Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards by Daniel D. Whedon (Book Review)

Many thanks to John D. Wagner for the review copy.

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John D. Wagner has edited and republished another classic and yet little known work on the freedom of the will by Methodist Daniel D. Whedon (1808-1885).  It is extremely significant as the discussion over the freedom of the will has intensified greatly with the resurgence of Calvinism in mainstream Christianity.  Many Calvinists today still point to the classic book by Jonathan Edwards (The Freedom of the Will) as an irrefutable work firmly establishing the Calvinist doctrine of necessity and compatibilism.  Whedon brilliantly takes on the arguments of Edwards and his contemporaries in this excellent refutation of the “necessitarian” position.

Whedon covers every significant argument of Edwards and other “necessitarians” in this book and dismantles them piece by piece.  He points out that many of the necessitarian arguments amount to question begging, bare assertions, or intricate sophisms, often riddled with embarrassing contradictions and absurdities.  He explains that there simply aren’t any sufficient arguments against the possibility of a single causative power in the agent capable of producing a variety of effects (volitions).  He refers to this as “alternative power” in the Will and demonstrates that it is itself a full and adequate cause needing nothing else to put forth one effect just as well as another (alternative effect).  In other words, nothing causes the Will to act a certain way since the Will is itself a full and adequate cause.  He would classify Edwards’ view of the Will as “unipotent” while calling his own view “pluripotent” (in contemporary discussions Whedon would be considered a “wide source incompatibilist”) 

He effectively takes on Edwards’ argument from motive force; his argument based on natural versus moral ability; his argument based on foreknowledge; his argument based on a so called infinite series (or infinite regress); his argument based on chance, and numerous others.  It is my opinion that Whedon’s section “Reconciliation of Free Agency and Foreknowledge” definitively demonstrates the compatibility of foreknowledge with libertarian free will.  It should be read and carefully considered by Calvinists and Open Theists alike (who both deny that foreknowledge is compatible with free will).

But Whedon is mostly concerned with the troubling and unavoidable implications of Edwards’ necessitarianism: the impossibility of a just moral government and the damage done to God’s holy character.  It would be as unjust and absurd for God to hold a necessitated being morally responsible for his volitions and actions as it would to hold a clock hammer responsible for its movements.  In the end, Whedon concludes that necessitarianism is in no way compatible with the freedom necessary for upholding a just moral government and providing the conditions for an adequate theodicy:

From all this, there results the conclusion that without free volition there can be no justice, no satisfying the moral sense, no retributive system, no moral Government, of which the creature can be the rightful subject, and no God, the righteous Administrator…If there is a true divine government, man is a non-necessitated moral agent. (352)

At times the book presents very tough reading.  Whedon is a very careful philosopher and takes great pains to develop his arguments and carefully define his terms in order to dispatch with the ambiguity that often clouds the topic and makes debating the subject nearly impossible.  At times a single paragraph may need to be read several times in order to gather its full import, but the patient reader will be richly rewarded.  I intend to read it several times and will no doubt gain valuable insight with each additional reading.  If this is a topic of interest for you or if you have come to believe that Edwards’ work on the Will is irrefutable, then this book is a must read. Read it alongside Edwards’ work and decide for yourself who better makes their case.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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You can purchase the book at Amazon:

Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards

For more reviews and related resources go here.

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49 Responses

  1. You write very well. I am curious: What percent of the Arminian-Calvinist debate is simply a general philosphical debate of free-wiil vs. determinism whose results would apply to all faiths who debate the same, vs the percent which is Christian theology specific.
    This is a sincere question, if you have time.

  2. Sabio,

    Good question. I think the philosophical discussion is just an extension of the theological discussion. The Calvinist sees exhaustive determinism in the Bible and draws from that the conclusion that free will cannot exist (at least not in the way that most people would understand free will). However, there is much in the Bible that seems to plainly assume and teach that men have free will in a libertarian sense. So the Calvinist goes on the attack philosophically, arguing that free will doesn’t make sense, etc.

    Edwards’ main concern was to demonstrate that responsibility was compatible with necessitation. He tried to make the case that libertarian free will was absurd, but he was mostly defending the coherence of his own view against the charge that it made it impossible for God to rightly hold His necessitated creatures accountable for their actions (if they can even properly be called “their ” actions). I think Whedon effectively shows that Edwards ultimately fails in that task.

