The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture

What is Free Will?

It may seem strange to some that there even is a debate as to what constitutes free will.  The average person believes that he has free will.  Whenever he is confronted with a choice he believes that he can either choose this way or that, and that either choice is a real possibility.  In fact, this is what we generally think of when using the word choice.  We think of the power to choose between alternatives.  But the simple concepts of choice and free will have unfortunately been confused and complicated by Calvinists. As a result of their commitment to exhaustive determinism, Calvinists deny that the will is free in the sense that most people would naturally understand it to be. Yet, they refuse to jettison these commonly used terms despite holding to a theology that denies these concepts as normally understood.

They simply redefine “free will” so that it becomes essentially meaningless as normally understood.  It becomes the “freedom” to do what one must in fact do.  It is the “freedom” to do what has been predetermined from all eternity for one to do.  It is the “freedom” to do what we have been irresistibly programmed to do (and free will has essential reference to “willing” and not just “doing”, i.e one might be hindered from “doing” what he has freely “willed” to do).  It is essentially a necessitated freedom (a “freedom”  that means “necessitated”)  which betrays the inherent contradiction in the Calvinistic use of terms.

For most people this does not seem at all like freedom in the sense that people normally understand it when speaking of free will.  In fact, most people understand that a will that acts by necessity is the opposite of a free will.  Yet Calvinists want to take the opposite of free will and render that the proper definition of the term. [1]

Arminians, on the other hand, are able to work with standard definitions in using terms like “free will” and “choice”.  To speak of free will is to speak of the power of self-determinism in a person.  A person wills to either do this or that, or neither as the case may be. When we use the term “free will” we are describing the freedom the person has to choose from available options. The will is free in so far as it is not necessitated.  If the will can only move in one direction, and no other directions are possible, then the will would not in that case be properly called “free”.  Freedom of the will has reference to the will’s ability to freely choose.  A free will is free from necessity.  It has alternative power. [2]

The Reality and Meaning of Choice

It may be better to simply focus on the reality of choices.  To speak of a choice is to speak of an agent deciding between two or more possibilities.  Again, this is the standard definition that most people take for granted when speaking of choice or the action of choosing.  Where there are options to choose from there is choice.  If an option is not available, then it ceases to be an “option”, and choice, in that case, ceases to be a possibility.

But, again, things are not so simple when dealing with those who are comfortable using words in ways that are incompatible with (and often the polar opposite of) standard definitions.  Calvinists and necessitarians still often want to speak of choices and choosing (there are some Calvinists that freely admit that such language is incompatible with Calvinistic determinism, but at present they are in the minority).  But according to Calvinists all of our “choices” have been predetermined by God from before creation and before we were ever born or confronted with anything to choose from.  If this is the case, it seems clear that “choice” is emptied of meaning.

If the only course of action available for a person in any given situation is the course of action predetermined by God from eternity, then one never really has a “choice.”  The person can only do what he or she must do, and think what he or she must think.  The only course of action truly available is the predetermined one.  If that is the only course of action truly available, then there is nothing for the person to choose from and therefore there is, in fact, no “choice” at all.

This is an uphill battle for the Calvinist because we all believe that we make choices every day in numerous situations.  We recognize that when only one course of action is available, we do not in that case have a choice.  Some Calvinists who recognize this difficulty resort to focusing on the distinction between “having” choices and “making” choices.  They tell us that while we never have a choice we still make choices.  But it is at once apparent that it is quite impossible to “make” a choice without first “having” a choice.  One simply cannot choose (making a choice) if there is no choice to be made (having a choice).

The Calvinist who wants to make such illogical distinctions is then forced to define “making” a choice in an illusionary fashion.  He might argue that making a choice has reference only to one’s cognitive perception (conveniently forgetting that, according to Calvinistic doctrine, even the course of one’s cognitive perceptions is meticulously predetermined).  As long as that person believes he has a choice he can make a choice.  But this assertion betrays the need for having a choice in order to make a choice since the Calvinist recognizes that the person must at least “believe” or “perceive” that he has a choice before he can “make” a choice.  Furthermore, if Calvinistic determinism is true, then even cognitive “options” are not real options if the mind can only move in a predetermined and necessitated direction.

Truth, Choice, and the Testimony of Scripture

The more significant problem is that when we speak of choices we are speaking of the reality of the situation and not just how things may appear to be.  If I tell someone they have a choice when in fact I know that in reality only one course of action is available, then I am being deceptive in saying that the person has a choice.  The person may believe he has a choice, and even believe he made a choice, but the truth is that the person does not actually have choices as there is only one possible course of action available.  So if I told a person that he had a choice when he really (in reality) did not have a choice, then it would be seen at once that I was being deceptive and speaking lies.

Truth has to do with reality, how things really (truly) are, and not how things merely seem to be.  In fact, the word “deceptive” is most naturally employed when speaking of how things merely appear to be when in fact they are not as they seem.  To speak a lie is simply to speak of what is contrary to reality, and therefore what is also contrary to truth.  So the conclusion seems inescapable that it is deceptive and contrary to truth (lying) to tell someone they have a choice, when in fact they do not.  It then becomes immediately apparent that God would be guilty of gross deception since the Bible reveals that God both gives people choices, and commands them to make choices.  Consider the words of Moses to the Israelites,

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity…I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse [A choice is given by God, i.e. they have a choice].  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendents [Having given them a choice, God then commands them to make a choice]. (Deut. 30:15, 19)

Clearly the Israelites are given a real choice in this passage.  God makes it clear through Moses that He has set before them life, prosperity and blessing on the one side, and death, adversity and the curse on the other.  The language is very intentional.  They have two alternatives set before them and they are called on to choose between them.  The choice is not only set before them but the gravity of the choice is made explicit, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you…”

Heaven and earth is called as a witness because they will be fully responsible for the choice they make and that responsibility lies in the reality of the possibilities set before them.  They genuinely have a choice and they are being called on to make a choice in the most urgent manner possible.  Not only does God call on them to choose but persuades them to make the right choice, “So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendents.”  God demands that they choose between the alternatives set before them and expresses His desire that they choose life rather than death.  However, despite God’s expressed desire for them to choose life, He leaves the choice to them and for that reason calls heaven and earth as a witness against them.

This scenario simply does not fit the Calvinistic scheme.  If all of their actions are predetermined by God, then there is no choice to be made and no reason to call heaven and earth as a witness against them (concerning the choice they will make and the consequences that will follow).  If their actions are predetermined from eternity, then only one course of action is really set before them and there is no alternative. They would really have no choice but to do exactly as God has predetermined, and if that is the case, then God is being deceptive in telling them they do have a choice, that they really can choose between two alternatives, and that the reality of that choice is the basis of their responsibility before God (and God’s expressed desire for them to choose life would be directly contradicted by His eternal decree of reprobation for some).  This is further demonstrated when we consider Moses’ words in verses 11-14,

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. (emphasis mine)

It is extremely important to notice that Moses tells the people that they are fully capable of making the right choice (which is reinforced by God’s desire that they choose life in verse 19).  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.[3]  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.

This again establishes the basis of responsibility and accountability on the reality of choice (i.e. the ability to choose between real alternatives).  If the ones who chose not to follow the divine command had been predetermined to follow after death according to the irrevocable necessity of a divine decree, Moses could not say of them that they were capable of making the right choice.  He could not say that the choice was set before them so that they “may obey it.”  To the contrary, if those who followed after death did so of divine necessity, then the only purpose for Moses’ words would be for their condemnation and not so that they “may obey it.”  The purpose of Moses’ words for them would be only so they could disobey it in accordance with God’s irrevocable and irresistible eternal decree.  But the testimony of these passages is clearly against such a view.

So we have God setting before the people two alternatives.  We have God calling on them to choose between those alternatives.  We have God calling on heaven and earth as a witness against them in making that choice.  We have God expressing His desire that they choose life instead of death.  We have God telling the people that the right choice (to obey and live) is not beyond their capability (i.e. it is not “too difficult” or “beyond…reach”).  We have God telling them that the word of promise is “very near” and “in your mouth and in your heart” so they “may obey it”,  all of which is sheer nonsense if Calvinistic determinism is true.

If exhaustive determinism is true, then for those who disobeyed there was never any alternative to choose from (they had to disobey).  Heaven and earth was called as a witness against their unavoidable act of disobedience.  God’s express desire for them to choose life, rather than death, was deceptive and contradicted by His irrevocable and eternal predetermination that they disobey unto death, instead of obeying unto life.  Moses was wrong to tell them that the choice of obedience and life was not beyond them or too difficult, for surely it was.  It was not only too difficult but impossible for them.  Moses was lying when he told them that the word of promise for obedience was “very near”, for the promise was never even a remote possibility for those who disobeyed.   Moses was being deceptive when he said the word was in their mouth and heart that they “may obey it”, since obedience was as impossible for them as creating a universe.

This passage and numerous passages like it lay waste to the Calvinistic doctrine of exhaustive determinism.  Passages like these are simply incompatible with such a doctrine, while the intentional language of such passages fits perfectly with the Arminian account of free will, and the accountability attached to the exercising of that God given power to choose.  The alternative to a libertarian view of these passages has the unfortunate and inevitable consequence of making God into a liar who deceives His people into believing they are capable of making the right choice, when in reality it is impossible for them to choose at all.  A predetermined choice is not a choice at all since it is the only course of action available.  The best the Calvinist can offer is that God gives the illusion of choice while controlling the person’s every thought and action to conform to His infallible and irrevocable eternal decree.  Consider 1 Corinthians 10:13,

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.

The implications are obvious and unavoidable.  Those who fail to resist temptation have only themselves to blame, since God provided a way of escape.[4]  The verse plainly tells the believer that God is faithful, and that faithfulness is demonstrated in the fact that God will not allow the one tempted to be tempted beyond the ability to endure (i.e. resist) that temptation.[5]  But how does such a promise comport with exhaustive determinism? We know that all believers do fall to temptation at times (i.e., sin), and fail to make use of the way of escape provided for them by God in His faithfulness.  If Calvinistic determinism is true then their yielding to temptation was predetermined from all eternity, and could not possibly have been avoided.  In that case, it is simply not true that the temptation was not beyond their ability to endure, nor was it true that God faithfully provided a way of escape.  How could there be a “way of escape” for those who were predetermined to fall according to an eternal and irrevocable decree?

Again, the best the Calvinist can offer is that the believer had the illusion of choice.  He believed he could avoid temptation when in fact it was impossible to avoid.  God’s “way of escape” was nothing more than an unattainable illusion.  God merely provided the illusion of escape when no escape was possible.  He was not faithful after all, since they fell to temptation of necessity, a necessity fixed by God Himself from all eternity.  They could no more resist or escape the temptation than they could create a universe.  So while this simple passage lays waste to Calvinistic determinism, it fully comports with the Arminian doctrine of alternative choice and free will.  It also accords perfectly with the most basic and widely accepted definitions for these concepts.

Many more passages could be examined that would yield the same results.  The Calvinistic doctrine of determinism is simply incompatible with Biblical language concerning choice and responsibility.  It forces us to believe that God gives the illusion of choice when no choice is possible.  It forces us to believe that God holds us accountable and judges us most severely for “choices” we never in fact had the opportunity or capability to make.  It reduces free will to the “freedom” to do what we must; the “freedom” to do what we cannot avoid doing; the “freedom” to irresistibly conform to an irrevocable eternal decree.  Freedom is reduced to unavoidable necessity.  Thankfully, this is not the freedom and basis of responsibility revealed in Scripture.  Rather, Scripture reveals a freedom to choose among real alternatives, and holds us accountable for the choices we make because we are truly capable of making the right choice in those situations.[6]

————————————————————————————————————

[1] So scholars speak of “libertarian” free will.  This is, of course, redundant as liberty means freedom.  So “libertarian free will” essentially means free free will.  And this redundant addition of “libertarian” to “free will” becomes necessary only because those who deny free will want to continue to use the term.

[2] Alternative power in the will is a helpful way to describe free will.  I first encountered this phrase while reading Daniel D. Whedon’s Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, edited by John D. Wagner.  Whedon writes, “Objective volitional freedom requires external plurality of alternatives.  But when there are two possible courses, non-action may be in fact a third course.” (pg. 52)  He gives his definition of free will as, “…a power of choosing in a given direction, with full power of choosing otherwise.” (pg. 75)  So Whedon makes a distinction between the Edwardsian view of the will, which he terms “unipotent”, and his own view of the will which he terms, “pluripotent”, which represents the will’s causal power “of putting forth either of several effects.” (pg. 67)  For more on Daniel Whedon’s view contra Edwards, see here.

[3] The objection might be raised that we are incapable of perfectly obeying the law and so these passages actually do present God calling on the people to obey impossibilities.  But God fully knew that the law could not be perfectly obeyed and for that reason instituted the sacrificial system.  The people are being called on to obey God in the context of the provision of forgiveness when the law was violated, for submission to God in acknowledging guilt by way of sacrifice was itself an act of  faith and obedience and demonstrated the desire to remain in right relationship with God.  Essentially, they are being called on to make a commitment of faithfulness to God.  For this reason Paul can quote from these passages in pointing to Christ’s sacrificial provision and calling people under the New Covenant dispensation to faith in Christ (Romans 10:6-10). Notice how Paul equates the nearness of the word to one’s mouth and heart (verse 8 ) to the ability to confess “with your mouth” and believe “in your heart” that Jesus who died and rose from the dead (verses 6 and 7) is Lord, unto salvation.

