Taking a Break

I will be away from the computer until at least next Tuesday.  I hope to then get a few posts up before the end of that week.  God Bless.

Paul Washer: Calvinist, Arminian, or Confused?

I really have no idea.  I have just recently heard of the guy and have not personally heard him preach or teach.  However, I find this post to be particularly interesting.  I know I read a similar post on Washer recently, but I can’t for the life of me remember where.  What do you think?

A Message Charles Finney Would Have Loved

Update: The author of the post I linked to above (Rick Frueh) also authored the other post on Paul Washer that I couldn’t remember where I had read it.  Here it is:

Calmianism

 

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 6: Conclusions to the Positive Argument

Thomas Ralston now concludes his positive arguments in favor of self-determinism:

(4) In conclusion, upon this part of the subject, we think it proper briefly to notice the absurdity of attempting to reconcile the doctrines of necessity with the proper freedom and accountability of man.

This, President Edwards and many others have labored hard to accomplish. They have contended that, although the will is irresistibly fixed by necessity, yet man is properly a free and accountable moral agent, merely because he has a will, acts voluntarily, and is not, by natural force, constrained to go contrary to his will. The names by which things are called cannot, in the least, alter their nature. Hence, to load man with the ennobling epithets of moral agency, freedom, liberty, accountability, etc., while we bind him fast with the cords of necessity, can never tend in the least to slacken those cords, or to mend his condition.

To say that a man enjoys freedom merely because he has liberty to obey his will, when that will is fixed by necessity, is as absurd as to contend that a man enjoys freedom in a civil sense merely because he is at liberty to obey the laws under which he is placed, when those laws are enacted by a cruel tyrant over whom he has no control, and are only a collection of bloody edicts. Would any man contend that because he had the privilege of acting according to such a system of laws, thus arbitrarily imposed upon him, he was therefore in the enjoyment of freedom in the most rational sense? Far from it. And why? Simply because the oppressed subject would require an agency in making those laws. So long as this is denied him, and he feels upon his neck the galling yoke of tyranny, in vain might you endeavor to solace him by enlarging upon his exalted privilege of obeying the law. You might assure him that no natural force could constrain him to go contrary to the law, and that consequently he is possessed of freedom in the proper sense, but all would be in vain. He would only feel that you were mocking at his chains!

We now appeal to the candid mind to determine if this is not precisely the kind of moral freedom which President Edwards allows to man, on account of which he strongly pleads that he is properly a free agent and justly accountable. Most unquestionably it is. He contends that man is a free moral agent because he may do as he wills, when his will is as unalterably fixed by necessity as the pillars of heaven. Such liberty as the above can no more render its possessor a free, accountable moral agent, than that possessed by a block or a stone.

Indeed, there is no difference between the liberty attributed to man by the learned President of Princeton College, and that possessed by a block of marble as it falls to the earth when let loose from the top of a tower. We may call the man free because he may act according to his will or inclination, while that will is determined by necessity; but has not the marble precisely the same freedom? It has perfect liberty to fall; it is not constrained by natural force to move in any other direction. If it falls necessarily, even so, on the principle of Edwards, man acts necessarily. If it be said that the marble cannot avoid falling as it does, even so man cannot avoid acting according to his will, just as he does. If it be said that he has no disposition, and makes no effort, to act contrary to his will, even so the marble has no inclination to fall in any other direction than it does. The marble moves freely, because it has no inclination to move otherwise; but it moves necessarily, because irresistibly impelled by the law of gravitation.  Just so man acts freely, because he acts according to his will; but he acts necessarily, because he can no more change his will than he can make a world.

And thus it is plain that, although necessitarians may say they believe in free agency and man’s accountability, it is a freedom just such as pertains to lifeless matter. If, according to Edwards, man is free, and justly accountable for his actions merely because he acts according to his own will, when he has no control over that will, upon the same principle the maniac would be a free, accountable agent. If, in a paroxysm of madness, he murders his father, he acts according to his will. It is a voluntary act, and necessitarians cannot excuse him because his will was not under his own control; for, in the view of their system, it was as much so as the will of any man in any case possibly can be. The truth is, it is an abuse of language to call that freedom which binds fast in the chains of necessity. Acting voluntarily amounts to no liberty at all, if I cannot possibly act otherwise than I do.