    Exegetically, it comes down to which side best interprets those passages which may seem deterministic or seem to teach free will. Both sides tend to agree that the Bible cannot teach both (since the word of God would not contradict itself). Though some Calvinists do embrace contradictions such as this and wrongly refer to them as “mysteries”. I don’t think that the passages Calvinist put forward as teaching divine determinism even come close to actually teaching that, so I don’t see the need to appeal to “mystery” at all. The Arminian is also very concerned with the logical implications of exhaustive determinism. We see that one of the inevitable results of the doctrine is to make God the author or cause of all sin and evil in the universe. That is certainly inconsistent with His character as revealed in Scripture (His holiness, etc.). It also makes nonsense of justice as described in Scripture in that it would have God causing His creatures to sin and rebel against Him and then punishing most of them for doing those things that they could not possibly avoid and which were in perfect accordance to His eternal and unchangeable decree.

    However, the issue does not so much turn on free will for me (though that is important). It turns more on the plain Biblical declaration that salvation is conditioned on faith and sincerely offered to all. It turns on the fact that God desires all to be saved and has made provision of that salvation for all. Even those truths imply free will, but free will is not the main reason I am an Arminian.

    Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. Thank you Ben. I will read this over a couple of times and explores areas I yet don’t understand. Again, great writing.

  4. How do the facts that Jonathan Edwards both espoused a Calvinistic Doctrine and preached “the sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” meet together?

  5. I have had another question along the same lines.

    How was it that D. James Kennedy was both a Calvinist and established Evangelism Explosion – a serious push for evangelizing many?

  6. Bob,

    If you are trying to point out a level of inconsistency, I can hardly disagree. With regards to evangelism I am very happy that so many Calvinists are inconsistent.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. I am actually curious as to why it is. I know that Calvinists are intelligent in their beliefs and have “reasons” for their practices, and in that direction is my question turned. Because it occurs to me that a person who believes as Calvinists do would not believe that evangelism was necessary – if in fact they believe that God controls the salvation of men outside of the response of men. But, because of these facts that I mentioned earlier, it leads me to believe that somehow Calvinists do not believe that men do not have responsibility in regard to their salvation.

    CAn anyone shed some light on this for me?

  8. I know that I should pout these questions together, but after I finish and post one another thought pops into my head.

    I have another question (I am young and trying to piece some things together).

    My question is how do the unchanging nature of God – Immutibility and salvation work together?

  9. Bob,

    As per your first question, I do believe that Calvinism can produce a lack of zeal for evangelism when the logic of the system is pressed. However, many Calvinists are strong on evangelism. Calvinists find different ways to motivate themselves to evangelize. But the fact remains that Calvinism can also discourage evangelism in that one can fall back on the fact that if he fails to evangelize, it is just as God decreed it from all eternity. In the end, the elect cannot fail to be saved, and the reprobate cannot get saved.

    As per you second question, I am having a hard time understanding the question. Do you see some reason why God’s immutability would not be compatible with salvation?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. Thanks Ben for responding.

    My question about the immutibility of God has to do with a wrestling I have. If God does not change, and I know that the Bible is clear on that, then how can His mind about me change based upon my putting my faith in Him. Does that not make Him adjust something somehow?

  11. Bob,

    I think that is taking immutability too far. God does not change with respect to His nature and essence, but that doesn’t mean that he cannot interact with us on a personal level or respond to changing circumstances. God is, after all, a personal and relational Being.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. You said that God can “respond” to changing circumstances.
    To what extent does He respond?

    Is God reactive, and must wait to see what we will do before He can respond. Is He discovering what is unfolding?

  13. You said that God can “respond” to changing circumstances.
    To what extent does He respond?

    For example: God responds to a sinner with condemnation, but when that sinner believes (i.e. the circumstances change) He responds to him with salvation and life (John 3:16-18, 36).

    We would need to ignore nearly all of Scripture in order to maintain that God does not respond to His creatures in a relational and personal way. Yet, none of this means that God ceases to be God, nor does it mean that His nature and essence “change” in some way.

    As far as God’s knowledge, I do not think that God learns. All of reality is immediately apparent to Him. You might find the following article interesting as it addresses some of these issues:

    http://www.agts.edu/faculty/faculty_publications/articles/railey_open-theism.pdf

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. Ben,

    I read what you sent me. Thank you for that.

    http://www.agts.edu/faculty/faculty_publications/articles/railey_open-theism.pdf

    I think that I got a lot out of that and some clarification.