[4] Notice the “therefore” of verse 14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”  The practical implications are obvious.  The call to flee from idolatry is tied directly to God’s faithfulness in not allowing us to be tempted beyond endurance and His gracious provision of a way of escape.

[5] Some Calvinists try to avoid the force of this passage by pointing out that it applies only to believers.  But the objection is irrelevant because if exhaustive determinism is true then it applies to believers as well as unbelievers.  All of our actions are predetermined by God (according to Calvinism).  Therefore, the incompatibility of Calvinistic exhaustive determinism with the promises of God, expressed in this passage, remain both valid and unavoidable.

[6] This is not to say that the sinner has the capability to obey and believe the gospel without the benefit of divine enabling.  Only after God graciously intervenes by overcoming the sinner’s depravity does the choice become real (remember that without the presence of real alternatives “choice” is meaningless).  Prior to the working of God’s enabling grace, the sinner has no choice but to remain in unbelief and rebellion.  However, once God enables the sinner to respond in faith to the gospel, he or she may yet resist the call of God to his eternal peril.

Advertisements

75 Responses

  1. Dan

    I went for awhile and then stopped reading the article in its entirety. That was my choice to do and so I did it.

    I am wondering if the “beef” you have with Calvinists might be an issue of “evil” and “good” will?

    What I mean by that is, do you consider all your choices freely unhindered by God to be good choices or evil choices?

    And, where does evil play in your understanding?

    It seems to me that no one would deny you the premise of free will. It seems to me to hinge on God’s Good Will and my evil will, no matter how good it is morally.

    Would you kindly comment on these issues?

    Thanks

  2. Dan

    What follows isn’t a challenge, but an honest question.

    Having been wrestling with the notion of ‘free will’ and the Calvinist p.o.v. on this very topic just this morning (prior to reading this blog), what about non-believers who do nice things and make good choices for themselves, their families and friends? If God has not entered their lives, how are they able to do good things?

    A link will do, if you like. Thanks in advance.

  3. Sorry, I think my question is directed to Michael first then Dan. I’m in agreement with the Arminian perspective more than the Calvinist on this topic, so need some help with the latter. Apologies and thanks.

  4. Michael,

    I assume you think Dan from Arminian Chronicles wrote this post. If that is the case, you are at the wrong blog.

    To be honest I am tempted not to respond to your question since you admit you didn’t bother reading the entire post (perhaps the answer you seek is in what you neglected to read), but I will try to answer your question anyway.

    I am wondering if the “beef” you have with Calvinists might be an issue of “evil” and “good” will?

    I have lots of “beefs” with Calvinism, but not with Calvinists (unless they want to call me a damnable heretic, etc.). This post is not really concerned with “evil” and “good” will, but with the reality (and meaning) of choice, and the testimony of Scripture concerning choice, and hence a Biblical definition of free will. The conclusion is that the Bible assumes a libertarian view of free will and cannot be harmonized with exhaustive determinism. But if you had read the whole post, you would have realized that.

    What I mean by that is, do you consider all your choices freely unhindered by God to be good choices or evil choices?

    If it is a “choice”, then by definition it is not necessitated, and is free (unhindered). That was also explained in the post.

    It seems to me that no one would deny you the premise of free will. It seems to me to hinge on God’s Good Will and my evil will, no matter how good it is morally.

    Not sure I really follow you here, but I think you are quite wrong that no one would deny the premise of free will as I have defined it in this post. In fact, I think just about any Calvinist would certainly deny me that premise.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. churchmouse,

    I supect you think my name is Dan because Michael wrongly assumed my name was Dan. So I guess this question is addressed to me.

    Having been wrestling with the notion of ‘free will’ and the Calvinist p.o.v. on this very topic just this morning (prior to reading this blog), what about non-believers who do nice things and make good choices for themselves, their families and friends? If God has not entered their lives, how are they able to do good things?

    I do think people are able to do good things. I think that God enables corrupt humanity to do good as a result of His common grace. However, even those good things that unbelievers do are not “good enough” in a sense (i.e. tainted), because they proceed from a heart of unbelief. Those deeds, while morally virtuous, can never perfectly attain to God’s holy standard, since they are not done in the context of love and faith towards God. And certainly, such good deeds can never merit salvation.

    Robert Picirilli puts in well in his book, Grace, Faith, Free Will,

    “Fallen man is not capable of any good that would justify him before God, nor is he capable of any absolute good. Even so, fallen man continues to be in the image of God and the recipient of common grace and general revelation. This means that he is capable of relative good, of doing and thinking things that are relatively worthwhile and noble. He exists, in other words, in a state of contradiction and painful conflict, always falling short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).” Pg. 36

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. Thanks, Ben — that is precisely the type of response I was looking for and, yes, I now understand the concept much better. (Sorry about the name mix-up!)

  7. churchmouse,

    No problem. Glad you found that helpful.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Ben,

    you are right, I was thinking you were Dan at Arminian Chronicles, until you graciously corrected my error. Thanks.

    But, if I may, you haven’t answered my question.

    I don’t believe, based on your article and articulation you would venture to answer the question.

    We do have free choice.

    God made it perfectly clear that we do by telling Adam not to do something that would be very deadly. He warned him not to make that deadly choice.

    He made it anyway, perfect Adam, sinless before God.

    Because of that choice, God declares us all “unrighteous”.

    We, in our best moral state of being, according to God, are unacceptable to Him to establish that that Adam lost.

    I still believe the only “beef” is found here, to admit that we have choices to make, but because of God’s declaration of our “state” of being before Him, after the fall, we must “choose” His solution and not ours to be absolved of unrighteousness no matter how good, perfect, righteous or moral a soul we are or achieve in this life before Him. We simply are sinners, undone, unrighteous and unacceptable needing His Salvation.

    I find enlightenment here, in the following Scriptures from Luke, when thinking about your argument above:

    Luk 2:25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
    Luk 2:26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
    Luk 2:27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
    Luk 2:28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
    Luk 2:29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
    Luk 2:30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
    Luk 2:31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    Luk 2:32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
    Luk 2:33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.
    Luk 2:34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed
    Luk 2:35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

  9. Dear Ben,

    I was hoping to get some clarification on what Arminians generally think about the control that God exercises in day to day life.

    Knowing that you believe in LFW and God does not control that, but when it comes to daily life what does God control? Or is the general Arminian thinking that God put laws into motion and He lets them work and only on some occasions does God actively intervenes in day to day life?

    Boiling it down, to an Arminian what does God control on a day to day basis?

    I fear as usual I am not as clear or succinct as I should be, but I hope my question is somewhat intelligible to you and perhaps the answer will help me crystallize a more clear understanding of Arminianism.

    Grace & Peace

  10. Michael,

    But, if I may, you haven’t answered my question.

    Which question didn’t I answer?

    I don’t believe, based on your article and articulation you would venture to answer the question.

    So you have read the whole thing now? And which question will I not venture to answer?

    We do have free choice.

    Glad you agree.

    I still believe the only “beef” is found here, to admit that we have choices to make, but because of God’s declaration of our “state” of being before Him, after the fall, we must “choose” His solution and not ours to be absolved of unrighteousness no matter how good, perfect, righteous or moral a soul we are or achieve in this life before Him. We simply are sinners, undone, unrighteous and unacceptable needing His Salvation.

    Whose “beef” are you referring to here? I basically agree with all that you say here (though I deny racial guilt, which you seem to imply).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Mitch,

    I am out of time for today. I will try to address your question tomorrow.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Ben,

    No worries, I will check back tomorrow.

  13. Great Article, Ben…

  14. Ben,

    you are right, I was assuming you “won’t” venture to answer my question and stand corrected. Accept my apology?

    Yes, I have read the whole article now and I have to say I have some “beef” with a lot of what is in it.

    I am not into stirring up hostilities between us. Nor am I interested in charging you wrong and me right.

    I want to say, I am not learned either in John Calvin or the Dutch reformer Arminius. I have dabbled to some degree with each and read many books and have many Christian friends of both persuasions. In fact, I am vice President on the board of directors of a ministry whose founder and President or Chairman of the board claims to be mostly Arminian in suit while I do not make that claim. We work well together and do not let our doctrinal differences interfere with the Work of the Lord we mutually have deep affection for and interests in.

    My question is stated here again, a bit differently than at first. Based on your article, do you consider “all” your choices, either, one, righteous or two, unrighteous based on the reference I made to verses of Scripture that God says of all humanity, after the fall of Adam, “there is none righteous, no not one”, all are unrighteous, no matter how decent, moral, truthful, honest, clean, upstanding the person is before God, the devils, the elect angels and mankind?

    You wrote: “…..To be honest I am tempted not to respond to your question since you admit you didn’t bother reading the entire post (perhaps the answer you seek is in what you neglected to read), but I will try to answer your question anyway…..”

    Well, no, that is not the case. I did bother to read the article, but, as is my habit, [maybe a habit that is not a decent, moral, honest, clean, upstanding and righteous habit], but my habit of reading nonetheless, the way I read sometimes is to stop when a question jumps up and in this world of blogs and comboxes, I can afford to stop and ask the question and then go on from there, as I have done here.

    But, because of that quoted citation of yours, I just went ahead and read the article completely and found still that I certainly have a difference of opinion with a lot of your presuppositions and conclusions and would like to take them one by one without any hostility on either of our sides?

    So, for now, do you believe that “all” your choices are unacceptable to God basis His proclamation that there is none righteous, no not one? And because of this, nothing you choose to do is acceptable to Him?

  15. Dear Ben,

    Wonderful post!!!

    God be with you,
    Dan

  16. Dear Michael,

    I was thinking you were Dan at Arminian Chronicles

    An easy mistake to make, but you can always tell the difference because Ben’s the intelligent, articulate one… and he likes the wrong NFL team. 🙂

    God be with you,
    Dan

  17. No Dan, it’s just that I have both of your websites next to each other on my desktop and when I clicked on yours, well, now, to my surprise it was Ben’s! And now that you mention it, I was thinking, hmmmm, Dan has gotten a bit smarter these days! 🙂

  18. Very good post Ben.

  19. An easy mistake to make, but you can always tell the difference because Ben’s the intelligent, articulate one… and he likes the wrong NFL team.

    Thanks Dan, but it is hard for me to receive that compliment since I often have to look up unfamiliar words while reading your posts. Don’t even need to comment on the “wrong NFL team.”

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Michael,

    You wrote:

    you are right, I was assuming you “won’t” venture to answer my question and stand corrected. Accept my apology?

    I was just confused as to what your question was. No need to apologize.

    My question is stated here again, a bit differently than at first. Based on your article, do you consider “all” your choices, either, one, righteous or two, unrighteous based on the reference I made to verses of Scripture that God says of all humanity, after the fall of Adam, “there is none righteous, no not one”, all are unrighteous, no matter how decent, moral, truthful, honest, clean, upstanding the person is before God, the devils, the elect angels and mankind?

    We are all unrighteous before God in that we have all sinned and fallen short of His glory. This doesn’t mean that no one ever does anything that is right. The Bible is full of examples of people who have pleased God in their choices and actions.

    You wrote: “…..To be honest I am tempted not to respond to your question since you admit you didn’t bother reading the entire post (perhaps the answer you seek is in what you neglected to read), but I will try to answer your question anyway…..”

    Well, no, that is not the case. I did bother to read the article, but, as is my habit, [maybe a habit that is not a decent, moral, honest, clean, upstanding and righteous habit], but my habit of reading nonetheless, the way I read sometimes is to stop when a question jumps up and in this world of blogs and comboxes, I can afford to stop and ask the question and then go on from there, as I have done here.

    That’s fine, but do you see how it might benefit you to keep reading since the answer to your question might be right there in the article?

    But, because of that quoted citation of yours, I just went ahead and read the article completely and found still that I certainly have a difference of opinion with a lot of your presuppositions and conclusions and would like to take them one by one without any hostility on either of our sides?

    OK

    So, for now, do you believe that “all” your choices are unacceptable to God basis His proclamation that there is none righteous, no not one? And because of this, nothing you choose to do is acceptable to Him?

    No, I do not believe that all of my choices are unacceptable to God. I do believe that I still sin and still fall short of His glory, but the Bible is plain that believers can please God. In fact, the Bible insists that we live lives that are pleasing to Him. I am sure that you can come up with numerous Scriptural examples yourself.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. Mitch,

    You wrote:

    Knowing that you believe in LFW and God does not control that, but when it comes to daily life what does God control? Or is the general Arminian thinking that God put laws into motion and He lets them work and only on some occasions does God actively intervenes in day to day life?

    Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that our freedom isn’t sometimes limited by God. I think it very often is. But God does give us a measure of freedom, and He does not call on us to make choices that we have no power to make. I believe that there are times when God overrides the will as well, but these are exceptions to the general rule, and the fact that God sometimes “overrides” the will makes clear that the will is not normally controlled by Him.

    Arminians see a God of infinite wisdom. He has absolutely no mental limitations. No problems are too difficult for Him to solve, even in the context of wills that oppose him, and allowing those wills to oppose Him. He is still able to accomplish all that He has planned to accomplish. He is not intimidated by creatures with free will, and is not unable to incorporate their decisions and actions into His overall plan (in fact, their existence and ability to make free choices is part of His plan, part of what He has sovereignly decided this world to be like). He is that wise.

    So Arminians have no problem holding to a very high view of providence within the balanced framework of both God’s power and wisdom. He is able to “work around” (so to speak) any decisions that any of His creatures will make, to the perfect accomplishing of all that He has set out to do. And this is just how He sovereignly decided to govern His universe. Personally, I think the Arminian view exalts God’s wisdom while the Calvinist view diminishes it (i.e. essentially teaches that the only way God can maintain control of His universe and accomplish His plans is to meticulously control the wills of His creatures at all times).

    I like the way the SEA statement of faith puts it,

    “We believe in one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who possesses perfect and exhaustive knowledge of the past, present, and future, and who preserves, regulates, governs and directs all things so that nothing in the world happens without either his causation or permission. God is the author of good but not of evil. Yet even evil is governed by God in that God limits it and directs it to an end fitting with his overall plan and purpose.”

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Hi Ben,

    Sweet post—I especially enjoyed your observation about how the word CHOICE is emptied of its content and bandied about by Calvinists who think they have retained its meaning. Your citation of Scripture about the obvious meaning of CHOICE is so apropo.

    But as for Michael’s use of the word CHOICE, I think he too (similar to Calvinists) is hedging on it, when he states “we must “choose” His solution” and puts the word CHOICE in quotation marks, as though to imply that in some sense (or a sense) the choice is not really a choice as we normally think of it. Therefore, when he says “we do have free choice,” I don’t think he’s defining CHOICE the same way you are.

    Arguably, Michael’s placement of STATE in quotation marks might also be suggesting a hedging of that word, since Michael, if he is currently under the influence of Calvinism (he states that some of his associates are Calvinists), may be feeling pressure to refer to the sinner’s state as “state”, lest the FAULT of the sinner’s state be ultimately layed at the feet of an all-decreeing God. In other words, it seems to me that Michael has put the word “state” in quotation marks to promote the idea that the evil state of the sinner is really just an “evil” state, having no ontological being. In this way God (in the Calvinistic system) avoids blame. This goes to my point in my last comment under 03-24-09, in which I state that evil is treated by the Calvinist as a thing that is not a thing. In this way Calvinists can claim that evil is NOT a thing when God’s exhaustive determinism is in view, but IS and thing when man’s sinfulness is in view. (Of course Calvinists do not admit doing this.) This doublethink is somewhat easily accomplished by a simple use of the word CHOICE (or STATE) in quotation marks, thus invoking the word’s meaning while not really granting its meaning at all. I’m not saying that Michael is fully aware of how he is using language deconstructively, but I don’t see why else he would bother to put these words in quotation marks in the context that we observe.

    Along these lines, I briefly checked out Cheung yesterday (the Calvinist whose views you brought my attention to), and noticed that his backpedaling concession which serves as the CONTRARE side of his dialectic is his use of the word INFLUENCE, in a context about divine influence. Of course for God TO INFLUENCE is not TO CAUSE, and so man, at brief points in Cheung’s exposition about God’s exhaustive determinism, is implied to be under divine influence only, not divine determinism. I have seen this trick of Calvinsts before, particularly in Jerry Bridge’s book, “Trusting God, Even When it Hurts,” where it is used even more subtly.

  23. Dan,

    Great points. I am not sure what Michael had in mind in the way he was using “choice”, etc., but I assumed he understood the proper context based on the post. So if he is using it in a different manner, then he is not really interacting with the subject of the post at all, but rather demonstrating why the things in the post needed to be said in the first place (by his own misuse of such terms).

    I have also had to explain the difference to Calvinists between influence and cause as they will conflate the terms. It may be because they have been indoctrinated to the point where the obvious distinctions have been lost to them, or because they want to make their doctrines seem more palatable to those they hope to indoctrinate (which seems deceptive to me).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  24. Dear Ben,

    It seems to me that you did not answer my question; I believe it is because I was not as clear as I should’ve been so I will try to ask again.

    In the Arminian view what does God control on an everyday basis? Knowing that generally God does not control the choices you make, but does He control the circumstances or the ramifications or the direction that those LFW choices take?

    Grace & Peace

  25. Mitch,

    This question confuses me some,

    does He control the circumstances or the ramifications or the direction that those LFW choices take?

    For instance, what do you mean by “the direction that those LFW choices take”?

  26. Daniel,

    I guess I should use your intermediary, “Ben”, to respond to your comments?

    Ben,

    I do not know of the nuances you refer to me.

    A “choice”, freely made, has either a good result before God or a bad result before God. As the Scripture teaches, whatever I sow, I reap and there is no respect of persons with God.

    I take issue with your article because you reserve to yourself “something” to do to receive His Salvation. Really what you are saying is, without your choice involved, you do not receive His Faith or His Salvation.

    My point is, Adam was perfect. He was given basically “two” things to do, not one or three or ten things to do.

    One, he was to increase the “image” of God’s Glory and perfection, purity, holiness and morality in the Garden and by that increase, the Garden would increase and the darkness surrounding the Garden would decrease and diminish finally cease to exist in this newly created heavens and earth, over time. At that time Death was not an issue so Adam could take all the time he needed to bring darkness to an end.

    Two, he was not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. If he made that choice and ate that fruit, he would surely die and Death would then have a foothold where it did not before.

    Can you think of or cite from Scripture anything else Adam was to do for God once he was given the authority over this new creation, these present heavens and earth? I don’t know how Calvinists would come down on this but I believe Adam had been given the right to choose what to do once he was given the “authority” to make choices for good or evil or “given the keys and ownership to the car”, to use a modern day term.

    My point is that everything “I” do that is not of “His Faith”, is sin, no matter how wonderful the results are because of my free will and choice. Everything “I” do is unrighteousness.

    An area of your comments I do not accept or agree with is this, “….This doesn’t mean that no one ever does anything that is right. The Bible is full of examples of people who have pleased God in their choices and actions….”

    I would say, unless you are wicked, through and through, most everything you do is “right”, yet, being already declared “unrighteous”, every right thing you do is not acceptable with God.

    Jesus made this claim to people doing right absent His Faith:

    Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
    Mat 8:11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
    Mat 8:12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    The context for pleasing God has nothing to do with being right or moral or smart. It has everything to do with having been given “His Faith” as Paul writes:

    Rom 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

    Can we find any common ground of agreement on these things?

    Or do you find something in error from where you sit with them?

  27. Just a quick note to everyone on this thread. I will be away from the computer until next Tuesday, so I will not be able to interact with any comments until then. Have a great weekend!

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. I will try to clarify and hope that it helps.

    Say that we have the choice to walk to work or ride our bike to work; now God does not control the choice, since we have LFW, but what about the circumstances-ramification of that choice?

    When I say the “direction that those LFW choices take” I mean the consequences that come about by those choices. I know that under LFW there is no antecedent cause for the choice one makes, but those choices do bring about cause and effect. So if one makes the choice to walk or bike to work those choices carry different causal factors into our day.

    For example, say we decide to bike to work and halfway there we get a flat tire. Does God control any part of that or is God just letting nature and laws do their thing?

    I really struggle to see what God actively controls on an every day basis in the Arminian scheme. I get the impression that for the most part God is a passive observer when it comes to our day to day life.

  29. I just read where you said you would be gone till Tuesday, I am leaving tonight and will not be back for two weeks, so it appears that we will have to pick this up at some other time.

    Grace & Peace

  30. Mitch, I have found that the Calvinist view of sovereignty (a.k.a. TULIP Calvinism) appeals to the fleshly, sinful aspect of humankind. The aspect of sin that lusts for, seeks, and admires the exercise of overwhelming, unstoppable power, the power to bend others to one’s will. The kind of power that Satan desires, the kind that oppresses the poor, the weak, the lowly, women, slaves, illiterate, the prison guard over the prisoner, the torturer over the tortured, etc.

    Unlike Satan, God is love (and he defines himself in His Word as “love”–“God is love”, not “God is power” or “God is justice”; though of course he is powerful and just. In order to love and be loved one cannot exercise absolute power over the other (regardless of who is the one and who is the other).

    When one finds the TULIP Calvinist description of election and sovereignty horrid and offense, it is because of the image of God in which He made us, they way in which He designed us to relate to Him and each other, and the grace He exercises toward and in us even while we in sin act in hate toward Him. God has made us to desire a loving (and therefore free–and not the Calvinist strange definition of free) relationship with Him and each other. And God exercises grace so that we can have such relationships.

    The desire for a freely (not Calvinist version of free, but really free) loving relationship is something God gives us. It is a God given desire, not a rebellious attitude, or an indication of some aspect of our sin nature.

    As for your question about what God controls on a day to day basis, he does not reveal that to us. he controls as much as he wants or needs to. Except for maintaining the existence of the physical universe, there is no need for him to cause your flat tire; he can let the laws of physics he designed and incorporated into the universe take care of that.

    However, if He wants you to have a flat tire so that you avoid an accident up ahead, or so that you stop and help someone, He is certainly capable of that. Just as I, if I were your neighbour, could sneak into your yard and put a tack partly into your tire so that it goes flat, so also God can manipulate the physical parts of our universe. And God can do that anywhere, anytime, to as great an extent as He pleases. Whatever he needs to do to ensure that His purposes are accomplished. If God wants you to have a flat, He’ll exercise His power so that the molecules of the tire separate into a split, or He’ll force a rock into it until it leaks. Really not difficult for Him. Arminians believe in an intimate God who is intimately involved in the universe; however, intimate involvement does not require meticulous control.

    regards,
    John

  31. He could not say that the choice was set before them so that they “may obey it.” To the contrary, if those who followed after death did so of divine necessity, then the only purpose for Moses’ words would be for their condemnation and not so that they “may obey it.” The purpose of Moses’ words for them would be only so they could disobey it in accordance with God’s irrevocable and irresistible eternal decree.

    But this is what the Calvinists would say, and they would point to Paul to back it up. You have addressed this in your footnote #3. This is hugely important to the argument. Calvinists point to the fact that no one can keep the Law. The issue is that people did have a choice and the choice was to try and keep God’s law or go their own way. That is, the attempt at the Law was the right choice and the disregard of the Law was the wrong choice, both being choices.

    Thus the failure to keep the Law and the importance of the sacrifices can be addressed separately. The reason this is important is that the inability of being able to keep the Law (which is true) doesn’t negate free will, it merely states that we are limited in our actions despite our desires.

  32. I really struggle to see what God actively controls on an every day basis in the Arminian scheme. I get the impression that for the most part God is a passive observer when it comes to our day to day life.

    It is not that God doesn’t or cannot do such things, rather that we still choose whether we obey God or not. The Arminian would state that evil actions are chosen by other than God. But also that God actively acts to bring good from evil. In calling us to him God is acting.

    Further God can strike someone down, he can even prevent them thinking certain thoughts. It is not that God cannot make us puppets, rather that he hasn’t.

    The issue is that free will is a consequence that choice exists. (Rather free will is choice). This doesn’t say that every choice is possible to think (let alone do). Choice is taught in Scripture, further love only makes any sense if there is freedom. We have to be free to choose God or not to be able to love him.

    The amount that God does intervene will have to be dealt with thru other Scriptures, and we may well never fully know this side of heaven.

    It is false to say that freedom means absolute freedom and thus deism must be true. Deism or not is not predicated on the truth of Arminianism. True, deism cannot be true under Calvinism, but it is not necessarily true just because one accepts Arminianism.

    Deism => non-Calvinism

    does not mean

    non-Calvinism => Deism

  33. Hi Michael,
    While I grant that this is a public forum, and while I think posters have the right (in accordance with Ben’s discretion) to respond to statements not addressed to them, what in my salutation or comments would lead you to INFER that I was using Ben as an intermediary to direct comments to you personally? I can think of none.

  34. Hello Bethyada,

    bethyada wrote:

    “It is not that God cannot make us puppets, rather that he hasn’t.”

    There was a time when I used to think this as well (i.e., that though God hasn’t made us into puppets, He **could** do so because He is sovereign and can do as He pleases). However, now it seems to me that He cannot make us into puppets for two related reasons.

    First, His own plan is to have human persons freely choose to be in relationship with Him and freely worship Him (that being His plan He is not going to go against His own plan).

    Second, I do not believe that God can do certain things because of His character. A person with the good and loving and merciful and faithful character that God has is not going to do certain things. For example the bible says that God cannot lie. Does this mean that God is no longer omnipotent, no longer sovereign? I don’t think so. So why doesn’t he lie? Because it goes against the kind of person He is, a truthful and faithful person.