The question is, not whether I have a will, nor whether I may act according to my will, but What determines the will? This is the point to be settled in the question of free agency. It is admitted that the will controls the actions; but who controls the will? As the will controls the actions, it necessarily follows that whoever controls the will must be accountable for the actions.  Whoever controls the will must be the proper author of all that necessarily results from it, and consequently should be held accountable for the same. But man, say necessitarians, has no control whatever over his will. It is fixed by necessity just as it is, so that it could no more be otherwise than the effect could cease to result from the cause.

According to this, we may talk as we may about free agency, the liberty of the will, accountability, etc., but man, after all the embellishment we can impart, is a free, accountable agent, just in the same sense as the most insignificant particle of lifeless matter. Here we will close the present chapter by calling to mind what we have endeavored to exhibit.

1. We have endeavored to explain what is implied in the proper free moral agency of man.

2. We have endeavored to establish that doctrine by the evidence of consciousness; by an observation of the history of the world; and by an appeal to the divine administration as set forth in the Scriptures. Let the reader decide. (Weslyan Heritage Collection CD, Elements of Divinity,  pp. 193-194)

It is hard to improve on Ralston’s critique.  He has effectively pushed back the curtain and revealed that the “wizard” is nothing more than illusion and clever sophistry.  It is one thing to deny genuine free agency and embrace determinism, but it is an abuse of language and an insult to human intelligence to pretend that determinism is compatible with responsibility and accountability.  Having concluded his positive argument for self-determinism, Ralston will now focus on tackling the objections and arguments put forth by the necessetarians against the reasonableness of man’s free agency as Ralston has defined and defended it.  Stay tuned because Thomas Ralston is really just getting started and the best is yet to come…

Go to Part 7

 

 

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 5: The Scriptural Evidence

Ralston continues with his defense of free moral agency from Scripture:

(2) In the next place, the Scriptures everywhere address man as a being capable of choosing; as possessing a control over his own volitions, and as being held responsible for the proper exercise of that control.

In Deuteronomy 30:19, we read: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” And in Joshua 24:15: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” Now, to choose is to determine or fix the will; but men are here called upon to choose for themselves, which, upon the supposition that their will is, in all cases, fixed necessarily by antecedent causes beyond their control, is nothing better than solemn mockery.

It is significant that heaven and earth is called as a witness against those who are choosing between life and death, blessings and cursings.  They are being told in no uncertain terms that they will be held accountable for whatever decision they make.  This would seem to presuppose moral free agency.  As Ralston points out, the choice is “theirs” to make.  This would indicate that they are in control of their choice and will be held accountable because of that control.  If their choice is controlled by factors other than the agent himself, then it is senseless to hold the agent accountable for that decision and to call heaven and earth as a witness against that decision (and person) if there was never any real choice in the matter to begin with (i.e., their choice was predetermined and necessary; they could not have chosen other than they did), and would amount to little more than mockery as Ralston well points out.

It is also significant with regards to Deut. 30:19 that just a few verses prior to Moses’ call to make a decision for or against life that he tells the people that they are fully capable of making the right choice, “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach…No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.” (30:11-14) This militates strongly against any form of determinism, for according to necessitarian dogma it is quite untrue that it was not too difficult for many of them to obey.  Those who disobeyed (and many surely did) could not possibly have done otherwise than to disobey if determinism is true.  However, Moses made it clear that all who heard his voice were indeed capable of obeying the divine command and firmly rebuked any who might dare to declare otherwise.  For more on this, see this post.

Our Saviour, in Matthew 23:37, complains of the Jews: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Again, in John 5:40, our Lord says: “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”

The fault lies with them because they were in full control of their will.  If there decisions were predetermined then the fault does not lie with them for it was not in their control to do other than they did.  Yet the Lord lays the blame on them for not exercising their wills properly.  Matthew 23:37 is especially significant as Christ makes it clear that He desired to gather them but their unwillingness prevented that which He desired for them.  The common Calvinist attempt to make a distinction between the “children” and those who “would not” is desperate and far from convincing.