    I especially was interested in the first paragraph on page 25.
    This gave me a lot of insight in understanding the discussion. Because the discussion is really one about control.
    To believe that God has a more far-reaching “ordaining” of things would be to take control out of the hands of the person.
    And those who hold the Arminian view want to maintain the belief that they can have impact on things and “some” control of the outcome. The idea of being under the total sovereignty of God, in this view, strikes against the the need to have impact on outcome. So it is an issue of importance and control. If the human does not have control then his importance is lessened and his value and worth and dignity are then undermined.

    The question which arises for me from reading this is why can it not simply be the other way around. If God can limit Himself to “respond” to human beings. Why cannot human beings be brought into accordance of His ordained will? One is the limiting of God and the lifting up of humanity, the other is the limiting of humanity and the lifting up of God.

    Is there another way to see this that I am not seeing? 🙂

  15. A quick addendum to the last post.
    Is not the value that we have derived simply from being created in the image of God. Must our value be tied to our “ability”. If all glory belongs to God, then His increase and my decrease is part of that glory.

    Again, is there something which I am not seeing? 🙂

  16. If all glory belongs to God, then His increase and my decrease is part of that glory.

    God’s glory is certainly not increased if He causes His creatures to sin and then judges them and punishes them eternally for those sins which they had no more power to avoid than they have the power to create a universe. And how is God glorified if the only way He can get love and devotion from His creatures is to irresistibly cause them to love Him and be devoted to Him. Sorry, but I do not see how getting rid of free will necessarily gives God more glory. Here are a few posts you may like to check out for more on that:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/what-brings-glory-to-god/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/what-brings-the-most-glory-to-god-part-2-john-wesley/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/synergism-as-a-model-for-gods-glory/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/some-new-must-read-articles-at-sea-abasciano-and-mccall/

    Also, I would highly recommend you read Whedon’s book at some point. You can read it fee online here:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Determinism-Whedon-The-Freedom-of-the-Will-as-a-Basis-of-Human-Responsibility-and-a-Divine-Government

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. I will check out what you sent.

    I am not trying to be a pain. I am exploring this.

    Why in your opinion did God – Who at least “knew” what Adam and Eve were going to do in the garden and what the result was going to be – go ahead and create them, create Satan?

    All of this, at least “knowing”, that the result would be so many damned.

    I understand the point of “desiring real love from the created”. But I have a real struggle here in the difference between God “ordaining” the fall to His purposes and God creating man “knowing” that many or most would be separated from Him. In either case God has control of it, and in both – many are damned.

  18. Bob,

    See this post in response to yuor question: http://brennonsthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/03/is-there-trauma-in-sovereignty-response_16.html

    The author gives more than one response that answers your question. But the granfather paradox argument rightly does not even let the Calvinist argument on this get out of the gate.

  19. Bob,

    Arminian pointed you to a good post. It is absurd to think that God could foreknow a person and the choices he would make and then not create that person. Such a person would never exist in anyway and would never be able to make any choices to foreknow, so there would be nothing that could possibly be “known” about “him” (again, even saying “him” is absurd since we are talking about a “person” that will never exist). If God were to foreknow the fall and then not create, He would be falsifying His foreknowledge and would actually be wrong. Clearly, God cannot be wrong.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. Exactly.

    So He made man knowing that man would reject Him, and as a result many would be damned.

  21. Yes. God foreknew it all. But God’s foreknowledge was based on what His creatures would freely choose with full power of choosing otherwise. And as mentioned before, it is not as though God could foreknow all of that and then not create since His creation was part of what He foreknew and God cannot be wrong. Certainly, you can see the difference between this and the view that God decreed man’s sin in such a way that man had no power to do otherwise than sin and disobey God, and then punishes them eternally for doing just as God decreed for them to do with no more ability to avoid sin than to create a universe. I think that is a rather striking difference between the two views. One has God authoring sin while the other has man authoring sin and God simply foreknowing that sin. Big, big difference in my opinion.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. “Is this necessary? Let’s explore the notion. God created a universe of free creatures who He knew would sin. Does this make God responsible for the sins of His independent creatures? No! There are no philosophical or logical reasons to say that God is responsible for those sins.”

