occurs with certainty. But must he have mercy on the people he has mercy upon? Is his having mercy a necessary action on his part? He has mercy through sending Jesus to the world to die for the sins of the world and that is the way that he chose to deal with the sin problem (but did he have to do so, could he have simply destroyed all of mankind for their sins?). Or is it a choice to freely have mercy, when He did not have to have mercy on people? Did God have to select Israel as the chosen nation?

    So when we consider God and his actions we see that he does actions that occur with certainty and yet this does not mean all of his actions are necessary or that he is necessitated to do all of what He does. He most definitely experiences libertarian free will choices.

    Picirilli makes this distinction between certainty and necessity very clear, I encourage all interested to check out his writings (I have included one example below).

    “Again, you see God’s foreknowledge as primary, rather than the actions of the agents. Job’s actions were not based on God’s knowledge. God’s knowledge was based on Job’s actions.”

    Ben, the calvinist believes that God can only foreknow an event which He ordains or predetermines. We on the other hand understand that God’s knowledge is not causative. God can know a future event will occur though his knowledge is not what brings about the outcome (another person brings about the outcome which God knows will occur). The best example of this is when we commit sin. We bring about our sins, we cause them to occur, God does not bring about or cause our sins, we do. And when we sin did we have to do so? No, especially if we are believers. So these outcomes that occur, that will occur, will occur with certainty. But did they have to happen, were they necessitated? No. So our sins will occur with certainty but they are not necessary events. And our sins involve choices when we make the wrong choice and we could have chosen to do otherwise.

    “No matter how many times you say that what is certain cannot also be contingent, it is just not the case.”

    Picirilli defines contingent as something that: “really can be one way or another (or more). It doesn’t have to be the way it is”. The claim that what is certain cannot be contingent. Is again completely refuted by the example of God creating the world. The creation of the world by God was a contingent event, it did not have to occur the way that it occurred (he could have also created a world different than this one with different features), yet it occurred with certainty. And again our future sins, especially as believers are contingent events that did not have to occur in the way they occur, but they will certainly occur. The future consists of outcomes that will all most definitely occur. This is why God can reveal to prophets what will occur in the future, because there is a definite and actual future consisting of all of the events that will certainly occur. But just because they will occur, and will certainly occur, does not mean they were all necessary events.

    “I liked the observation that Picirilli referenced in his article that even if God did not know the future it would still be certain.”

    Right, Picirilli is making the point that there is one actual future consisting of the events that will in fact occur. And those events will occur even if God did not know they will occur (though in fact God does know what every future outcome that occurs will be).

    “And certainty does not imply necessity (though what is certain could be necessary though it could also be contingent) regardless of God’s knowledge of such events.”

    This is what Picirilli discusses and shows to be true.

    “The plans God makes in response to His knowledge of our actions and choices do not render those choices necessary. It says nothing at all about the nature of the actions and choices themselves, whether they be necessary or contingent.”

    God foreknows all events that will occur even including those that involve libertarian free will. The choices we will make in the future are choices WE will in fact make. And God knows exactly how we will choose, though his knowing our choices does not cause our choices or mean that we did not have a choice or did not choose freely.

    Robert

    PS – here is a section where Picirilli discusses certainty, contingency, and necessity:

    [[[The “Problem” of Foreknowledge

    How do we reconcile God’s knowledge and decisions in eternity with what we do in time? If God knows what we’re going to do tomorrow, aren’t we going to do that? If God foreknew who would put faith in Christ, do they have any other choice?

    There is a current movement in theology (in my view, neo-Arminian) called “open theism,” which denies that God knows in advance the free decisions that human beings make. Their argument is interesting. They say, if God knows ahead of time what decision I’m going to make, then that’s the decision I’ll have to make because if I made a different one, God would be wrong! So, in order to protect our freedom, they have taken the drastic step, theologically, of denying that God knows the future! How do we respond to this logical conundrum?

    First, we distinguish between certainty, contingency, and necessity. A “necessity” has to be the way it is, for cause-effect reasons. A “contingency” really can be one way or another (or more). It doesn’t have to be the way it is, even though it is that way; any free decision is in this category. A “certainty,” on the other hand, is what was, or is, or will be: a mere fact, in other words.

    Note: all events are certainties (facts). Some events are both certainties and necessities at the same time: laws of physics, for example. On the other hand, some events are both certainties and contingencies: if the Flames will lose their next game, it is certain that they will (only if they will) but whether they win or lose is contingent, depending on how they and the other team play, how the referees call things, etc. But no event is both a contingency and a necessity at the same time.

    We all believe that there really are free decisions that are contingencies. We really can choose one way or another on all sorts of things, silly and important, moral and non-moral. Though God knows which way we will choose, His knowing does not cause the choices. He knows the choices we will make only if we will make those choices. He can know something in advance without closing the door to other possibilities.

    Comparing God’s knowledge to ours may help. While we can’t know the future, we can know the past. I know what suit I put on earlier this morning, for example. Did I have to? Could I have chosen a different one? Sure. Is it certain that I chose this one? Yes? No one would think of saying that since I know as certain that I wore this suit I couldn’t have worn another one because doing so would have made me mistaken! Had I decided to wear a different one, I would know, now, that I certainly wore that one.

    In the same way, God’s knowledge of a future fact is not the cause of the fact. Nor does it mean that the fact has to be the way it will be. He knows that the U.S. is going to war with Iraq only if, in fact, that is going to happen. When contingencies are involved, free decisions will be made by the people involved when the time comes. God’s prior knowledge of those decisions ahead of time no more causes them or closes the door to other possibilities than my knowledge of the past. He knows what choice I will make only if I will make that choice.]]]

  86. It looks to me like the Calvinist objection here boils down to the Calvinists saying “Job is not really inerrant; only Romans 9 is, and only we have a right to interpret it.” My only input in this discussion is that God says “have you considered my servant Job?” not “have you considered my robot Job?” God frames the question in such a way as to deny Calvinism from the get-go because Calvinism is like sacrificing your children to Moloch, of which God says in Jeremiah 7:31 “which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.”

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