These, and numerous other passages of a similar import, refer expressly to the will of men as being under their own control. And to put the matter beyond dispute, men are here not only held responsible for the character of their will, but they are actually represented as justly punishable on that account. In the instance of Christ lamenting over Jerusalem, and complaining, “How often would I have gathered,” etc., “and ye would not,” the punishment is announced in the words which immediately follow: “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” Now, the question is, can the Saviour of the world, in terms of the deepest solemnity, upbraid men for the obstinacy of their wills, and denounce against them the severest punishment for the same, if the whole matter is determined by necessity, and no more under their control than the revolutions of the planets? According to the notion of President Edwards and others; the will is as necessarily fixed by antecedent causes as any effect whatever is by its appropriate cause. If so, the agency of man can have no influence in determining his will, and consequently he cannot in justice be held accountable and punishable for the same. But as we have shown the Scriptures hold man accountable and punishable for his will, consequently it cannot be determined by necessity, but must be, in the true sense, dependent on man’s own proper agency.

(3) In the last place, we argue the proper freedom of the human will from the doctrine of a general judgment, and future rewards and punishments, as set forth in the Scriptures.

Here we need not enlarge. That all men are responsible to God for all the determinations of their will, and that in a future day they will be judged, and rewarded or punished accordingly, are matters expressly taught in the Scriptures. Now, according to the necessitarian scheme, how, we ask, can these things be reconciled with the divine attributes? As well might we suppose that an all-wise and merciful Being would arraign before his bar, and punish, or reward, the water for running downward, or the sparks for flying upward. As well might he punish the foot because it is not the hand, or the hand because it is not the eye. As well might he reward or punish the fish for swimming in the sea, or the birds for flying in the air! If such a procedure would universally be pronounced absurd in the extreme, we ask, upon the supposition that the will of man is determined by antecedent or external causes, as necessarily as the laws of nature, where is the difference? Every argument that would show absurdity in the one case, would, in all fairness, show the same in the other. (Elements of Divinity, pp. 190-192, Weslyan Heritage Collection CD)

In our next post we will examine Ralston’s conclusion to his defense of man’s moral free agency.

Title Change

Changed the title for Perseverance of the Saints Part 10 to “Examining Wilderness Typology in Hebrews”.  I had originally decided to call it “Tying up Loose Ends in Hebrews” because I was going to cover two topics but ended up only covering one (due to length) so the title didn’t seem appropriate.  The other topic I was going to discuss was whether or not apostasy as described in Hebrews is irrevocable.  Part 11 will deal with that topic, Part 12 will deal with texts commonly appealed to in support of unconditional eternal security (which might need to be more than a single post long), and Part 13 will deal with the topic of assurance.  That is how I see the series developing as of now but such things are always subject to change 🙂

Perseverance of the Saints Part 10: Examining Wilderness Typology in Hebrews

Some Calvinists have argued that the frequent references to the wandering Israelites in the desert suggest that the writer of Hebrews is not addressing apostasy from true faith.  It is assumed that the wandering generation who failed to enter the Promised Land never had a saving faith relationship with the Lord.  Since the writer of Hebrews uses the wandering generation as an example or object lesson for the situation being addressed among his readers, it is argued that this indicates that he does not consider those he warns of apostasy to be truly regenerated believers.  In other words, if we have good reason to doubt that the wilderness generation of Israelites who failed to enter the Promised Land was saved, then we have reason to doubt that those the writer of Hebrews warns, while holding up those Israelites as an example, were really saved either.  I believe this approach fails for the following reasons:

Whose Hearts Were in Danger of Being Hardened?

The writer of Hebrews sees apostasy as the end result of a hardened heart.  This is especially emphasized in Hebrews chapter 3 which is also the primary chapter that makes frequent references to the wilderness generation of Israelites.  Who then is being warned not to harden their hearts and to heed the voice of God in chapter 3?  In the first verse of Hebrews 3 the inspired writer makes clear that his warning is directed to “holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling” who have confessed Christ.  We have already determined that the writer of Hebrews sees holiness in terms of the soul cleansing benefits of the atonement, and we have no reason to believe that he considers their confession of Christ to be anything less than genuine.  Therefore, we have very good reason for concluding that the writer of Hebrews sees the very ones that he has determined to warn, while using the illustration of the wilderness Israelites, as truly saved.  There is no indication that he shifts his attention away from these “holy brethren” to some potential converts, who have not yet embraced the gospel, in the admonitions that directly follow.  In verse 12 he ties the warning directly to these same “brethren”:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (verses 12, 13)