    Similarly, when talking about God creating us to be puppets that are completely controlled by Him without having any choices. I do not think that He does it because it goes against who He is, against His own character. With his character He just would not do **that** to a person. I think of myself in this regard, that I would not make my child a puppet (nor other persons), I would not want my child (nor other persons) to be my puppet. In situations where I have seen people attempt to treat others in that way it was always wrong and usually abusive as well. I am a flawed human person with limited goodness and love compared to God. If I would not do it to my child (or to other persons), then what makes us think that God would do it to a person, WITH HIS CHARACTER, when He is much greater in love and goodness? The bible itself presents the truth as: “God is love.” Does a perfect love do **that** to other persons? Especially persons that He wants to freely love and worship Him?

    Significantly, even the necessatarians themselves try to avoid the idea that God controls us like a puppet master controls his puppets (though their view entails that that is in fact the case).

    Robert

  35. Robert However, now it seems to me that He cannot make us into puppets for two related reasons.

    Yes.

    I meant God could make puppets the way we make computers (which are puppets).

    God cannot make us puppets and make us have free will as that is a definitional contradiction.

    God cannot make us puppets and have genuine love from us (much as computers cannot love us) as that seems logically impossible.

    So we generally agree, probably.

    I do think God can stop us thinking things, that is God can limit our freedom of choice. But to determine everything removes the ability to choose (and likely the possibility of being). Note that God prevented Eli’s sons from listening to Eli as God had determined they were to die.

  36. Hi Bethyada,
    Regarding 1 Samuel 2:25, in which we are told that Eli’s sons did not hearken to their father BECAUSE the Lord would slay them, I think it’s worth noting that not all commentators agree with this translation. Admittedly, the appearance of “because” or its equivalent (“for”) seems to be the overwhelming preference of translators here, and it seems to have the support of the Septuagint (Gr. “oti”). However, the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset, Brown (available for free perusal through Crosswalk) states that the word “because” should be rendered “therefore,” since it was the actions of Eli’s sons, not divine predestination, that prompted the Lord’s desire to kill these wicked priests. The point goes to just how far a translator has the right to infer a causative connection between clauses. For example, the word “therefore” instead of “because” is a form of causal connective, but one that shows that the Lord’s activity was a response TO the activity of Eli’s sons, rather than Eli’s sons’ activity a response TO the activity of the Lord. I trust that Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown would not take this line if the Hebrew were shown restrictively to have the meaning of “because.”

    Since most of us are not learned scholars of Hebrew and Greek, we find it natural to assume that translators of the KJV, NASV, et al. are giving us the correct translation. But I don’t think we ought to assume such things—not automatically, at least—when such a fundamental issue is at stake about the nature of God. In fact, there are numerous examples where the KJV has biased a translation in favor of Calvinism, and frequently the NAS has merely rubber-stamped it. And so, if we are not careful when reading the English translations of key passages about God’s nature, we will end up believing the words of men, not God. Often (though not always) the reasons for these wrong translations in pivotal passages is because there is more than one way of translating a particular phrase in the original language. And so the translator, if he is a Calvinist, will translate it according to his own presuppositions. To give just one example here, note the phrase in Acts 13:48 about Antioch Gentiles who a week earlier had besought Paul to speak to them again. The result of this next meeting between Paul and the Antioch Gentiles is thus in the KJV: “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” But in fact the phrase can be rendered “and as many as were determining themselves to eternal life, believed,” since (1) the word “ordained” is elsewhere (Acts 15:1) translated “determined,” and, especially (2) because the verb, though supposed by translators to be a perfect passive participle, is spelled the same way in the middle voice in Greek. In other words, the action of “determining” was assumed by the KJV translators to be something which the Antioch Gentiles passively received from God. But the spelling is the same for the middle voice, which means that the translators could have stated (conversely) that the subject, in this case the Antioch Gentiles, performed the action upon themselves. (The difference between passive and middle is thus: “a hat was placed on my head,” vs. “I placed a hat on my head.”) So, the phrase in Acts 13:48 may be translated to mean that the Antioch Gentiles were themselves the ones doing the determining to believe the gospel. So which is right? Answer: that which the Spirit of God says is right and accords with the true nature of God, man, and, by implication and definition, the ability of all persons to make their own decisions. And so a reliance on the Spirit is necessary to read Scripture for all it’s worth, or even to have the right meaning of these key passages.

    But of course, if we as readers do not know about the variations possible in some of these pivotal passages, we are likely to fall prey to those translators and commentators who not only have an ungodly agenda (like Calvinism) but are also able in many instances to claim they are only following the rules of the original languages. So, be careful. Without suspecting it, you may be prey to handing over your mind to a translator who is deceiving himself and others through false translations of key passages. I know in one sense this is discouraging to hear, because the task of studying Scripture thoroughly to ensure we are not being led astray is a daunting one. It is easier to convince ourselves that the major translations can’t be all that bad in these key passages. But I think that enough key passages have been tampered with, and that the long-standing confusion in Christians’ minds about the nature of God is one evidence of it.

  37. This is an outstanding post. I have recently studied Deut. 30, in particular Moses parting admonitions to the people of Israel. The passages go to the heart of resistible grace and man’s culpability for his sinful rejection of that grace. I am going to link to your post if you have no objections.

    Blessings

  38. The 1599 Geneva Study Bible significantly deletes 9 out of the 20 verses of Deuteronomy 30 (thanks to Constantino della Brazos for making me aware of this.)

    The deletion of these verses seem to display a double agenda. 1) the removal of references to human choice in obedience to God.
    2) the removal of promises to Israel.

  39. A.M. Mallett,

    No objections here. I appreciate the link.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. onesimus,

    That’s wild. Could you post what verses were deleted or give us a link to a resourse that might provide that information?

    Thanks,
    Ben

  41. Hello bethyada,

    “I meant God could make puppets the way we make computers (which are puppets).
    God cannot make us puppets and make us have free will as that is a definitional contradiction.”

    My point was that in the past I would grant that God could make us puppets if He is sovereign and does as He pleases. I believe my past view was mistaken as I had not sufficiently considered the implications of the character of God on this issue. If God has the character that scripture reveals Him to have (i.e., perfect goodness, love, mercy, etc. etc.) then a person with **that** CHARACTER would not make human persons or treat human persons as completely controlled puppets. Just as God cannot lie because of His character, likewise he cannot make human persons puppets because of His character as well.

    “God cannot make us puppets and have genuine love from us (much as computers cannot love us) as that seems logically impossible.”

    Bethyada it seems to me that you are focusing on the logic (that genuine love and being completely controlled puppets is incompatible), while I am focusing on God’s character (His character means there are some things he will not do, not because of a lack of power, and not because He is not sovereign, but a person with His character is just not going to do certain things).

    “So we generally agree, probably.”

    That’s pretty funny, 🙂 generally agree probably! 🙂 I think we just agree. 🙂

    “I do think God can stop us thinking things, that is God can limit our freedom of choice. But to determine everything removes the ability to choose (and likely the possibility of being). Note that God prevented Eli’s sons from listening to Eli as God had determined they were to die.”

    Now this is a different issue that you bring up here. Here you are talking about how since God is sovereign and active in situations, He can and does intervene in situations and those interventions may suspend or influence our wills in different ways. The bible has some clear instances of just this very thing, where God intervenes and free will is effected. One of my favorite examples is Nebuchadnezzar who at one time is a powerful King of a powerful empire and the next he is eating grass like an animal. That is a pretty powerful intervention by God and most definitely effected Nebuchadnezzar’s will. God has the right and the power and ability to intervene in this way and sometimes does so, but they are usually the exceptions not the rule. Ordinarily he works with our freely made choices since he is able to foreknow what each choice will be and in most situations permits our choices.

    Robert

  42. Mitch,

    You wrote,

    When I say the “direction that those LFW choices take” I mean the consequences that come about by those choices. I know that under LFW there is no antecedent cause for the choice one makes, but those choices do bring about cause and effect. So if one makes the choice to walk or bike to work those choices carry different causal factors into our day.

    First, I must point out that I personally do not agree with one of your statements here. I do not believe that there are no antecedent causes for a choice or act of volition. The antecedent cause is the Agent himself (his Will), and no more. I think you know that, but your comment left things open for confusion so I wanted to quickly make that important point.

    As far as the rest of your question, I think John C.T. answered them well enough in his comments above (his comments were awaiting moderation and did not appear till later, so you probably missed them). I agree with him that we really just do not know how God interacts with our day to day lives. I do believe it takes place within the context of direct causation, or permission, as described in the statement of faith I referenced before. But however God does it, He is certainly in control and able to handle anything, working all things to the ultimate accomplishing of His plans for us and His kingdom.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  43. Ben,

    I see you are back.

    Care to respond to this earlier post:::>

    Ben,

    I do not know of the nuances you refer to me.

    A “choice”, freely made, has either a good result before God or a bad result before God. As the Scripture teaches, whatever I sow, I reap and there is no respect of persons with God.

    I take issue with your article because you reserve to yourself “something” to do to receive His Salvation. Really what you are saying is, without your choice involved, you do not receive His Faith or His Salvation.

    My point is, Adam was perfect. He was given basically “two” things to do, not one or three or ten things to do.

    One, he was to increase the “image” of God’s Glory and perfection, purity, holiness and morality in the Garden and by that increase, the Garden would increase and the darkness surrounding the Garden would decrease and diminish finally cease to exist in this newly created heavens and earth, over time. At that time Death was not an issue so Adam could take all the time he needed to bring darkness to an end.

    Two, he was not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. If he made that choice and ate that fruit, he would surely die and Death would then have a foothold where it did not before.

    Can you think of or cite from Scripture anything else Adam was to do for God once he was given the authority over this new creation, these present heavens and earth? I don’t know how Calvinists would come down on this but I believe Adam had been given the right to choose what to do once he was given the “authority” to make choices for good or evil or “given the keys and ownership to the car”, to use a modern day term.

    My point is that everything “I” do that is not of “His Faith”, is sin, no matter how wonderful the results are because of my free will and choice. Everything “I” do is unrighteousness.

    An area of your comments I do not accept or agree with is this, “….This doesn’t mean that no one ever does anything that is right. The Bible is full of examples of people who have pleased God in their choices and actions….”

    I would say, unless you are wicked, through and through, most everything you do is “right”, yet, being already declared “unrighteous”, every right thing you do is not acceptable with God.

    Jesus made this claim to people doing right absent His Faith:

    Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
    Mat 8:11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
    Mat 8:12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    The context for pleasing God has nothing to do with being right or moral or smart. It has everything to do with having been given “His Faith” as Paul writes:

    Rom 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

    Can we find any common ground of agreement on these things?

    Or do you find something in error from where you sit with them?

  44. Michael,

    You wrote:

    I take issue with your article because you reserve to yourself “something” to do to receive His Salvation. Really what you are saying is, without your choice involved, you do not receive His Faith or His Salvation.

    Salvation is received by faith. That is as plain as day in Scripture. Really nothing could be clearer. Faith is an act of the human will, but it is not a meritorious act. It does not earn anything from God. Rather, it is simple trust, relying on God to give us what we cannot give ourselves (eternal life). God does not make that choice for us (the choice to trust), so our choice is certainly involved. God does not trust or believe for us, so it is certainly an act of the will. However, this act is empowered and enabled by God. Without that enabling, we could not believe at all.

    It seems to me that you have a problem with Scripture, and not with my article, since the article refers to Scriptures that specifically call on us to choose.

    My point is, Adam was perfect. He was given basically “two” things to do, not one or three or ten things to do.

    I would be careful in saying Adam was perfect. He was created good, but perfection would seem to include incorruptibility. Perfection would also seem to include the impossibility of growth and maturity. So I am not sure we should call Adam perfect. The Bible never does. I am not sure what your point is about the number of choices he had to make. Whether it is two things or ten things, it is still a choice.

    One, he was to increase the “image” of God’s Glory and perfection, purity, holiness and morality in the Garden and by that increase, the Garden would increase and the darkness surrounding the Garden would decrease and diminish finally cease to exist in this newly created heavens and earth, over time.

    This is interesting, but it is not taught in Scripture.

    At that time Death was not an issue so Adam could take all the time he needed to bring darkness to an end.

    Interesting philosophy, but without Scriptural support.

    Two, he was not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. If he made that choice and ate that fruit, he would surely die and Death would then have a foothold where it did not before.

    Can you think of or cite from Scripture anything else Adam was to do for God once he was given the authority over this new creation, these present heavens and earth? I don’t know how Calvinists would come down on this but I believe Adam had been given the right to choose what to do once he was given the “authority” to make choices for good or evil or “given the keys and ownership to the car”, to use a modern day term.

    I am not sure what you are getting at here. Yes, Adam had a choice with regards to the eating of the fruit (obeying or disobeying God). Yes, Adam had other choices as well.

    My point is that everything “I” do that is not of “His Faith”, is sin, no matter how wonderful the results are because of my free will and choice. Everything “I” do is unrighteousness.