    Perhaps you miss my point. In my point/question before – I said nothing about “Responsibility” for man sinning. I said what I stated in the immediately preceeding comment.
    He knew it, but went ahead anyway. If you want to bring responsibility into it that’s fine, but that is not my immediate point.

    Question #1 – Did God “know” before He created man that man would sin?
    Question #2 – If God “knew” that man would sin why did He create?

    This is where I am going with this.

  23. Bob,

    See my comment right above yours (it was posted right before this one and before I saw this one (though I am not sure who you are addressing now). You still do not seem to be seeing the point that God cannot foreknow something someone would do, and then not create that person. In other words, your #2 is non-sensical.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  24. I ran across this in my search. What do you think?

    However, if it is to be understood that God created all that is created, the principle asserts that this poses a problem for any passive knowledge on God’s part. An understanding of omniscience must be joined with an understanding of God’s omnipresence in time. If God knows all events—past, future, and present—then He would know all events and decisions an individual would make, though from the individual’s perspective those events and decisions have not yet occurred. This can be viewed, at least implicitly, as a nullification of any concept of free will for any individual, though no mechanism for God’s apparent foreknowledge restraining the freedom to act is posited by the principle of theological fatalism. Since, according the Christian theology, God is atemporal (existing outside of time), God knows from creation the entire course of one’s life, all the actions in which he will partake, and even whether or not that individual will accept His divine authority. With these preconditions, only a starkly fatalistic theological position seems imaginable to some.

    To go one step further, here are some other implications: There is a vast difference between Predestination, Fatalism and Chance (or Fortune).

    Fatalists teach that there is a blind, impersonal force, back of which there is no Divine purpose and over which none has control—not even God—and that the things which happen in this world are swept along by this blind power. This is Fatalism.

    Chance (or Fortune) means that things “happen” luckily, that things are not controlled and directed by God. According to Chance, God can foresee what will happen, but that is all. Everything is mere luck. And if the advocate of Chance is asked why or how things come to pass, he has no reply except to say that “it just happened.”

    Predestination, the doctrine of the Bible, says that God has a purpose and He is working all things out according to His own will and purpose (Ephesians 1:11, Daniel 4:35, Isaiah 14:24 and 46:10).

    Predestination teaches that God does nothing nor does He permit anything except that which serves to carry out His purpose (Psalm 33:11). This means that GOD IS the SOVEREIGN of the world, the One who does all things as He wills.

    Those who blankly say or believe “what is to be, will be” are as wrong as the advocates of chance. It is true that events are certain, but only so because of the sovereign God who fulfills His own decrees. Actually, those who believe “what is to be, will be,” without considering God, are as difficult to convince of the Bible doctrine of predestination as those who believe in chance or fortune.

    Serious students of the Bible do not believe that things “just happen.” They understand that a wise, holy, good and sovereign God has the control and guiding hand in every detail of life (Matthew 10:29-30). The only man who does not really want God to have this control, or the man who despises the truth that God does have the control, is the person who does not love God and does not want God in his life. He wants his own will and way. He wants God on one side, and he wants to be on the other. He, like the devils of old, would say, “Leave us alone.” But not so; God is sovereign, and He cannot deny Himself.

  25. Ben,

    I just read your last post and I understand logically the point – God cannot know what cannot be know. His Omniscience is in regard to all which can be known.

    So I guess the point is that – God had no choice but to create to “find out” what would happen, and the had to adjust and come up with a plan because of what did happen.
    Which makes God responsive.

    I appreciate the dialogue – it is helpful. 🙂

  26. Bob,

    Here is an excerpt from you article posted above.

    “Serious students of the Bible do not believe that things “just happen.” They understand that a wise, holy, good and sovereign God has the control and guiding hand in every detail of life (Matthew 10:29-30). The only man who does not really want God to have this control, or the man who despises the truth that God does have the control, is the person who does not love God and does not want God in his life. He wants his own will and way.”

    Any time a biblical discussion is framed in this way, it destroys potential dialogue and turns everyone defensively to their own position. To attack someone’s motives – as if a human could know them – is arrogant and evil.

    God is glorified when truth is preached. If man has been bestowed free will because of God, then it is true and needs to be preached. If man does not have free will, then it is true and needs to be preached. Anything slanderous that does not address facts only takes the discussion backwards and destroys unity.