What sense would it make to say to unbelievers, “Take care…that there not be in any one of you an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God?”  Why shouldn’t unbelievers have an evil and unbelieving heart?  Does it make sense to warn unbelievers against falling away from God?  This is not a call to conversion but a warning to those who are already converted.  We can plainly see this in the fact that the writer of Hebrews then calls on them to “encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  Are unbelievers to encourage each other?  Are they to encourage each other in unbelief or in a faith that they do not yet possess?  Verse 16 then returns to the example of the wilderness generation, “For who provoked Him when they heard?  Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses?”  It would be wise for us to consider carefully why the writer of Hebrews makes such a statement.  I believe it is an important clue for how we should understand the intended parallel between the wilderness generation and those being addressed in this letter which leads us to the second problem with the Calvinist appeal to this OT parallel:

The Parallel of Deliverance and Redemption

We need to notice two things that the writer of Hebrews wants us to focus on in verse 16 (above).  First, we see that these Israelites “came out of Egypt.”  How does this relate to his present audience?  It seems quite clear throughout the epistle that the writer of Hebrews sees his audience as those who, like the Israelites in the desert, have “come out of Egypt.”  They have experienced a very real deliverance.  The Israelites experienced deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and the intended audience of Hebrews have experienced deliverance from the bondage of sin (and perhaps Jewish ritual as well if we hold to the view that it is primarily Jews that are being addressed).  The other important feature of this passage is that these Israelites were “led by Moses.”  Just as the Israelites of the Exodus followed Moses out of the bondage of Egypt, so have these present believers escaped the bondage of sin and law by becoming followers of Jesus Christ, Who has been proclaimed Moses’ superior in every way (3:1-6).

The writer of Hebrews never questions the initial deliverance of his audience; rather, he plainly assumes it throughout his epistle.   His main concern is that they continue to follow and obey Christ so they will not fail to enter that eternal rest which belongs only to those who endure to the end in saving faith (3:6, 14).  The lesson that needs to be learned is that the Israelites initial deliverance did not guarantee them the rest of the promised land, and the initial deliverance of these believers does not guarantee them the eternal rest of the Messianic Kingdom.  If these believers cease to heed the voice of God and begin to give way to sin and disobedience then they are in danger of missing the goal of their faith.  This is as far as the parallel was intended to be understood.  We see further confirmation of this in Chapter 11 where the heroes of faith are held up as examples for these believers to emulate:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on earth.  For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.  And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

These were commended for dying in the faith without yet fully receiving the promise and for not returning to the country that they left behind (which seems to mean only that they did not fall back into unbelief but held to the promises of God by faith).  By faith they continued towards the goal and refused to return in their hearts to that “country” from which they had been led.  We see again that the issue is not whether or not they had experienced initial faith but whether or not they continued in their faith journey towards the ultimate goal of their faith.  This was the case of the wandering generation of Israelites as well.  They had left Egypt in faith but later returned to Egypt in their hearts.  It was these same delivered Israelites who later provoked God’s anger in the wilderness through disobedience and unbelief and were therefore denied access into the Promised Land (3:17-19).  There is a greater promise for the believers that the writer of Hebrews is addressing to attain, but they too will fall short of receiving that promise if, after being delivered, they return again to Egypt (Judaism?) in their hearts.  Like the wandering Israelites they are in a state “between” initial deliverance and final rest (which in their case is the reception of an eternal rest rather than the temporal possession of a promised land).  For this reason they are being encouraged to continue in their faith and lay hold of the promise because they have not yet arrived and may, like the Israelites of old, tragically fall short of the promised rest that awaits them (4:1).  As believers in Jesus Christ they are in the process of entering that rest, but that process can fail to reach fruition if faith is not ultimately maintained (4:2-11).  Grant R. Osborne gives us a concise summary of how the wilderness typology is being used by the writer of Hebrews:

Wilderness typology was quite prevalent in the early church as illustrative of both judgment and reward.  Both 1 Cor. 10:1-13 and Jude 5 make it a warning against the dangers of sin.  The obvious inference in all three passages is that one dare not trust his original “deliverance” from sin and lapse into apathy, but must persevere in his walk with Christ.  Ps. 95:7b-11, used by the writer as the basis for his splendid midrash here, was sung by Jews as part of their Sabbath worship in the temple.  The readers probably understood it in this fashion, especially since verses 1-7a of the psalm consist of a call to worship.  The obvious inference is that one must listen to God- “Today if you hear His voice” (vv. 7, 15)- and that listening includes obedience. (Grace Unlimited, ed. Clark H. Pinnock)