    I think I already explained this to church mouse. We are capable of relative good, but that good can never attain to God’s perfect standard since that good (if one is an unbeliever) proceeds from a heart of unbelief, without reference to a relationship of faith and love toward God (and no amount of good can merit salvation). However, God’s grace enables even sinful man to do good things. Are you suggesting that the unbeliever who stays faithful to his wife does not please God in that area more than the man who commits adultery? Is God not pleased with such faithfulness at all?

    An area of your comments I do not accept or agree with is this, “….This doesn’t mean that no one ever does anything that is right. The Bible is full of examples of people who have pleased God in their choices and actions….”

    I would say, unless you are wicked, through and through, most everything you do is “right”, yet, being already declared “unrighteous”, every right thing you do is not acceptable with God.

    It seems that we are simply disagreeing over what “acceptable” means. If you mean that it is not acceptable as fully meeting God’s holy standard, then I agree. If you mean that it is not acceptable in that it earns salvation, then I agree. If you mean that God is in no way pleased with us doing the right thing, then I disagree.

    Jesus made this claim to people doing right absent His Faith:

    Mat 8:10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.
    Mat 8:11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven,
    Mat 8:12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    I don’t see anything in this passage that what contradict anything I have written.

    The context for pleasing God has nothing to do with being right or moral or smart. It has everything to do with having been given “His Faith” as Paul writes:
    Nowhere does the Bible tell us that “His Faith” is irresistibly given to a select few. You may believe that, but is not Scriptural.

    Rom 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

    I think I addressed this above. Nothing that proceeds from a heart of unbelief can attain to God’s holy standard. It will always fall short of the glory of God, and is in that sense sin (falling short of the mark). But Paul isn’t really speaking of what proceeds from a heart of unbelief in this passage. He is speaking of believers acting according to their conscience. If the believer isn’t acting in good conscience (in good faith), then the act becomes sin for him since he is intentionally violating his own conscience. Paul is not saying that nothing unbelievers do can in any way please God. He isn’t even talking about unbelievers. He is talking about acting in accord with our conscience.

    Can we find any common ground of agreement on these things?

    I think we both agree that without God’s grace we can do no good, and that nothing we do can attain to God’s holy standard apart from a faith relationship with God. I think we both agree that no good work can merit salvation. I think we disagree in that you seem to think that the good that unbelievers do is in no way pleasing to God. You seem to believe that God hates the faithfulness of the unbeliever to his wife just as he hates the unfaithfulness of the unbeliever to his wife; that God views the love an unbelieving father for his child in the same way as He views the abusive acts of another unbeliever towards his child. That is plainly absurd in my opinion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  45. Ben,

    we are not very far apart.

    Let’s keep at it and may we never depart Him! But if we do, so let it be that there is one in our midst like the Apostle Paul who:::>

    Gal 4:18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you,
    Gal 4:19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!

    Grace, Mercy and Peace to you in Christ Jesus Our Lord, then!

    michael

  46. .

    Kangaroodort. Excellent answer. Thanks for taking the time.

    1 Th 5:11 ” Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, . . ”

    regards,
    John

    .

  47. Robert Bethyada it seems to me that you are focusing on the logic (that genuine love and being completely controlled puppets is incompatible), while I am focusing on God’s character (His character means there are some things he will not do, not because of a lack of power, and not because He is not sovereign, but a person with His character is just not going to do certain things).

    Yes, but I see logic as higher than character, in that if something is illogical then character questions are pointless (in fact nonsensical).

    To ask if God would throw a 7 on a die because of his character means nothing because (standard) dice only go to 6. To ask whether because of love God would make an immovable rock is pointless as this is logically impossible. Questions about character issues are meaningful for logically possible options. It is impossible for God to lie because of God’s character, but lying itself is something than logically can exist.

    If creatures the shape of humans were made but were like puppets (similar to computers), then they cannot (logically) have freewill, they cannot love, they do not have the imago Dei. Thus they are not human (in the sense this is understood).

    If freewill puppets cannot logically exist, then to question whether God’s character would or would not create such a thing to me seems to be a nonsensical question.

    Of course there are many other questions about the creation of man and God’s character that can be asked.

    🙂

  48. daniel gracely, thanks a lot for your reply. Most helpful.

    My example may have been incorrect, but I still think it is possible for God to move on our minds, that is restrict certain thoughts. When that happens then those particular thoughts are not fully free. Perhaps the case of Nebuchadnezzar above would be a better example.

    I think that determinism is incorrect. We can think and do things God does not want us to. Of course God can remove people from this life if he thinks their behaviour is warranted.

    I also visited your site. Looks interesting. Only thru the introductory material so far. When’s the book coming out?

  49. Hello bethyada,

    “Yes, but I see logic as higher than character, in that if something is illogical then character questions are pointless (in fact nonsensical).”

    Again, my point was that we were focusing on (or emphasizing) two different aspects (me on God’s character, you on logic). These are not two mutually exclusive realities.

    “To ask if God would throw a 7 on a die because of his character means nothing because (standard) dice only go to 6. To ask whether because of love God would make an immovable rock is pointless as this is logically impossible. Questions about character issues are meaningful for logically possible options. It is impossible for God to lie because of God’s character, but lying itself is something than logically can exist.”

    No problem with what you say here, you want to ask whether or not something is logically possible **first** before asking what is morally possible. Just as there is logical impossibility (rolling the 7 on dice with only six numbers), there is moral impossibility (i.e., a person with a certain character though having the ability or capacity to do something may not be able to do it due to moral impossibility). The classic example being that a person has the physical ability (or capacity) to torture babies, the strength to do so, but finds it morally impossible to do so. With God we are dealing with a perfect moral person whose character is going to rule out certain actions for Him (not because He is not omnipotent, not because He is not sovereign, but because of His perfect moral character).

    “If creatures the shape of humans were made but were like puppets (similar to computers), then they cannot (logically) have freewill, they cannot love, they do not have the imago Dei. Thus they are not human (in the sense this is understood).”

    I agree with you, that a human person, who does not have free will and does not have the capacity to love, is a less than properly functioning human person (not that he is not a human person but that he is not functioning as God designed human persons to function when they are functioning properly or normally). That is why I regularly make the point that calvinism (at least the kind that claims that all events are exhaustively determined) means that God makes us into puppets who lack free will as normally understood (such a being is less than what a properly functioning human person is like, hence the necessitarian view leads to humans being less than human, to be beings that are less than what the bible reveals humans were designed to be like).

    “If freewill puppets cannot logically exist, then to question whether God’s character would or would not create such a thing to me seems to be a nonsensical question.”

    I don’t think that it is nonsensical in the context of some discussions, what you are suggesting is that if we stay strictly with logical impossibility than we won’t get to the moral question of whether or not God could make human persons into puppets lacking free will. Sometimes in a discussion things come up and we say something like: “Ok for the sake of this argument, let’s assume that is true, but here is another problem with what you are claiming.”

    Well that is the kind of thing that I am talking about. You could first argue from logical impossibility that God cannot make human persons into puppets lacking free will. But a necessatarian could then attempt to argue (for example) that: “God’s ways are not our ways” so God could do **what we (you) think** is logically impossible because he is sovereign and omnipotent (not that I buy this argument, just bringing it up as an example of the kind of thing I have seen necessatarians engage in). In response to that kind of argument, you could then argue from moral impossibility, that God could not do that because it does not fit his character.

    Bethyada I think you have a real important point though: that it would be logically impossible for God to make a human person into a being that is like a puppet whose every thought, desire, belief, bodily movement, choice or action is determined by the divine puppet master as he pulls the strings and yet **at the same time** this being has free will as normally understood and well described by Ben in his article that started this thread.

    I believe that this is also what Daniel is getting at, that the necessitarian/calvinist is claiming that exhaustive determinism and free will **can exist simultaneously**, when in reality this is a contradiction. Daniel describes it using the language of “dialectic” and suggesting that the calvinist/necessitarian goes back and forth between the two contradictory poles like a person on a “rocking horse” who rocks back and forth (when he wants to emphasize exhaustive determinism he rocks one way, but then when he wants to emphasize human responsibility or human “free will” he then rocks the other way, all the while not realizing that the sitting on the rocking horse itself whichever way you go is “sitting in a contradiction”, is affirming two things that simultaneously cannot exist/affirming a contradiction [is that a fair representation of your view Daniel?]).

    Robert

  50. Sometimes in a discussion things come up and we say something like: “Ok for the sake of this argument, let’s assume that is true, but here is another problem with what you are claiming.”

    Yes, I see that, and it may be the case in conversations. All the best.

    However strictly speaking hypotheticals should be hypotheticals. Thus: if the grass was red, or if I could fly, are reasonable hypotheticals.

    If you could divide by zero, or if good was evil, or if a determined agent was free to choose, are not hypotheticals. While a conversation could occur with these examples it would be essentially all nonsense.

    Not trying to sound antagonist in all my responses, just digging to a deeper foundation 🙂

  51. Hi Bethyada,

    About the availability of my book—just yesterday morning I was at the printer’s shop to get the ball rolling on it. But apparently I had forgotten the printer’s directions to convert my Publisher file to PDF format (and so the formatting was wrong). They told me I need Acrobat Standard for the conversion. This program is not as cheap as I thought (it’s about $300), so I’m working on getting it. This has skewed my timetable for making the book available, but I will certainly plan on letting you know as soon as the book is in hand. All said, I’m still striving to have it within a month, and I sincerely appreciate your interest in it.

    Now, changing the subject for a moment (if I may), I would like to say something about a person’s thoughts and will (intention). For I notice that many posters here are striving to define the word “free,” because freedom is so pivotal to understanding the natures of God and man. My own feeling on these matters is that (human) personhood is defined by being made in the image of God. Further, I think that this image-bearing is closely tied to the fact that we create our own thoughts and decisions, and that no one else does this for us. So, while I think God creates the FORMS (sheer abilities) of our mind and will, I do not think He ever supplies their CONTENT. I think this definition of the human mind and will somewhat differs from the Arminian view when prevenient grace enters the discussion. But I personally feel that maintaining this distinction between form and content is the only real way of maintaining Creator / creature distinctions AT ALL TIMES. I don’t think anyone on this site quite shares my esoteric view (except perhaps Onesimus?), but, at any rate, I would encourage you to familiarize yourself with a variety of opinions (Arminian and otherwise) on this point, and evaluate each of them according to the Scripture. As Robert properly reminds us, we must all be Bereans. (But perhaps you have already investigated these various viewpoints.) Ben’s view of prevenient grace is well expressed in his footnote 6 of his April 1 post. However, when he says “Prior to the working of God’s enabling grace, the sinner has no choice but to remain in unbelief and rebellion,” I see this as endorsing the idea that one can have a moral choice of only one thing, and I do not agree with this. Consequently, I interpret the idea of being “dead in sin” as merely referring to the inability of man to provide his own atonement. We are dead in this sense. We cannot do anything to provide an atonement for our sins. Ben would agree that man cannot provide his own atonement, but I think he would add that man cannot choose Christ unless God first turns the will so that man can freely make a choose either for or against Christ. Thus, whereas Ben would interpret the Scripture that states that “God opened [Lydia’s] heart” as including (besides knowledge) the idea that God turned the will of Lydia, so that she could choose either for or against Christ, I interpret this verse as merely meaning that the Spirit actively presented thoughts to Lydia’s mind toward convincing her of the truth of Christ. Of course, Lydia had to have knowledge about the historicity of Christ in order to exercise her will, but, allowing for this knowledge, I do not think the Spirit had to perform a special activity in order to turn Lydia’s WILL so that she could freely make a choice either for or against Christ. So, Ben sees the problem as one involving knowledge AND will, whereas I see the problem merely as one of knowledge, at least, hypothetically. I say “hypothetically” because, although I would probably grant that God is always the initiator of reconciliation (as John says, “We love God because He first loved us”), I do not think (hypothetically speaking) man COULD NOT come, so long as he had knowledge of the historicity of Christ and His work. (Please see my discussion of Gr. dunamai, translated “cannot,” in John 6:44. It is under chapter 12, footnotes #50 and #52).

    Since both Ben and I appeal to Scripture for the support of our views, you might wish at some point to dig deeper into the matter. Having spoken so, I nevertheless appreciate MANY things Ben, Robert and other Arminians say, and I frequently learn from them. Beyond this, I feel a certain kinship with them, because we all feel strongly that the notion of exhaustive determinism is completely wrong. That is the common enemy. All of us realize what incredible damage this Augustinian/ Calvinistic notion is doing to the church.