    That being said, I do think some level of “chance” is accurate as far as this life is concerned. Not because I feel that it is, or want it to be so, but because God said it.

    Ecclesiastes 9:11

    “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”

    God intended this life after the fall to be unpredictable and unstable, and with good reason. It causes men to think about and long for something stable, reliable, and concrete – the God of Heaven. That being said, God has demonstrated Sovereignty in His plan of redemption for man, and other events as documented in the Scriptures. I think it is completely biblical to see our world as one where Satan is active and dangerous, where time and chance happen to even the best of us, and where God works and accomplishes His will.

  27. Ben,

    I agree that there is a danger in “turning people to their defensive positions”.

    I find that a lot as I have explored this.

  28. Bob,

    I think you meant to address your comment to Steve.

  29. You are right. I apologize Ben.

  30. These are questions which I have asked which have not been directly answered. Can you take some time and address each.

    How do the facts that Jonathan Edwards both espoused a Calvinistic Doctrine and preached “the sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” meet together?

    How was it that D. James Kennedy was both a Calvinist and established Evangelism Explosion – a serious push for evangelizing many?

    Is not the value that we have derived simply from being created in the image of God. Must our value be tied to our “ability”. If all glory belongs to God, then His increase and my decrease is part of that glory.`

  31. Bob,

    I answered all of those questions above. Here was my answer to your first question two questions:

    Bob,

    If you are trying to point out a level of inconsistency, I can hardly disagree. With regards to evangelism I am very happy that so many Calvinists are inconsistent.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    And here was my answer to your third:

    God’s glory is certainly not increased if He causes His creatures to sin and then judges them and punishes them eternally for those sins which they had no more power to avoid than they have the power to create a universe. And how is God glorified if the only way He can get love and devotion from His creatures is to irresistibly cause them to love Him and be devoted to Him. Sorry, but I do not see how getting rid of free will necessarily gives God more glory. Here are a few posts you may like to check out for more on that:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/what-brings-glory-to-god/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/what-brings-the-most-glory-to-god-part-2-john-wesley/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/synergism-as-a-model-for-gods-glory/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/some-new-must-read-articles-at-sea-abasciano-and-mccall/

    Also, I would highly recommend you read Whedon’s book at some point. You can read it fee online here:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Determinism-Whedon-The-Freedom-of-the-Will-as-a-Basis-of-Human-Responsibility-and-a-Divine-Government

    God Bless,
    Ben

    I hope you will take the time to read and think about the posts and articles linked to above as I believe they address your third question well.

  32. I am not trying to be difficult, but I am curious as to the reasoning of the of the individuals mentioned. I know that you consider it to be inconsistent, and it does seem to be, but what would their answer be for the inconsistency? Why would Kennedy have a “monergistic” (new word which I learned) view of salvation, but then feel compelled to establish such a far reaching evangelism ministry? What would have been his reasoning? How would he have met the two together?

    Also, I was asked a question recently which I did not know how to answer. Can you help?
    “What is the source of power or ability in free-will”?

    As to my third question I should have left it off at the first sentence – that is what I intended. The question of our value being tied to what we can or should do.

    Thank you for your time.

  33. I have re-read the attached articles and think that I understand where they are coming from.

    But, there is another question which I have arising from the discussion.

    At some point the point was made that God somehow “limited” His sovereignty to allow us “free-will”.
    I have not been able to find a verse of scripture which describes God limiting His sovereignty. Can you point me to one?

  34. Bob, the only one talking about ‘limiting’ God’s sovereignty was you. God doesn’t have to limit His sovereignty to allow men to make free choices, as not exhaustively determining everything doesn’t strip Him of any authority (indeed, it would be His sovereign choice to allow us any freedom at all).

  35. J.C.,

    Thanks for the reply. But, in fact in the discussion someone did say that God willingly limited Himself to allow for us to have choice. The person in this discussion may have written or expressed that it was His omniscience which He limited or His sovereignty.

    By the way – I hope that you do not think that I am trying to express a belief that God “exhaustively determines” everything. Because in fact my persuasion at this moment from scripture is that He does not exhaustively determine.

    I am trying to find facts. And that is the reason for my questions. And I am concerned that the questions which I have asked in the last few parts of the thread here have not been answered.

    Thanks, Bob

  36. I went back and read the following document which was sent to me.

    http://www.agts.edu/faculty/faculty_publications/articles/railey_open-theism.pdf

    And the reference about God limiting Himself is on Page 11 and the 11th line.