Exactly.  Apathy towards sin, immaturity, and disobedience are all closely connected and will eventually lead to outright unbelief and rejection (2:1-4; 3:17-19; 4:6, 11; 6:1-8; 10:26; 121-2, 15-17, 25).  Hebrews 5:11 states that his readers have “become dull of hearing” and verse 12 rebukes them for their lack of maturity which leads to the dreadful warning in Hebrews 6:4-8 concerning those who have “fallen away.”  Hence the repeated imperative: “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (3:7, 8, 13, 15; 4:7)  This is the same thing being expressed by the metaphor of the field (6:7, 8).  The land that is being described does not begin in a hardened state but begins in a softened and broken state which can absorb the rain and yield good fruit, and is therefore speaking of those who are already believers (vs. 7).  However, if the land becomes hardened (due to apathy towards sin and continual disobedience), then that field can no longer soak in sufficient rain for producing useful vegetation (vs. 8).  Instead it can only produce weeds and thistles.  The hardened land represents those believers who have hardened their hearts to God’s voice to the point of “falling away” from the living God.  The thorns and thistles are the evidence of apostasy and evokes the curse of God.  There is grave danger for the believer in becoming apathetic towards sin for it can lead to the most dreadful of all spiritual consequences.  This is one of the main themes of the entire epistle.

The Wandering Israelites had Experienced True Faith

We need to also point out that there is strong Biblical evidence that the Israelites who had been delivered from Egypt had indeed entered into covenant relationship with God through faith (even though the illustration would still pose no difficulty for the Arminian view if it could be shown that the entire generation had never experienced saving faith).  It would be quite the stretch to think that the Israelites putting blood on their doorposts in obedience to Moses’ command was anything less than an act of faith (Exodus 12:28, cf. Hebrews 11:28).  They trusted that God was about to deliver them and that He would provide for them since they did not make provisions for their exodus from Egypt (Ex. 12:39).  Should we really believe that the Israelites observed the Passover in unbelief (especially since unbelief is correlated with disobedience in Hebrews 3:18 and 19)?  They were obedient and they trusted God and God redeemed them as a result (notice especially that in Hebrews 11:29 we are told that, “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land…”).

So we see that the Israelites began their journey in faith; but is there any reason to believe that they exercised faith again after their initial deliverance?  After God destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea we read:

When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses. (Exodus 14:31)

And in the song of Moses and Israel we read, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God and I will praise Him; my father’s God and I will exalt Him.” (Ex. 15:2)

We also find that the people affirmed their commitment to the Lord and His covenant in Ex. 19:7-9; 24:3, 7-8.  What then do we make of Hebrews 3:10 and 11?

Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they did not know my ways’; as I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’

It would seem that the Lord is speaking of a general pattern of rebellion that hardened the hearts of the Israelites to the point of outright unbelief. They refused to believe that God could give them the land of Canaan because there were giants in the land (Num. 13:26-14:10).  They were therefore denied access into that land.  This does not mean that these Israelites never exercised genuine faith in God.  Rather it illustrates the importance of resisting the deceitfulness of sin and continually heeding the voice of God.  If we continue to spurn his voice we will harden our hearts and make it harder for us to trust and obey God to the point of unbelief and apostasy.  That is what the writer of Hebrews is warning his readers about.  We need to be careful not to draw too much from the example of the wandering generation since even though they were denied access into the Promised Land and died in the wilderness (Num. 14:30-35); they were still forgiven by God for their sin (Num. 14:20).  Failure to enter the Promised Land did not necessarily constitute loss of salvation (since both Moses and Aaron were denied access), while failure to enter God’s eternal rest certainly does.

Conclusion:  The use of OT parallel between the wilderness generation of Israelites and the intended audience of the epistle to the Hebrews poses no threat to the Arminian interpretation.  In fact, the Arminian position is supported by the specific way that the writer of Hebrews uses the example of the wandering generation.  The intended audience of the epistle had been redeemed from sin just as the Israelites of the exodus had been redeemed from Egypt.  They, like the wilderness generation, are considered God’s chosen covenant people who have heard and responded to God’s voice but must continue to hear and respond to God’s voice in order to reach the ultimate goal of their faith: eternal rest in God’s Kingdom.