    But to return to the subject of thoughts, it is certainly true that thoughts NOT our own can be presented to our minds. Indeed, each of us do so in these posts whenever we present ideas to each other. And in general God too presents thoughts to our mind. We know, for example, that the Spirit’s job is to convince the world of righteousness and judgment. The Spirit does this by being active throughout the world: He presents thoughts to every man about what it true and false, and I think He primarily does this by confirming a man’s conscience (unless it is seared). The Spirit also tells each man that he will be judged by God’s standard. Also, God sometimes permits the Devil to present thoughts to a person’s mind, though, of course, regarding the Christian, the Devil’s thoughts need not overwhelm the Christian as he looks to his Lord. But moving on, you give the interesting example of the Babylonian king and his thoughts. I suppose prior to his distress Nebuchadnezzar would more-or-less fit the category of Pharaoh, who was very prideful. I have a few chapters on Pharaoh (chaps. 14 and 15) that are long and not easily digestible; still, you might find something of use there. Chapter 18 speaks particularly of defining man in terms of mind and will, but is also hard going for the reader. (I wouldn’t suggest beginning with these chapters unless the subject is really consuming you.)

    It seems, doesn’t it, that the most fundamental questions of Being are also the most complex to clarify?

  52. Hi Robert,
    I love that turn of phrase, “sitting in a contradiction.” Yes, that’s it exactly! (I trust you won’t mind if I borrow your phrasing!)

    About the dialectic—I think I should have clarified one thing. I see that the free online dictionary has more than one meaning of “dialectic.” So, by “dialectic” I mean the Hegelian dialectic, named for Georg Hegel, the German philosopher. Like Calvinists, Hegel presented the truth as thesis, but also antithesis, and claimed that truth was found in both statements existing simultaneously. (Again, you got that right on the button.)

    Not until I revised my book did I realize just how subtle the Calvinistic version of the Hegelian dialectic was. Below are a few pages from my book (opening chapter 11) which demonstrate this subtlety, e.g., in some comments by Charles Bridges. I want you to see this example for yourself. I came across these comments in a book by popular author, Jerry Bridges (I don’t know if these men are related). I begin with some perfunctory remarks, then give the quote by Charles Bridges, and finally offer my analysis. I’ve marked these sections below to clarify whose speaking, since I’m not sure this post will show the paragraph indents of Chas. Bridges’s comments. (And, of course,I certainly don’t want any readers of this post supposing I said something that was actually said by Charles Bridges!) On second thought, I will add 3 astericks before each paragraph of C.B.’s comments:

    [my remarks:] “One of the suppositions used by Calvinists to say that God is directing every man towards a particular, unalterable end is the argument about God’s all-controlling activity in human government. In his book, An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, author Charles Bridges advances the argument that God directs all the affairs of men. Jerry Bridges, in his book, Trusting God Even When It Hurts, endorses Charles Bridges’s commentary regarding a key biblical passage both men believe supports the doctrine of God’s absolutely sovereignty:

    ***[Chas. Bridges’s comments:]“Perhaps the clearest biblical statement that God does sovereignly influence the discussions of people is found in Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” Charles Bridges, in his exposition of Proverbs, states, “The general truth [of God’s sovereignty over the hearts of all people] is taught by the strongest illustration—his uncontrollable sway upon the absolute of all wills—the king’s heart.”

    ***In our day of limited monarchies in which kings and queens are largely figureheads, it may be difficult for us to appreciate fully the force of what Charles Bridges is saying when he speaks of the king’s heart as the most absolute of all wills. But in Solomon’s time the king was an absolute monarch. There was no separate legislative body to make laws he wouldn’t like or a Supreme Court to restrain him. The king’s word was law. His authority over his realm was unconditional and unrestrained.

    ***Yet God controls the king’s heart. The stubborn will of the most powerful monarch on earth is directed by God as easily as the farmer directs the flow of water in his irrigation canals. The argument, then, is from the greater to the lesser—if God controls the king’s heart surely He controls everyone else’s. All must move before His sovereign influence. [end of Chas. Bridges’s comments.)

    [my analysis] Note in the above passage how God’s sovereignty is described (directly or as metaphorical type) first, as an “influence;” second, as “directing;” third, as an “uncontrollable sway;” fourth, as “absolute;” fifth, as “unconditional and unrestrained;” sixth, as “controls” seventh, as “directed/directs:” eighth, as “controls;” and ninth (as at the first), “influence.” Observe, then, how God’s sovereignty is discussed at the beginning and end of this quote as merely an “influence” (which leaves the reader with the opening and closing subconscious impression that the king is acting in free will), yet in the interim is described in the much more forceful terms of divine irresistibility, since God supercedes the king’s authority which is said to be “absolute,” “uncontrollable, and unrestrained.” Such language, we note, makes synonyms out of non-synonyms. For example, in the sentence: “The teacher had a positive influence over the students,” no one would suppose that the teacher’s influence was anything of the forceful and coercive kind implied in the terms uncontrollable and unrestrained, i.e., such that the word “influence” should be thought to have these same meanings. In other words, no English dictionary in common use has, for the word “influence,” a definition such as “absolute control,” “unrestrained authority,” or other words or phrases implying irresistibility, which is the ‘forward rock’ of meaning Charles Bridges uses to convey his doublethink. Thus Calvinism’s seesawing language of combining non-synonymous words to form such dialectical phrases like “uncontrollable sway” or “sovereign influence” (which, in fact, unlike simple oxymoronic phrases, are invoked to genuinely endorse the dialectic), is all part of the nonsensical language that Calvinists so habitually use, that they have become unaware of how they use dishonest language when discussing theology. [end of analysis]

    Robert, I give the above pages to show how attentive we must be in order to observe the Calvinist at his game. It is sad to think Calvinists have convinced themselves (and many others) that such language honors God. Somehow we need to raise people’s awareness of what the real situation is, but I just don’t know how. I guess we warn people against Calvinism one person at a time?

  53. Great post and good to see the various comments that have sparked people thinking about this issue of freedom of the will.

  54. Dan,

    I am not sure I agree with your assessment of my view on prevenient grace. I see prevenient grace as a powerful influence by which the will is freed to believe in Christ. This influence can be resisted, so I don’t think it is quite right to say it “turns the will”. Rather, it frees the will so that it may turn itself towards God.

    Not only does it free the will, but it also convicts the heart and persuades the will (influences it) in the direction of conversion. Yet, all of this can, and often is, resisted by the person under this divine influence.

    We could think of this in terms of one person influencing another person in a certain direction. It may be that prior to this influence, the person being influenced would have never thought to do what the person influencing him wanted that person to do. This could be for a variety of reasons. So we could say that prior to this influence, the person being influenced could never do that thing, or think that way, etc. Now that this influence has been introduced, the person can act according to that new influence, or reject it.

    The fact that this new influence was brought to bear on the person and enabled the person to do or believe something that the person would not have normally done or believed, does not mean that the person’s will was “turned” in an absolute sense, or that the person’s “personhood” was somehow threatened. We could say that the will was turned only in that it was influenced in a certain direction (and quite possibly in a direction that it would never have considered prior to this influence). We could say that it was turned in a sense that it was freed to believe something that it normally would not have believed. I think that this is in perfect harmony with everyday experiences. We would not normally think that someone’s will was violated because an influence was brought to bear on that person, even if that person did not necessarily want to be influenced.

    We can certainly think of people who are sheltered in certain situations their whole lives, and then an influence is brought to bear on them that persuades them in a direction they would never have been able to go, due to the environment, and influences that the person was previously involved in, and the habits and tastes that may have developed as a result. In the case of prevenient grace, the person has previously only been influenced by the sinful nature, and has lived in an environment of unbelief. Until a new influence is introduced that can create a new environment and overcome the influence of the sinful nature, that person can not break out of the bondage and circle of influence it was previously involved in. God’s grace effectively creates an opportunity for the person to react in a way that was previously impossible under the constant sway of sin and corruption (from within and without).

    So I would say that Lydia was freed to embrace the gospel when the influence of the Word and the Spirit was brought to bear on her, and in that sense God opened her heart to respond in a way that was previously impossible for her. So I would say that her will was “turned” only in the sense that it was influenced and freed to believe by grace, and such an influence would not normally be seen as a violation of how the will normally operates as persons made in God’s image. God works in the realm of influence and response with those creatures made in His image. For Calvinism it is always cause and effect. I believe the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace fits comfortably within the realm of influence and response. Daniel Whedon, who I quoted in my second footnote, puts it like this,

    “Now of its own effect, Will, in its proper conditions, is not a partial, but a full and adequate cause. Put your finger upon any effect (volition) and ask, What caused this result exclusively of the others? And the reply is, The Will, or the agent in willing. Ask then what fully caused the Will in its conditions to cause the condition and the answer is, nothing. However, in the case of the volitional decision to repent, God’s prevenient grace does exert an enabling influence on the will. John vi, 44; xvi, 8-9. An influence is not the same as a determining cause or partial cause. The will is still free to go in alternate directions.” (pg. 74)

    So, in a nut shell, the Arminian position, as I understand it, would say that prior to the enabling influence of prevenient grace, repentance and faith towards God is impossible, due to the overpowering influence of our corrupt (i.e. depraved) nature. So the ministry of the Word and the Spirit is necessary in providing a context where a sinner can repent and believe, but this ministry does not cause a specific result apart from the consent of the human will. Now, I understand that you reject the concept of depravity, but this may not be the proper place to get into that. It is true that a person does not have a choice concerning whether or not, or when God will bring this enabling influence to bear on him or her, but once that influence is brought to bear, and the will is freed to choose Christ, that person can then yield to that influence (repent and believe) or resist that influence (continue in unbelief).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  55. Hi Ben,

    The subject of depravity and prevenient grace is admittedly a thorny one, and perhaps you are right in saying this posting format may not be the best place for you and I to express our differences at length. So, after these last remarks of mine, I will leave any reply of yours to be the last word under this April 1st post. It is, after all, your site, and I think that would only be fitting.

    First, then, I contend that the very word “influence” as understood in normal, everyday language, carries with it the understanding that it is potentially resistible. That is simply part of the implicit meaning of the word. Yet, I do not believe you have maintained this definition. I spoke in my last post to Robert about how the Calvinist Charles Bridges uses the word “influence,” and I believe the essence of that criticism is applicable to your own comments about depravity. That is, when you discuss the state of man’s depravity PRIOR to prevenient grace, I don’t see any real difference between your arguments and the Calvinist’s. So, let me just refer you to my previous post to Robert rather than repeat myself. And this much ought also to be said: to speak of an “influence” upon man but describe it in such a way so that there is no alternative choice but for the man to react with unbelief, is not to describe “influence” but some sort of determinism.

    Also, I find the second sentence in your paragraph below rather confusing. What do you mean in saying “…prior to this [certain] influence, the person being influenced…”? Being influenced by whom, since it is prior to “this [certain] influence”? I’m guessing that you mean “prior to this [certain] influence, the person already under another and different influence…” Is that what you mean? And from where comes this influence… himself, or someone else, since it cannot be the person representing the influence still prior? Also, when you say, “…to do what the person influencing him,” what PERSON are you referring to? I’m guessing you mean something like “to do what the person with this certain kind of influence would do, were he to influence him”. Is that what you mean? Again, I find this somewhat confusing. At any rate (and moving on), when you say:

    “We could think of this in terms of one person influencing another person in a certain direction. It may be that prior to this influence, the person being influenced would have never thought to do what the person influencing him wanted that person to do. This could be for a variety of reasons. So we could say that prior to this influence, the person being influenced could never do that thing, or think that way, etc. Now that this influence has been introduced, the person can act according to that new influence, or reject it.”

    I think you may be confusing “WOULD have never thought” with “COULD never do that thing”. i.e., “would” versus “could.” These are not the same things. For I do not think you are using these terms (“would” and “could”) as INformal English sometimes does (when it substitutes the one for the other), but as FORMAL English would have them. At least, that is my impression from what you are trying to say. However, properly speaking, there is all the difference in the world between “would not” and “could not.” For if a person “would not” this merely implies that he IS aware of the alternative but chooses against it, WHEREAS if a person “COULD NOT” or “CAN NOT” then the matter is beyond his control, and the force to which he is subject deterministic. But if deterministic, then no alternative (choice) is present to the man, and, further, if no choice is present, then a moral assignation to the man is impossible. For if a person cannot choose, how can it be implied that he has chosen unbelief?

    Also, my description of “turning the will” referred to the process in Arminian theology of going TO enablement (from disablement). I think the context of my remarks demonstrates that I had this meaning in mind. So, whether we speak of this process as “freeing” the will, or “turning” the will, or “switching on” the will TO enablement, seems to me a matter of semantic, not real, difference.

    I also disagree with your implication that choice can be denied because of environmental conditions of INFLUENCE. Your argument, as it would apply to depravity, is that ‘absent influence equals choice denied.’ But this only makes sense to me if by “influence” you mean “knowledge of the law,” since the Bible tells us that “by the [knowledge of the] Law is the knowledge of sin.” I don’t think substituting the word “influence” works here. We would not be saying the same thing if we said, “By the influence of the Law is the knowledge of sin,” or “By the lack of influence of the Law is the knowledge of sin.”

    Finally, if you or someone else reading this comment would wish to read my own evaluation of the doctrine of prevenient grace, you may read it under my chapter 18, footnote 140, on my site xCalvinist.com. Frankly, part of this response comes out of our previous email discussion of about a month ago. Note especially my argument (in effect) that (1) a man can only be guilty before God if he knows that he has fallen short of God’s standard, but then (2) it follows that such a man would then also have the awareness that the standard which he did not keep could be SATISFIED by some other person. So, the problem of having the alternative to believe in Christ becomes one of needing the bare proclamation (not influence), i.e., “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a proclaimer?”