  37. Bob, by your wording, I thought you were referring to someone in this thread rather than on a linked document. As for Railey’s essay, the wording on the line you refer to is,

    “His sovereignty is such that He can limit Himself in ways that no force outside of Himself can, and can allow His free creatures to disappointment Him and fail to meet His expectations for them. God always achieves His intentions, but not always His desires.”

    That’s again, not limiting His sovereignty, but sovereignly choosing to not exhaustively control everything. I’m not sure any point in the Bible explicitly states this concept, though it’s an inescapable ramification when one considers that some things that occur displease God.

  38. J.C.,

    Do you believe in the Impassability of God?
    And if so, how does this idea relate to that?

  39. Bob,

    I don’t care for that wording. I don’t agree with it. The article has some very good points, but I would not have used that language. As J.C. says, God deciding to create free moral agents and allow them a measure of free will is not a case of God “limiting” His sovereignty, but exercising His sovereignty. However, when a Calvinist insists that God cannot create free will creatures and hold them accountable for their actions, the Calvinist is effectively “limiting” God’s sovereign freedom.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  40. Also,

    is there anyone out there who can answer the questions which I posed?

  41. Ben,

    I am trying to grasp the thought line here – but am still a bit outside of it.

    If God sovereignly makes Himself to be responsive to the actions of the creatures which He creates, knowing what they will do only in the sense that he can see ahead – does that not in some way constitute a “limitation” of God? Even if it is self-imposed.

  42. If God sovereignly makes Himself to be responsive to the actions of the creatures

    God doesn’t make Himself respond. He simply responds as the personal Being that He is. You need to show that God being God somehow necessitates the idea that He cannot respond to or interact with His creatures. That would seem to be a tremendous task, especially in light of Biblical revelation which pictures God as constantly and meaningfully interacting with His creation. We are discussing the God of Biblical revelation, correct?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  43. is there anyone out there who can answer the questions which I posed?

    Which questions, Bob? It seems to me that all of your questions have been answered at some point in this thread.

  44. Below are the last two places which I referred to this.
    🙂

    Bob, on April 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm Said:

    I am not trying to be difficult, but I am curious as to the reasoning of the of the individuals mentioned. I know that you consider it to be inconsistent, and it does seem to be, but what would their answer be for the inconsistency? Why would Kennedy have a “monergistic” (new word which I learned) view of salvation, but then feel compelled to establish such a far reaching evangelism ministry? What would have been his reasoning? How would he have met the two together?

    Also, I was asked a question recently which I did not know how to answer. Can you help?
    “What is the source of power or ability in free-will”?

    As to my third question I should have left it off at the first sentence – that is what I intended. The question of our value being tied to what we can or should do.

    Thank you for your time.

    Referring to : Bob, on April 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm Said:

    These are questions which I have asked which have not been directly answered. Can you take some time and address each.

    How do the facts that Jonathan Edwards both espoused a Calvinistic Doctrine and preached “the sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” meet together?

    How was it that D. James Kennedy was both a Calvinist and established Evangelism Explosion – a serious push for evangelizing many?

    Is not the value that we have derived simply from being created in the image of God. Must our value be tied to our “ability”. If all glory belongs to God, then His increase and my decrease is part of that glory.`

  45. To all of you who have answered questions, I want to throw some more of my cards on the table.

    I am obviously reading both sides of this issue. I have a good foundation in scripture and I have some background in logic.
    I have denominational influence from my past that ranges from Church of Christ to Baptist to Catholic to Presbytarian to the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn to Assemblies of God.

    I have heard so many arguments on so many points of doctrine through the 40+ years of my life.

    With all of that I have come to know intimately that man’s arguments make nothing true. But, at the same time we are given the opportunity by God to reason with Him, to grope for Him, to seek Him, etc. I that way I want to know whatever he has for me. I am captivated by this issue that has been “oddly” boiled down to two titles “Calvinism and Arminianism”. I reject both titles as I am sure their namesakes would.

    But, guys I am asking some questions in honest attempt to get your take on them, and I have found “talking points” given in return.

    I am not here to debate you, but rather I am here showing you respect by asking you. I stumbled across this site by the title of this thread article as I am reading Edward’s book currently to get the firsthand.