Go to Part 11

Go to Part 1

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 4: God’s Divine Administration

Thomas Ralston begins his appeal to Scripture with his third evidence for self-determinism in his Elements of Divinity:

3. Our third evidence of man’s proper free agency is founded upon the divine administration toward him, as exhibited in the Holy Scriptures.

Here we shall perceive that revelation beautifully harmonizes with nature; and those clear and decisive evidences of our free agency, which, as we have seen, are derived from experience and observation, are abundantly confirmed by the book of God.

(1) We see this, first, in contemplation of the condition in which man was placed immediately after his creation. A moral law was given him to keep, and a severe penalty annexed to its transgression. Upon the supposition that man was not made a free agent, God must have known it; and if so, under these circumstances to have given him a moral law for the government of his actions, would have been inconsistent with the divine wisdom; for a moral law, commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong, can only be adapted to beings capable of doing both right and wrong.

Suppose, when the Almighty created man capable of walking erect upon the earth, but incapable of flying in the air like the fowls of heaven, he had given him a law forbidding him to walk, and commanding him to fly, every intelligent being would at once perceive the folly of such a statute. And wherefore? Simply because man has no power to fly, and therefore to command him to do so must be perfectly useless. But suppose, in addition to the command requiring an impossibility, the severest penalty had been annexed to its violation, the administration would not only be charged with folly, but it would be stamped with cruelty of the deepest dye. Suppose again, that, circumstanced as man was in his creation, the law of God had commanded him to breathe the surrounding atmosphere, and to permit the blood to circulate in his veins, and a glorious promise of reward had been annexed to obedience. In this case, also, the law would universally be pronounced an evidence of folly in the Lawgiver; and why so? Because obedience flows naturally from the constitution of man. He can no more avoid it than a leaden ball let loose from the hand can avoid the influence of gravitation. In the former supposition, obedience was impossible, for man can no more fly than he can create a world; in the latter, disobedience is impossible, for man can no more prevent the circulation of his blood than he can stop the sun in his course. But in both cases the administration is marked with folly. Thus it is seen that a moral law can only be given to a being capable of both right and wrong. Hence, as God gave man a moral law for the government of his actions, he must have been a free moral agent, capable alike of obedience and of disobedience.

We think it impossible for the unbiased mind to read the history of the creation and fall of man, and not feel that in that case God treated him as a free moral agent. Upon the supposition that the will, and all the actions of man, are necessarily determined by the operation of causes over which he has no control, (according to the principles of necessity,) the administration of God, in the history of the fall of man, is represented as more silly and cruel than ever disgraced the reign of the meanest earthly tyrant! Against the administration of the righteous Governor of the universe, shall such foul charges be brought? Forbid it, reason! Forbid it, truth! Forbid it, Scripture!

Can a rational man believe that God would so constitute Adam in paradise as to make his eating of the forbidden fruit result as necessarily from his unavoidable condition as any effect from its cause, and then, with a pretense of justice, and a claim to goodness, say, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die”? Surely, most surely, not. The whole history of the Fall, in the light of reason, of common sense, and in view of all that we know of the divine character and government, proclaims, in language clear and forcible, the doctrine of man’s free moral agency. (pp. 188-189)

In fact, the only way for determinism to remain consistent is to admit that God caused Adam to sin and then visited punishment on him and all creation for doing the very thing that God ordained him to do.  Some Calvinists will say that Adam had the power of self-determination while his posterity lost that constitution in the fall, but this destroys other cherished Calvinist doctrines.  If this were the case then the Calvinist must admit that God could foreknow Adam’s free choice without rendering it necessary by way of divine decree which would land them squarely in the Arminian camp with regards to God’s ability to foreknow true contingencies.

If Calvinists want to deny that God can know anything that He did not Himself ordain and therefore render necessary, then the blame for Adam’s transgression must rest squarely on God.  God did not “permit” the fall in Calvinism because permission is the language of libertarian freedom.  If God did not permit the fall then only one thing remains: He caused it and is therefore the author of sin.  More than that he is the only sinner since He is the only true actor in the universe if the power of self-determination is completely denied.  He then punishes His creatures with eternal torments for doing the very thing that God ordained for them to do.  Ralston well said: “Forbid it, reason! Forbid it, truth! Forbid it, Scripture!”

Go to Part 5