    So, Ben, I guess my two questions are this: (1) Are you unwittingly equating “influence” with “knowledge”? But if so, then why should man be considered depraved, since an absence of knowledge would make him INculpable, not culpable, since sin is only possible if one has a knowledge of the law? Also, (2) If you are NOT equating “influence” with “knowledge,” then why are you not maintaining the normal everyday definition of “influence” that society recognizes, and which carries with it the implicit understanding of potential resistibility? This is why I mentioned the “would” versus “could,” because to me this is where you embrace the Hegelian dialectic, i.e., when, in describing man prior to receiving prevenient grace, you seem to imply on the one hand that man ‘WOULD NOT’ choose, thus leaving the impression that man MAY choose, but on the other hand state that man ‘COULD NOT’ choose, leaving the diametrically opposed impression that man CAN NOT choose.

    If you reply to my comments here as you did previously, then I suppose I will again be faulted for not applying dialectical criticism to dialectical theology, however ‘soft’ your Hegelian dialecticism may be. I think this is what dismays me–that in this arena of shared ideas and online blogging and posting, it seems so unlikely to reach agreement. That, and because in your footnote 6, in which you state (in effect) that prior to God’s prevenient grace man has no choice but to disbelieve. But why? Because of Genesis 3 or Romans 5 or Psalm 51? But one should not think so.

    Again, as this is your site, I’ll forgo my part in any more replies under this post. And thanks for allowing me to express this dissenting opinion. I do appreciate it.

    Best,
    Dan

  56. Dan,

    I appreciate the response and I don’t mind the disagreement. It is related enough to the subject that I don’t mind discussing it here. You don’t need to leave me the last word. I don’t really have time today to give the response your comments deserve so I will try to respond sometime tomorrow, if possible.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  57. Dan,

    I wanted to briefly touch on a few comments from your previous post before dealing with the comments on this last one (which I will also deal with below). You wrote,

    Ben’s view of prevenient grace is well expressed in his footnote 6 of his April 1 post. However, when he says “Prior to the working of God’s enabling grace, the sinner has no choice but to remain in unbelief and rebellion,” I see this as endorsing the idea that one can have a moral choice of only one thing, and I do not agree with this. Consequently, I interpret the idea of being “dead in sin” as merely referring to the inability of man to provide his own atonement. We are dead in this sense. We cannot do anything to provide an atonement for our sins. Ben would agree that man cannot provide his own atonement, but I think he would add that man cannot choose Christ unless God first turns the will so that man can freely make a choose either for or against Christ.

    I disagree with how you interpret “dead in sin” here. To be dead in sin is to be cut off from relationship with God. It doesn’t directly speak to inability. We are dead in sin because our sin destroys any possibility of union with God. So long as we are in sin we are “dead” to God and God is “dead” to us in that there is no living relationship between us. We are completely alienated from God, and in need of reconciliation (Col. 1:21-23). Sin is the cause of this separation and that is why Paul speaks of us being dead in sin. It is true that atonement is needed to effect reconciliation, but being dead in sin is primarily concerned with our state of alienation, and not an inability to provide atonement.

    Thus, whereas Ben would interpret the Scripture that states that “God opened [Lydia’s] heart” as including (besides knowledge) the idea that God turned the will of Lydia, so that she could choose either for or against Christ, I interpret this verse as merely meaning that the Spirit actively presented thoughts to Lydia’s mind toward convincing her of the truth of Christ.

    This doesn’t sound much different than what I have been saying. You say that the Spirit presents thoughts toward convincing her of the truth. This would seem to indicate that a presentation of bare facts would not be sufficient. Rather, the Spirit needs to work to persuade and convince the person of the truth. This would be in harmony with what Christ says of the Spirit’s ministry in John 16: 8-11. The “sin” in this context is the sin of unbelief and the Spirit reveals to us our true state and need of a Savior, as well as the reality of judgment for those who do not believe. But below you seem to suggest that a simple telling of certain facts is sufficient without reference to any convincing ministry of the Holy Spirit,

    Of course, Lydia had to have knowledge about the historicity of Christ in order to exercise her will, but, allowing for this knowledge, I do not think the Spirit had to perform a special activity in order to turn Lydia’s WILL so that she could freely make a choice either for or against Christ.

    But I don’t think this does God’s work in conversion justice (and again, “turn the will” and “enable the will” are not necessarily the same thing). It doesn’t go far enough. If all that was needed was the bare facts of the gospel that was presented by Paul, then what need would there be for Luke to tell us that the Lord “opened her heart” to respond favorably to the gospel message? You told me via e-mail that you think I am reading too much into this statement, but it is just as possible (and I think more probable) that you are down playing the significance of it. The narrative would certainly suggest that something more was going on than just the receiving of knowledge. The narrative would seem to suggest that there was an active persuasion, an enabling work on the heart and soul on the part of God that made it possible for Lydia to respond in faith to what she was hearing. Your own language would seem to suggest that above when you wrote, “…the Spirit actively presented thoughts to Lydia’s mind toward convincing her of the truth of Christ”.

    Really, the intentional language just doesn’t comport with Lydia just gaining knowledge through Paul’s preaching. The intentional language leads us to the conclusion that God was actively working on her heart in order to elicit a response to the message and the knowledge she was gaining …“The Lord opened her heart to respond.”

    So, Ben sees the problem as one involving knowledge AND will, whereas I see the problem merely as one of knowledge, at least, hypothetically. I say “hypothetically” because, although I would probably grant that God is always the initiator of reconciliation (as John says, “We love God because He first loved us”), I do not think (hypothetically speaking) man COULD NOT come, so long as he had knowledge of the historicity of Christ and His work. (Please see my discussion of Gr. dunamai, translated “cannot,” in John 6:44. It is under chapter 12, footnotes #50 and #52).

    Even though this knowledge is “foolishness” to them that are perishing? And please notice that you say the knowledge of the historicity of the crucifixion is necessary prior to there being an opportunity for one to choose Christ. This works against your primary objection concerning God holding us accountable for unbelief, etc. prior to prevenient grace. Is it OK for God to hold us accountable for unbelief prior to the receiving of the “knowledge of the historicity of Christ and His work”, if this knowledge is necessary for putting saving faith in Christ? Prior to this receiving of information, can one choose to embrace Christ? Would that mean that we are “determined” (as you say) to unbelief prior to this time?

    The subject of depravity and prevenient grace is admittedly a thorny one, and perhaps you are right in saying this posting format may not be the best place for you and I to express our differences at length.

    Not only is it thorny, but it is difficult to articulate. This is because the Bible does not clearly spell out exactly how it works, while giving us enough to recognize the need for God to enable fallen man to respond favorably to the gospel. There is mystery in how God interacts with the will on this level just as there is mystery in how our wills work. It is similar, to some extent, to the Trinity in that it represents a mystery that is impossible to perfectly articulate, yet the Bible gives us enough information to convince us that the doctrine must be true.

    First, then, I contend that the very word “influence” as understood in normal, everyday language, carries with it the understanding that it is potentially resistible. That is simply part of the implicit meaning of the word. Yet, I do not believe you have maintained this definition. I spoke in my last post to Robert about how the Calvinist Charles Bridges uses the word “influence,” and I believe the essence of that criticism is applicable to your own comments about depravity. That is, when you discuss the state of man’s depravity PRIOR to prevenient grace, I don’t see any real difference between your arguments and the Calvinist’s. So, let me just refer you to my previous post to Robert rather than repeat myself. And this much ought also to be said: to speak of an “influence” upon man but describe it in such a way so that there is no alternative choice but for the man to react with unbelief, is not to describe “influence” but some sort of determinism.

    Certainly not any kind of determinism as is normally understood in the context of this debate. It does not mean that God causally determines our every action, or that we do not have any real choices at any time. We are still capable of relative moral good. As I mentioned above, would you say that one is “determined” in unbelief prior to hearing the gospel?

    I don’t think that I used “influence” in any different manner than you would refer to the influence of the “knowledge of good in evil” which seems to be your answer to the problem of universal sin while denying total depravity. But still, we are speaking of the nature of man when we speak of depravity. His nature is bent and inclined toward sin and unbelief as a result of spiritual separation from the source of holiness and ultimate good.

    Even so, an influence can be irresistible in general simply because there is an absence of any other influence. In that case a person could only act in accordance with the sole influence being brought to bear on that person. The influence in and of itself may not be irresistible, but in the absence of any other influence it might function in that manner. But when a new influence is introduced, one could then act in accordance with that new influence. And the word “influence” itself can certainly carry with it the idea of being irresistible or overwhelming. We may not normally think of it that way, but it is used that way in certain contexts and the meaning of the word itself does not restrict it to just resistible contexts (e.g. someone who receives a DUI is “under the influence” of alcohol, and it is generally understood that this “influence” has a disabling effect that cannot necessarily be resisted in any way).

    Also, I find the second sentence in your paragraph below rather confusing. What do you mean in saying “…prior to this [certain] influence, the person being influenced…”? Being influenced by whom, since it is prior to “this [certain] influence”? I’m guessing that you mean “prior to this [certain] influence, the person already under another and different influence…”

    No, I did not mean another and different influence. All I was saying was that in the absence of a certain influence being brought to bear on someone, that person cannot respond for or against it. For instance, I might suggest that you do something or believe something that you have never thought to do or believe prior to my suggestion. Say I was trying to get you to take some medicine to heal an affliction you didn’t even realize you had. Not only would you need to be persuaded that you were indeed afflicted by something terrible that needed curing, but you would also need to overcome your natural repulsion of the medicine being offered.

    Because of your natural repulsion you would have never tried this thing prior to being influenced (you wouldn’t even consider it as a potential cure). Your natural tendency is denial and repulsion. Everything in you tells you to run in the other direction and deny your need for the cure. In this case it would require a powerful influence to enable you to overcome your fear, your denial, and your repulsion. That is kind of how Arminians see prevenient grace working. God overcomes all those barriers that prevent us from embracing the reality of our sickness (i.e. sin), our need for a Savior and our fear and natural tendency to hide from God rather than turn to Him. God makes faith possible where it was not possible before and therefore gives us a genuine choice.

    I think you may be confusing “WOULD have never thought” with “COULD never do that thing”. i.e., “would” versus “could.” These are not the same things.

    They are not the same things, but in this case they have the same practical implications. One cannot do something that he would never think to do.

    For I do not think you are using these terms (“would” and “could”) as INformal English sometimes does (when it substitutes the one for the other), but as FORMAL English would have them. At least, that is my impression from what you are trying to say. However, properly speaking, there is all the difference in the world between “would not” and “could not.”

    But if one would never have thought to do something and the opportunity was not presented to that person, then for all practical purposes, that person “cannot” do that thing. The point being that in the absence of this influence the person would never, on his own, think or desire to do that particular thing. So the influence enables a response where no response was possible before. The influence is a necessary ingredient to the performing of the act, but the influence does not necessitate the act.

    Let’s consider it from your perspective. Would you say that one can believe the gospel prior to hearing the gospel? Could Lydia have believed prior to gaining information about Christ from Paul? That is all I am saying, but just taking it a few steps further beyond just the simple exposure to information.

    For if a person “would not” this merely implies that he IS aware of the alternative but chooses against it, WHEREAS if a person “COULD NOT” or “CAN NOT” then the matter is beyond his control, and the force to which he is subject deterministic.

    You are confusing my point. I am saying that he “would not” normally consider that such a thing is an “alternative” until a necessary influence is brought to bear on him which then makes that alternative a reality and possibility for that person. Again, was Lydia “subject to determinism” according to you, prior to hearing the gospel from Paul? BTW, I don’t really have a problem with “could not” since I am affirming inability (to believe the gospel) prior to the introduction of that enabling influence (prevenient grace).

    But if deterministic, then no alternative (choice) is present to the man, and, further, if no choice is present, then a moral assignation to the man is impossible. For if a person cannot choose, how can it be implied that he has chosen unbelief?

    Now you are conflating conversion with normal moral choices/actions. I do believe that we have the capability to make moral choices, but as I said before they amount to only relative good. We can still make moral decisions, but those decisions do not attain to God’s holy standard since they do not proceed from faith. Yet, the Spirit of God working on our consciences can give us opportunities to respond to God’s grace in leading us to repentance (e.g. general revelation, the law written on our hearts, etc.). We are responsible for how we respond to that grace at every step, and so we are morally accountable beings. If we reject that grace then we willingly remain in our sinful state and will be held accountable for that rejection and our sinful state, since by responding to grace we could have moved toward repentance and eventually been freed from that sinful state through faith in Christ. The Arminian position simply gives God’s grace and intervention necessary priority in all movements towards Him.