    Just for clarity. 🙂

  46. Bob,

    Thanks for the clarifications. I intended to answer your questions (again), but did not have the time to get to it until now. I don’t think that my responses have been “talking points” and not real answers, but you are entitled to your opinion on that. So allow me to try to answer your questions in a way that satisfies you (remembering that some of your questions are no more than questions of opinion, of which I have already given you my opinion).

    I am not trying to be difficult, but I am curious as to the reasoning of the of the individuals mentioned. I know that you consider it to be inconsistent, and it does seem to be, but what would their answer be for the inconsistency? Why would Kennedy have a “monergistic” (new word which I learned) view of salvation, but then feel compelled to establish such a far reaching evangelism ministry? What would have been his reasoning? How would he have met the two together?

    The short answer is, I don’t know. I don’t know what motivates Calvinists to do what they do any more than I know what motivates anyone else unless they tell me. I am not sure what you are looking for here. Do you want me to read their minds or expound on motives that I know nothing about?

    Some Calvinists that I have read say that they evangelize because God commands it, and that is good enough for them. Others say that God ordains the means as well as the ends, and they seem to be satisfied with that. Others say that the doctrine of unconditional election gives them more confidence knowing that God will effectively and irresistibly convert the elect that they speak to, without them having to overly burden themselves with how people respond or how they present the gospel, etc.

    I think there are problems with these answers based on Calvinist presuppositions, but obviously Calvinists do not. That’s about the best answer I can give on that. As I said before, I think they are being inconsistent, but either do not recognize the inconsistency, or do not care about it.

    Also, I was asked a question recently which I did not know how to answer. Can you help?
    “What is the source of power or ability in free-will”?

    That would probably need some clarification. God gives us the capacity and power to choose freely. The agents are the ones who exercise that will in accordance with the power and ability that God gave them. Not sure what more I could possibly say about that.

    How do the facts that Jonathan Edwards both espoused a Calvinistic Doctrine and preached “the sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” meet together?

    I don’t think they do. Edwards was being inconsistent.

    How was it that D. James Kennedy was both a Calvinist and established Evangelism Explosion – a serious push for evangelizing many?

    See above.

    Is not the value that we have derived simply from being created in the image of God. Must our value be tied to our “ability”.

    Yes, if that ability is part of what it means to be created in the image of God; what it means to be personal beings that God can have genuine relationships with.

    If all glory belongs to God, then His increase and my decrease is part of that glory.

    I addressed this above by linking you to some other posts that I think explain why your reasoning here is flawed. I will do so again:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/what-brings-glory-to-god/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/what-brings-the-most-glory-to-god-part-2-john-wesley/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/synergism-as-a-model-for-gods-glory/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/01/15/some-new-must-read-articles-at-sea-abasciano-and-mccall/

    Again, I would highly recommend you read Whedon’s book. I think he refutes Edwards soundly.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  47. Ben,

    Thank you. One of the things which I dislike about this medium is that it disallows face to face discussion which leaves out body language etc which gives the sense of a persons attitude when they speak. I hope that I do not or have not seemed argumentative or short with any of my comments.

    You answered my questions. The answer of I don’t know in regard to Calvinists and evangelism along with the other explanations you have read is very helpful.

    I do think that what people do is tied to their system of thought. When it comes to people like Jonathan Edwards he definitely believed that he should preach that way as did Spurgeon – and that belief would have been consistent with their view of their ministry before God. I have not read a specific explanation from them that would yet clearly describe that yet.

    In regard to the “talking points” comment of mine – someone said it earlier in this thread in response to me – that the way things are sometimes posed pushes people back into their defense positions. I agree, and not just in terms of apologetic defense, but comfortable answers to questions posed.
    I was not pointing a finger at you or any one person , but at “many” which I have engaged with or read on the subject. There seems to be a lack of “personal ownership” in the “positions” held. I see a lot of comment which read like: “this adequately refutes that point made to such a degree that I am not bothered by that point any longer”. It seems like people are satisfied that there is an argument against the argument which they do not want to believe, and I have found that emotion plays a large role in it as well.

    Thank you for your time, and may God richly bless you, make His face to shine upon you, be gracious and give you peace. 🙂

  48. Bob,

    Thanks for your response and further clarifications. I am glad that you found my answers helpful. I hope you will take the time to read Whedon alongside or after reading Edwards. It should be an interesting study.

    God Bless,
    Ben

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