    And also, we can understand unbelief in two different ways. I think we must even in your view since one cannot reject the gospel until it is presented to him. That rejection would constitute “unbelief” as in “refusing to believe the gospel”. But what would you call someone prior to hearing the gospel? You wouldn’t call them a believer would you? You would still call them an unbeliever because they do not have faith, even if that lack of faith is not in the context of rejecting the gospel. And they are still accountable for it so long as they resist God’s grace in leading them to the possibility of receiving the gospel (as explained above), even if they have not yet been led to the point of actually hearing the gospel.

    Also, my description of “turning the will” referred to the process in Arminian theology of going TO enablement (from disablement). I think the context of my remarks demonstrates that I had this meaning in mind.

    And I think the context of my comments regarding influence demonstrated what I had in mind, yet there was still confusion on your part.

    So, whether we speak of this process as “freeing” the will, or “turning” the will, or “switching on” the will TO enablement, seems to me a matter of semantic, not real, difference.

    The point of my response was just to make sure everyone understood the proper context since comments about “turning the will” can be misleading (i.e. can suggest irresistibility), just as you thought my comments about influence could be misleading. I would also suggest that much of your arguments against my position amounted to semantic and not real differences. Hopefully this response has cleared some things up rather than added to confusion.

    I also disagree with your implication that choice can be denied because of environmental conditions of INFLUENCE. Your argument, as it would apply to depravity, is that ‘absent influence equals choice denied.’ But this only makes sense to me if by “influence” you mean “knowledge of the law,” since the Bible tells us that “by the [knowledge of the] Law is the knowledge of sin.” I don’t think substituting the word “influence” works here. We would not be saying the same thing if we said, “By the influence of the Law is the knowledge of sin,” or “By the lack of influence of the Law is the knowledge of sin.”

    I don’t think we need to substitute knowledge for influence. What Paul means is that the law demonstrates God’s moral standard and in the absence of that standard there can be no sin or knowledge of sin. We know what sin is because we know what the law says. The law defines sin, but the law doesn’t necessarily convince us that we are sinners or even that the law is of divine origin, or applies to us. Many people have knowledge of the commands of God and disregard them as fiction. There is still need of conviction that the law is binding as a standard of morality and that the law is binding because of its divine origin. There is still need of conviction that our sinful state means we need a Savior. So again, I think your comments here confuse the issue, and I don’t see that you have proved your point that only absence of knowledge could constitute absence of choice. My position would not deny that knowledge is involved anyway; it would only take it further than just knowledge.

    So, Ben, I guess my two questions are this: (1) Are you unwittingly equating “influence” with “knowledge”?

    No.

    But if so, then why should man be considered depraved, since an absence of knowledge would make him INculpable, not culpable, since sin is only possible if one has a knowledge of the law?

    But even those without the law are culpable because the law is written on their hearts (Romans 2:12-16), and who do you suppose wrote that law on their hearts? I already covered this above with regards to our rejecting God’s grace, at any step, in leading us to Christ.

    Also, (2) If you are NOT equating “influence” with “knowledge,” then why are you not maintaining the normal everyday definition of “influence” that society recognizes, and which carries with it the implicit understanding of potential resistibility? This is why I mentioned the “would” versus “could,” because to me this is where you embrace the Hegelian dialectic, i.e., when, in describing man prior to receiving prevenient grace, you seem to imply on the one hand that man ‘WOULD NOT’ choose, thus leaving the impression that man MAY choose, but on the other hand state that man ‘COULD NOT’ choose, leaving the diametrically opposed impression that man CAN NOT choose.

    I covered this already. I am not affirming contradictions or using language improperly (IMO), so I am not willing to be saddled with this label (Hegelian) that you keep trying to put on me.

    If you reply to my comments here as you did previously, then I suppose I will again be faulted for not applying dialectical criticism to dialectical theology, however ‘soft’ your Hegelian dialecticism may be. I think this is what dismays me–that in this arena of shared ideas and online blogging and posting, it seems so unlikely to reach agreement. That, and because in your footnote 6, in which you state (in effect) that prior to God’s prevenient grace man has no choice but to disbelieve. But why? Because of Genesis 3 or Romans 5 or Psalm 51? But one should not think so.

    Well, we could just stick to Acts 16:14 for now. As far as my footnote, I still am left to wonder how Lydia could have had a choice, even in your view, prior to receiving the “historical information” about Christ from Paul.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  58. […] 2009 by kangaroodort Calvinist Steve Hays has weighed in on my use of 1 Cor. 10:13 in my post on The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture.  He quotes a section from my post where I make the case that the passage cannot comport with […]

  59. […] here.  For that reason, it is important to review what this discussion is all about.  I initially cited 1 Cor. 10:13 as a text which is incompatible with determinism.  Some Calvinist was apparently troubled by the […]

  60. […] that this comes as any major surprise. The scriptural case for the reality of libertarian choice is so strong, that the only ‘viable option’ left for compatibilists to save face is to […]

  61. This comment is regarding the post: “The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture.” What would make this article stronger is if you actually quoted and cited Calvinists. I’m curious to know your sources for your portrayal of Calvinism on free will. For instance, in f.n. 5 you say “Some Calvinists…” Who are the some? Can you give me support for this?

  62. Dan,

    The “some Calvinists” I am referring to are certain Calvinists that I have had dialogue with on the internet in blog comboxes and forum threads. I don’t know that any published Calvinists have made such objections concerning 1 Cor. 10:13.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  63. Ben,

    As a open-minded Calvinist, I always looking for faithful Arminians who I could have a dialogue with about Calvinism/Arminianism. If you do not cite or quote Calvinists, even if it’s just cited or quoting another blogger, how can I check to make sure you are representing them fairly? I don’t know the ettiquette for blogging, but to me it would seem like if you’re going to take the time to post an article such as: “The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture,” and having read books, blogs, etc., in preparation for this blog post, it would be helfpul to cite sources: helpful to you for future reference and helfpul to your Calvinist or Arminian reader.

    I’m wondering the protocol (if there is any) for blogging?

  64. Dan,

    Have you ever heard of “common knowledge”? I would venture to say that nearly everything I have written in this post is common knowledge among those who have studied this debate. When you are constantly dialoguing with Calvinists on the internet, you will encounter numerous arguments. In writing a post defending a certain view point against Calvinist claims, it is not unreasonable to mention arguments you have heard in order to address them, without needing to necessarily cite where you heard those arguments. Many arguments are recycled among numerous Calvinists and used continually. In such a case, it doesn’t seem necessary to cite someone specifically, since they have become common and basic (i.e. typical) Calvinist arguments. The reason for saying “Some Calvinists say…” is to cover all my bases and try to head off arguments that might be raised before they are raised.

    Is there some portion of my post that troubles you or seems unfair or inaccurate? Is there something in particular that you feel needs specific documentation? Do you think I am not being honest with you when I say that I have heard certain arguments from Calvinists on the internet?

    I think it is very normal protocol for someone to present common arguments and then counter those arguments without necessarily providing specific quotes from people who make such arguments. Many of my posts do contain specific quotes, but this post was dealing with very general and well known differences between the Calvinist accounting of freedom and the Arminian accounting of freedom.

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  65. Dan,

    Just to satisfy you on your concern over footnote #5, here is a link to a CARM thread where I addressed this very argument. The first part quoted in a blue block is from a Calvinist I was debating on that thread. You may need to sign in (or create an account and then sign in) to view the thread:

    http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showpost.php?p=3555955&postcount=167

    I will quote the Calvinist below for those who do not want to go through the effort of signing in (if it is necessary to do so),

    First, 1 Cor. 10:13 is written to believers. He is talking to Christians about living the Christian life. He is not telling us the capability of unbelievers. Thus, the comments here cannot be taken as being relevant to dealing with the lost and their ability. Further, the text does not advocate libertarian free will, nor does the text advocate any other kind of will. That would have to be inserted. Certainly, the will is involved, and Christians need to make choices in keeping with the verse, but what kind of will is never mentioned.

    The screen name of the Calvinist who wrote the above comment is “4Calvinism”.

    To see the entire page (page 9 of the discussion) you can click this link:

    http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showthread.php?t=129005&highlight=no+temptation&page=9

    This is just one place among many where I have heard this type of response concerning 1 Cor. 10:13- hence the reason for the footnote.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  66. Correction:

    The Calvinist who orginally wrote the quoted portion was “His Clay”, but “4Calvinism” had just quoted him prior to my response, so in looking back I assumed it was “4Calvinism” that had made the comment. Sorry for the confusion.

  67. Yes, I agree with you that there is such a think as common knowledge. In my understanding, if an idea is represented in three or more sources, then you do not have to cite the source–it therefore becomes your common knowledge.

    Lord willing, I will respond specifically to your 3 questions at a later date, but I just wanted to send this quick reply now.

  68. Dan,

    In future comments, please just comment at the bottom of the thread instead of using the “reply” button. That way none of your comments will be overlooked.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  69. […] sense that truth excludes contradictions.  Or perhaps it is because we are all naturally aware of the reality of choice (something Calvinist philosophy essentially denies), just as we are naturally (intuitively) aware of […]

  70. […] here is a guy who is quite for real.  In the following post he essentially equates anyone who believes that God has endowed His creatures with a measure of free will with demon possessed […]

  71. […] better to believe the scriptures that testify both of God’s absolute Holiness as well as the choices that He in His sovereignty allows men to freely make, rather than Calvinism’s incoherent […]

  72. Ben,

    My Calvinst friend (who seems to be trying very hard to convince me of this system) is shall we say consistent in his Calvinism (Unconditional Reprobation, seems to highly hold to God’s “secret sovereign/decretive will” etc). This one also believes that there is a free-will or choice we make, but he holds and accepts that this choice IS in fact an illusion. In a discussion a few nights ago he said this very thing.
    How does an Arminan approach such an astounding claim that God actually gives “choices,” but these choices are illusions, since everything is predetermined and encessitated by God? How would I repsond to a person who holds that in their theology?

    Thanks.

  73. Brendan,

    I only have a minute as I am at the library. Basically, your friend blatantly denies that we have choices or make choices. To say that free will and choice making is an illusion is simply to deny the reality of choice making and free will. You can’t say that something actually exists and then claim that it is illusion. All he can claim is that the illusion exists, and that God basically deceives us into believing that we have free will and make choices when in fact we do not (as the post pointed out). Such thinking is plainly incompatible with numerous Scriptures, just as I pointed out a few in the post. God himself calls on people to choose, but if choice is simply an illusion then God is both deceiving and calling on people to do the impossible.

    Unfortunately, I barely have any internet access anymore, so I will not be able to correspond much further.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  74. If Adam and Eve had free will then why didn’t they turn around and go back?In their fallen state they were not allowed to take of the tree of life after they fell.Why so? because in their fallen state they would have received eternal death.
    You see how salvation was not left in the hands of sinful man.Because Adam fell all of Humanity is fallen.In Adam all die.Spiritually die.We were all conceived in sin and born in iniquity.We all came from a women unclean.We need to be born again.This birth is not in mans power,in fact it is impossible with man.In the book of John 1:12 but as many as received him,to them gave he power to become the sons of God,even to them that believe on his name….Now slow down here….13 seys this… Which were born,not of blood,nor of the will of the flesh,nor of the will of man,but of God.
    Now John 3:5
    Ephesains 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:it is the gift of God.
    You see how salvation is not of mans will.Mans earthly will has no part in becoming saved,or being born again which is the same thing.
    Adam and Eve wasn’t able to use it back yonder in the garden and neither does Gods children use any of it today.Salvation is of the Lord.

  75. lewis,

    If you are going to leave further comments, please make them relate directly to the post. Your comments about Adam and Eve are interesting. If we have no free will and God controls our wills, then why did God need to bar the entry to the tree of life to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life? Couldn’t He just control their wills so that they would never eat it? Rather, God seems to take action to prevent them from eating of the tree of life, knowing that they have the freedom to do so if God didn’t make it impossible (remove that option). And free will doesn’t mean that we can always do or choose whatever we like. Our will does not operate in a vacuum. It can only choose when there are options available.

    On your misuse of John 1:12-13, see the following post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/09/05/dr-brian-abasciano-on-the-conditionality-implied-in-romans-916-and-its-connection-to-john-112-13/

    On your misuse of John 5, see the following post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/08/20/does-jesus-teach-that-regeneration-precedes-faith-in-john-33-6/

    Not sure what your point is regarding Ephesians 2:8. Scholars generally agree that the “gift” in that passage refers to the gift of salvation and not faith (since salvation is received by faith). Even if faith is the gift, that doesn’t mean it is a gift irresistibly given to only some. Rather, faith is a gift that can be resisted (God enables all to believe, but not all do believe). To receive the gift of faith is simply to believe as God enables us. There is nothing in Ephesians 2:8 that says man’s will is not a factor at all in receiving God’s gift. Indeed, since faith is an act of will, man’s will is plainly implied.

    I fully agree that salvation is of the Lord. Man cannot regenerate himself. Man cannot justify himself. Man cannot sanctify himself. Man certainly cannot save himself. That is precisely why man needs to trust in Christ to do all of these things, but that “trust” is not part of salvation. Rather, it is the condition for receiving God’s salvation. That in no way implies that salvation is not of the Lord. Rather, it establishes it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: