A Fatal Flaw in Calvinism

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

A Necessary Implication of Determinism

One of the primary tenets of mainstream Calvinism is the concept of exhaustive determinism (which I’ll refer to as ‘determinism’ here) — all that is and occurs in the universe is exactly as God has exhaustively decreed it to be. In such a worldview, man doesn’t have a will that’s truly free, but does everything exactly as it was predetermined for him. Consequently, there’s no real contingency upon man concerning what God does. God has (in this determinist worldview) unconditionally decreed that His will be done, and His will is in no way conditioned upon anything men say or do. To this, Jack Cottrell makes the point,

No matter how “free will” is redefined and the efficacy of the decree is qualified, Calvinism is still a theology of determinism as long as it declares that nothing God does can be conditioned by man or can be a reaction to something in the world. (Cottrell, J.W.; The Grace of God, the will of man: a case for Arminianism; pp. 102)

Turretin would seem to agree,

“It is absurd for the Creator to depend upon the creature… But this must be the case if the decrees of God are suspended on any condition in man. There is no middle knowledge (scientia media) having for its object future conditional things Therefore there is no conditional decree.” (Turretin, F.; The Decrees of God)

So would Edwards,

“To suppose that God’s decrees are conditional, in the sense of the Arminians, or that they depend, as they suppose, on a foresight of something that shall come to pass in time, is to suppose that something that first begins to be in time is the cause of something that has been from all eternity, which is absurd….” (Edwards, J.; Concerning the Divine Decrees)

Besides demonstrating Turretin’s mild abuse of the term ‘depend’ (which we’ll touch on later), and Edwards’ failure to factor in temporally transcendent perception of contingencies, their writings make it clear that in the determinist view, the choices that God makes about what He will do in the world are completely and totally independent of man’s choices and actions. Unless Calvinists incorporate some form of libertarian agency into their theology (which very few do), then the idea that God does anything based upon any human contingency is absurd. If this philosophy is biblically consistent, we should never expect to see scripture tell us that God thinks or does anything because of something man does.

Much is hidden concerning God’s will

Doubtless it is that many of the thoughts and motivations of God are hidden from mortal men.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

It’s from within the refuge of what God hasn’t revealed concerning His will that Calvinists defend their deterministic philosophy. To the Determinist, everything in the world — to include every thought, intent, and motivation of man — all invariably spring from the secret decree of God. They tend to stress this idea to such an extent, that they often wind up making claims that God fervently commands people to do one thing, while having secretly and immutably decreed that they do the exact opposite. Calvin takes the idea to its logical conclusion.

“Again they object: were they not previously predestined by God’s ordinance to that corruption which is now claimed as the cause of condemnation? When, therefore, they perish in their corruption, they but pay the penalties of that misery in which Adam fell by the predestination of God, and dragged his posterity headlong after him. Is he not, then, unjust who so cruelly deludes his creatures? Of course, I admit that in this miserable condition wherein men are now bound, all of Adam’s children have fallen by God’s will. And this is what I said to begin with, that we must always at last return to the sole decision of God’s will, the cause of which is hidden in him.” (Calvin, J.; Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Yet some is revealed…

Despite the mystery behind the will of God, He Himself sometimes provides us with some insight as to why He does things. No one who believes the scriptures could deny that God performs mighty works because of His great love and eternal purpose.

“But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 7:8)

But are factors within Himself the only reasons behind God’s actions? As the determinist philosophers quoted above have affirmed, these can be the only reasons for His actions if their worldview is to be believed. Is it that simple though? Is there more to the story? What if God Himself revealed that He did something because of what a person did?

The Flaw in the Theory

One of the most compelling stories in scripture is that of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. The aging patriarch, left without an heir from his wife, Sarah, was graciously given a son by God in his old age. Then one day, the unthinkable happened, as God commanded him to give back his precious child as a burnt offering. As Abraham bound his son upon the altar, his heart was doubtless heavier than it had ever been, yet his trust in God didn’t waver, and he was fully prepared to put that complete faith into action by obeying the dreaded command.

Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” … The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:10-12, 15-18)

So Abraham believed God, and valued Him above all else -even his own son. He walked by faith, and was the father of all who believe. And God blessed him beyond measure due to the fact that he obeyed. The Determinist may do a double-take at that last sentence, but for confirmation need only read closely the reason God gives Abraham for blessing him; the words in this context leave no doubt as to their meaning. Twice, God proclaims that He’s blessing Abraham and his descendants, because Abraham obeyed Him. But wasn’t God’s conferral of this great blessing, according to the implications of determinism, supposed to be strictly due to His good pleasure, not any participation by or contingency upon man?

Herein we begin to see surfacing a major problem for the Determinist. For his philosophy to remain intact, nothing God does can be based upon anything man does. Yet the Bible here clearly states that God blessed Abraham because he was obedient to His voice. Abraham offering his son didn’t compel God to do anything, yet God freely chose to bless Abraham based upon his obedience. This is important to note, since if even part of the reason behind God’s reaction / response / reciprocation towards men is their own actions, then this establishes some form of contingency. This is especially devastating to the determinist philosophy, since in God’s own words, it’s addressing the ‘why’ behind His actions, not merely the ‘how.’

How then could Determinists account for this? If the Bible plainly states that God blessed Abraham because he obeyed, how can this be true if God does nothing based upon human action? Below I list some possible objections.

Objection 1 – The ‘means’ argument

Some Calvinists may argue that God has ordained things such as obedience as a means to men receiving His blessing, but this does not account for God doing a thing because of something man does. For starters, means describe only ‘how,’ not ‘why.’ Taking an example of our own, let’s demonstrate this fact.

Assume for sake of argument that:
* God has unconditionally decreed that some guy named Tim is going to die
* God decides that he will die in a massive train wreck
* Tim is caught in the train wreck and dies
Why did God cause Tim to die?

‘Because he was caught in a train wreck’ is not an answer. The train wreck was the means employed; it explains how the decision was carried out, but does not even begin to explain why it was made.

Concerning this case, Abraham’s obedience wasn’t a ‘means’ to God blessing him at all, by this line of reasoning. In the determinist view, God unconditionally decided to bless him, ordaining that he obey didn’t affect that decision or its fulfillment, and is therefore not a means to it.

Objection 2 – The ‘necessary step’ argument

Some may argue that God decrees a necessary step before His decision is fulfilled. Therefore when someone takes the necessary step that God decreed, the results comes about because that step was taken.

This argument sounds good at first, but is actually quite fallacious. One action occurring before another does not imply that the former action causes the latter. This notion is better known as the Post Hoc fallacy. Likewise in this example, God deciding that a first action must precede a second doesn’t indicate that He decided to perform the second one because of the first. Going back to our example:

Assume for sake of argument that:
* God has unconditionally decreed that some guy named Tim is going to die in a massive train wreck
* God also decrees that Tim will read a newspaper before the train crashes
* Tim reads the newspaper
* The train crashes
* Tim dies
Why did God cause Tim to die?

By the above argument, since reading the newspaper was a ‘necessary step’ in this sequence, we’d have to conclude that God caused him to die because he read a newspaper! God decreeing that Abraham obey before he was blessed, therefore, doesn’t account for his obedience being the reason God blessed him, since necessary steps only clarify sequence, they don’t explain the reasons behind them.

Objection 3 – The ‘unconditional conditional decree’

Most Calvinists probably wouldn’t even touch this one – and with good reason. But I’ll cover it anyway. What if God somehow made a ‘conditional decree’ — a decree really only conditioned upon the criteria He fulfills? What if He decreed, ‘if Abraham obeys Me, then I will bless him’? Then, when Abraham obeyed Him (as God unconditionally predetermined he do), it would be proper to say that God fulfilled His desire and blessed him because he obeyed, right?

This also causes a massive logical problem, since an unconditional decision to produce a result automatically short-circuits any associated conditions. If God blessed Abraham because he obeyed, would we then say that God caused Abraham to obey in order to cause Himself to bless him? Besides being somewhat convoluted and contrived, this is logically impossible. In the determinist paradigm, God’s decision to fulfill His desire to bless Abraham was made unconditionally, with no regard to factors such as obedience. Rather, his obeying God’s command would be merely a necessary accompaniment to that unconditional decision to bless him. This would be equivalent to saying,

“God unconditionally decided to bless Abraham on the condition of his obedience.”

But if Abraham’s obedience were guaranteed by God’s unconditional decision to bless him, then it cannot be truly said that God blessed him because of his obedience. At best, his acquiescence would have been just a necessary step in the process (see above). Unless God somehow uses the means or steps He decrees to influence His own decisions, this objection can’t adequately explain for the Determinist why God blessed Abraham because of his obedience. It must also be noted that such a phenomenon would still be man affecting God’s actions, he would just be doing so by God’s decree.

Objection 4 – Multiple causes

A Calvinist may object that there were more causes in play than just Abraham obeying, to which I would agree. Abraham obeying would have meant nothing if God had not desired to do him good and use him to bless all nations of the earth. The fact of more than one cause, however, is irrelevant to the issue of God blessing Abraham on the basis of his obedience, since a set of causes behind an event doesn’t negate any of its individual components, and hence doesn’t change the fact that God blessed Abraham because he offered up Isaac.

For exhaustive determinism to hold true, what God does can in no way and to no extent be based upon what man does. So if Abraham’s obedience was even one of a much larger set of causes, then the determinist philosophy is falsified.

Objection 5 – The secret will of God

At this juncture, the Calvinist would likely state, contrary to the wording in the text, that God in fact, did this because it was His secret desire to, not because of anything Abraham did, and probably back the claim by referencing passages such as we’ve quoted here, about the secret things of God that are beyond our understanding. But does this really account for what the passage is saying? I would think not, for this reason: Whatever counsels are within God that remain hidden from us, the words He speaks, which have been transmitted to us in the Holy scriptures, are absolutely true, and truth cannot contradict itself. As the scripture cited at the beginning indicates, many things are hidden in God, yet we cannot ignore or dismiss the things He has given to us by revelation. So truth that is hidden does not contradict truth that is revealed. God having hidden counsels and plans in no way contradicts His own statements. If He says He has done something because of our obedience, lack thereof, or some other contingency, then He very well means it.

Objection 6 – God’s stated reasons are anthropomorphisms, merely indicating what He outwardly appears to do

Calvinists sometimes claim that God is speaking to people in ‘human terms,’ and hence might say some things that seem to make more sense to the ‘mind of the natural man’ (which they often equate with Arminianism). So because God is speaking words designed to appeal to the Arminian viewpoint (who, unlike Calvinists, haven’t been given the mind of Christ enough to see past the facade that God is erecting), it’s safe to exclude the idea from our understanding of God altogether, isn’t it?

Four words: “God’s word is truth.” Can this defense for determinism then hold up when compared to scripture? Is it still truth, just in ‘human terms,’ for God to say that He blessed Abraham because he obeyed, when He actually means His deciding to bless him wasn’t at all dependent upon his obedience? That wouldn’t merely be phrasing things in terms that people can relate to, it would be downright deceptive. Even Christ’s parables, which hid their meaning from many a hearer, weren’t designed to mislead people into believing falsehood. When scripture applies anthropomorphisms, idioms, or other literary devices, it’s not for vain exercise or duplicity, but to convey truth of God’s word, for all of God’s word is truth (Psalms 12:6, 33:4, John 17:17). The objection above really amounts to saying that God’s word employs literary devices to obfuscate the truth of who He is, rather than reveal it. But the hole in the determinist case rips even wider yet upon further examination….

It only gets worse

Those who accept the idea of free will generally have no trouble with the idea of God influencing our wills, since a degree of influence doesn’t amount to exhaustive compulsion, and hence we have no trouble declaring, “We love Him because He first loved us.” But it doesn’t work the other way around for the Determinist – as Turretin indicates, it would violate God’s ‘independence’ in their view. God’s independence implies that He has need of nothing outside Himself (as Arminians and Calvinists affirm). The determinist conceit, however, is that His independence entails that He’s not affected or influenced at all by anything outside Himself -not even willingly. They insist that if God were to let Himself be influenced, affected, or base any of His decisions upon anything man does, even in the slightest, it would violate (their version of) His independence. If we applied this concept consistently, such a view would require not only reinterpreting God’s words to Abraham, but His words in a great many other places in scripture as well:

They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding. (Deuteronomy 32:31)

They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the Lord to anger…. (Judges 2:12)

“Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.” (1 Samuel 28:18)

After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. (2 Samuel 11:27)

“Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.'” (2 Samuel 12:10)

“Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” (1 Kings 21:29)

“Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all the idols their hands have made,my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.'” (2 Kings 22:17)

In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other gods and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger. (2 Chronicles 28:25)

They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. (Psalm 78:58)

Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?” “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?” (Jeremiah 8:19)

“Did Hezekiah king of Judah or anyone else in Judah put him to death? Did not Hezekiah fear the Lord and seek his favor? And did not the Lord relent, so that he did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them? We are about to bring a terrible disaster on ourselves!” (Jeremiah 26:19)

“Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.” (Ezekiel 5:9)

But Ephraim has bitterly provoked him to anger; his Lord will leave upon him the guilt of his bloodshed and will repay him for his contempt. (Hosea 12:14)

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:10)

“Hear and pay attention, do not be arrogant, for the Lord has spoken.  Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness…But if you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride, my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the LORD’s flock will be taken captive.” (Jer. 13:15-17)

“In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:26-27)

“…and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:22)

“Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:20)

“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. … So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:10, 16)

Far more than just in Abraham’s story, all throughout the Bible, we’re told numerous times of God doing things because of something man does. Using objection 6’s “God’s only telling us what He appears to be doing” interpretive method, or some other such contrivance, we would have to recast major portions of scripture into superficial smokescreens, declaring God’s revelations of Himself to be pretenses, and repeatedly insisting that the reasons God gives for His actions aren’t really His reasons at all, just to salvage determinist philosophy.

Conclusion

I’ve heard more than one appeal by proponents of determinism to the ‘beauty’ of their system. Like a priceless pearl, it’s smooth and elegant, being a de facto ‘theory of everything,’ and seemingly provides easy and consistent answers to tough questions. Beauty does not amount to truth, however, and it’s quite easy to be deceived by it if it’s not examined closely. The problem of God authoring sin by itself creates numerous and irreconcilable problems for exhaustive determinism. Its corollary, that God does nothing based upon what men do, is hopelessly and utterly confuted by the testimony of God Himself, Who has clearly and repeatedly stated otherwise. This deterministic philosophy may appear impeccable and invaluable upon first glance, but when examined through the lens of scripture, there’s an irreparable fracture in it -a flaw, that with furthered study, grows ever deeper and more pronounced.

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99 Responses

  1. Nice post. It has been awhile since we have seen one of your posts. Good to have you back. I especially liked the observation:

    As the scripture cited at the beginning indicates, many things are hidden in God, yet we cannot ignore or dismiss the things He has given to us by revelation. So truth that is hidden does not contradict truth that is revealed. God having hidden counsels and plans in no way contradicts His own statements. If He says He has done something because of our obedience, lack thereof, or some other contingency, then He very well means it.

    Good stuff, thanks.

    Blessings,
    Steve

  2. their writings make it clear that in the determinist view, the choices that God makes about what He will do in the world are completely and totally independent of man’s choices and actions.

    I think a Calvinist would prefer to say that God’s choices (=determinations) include the choices and actions of men, not “completely and totally independent” of them. The Calvinist point is that man’s choices/actions are not working independent of the agency of God but, rather, are always including His agency, an agency which exhaustively knows the secondary determinations of man because they follow upon the final determinations of God’s own will. Thus, each action of man includes a personal correspondence with God’s agency which ultimately always yields one particular action (because of God’s exhaustive knowledge of his determinations), which include the succor of man’s will and affections. As such, man’s will is actually determinative of what actions result but only to the extent that God wills what exactly in man’s will is determinative for God’s own determinations. Hence, for example, the efficacy of prayer has always been maintained by the Reformed tradition.

  3. Great to hear from you Steve! Thanks.

    Kevin,

    …God’s choices (=determinations) include the choices and actions of men, not “completely and totally independent” of them.

    By ‘independent,’ I was referring to the basis upon which God made His choices, not the results thereof. In the determinist view, all our choices are predetermined by God (obviously), and hence God works through human choices; the problem for Calvinism arises when God tells us He did something because of something man did.

    …man’s will is actually determinative of what actions result but only to the extent that God wills what exactly in man’s will is determinative for God’s own determinations.

    This idea is covered under ‘objection 3’ above, in which is noted, “But if Abraham’s obedience were guaranteed by God’s unconditional decision to bless him, then it cannot be truly said that God blessed him because of his obedience.”

    …the efficacy of prayer has always been maintained by the Reformed tradition.

    That’s been discussed here as well. If exhaustive determinism is consistently applied, then prayer doesn’t actually affect anything with regards to what God does, since God’s choice is what the prayer is based upon, not vice-versa. It would rather fall into the foreordained ‘necessary (albeit non-efficacious) step’ category.

  4. Hence, for example, the efficacy of prayer has always been maintained by the Reformed tradition.

    I don’t see how this follows from anything you wrote. Could you elaborate some? Are you saying that God actually does things in response to our prayers?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. If exhaustive determinism is consistently applied, then prayer doesn’t actually affect anything with regards to what God does, since God’s choice is what the prayer is based upon, not vice-versa. It would rather fall into the foreordained ‘necessary (albeit non-efficacious) step’ category.

    Necessary only in that God wanted it to come first, but not necessary in that it is an actual means as you well pointed out in your post. Since it cannot really be a means or have any influence on God (so that God’s actions are an actual “response”), then I just don’t see how it can still be claimed that such prayers are “effectual”. Maybe Kevin will have more to offer by way of clarification.

  6. At any point did the author stop and remember that God promised Abram and made a covenant with him in Gen 15. God told Abram his reward will be great and He would bless Abram and His offspring will out number the stars and sand, all before Abram even had Issac?

  7. Excellent Post! You pretty much covered all the bases on this one.

    ICXC NIKA

  8. Good article! Exhaustive determinism leaves no room for the concept of culpability. To be guilty by definition is to be not guilty at all. The whole concept of sin (=transgression of God’s law = going AGAINST God’s will) has no room in Calvinism. It’s a folly.

    I haven’t blogged for awhile because I’ve been quite busy.

  9. Does God know before something happens that it is certain to happen. What makes it certain? Please use your controlling free-will to enlighten the deluded Calvinists.

  10. Jnorm, helmet; so glad you enjoyed it.

    Nathan,

    Yes, he did actually.

    w,

    “What makes it certain?”

    The question is both ambiguous and off-topic.

  11. Did you not run this through Steve Hays before posting this? Tisk, tisk, Thibodaux 😉

    Good stuff, as usual.

  12. Woops! I think I did something wrong with that Hays link: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/03/redefining-freedom.html

  13. Hays says, “This is just so much special-pleading on the part of the Arminian apologist and polemicist. An illicit attempt to scoop out a preexisting foothold for his own position. Intellectual cheating.” Talk about ambiguous statements.

    Hays says, “I’d also note in passing that Thibodaux’s discovery of a “fatal flaw” in Calvinism is based on prooftexting Scripture in a manner which is indistinguishable from open theism,” which is a bold assertion but I notice he doesn’t offer any support for it, nor for any of the other assertions he makes.

  14. I love the Open Theism charge, especially from Calvinists who maintain that God cannot foreknow future contingencies but must have strictly foreordained all that should come to pass. It seems to me that Calvinists and Open Theists have more in common than both realize.

  15. For the Calvinist is boils down to exegesis based on one term: determination. As Sam Storms put it, “Free will is a myth.”

  16. Sorry, I got bogged down and haven’t had time to respond…and I still don’t…but I will say that, yes, God’s determinations are not made without consideration, recognition, or the influence of man’s determinations. The exact measure of “what exactly” in man’s will has such an influence is accorded wholly by God’s will and, thus, cannot always be known or judged by man.

    I know this is a rather moderate form of Calvinism, but I don’t really care since I’m pretty much a Barthian anyway. I’m already condemned by the 5-pointers, so why not push the limits of the Reformed tradition 🙂

  17. Skimmed the article, sorry if my question has been answered.

    Could it be that God decided (unconditionally) to bless Abraham through obedience (conditionally)? I think perhaps this might fall closest under Objection 3 in the article, but I’m not sure.

    One should ask the question here, “why did Abraham obey?” Unfortunately, this Scripture does not say, but it also leaves room for educated speculation, based on other texts.

    It seems to me that after meditating on Scriptures such as (but not limited to) 2 Chronicles 30:1-12, Jeremiah 32:40 and Ezekiel 36:26-27 that my great, wonderful God strongly woos, strongly compels (draws) a person such that they may still choose against, but the “deck has been stacked” so-to-speak against a contrary decision, a million-to-one. Or a billion-to-one.

    This seems to me to be a Biblically accurate middle ground between Arminianism and Calvinism. That I have not seen any Arminian attack this point-of-view makes me believe I’m on the right track.

    You might ask why it is that no one will sin in heaven? Could it be that I may have the opportunity to sin — but lack the desire?

    Consider a scholarship which requires a student make B+es all year long on every test (the condition), but then the head of the scholarship flies out to the student’s house, working with the student for hours every night, ensuring he has the knowledge and skill to pass all of his tests.

    Why did Abraham obey? When an Arminian Christian can adequately explain that, he may have my attention.

  18. SD, Brennon, thanks for the gratuitous plugs!

    Billy, Brennon, I think the real problem is that we scholastic mendicants simply fail to grasp the genius that is Hays. Steve’s stuff only seems shallow because we can’t really understand it (and likely couldn’t, even if he tried to explain it).

    “…I notice he doesn’t offer any support for it, nor for any of the other assertions he makes.”

    See, I see that as his greatest strength: he doesn’t let himself get bogged down with needless details.

    “…based on prooftexting Scripture in a manner which is indistinguishable from open theism…”

    Such comments make it clear that he’s just in a different league from us altogether. I think to any truly objective observer, my examination and logical analysis of possible deterministic reconciliations to the biblical record is clearly no match for Hays’ comprehensively open-ended, yet concise appeals to vague similarity.

  19. Kevin,

    I’d like to hear more of your thoughts when you have time. Just curious, do you accept the idea of any kind of libertarian agency, or hold that all occurs is strictly necessitated by God?

    I’m already condemned by the 5-pointers…

    You’re in good company here 😉

  20. Billy, Brennon, I think the real problem is that we scholastic mendicants simply fail to grasp the genius that is Hays.

    Right, only a superior intellect could recognize that Ardel B. Caneday is really just a fictional scholar who is related to the Ginger Bread Man and lives in a sugar cane mansion. The rest of us knuckle draggers had thought he was a real scholar who co-wrote Steve’s favorite book on perseverance. Thank God Steve set us straight on that one, just as he has so graciously set us straight on so many other things 😉

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/09/1-cor-1013-re-revisted-substance-vs-sophistry/

  21. Chris,

    Regarding your reference to Ezek. 36 and like texts, I recommend you read the following post:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/does-ezekiel-3626-27-teach-regeneration-precedes-faith/

    I will leave J.C. to address the rest of what you wrote.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Ben,

    The last comment you made intrigues me a bit and I would like to ask if you believe that Abraham was already a believer when we get to Gen. 22?

    If I am understanding the last comment you made you would be saying something like that Abrahams obedience in Gen. 22 made him a believer and at that moment he was born-again.

    Of course I could be mistaken and you mean something completely different, hence my asking for some follow-up.

    Grace & Peace

  23. Mitch,

    I am not sure how my comment led to your question, but I will try to address it. However, I am really out of time for today and I will not be back to work until Monday, so I will not be able to get to it till at least then. Hopefully you will be patient with me. In the mean time, maybe you can clarify what exactly it was in my previous comment that led you to your question.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  24. Ben,

    I read the comment along this train of thought. You directed someone to an article about regeneration coming after faith and the post was about Abraham obeying God, specifically in Gen. chapter 22.

    This is what led me to believe that perhaps you are saying that Abraham’s obedience in chapter 22 is what led to him being born-again. Of course there was some ambiguity in my thinking of what exactly you meant, hence my asking the question that I did.

    Also, I will try to check back in sometime next week to read your thoughts on my question. In the meantime may our God bless and keep you.

    Grace & Peace

  25. The way I see it is from the question who is at work?
    The scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin. It also makes it clear that God causes us to be born again. So if the “Arminian” as any thing to claim for their salvation if is a hair (faith) wedged in between to mighty works of God, namely conviction and regeneration (New Birth). But what about Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,(Not of your self’s) Okay I will give you this: Salvation may only be the gift spoken of here, not the faith for salvation, but what about Phil 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.( He being God began the work in believers) and 1 Cor 1:30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption (because of who? God who calls) and dun dun dun!! Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. ( All who were APPOINTED!) That is huge! I am not a Calvinist, just a Christian who can’t point to anything I have done for my own salvation, only Christ.

  26. Hey Chris! Great to hear from you again bro!

    this might fall closest under Objection 3….

    You’re correct, that’s exactly what I aimed to address there.

    …God strongly woos, strongly compels (draws) a person such that they may still choose against, but the “deck has been stacked” so-to-speak against a contrary decision, a million-to-one. Or a billion-to-one.

    While I don’t believe that wills are random, any ‘chance’ (or real opportunity, rather) the person may have to disobey would seem to constitute some form of libertarian agency.

    You might ask why it is that no one will sin in heaven?

    Well even with free will, we don’t choose things that our natures won’t allow except if something intervenes (e.g. sinners can’t believe apart from grace). If God removes the sin nature from the glorified saints, and doesn’t allow for other intervening factors, then I wouldn’t think sin a feasible option in glory.

    Why did Abraham obey?

    If I may ask you a question to [hopefully] clarify things: Assuming that you believe you are elect, do you believe that God had to elect you unto salvation, or could He have chosen to pass you by?

  27. Nathan,

    “…who is at work?”

    If God did something because of what Abraham did, it would seem both.

    “But what about Eph 2:8…Phil 1:6…1 Cor 1:30…”

    Short answer: We believe in salvation by grace, not that we save ourselves. Not ‘purchasing our own redemption’ or ‘regenerating ourselves’ doesn’t amount to lack of conditionality, nor is it implied in God bringing us to completion (Jude 21, 1 Timothy 1:19).

    “…and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

    I already believe in conditional predestination. What does this have to do with the evidence against exhaustive determinism?

  28. Oh brother I guess I was replying to another post about regeneration.

    Let me ask, What is “conditional predestination”?

  29. Nathan,

    Ordination of events based (partially) upon foreknowledge of contingencies. Does this line of questioning have anything to do with the topic?

  30. Hey J.C.! I didn’t notice you wrote the article 🙂 Good stuff.

    You might ask why it is that no one will sin in heaven?

    Well even with free will, we don’t choose things that our natures won’t allow except if something intervenes (e.g. sinners can’t believe apart from grace). If God removes the sin nature from the glorified saints, and doesn’t allow for other intervening factors, then I wouldn’t think sin a feasible option in glory.

    It was for 1/3rd of the angels.

    Would you agree the opportunity will exist?

    Why did Abraham obey?

    If I may ask you a question to [hopefully] clarify things: Assuming that you believe you are elect, do you believe that God had to elect you unto salvation, or could He have chosen to pass you by?

    If I may answer your question by asking you some other questions to [hopefully] clarify things further (Hey, Jesus did it) 😛

    Was there ever any knowledge of me before I was elect? Did God not know facts about the future at some point in time? Does God learn anything?

  31. Kangaroodordt (love the name btw), I didn’t mention Ezekiel 36 as proof of regeneration preceeding faith, but I may check the article later on that topic. I mentioned it to point out that God works by strong influence. Doubtless you’ll agree that’s one inference you can draw from Ezekiel 36:26-27.

  32. J.C. — very well argued/presented.

    I wondered what Arminians (I consider myself a Calvinist) think of Norman Geisler. You see, most of the problems with this deterministic view of most Calvinists is answered by Geisler’s view of “moderate Calvinism.” I wondered if Arminians felt that they shared a lot of common ground with Norman Geisler or if his Calvinistic focus was still too one-sided for them. Anyone want to tackle that from an Arminian perspective?

    I have oft rejected the harsher/unbiblical elements in Calvinism: things like their view of “dead” in Total Depravity, their view of unconditional election that denies that man’s response in faith is even needed, their view of Limited atonement, despite Biblical injunctions to the contrary, their view of Irresistible Grace which is coercive by definition, and their view of perseverance, despite the call in scriptures that we ought to. I have felt that Dr. Geisler adequately answered these problems while maintaining Soveriegnty, election, etc.

    So, I wondered, do Arminians view Geisler as an Arminian who “hasn’t come out of the closet.” Or do they see him as a Calvinist (which he claims) who hasn’t come far enough in his theology?

    Thanks.
    Jon M.

  33. I just wish people would deal with the specific passage and topic addressed, instead of pointing out side-bar comments and off-topic tangents to fill the space with.

    If Calvinism is to stand, it needs to stand against articles such as this with insightful counter-arguments from the text. So far, I’m seeing nothing.

    Great post.

  34. I’m sorry, it just frustrates me to no end when people cannot simply learn from situations as God presented them in the Bible.

    This passage stands alone. It’s teaching is true, and the scripture cannot be broken.

    God weighs man’s actions in the balances in deciding how He deals with us. Our actions are the measuring stick for our faith and trust in God. That is why He puts us through tests such as this. Those of you Calvinists who would appeal to God’s sovereignty, practice what you preach – if a Sovereign God decided to give weight to a man’s decisions, then let God be God.

    Don’t discard, ignore, or nullify the teachings of scripture because of your traditions.

  35. If anyone else comments who is a first time commenter, I won’t be able to approve your comment until at least Monday. That is the soonest I can address Chris De Vidal and Mitch’s comments (directed to me) as well.

    Have a great weekend.

    Ben

  36. do you accept the idea of any kind of libertarian agency, or hold that all occurs is strictly necessitated by God?

    J.C.,

    Well, I would like to hold both together. The latter seems to be a requirement if God’s foreknowledge is exhaustive (not for only what “may” happen, but for what “does” and will happen). The former seems to be a requirement if God enters into personal relation with man, imparting a free moral disposition that is actually freely appropriated by man and not just “discovered” as the result of some impassive force. I can’t emphasize enough the italicized portion of that statement; communion with God through a life of prayer depends upon it. So, how does God freely commune with free creatures yet all events are made certain by his will? The best that I can say is that from the first moment of creation — indeed, prior to creation — God’s knowledge of all future events is secured by his effecting the parameters of each particular relation with man; that is, his knowledge of each man is such that man’s determinations, vis-a-vis God’s economy of the Holy Spirit, are eternally known. Or, to put it in the reverse, all actions of men are eternally known because they are willed by God, according to his grace and his own prerogatives of approbation or blame.

    The person who is freed by God for relation with Him is unable to discern anything in himself, of his own making, that could possibly require God’s gift of a new life in faith and obedience. The man is wholly dependent on God’s prerogative to impart this change. Yet, God chooses at each moment, to impart freedom for faith and good works, according to his own evaluation of each man’s will — his affections, his choices, his prayers, and so on. But, none of these attributes and actions of man have any intrinsic value or ability to co-operate with God apart from God’s own determinations to give them this dignity. As such, at each moment man is wholly dependent on God’s grace, while, at the same time, man’s willing and working are made partakers with the divine glory.

    So, everything is determined by God, and known from eternity, because God effects precisely the results of each man’s freedom. That is, he effects each particular choice and, of course, all of the surrounding contingencies (both natural-mechanical and free-personal), but always according to his prerogatives and estimation of each person’s will, affections, prayers, etc., which is to say, the person as a person. The free agency of man occurs — and only occurs — here, in this precise parameter of personal communion with God.

    I don’t know if that helps, but it’s the best I can say for now. This is an eminently tricky issue, and I am always open for further enlightenment.

  37. Chris,

    “It was for 1/3rd of the angels.”

    The glory the angels were in, I don’t believe, is comparable to that which the resurrection of the just entails (1 John 3:2).

    “Would you agree the opportunity will exist?”

    Realistically, no; I believe apostasy after final salvation is an absurdity (requires conditions that can never be fulfilled). As to your questions, I believe God knows what we will do based upon His understanding of our own self-determination in any given scenario (middle-knowledge), but that His knowledge transcends time (from our perspective, being from ‘before’ time), hence He isn’t learning or guessing as Open Theism requires.

  38. Jon, good question. Kangaroodort might be a better authority on how ‘Arminian’ Geisler is. From what I’ve heard/read from him, he apparently holds to 5 modified points of Calvinism that don’t reflect the traditional belief, hence I don’t consider him to be a Calvinist as the term is usually defined. He also doesn’t appear to incorporate exhaustive determinism into his beliefs, and would likely not have much problem with what I’ve written here.

    Steven,

    God weighs man’s actions in the balances in deciding how He deals with us.

    Good observation. It would be odd to weigh one in the balances if the ‘weight’ had already been immutably established beforehand.

  39. J.C.

    I want to run something by you and see what you think. You wrote

    ”I believe God knows what we will do based upon His understanding of our own self-determination in any given scenario (middle-knowledge), but that His knowledge transcends time (from our perspective, being from ‘before’ time), hence He isn’t learning or guessing as Open Theism requires.”

    Given what you stated in that quote would it be accurate to say that it is God that places us in those ”given scenarios”? If “middle-knowledge” is used then how does that escape the fact that the person cannot do otherwise? I’m assuming that the reason that God knows what we will do in any ”given scenario” is because the outcome will always be consistent with that persons self-determination.

    As always thank you for your time and patience.

    Grace & Peace

  40. As to your questions, I believe God knows what we will do based upon His understanding of our own self-determination in any given scenario (middle-knowledge), but that His knowledge transcends time (from our perspective, being from ‘before’ time), hence He isn’t learning or guessing as Open Theism requires.

    You’ve mentioned “raw self-determinism” but it left me basically unconvinced. I’d have to see it in Scripture.

    Oh well, thanks for your time bro.

  41. JC, you said, “If God removes the sin nature from the glorified saints, and doesn’t allow for other intervening factors, then I wouldn’t think sin a feasible option in glory.”

    You mean, like in Eden? 😉

    Is love that is not free still love? If being a robot means I’ll always love Jesus, then Lord, make me a robot!!

  42. I wrote something over on Roy’s blog where he discusses your article, that I think is helpful for this discussion.
    —————————————————-
    SLW, I’ve been thinking about what you said.

    What you seem to say is that Abraham acts here and there, therefore he’s the actor, therefore (this appears to be a leap) it is Abraham wants to obey, for no other reason than he wants to obey.

    You tell me that the Scriptures suggest no other reason nor posit any other intervening power to explain why Abraham obeys, but you seem to jump to the conclusion that he is alone in his decisions, without any explicit or implicit support.

    This does seem to me to be trying to prove a negative. But you said something else that seems to work against what you said above, something I am more inclined to agree with. You said, “he never would have had the opportunity nor the inclination to do so unless God showed up and spoke to him.”

    (I would like to point out that you agree here that he was NOT alone. I would also like to suggest that God’s presence influenced Abraham’s obedience, as it might you and I.)

    You continue, “When God did (show up that is), Abram did (obey that is). It is the word of the Lord coming to a person (a Spirit thing, really) that illicits faith and makes possible the obedience of faith. That works for the example of Moses, the prophets, the Apostle Paul and is in line with his teaching in Romans. The effect and influence of God (primarily the Spirit) upon those he talks to is apparent quite great.”

    That last sentence is where I’m at. I don’t buy the “invisible, magical determination” your typical Calvinist pumps out. The method I’ve seen in the Scriptures that God uses for moving His plan along has teeth.

    The teeth: The strong influence of the Holy Spirit inside a human being upon his desires.

    Hence, won’t it be so very cool to rejoice around the throne of grace forever and ever, filled to the brim with love for the Savior, such that you will never ever have a desire to consider yourself superior to another person? To covet someone else’s higher position over you? To doubt or hate or hurt or steal or lie?

    That’s the Holy Spirit doing that through you. The third Person of the Trinity loving and exalting the second and first Persons of the Trinity, through us. Doesn’t it make you excited just to think about it?

    We’ll drown in the influence of the Spirit upon our desires such that our wills will forever be arrested, chained to Jesus, forever His slave, never to disobey Him again.

    Ahhhhhhhhh. Lord, make me that kind of robot. A slave, forced to love and know and experience Jesus forever. Ahhhhhhhhh.

  43. Kevin,

    I’m pretty sure exhaustive necessitation and libertarian agency are mutually exclusive. Foreknowledge only requires certainty of events, not necessitation (‘it will be,’ not necessarily, ‘it has to be’).

    That is, he effects each particular choice and, of course, all of the surrounding contingencies (both natural-mechanical and free-personal), but always according to his prerogatives and estimation of each person’s will, affections, prayers, etc., which is to say, the person as a person.

    I think I see what you’re saying, but if God chooses to do something because of a person’s action (as in the case of His blessing Abraham because of his obedience), yet exhaustively and inescapably necessitated Abraham’s obedience with the intent that He bless him, wouldn’t such intent imply that He’d already made the unconditional decision to bless him?

    Chris,

    You mean, like in Eden?

    Adam, in lieu of a sin nature proper, had a corruptible nature (which in that respect is similar to the angels) that was indeed corrupted. I do not believe that resurrected saints will be corruptible.

    Mitch,

    See above concerning certainty vs necessity.

  44. J.C.

    Thank you for the response, but if I may I would like to follow-up.

    I’m not arguing for necessity in my question, in fact I will leave that completely aside for this discussion. I will even grant you that stipulation, but I fear that this does nothing to answer my original question and I will try to elaborate on the why I feel that way.

    If God ”KNOWS” what a self-determining man will do in any given scenario (due to this “middle-knowledge”) then that would mean that the man cannot do otherwise in this given scenario or else you risk the charge of God guessing or learning.

    Say a self-determining man is placed in a given scenario, if his response is anything less than certain then you would have God guessing or at best learning. Say that 70% of the time in a given scenario he would do X, 29% of the time he would do Y and 1% of the time he would do neither, under such a case God would indeed be learning or guessing.

    I pray that I’ve been able to articulate well enough my question, but I would not be offended if you needed me to clarify a point or two as I am not the best written communicator.

    Grace & Peace

  45. Chris,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you are arguing that Abraham, being sufficiently influenced by God or the Holy Spirit, made a decision to offer Isaac that anyone under the same conditions would have made.

    Everyone. No exceptions. Correct? If not, then Abraham’s actions played some part in the events.

    Two questions for you then. One, why is Abraham held up as a model of faith throughout scripture when in reality he was a merely a model of circumstances?

    Secondly, help me make sense of 1st Corinthians 10 when Paul warns:

    “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.

    Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
    Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”

    It seems God did His part in providing everything a person needed to believe and have saving faith from Israel’s perspective. Yet people fell in the wilderness. But not everyone! Joshua and Caleb maintained a proper faith and trust in God, and were saved.

    So again I ask, what part of God’s involvement was sufficient enough to save Joshua and Caleb, yet insufficient for the rest of the Israel?

  46. Mitch,

    Yes, you are in fact assuming necessity for certainty. “If God ”KNOWS” what a self-determining man will do… that would mean that the man cannot do otherwise….”

    What one “will do” (certainty) doesn’t necessarily imply “has to do” (“can’t do otherwise,” necessity). Knowledge requires only the former, to which I just alluded. Now what does this have to do with the topic?

  47. J.C.

    Thank you again for trying to clarify this matter for me, but I’m still at a loss to understand.

    I did not say that man ”has to do” only that man ”will do” in order to avoid the charge that God guesses or learns. Now if God knows with CERTAINTY what a self-determining man will do in ”any given scenario”, than that self-determining man will most certainly always react that way in that “given scenario”. Otherwise it would be said that God either guesses or learns. See my example of the 70% to 29% to 1% in my previous comment.

    The point that I am laboring to make is that whether it is “necessary” or “certain” does not change the fact that he cannot do otherwise. It sounds strange to me to say that God knows with ”certainty” what a self-determining man will do in any given scenario and that man can still do otherwise in that given scenario for it would then not be “certain”. If man can truly do otherwise from what God knows he will certainly do than it does reduce God to guessing or learning which you have already said God does not do.

    So using your last comment I would state it this way. Knowledge requires that God knows with absolute ”certainty” what man will do when placed in that given scenario and that being true he cannot do otherwise or the charge of God learning or guessing come into play.

    As for what does this have to do with the topic? I am trying to understand something that you said and trying to reconcile it in my mind.

    Grace & Peace

  48. I have been following this discussion and I want to bring out a common mistake made by theological determinists.

    Mitch at one point earlier wrote: “If “middle-knowledge” is used then how does that escape the fact that the person cannot do otherwise? I’m assuming that the reason that God knows what we will do in any ”given scenario” is because the outcome will always be consistent with that persons self-determination.”

    He has now most recently written:

    “The point that I am laboring to make is that whether it is “necessary” or “certain” does not change the fact that he cannot do otherwise. It sounds strange to me to say that God knows with ”certainty” what a self-determining man will do in any given scenario and that man can still do otherwise in that given scenario for it would then not be “certain”. If man can truly do otherwise from what God knows he will certainly do than it does reduce God to guessing or learning which you have already said God does not do.”

    Mitch you speak of people “doing otherwise”. What do **you** mean by this phrase?

    If I will in fact do X, then how can I do otherwise than X? If I will in fact do Y, then how can I do otherwise than Y? If I will in fact do . . ., then how can I do otherwise than . . .????

    Put simply: How can I “do otherwise” than I will in fact do?

    Robert

  49. Robert,

    Due to circumstances I do not feel it appropriate to respond anymore on this thread, I do appreciate you taking the time to interact with me and if you would like my email is available under my profile. So if you would like me to answer or interact anymore with your comment just shoot me an email and I will try to answer to the best of my ability.

    Grace & Peace

  50. Everyone. No exceptions. Correct?

    I think that may be a correct statement.

    Isn’t it good to know there’s nothing particularly special about Abraham? God can cause the rocks to cry out! (Luke 19:40)

    what part of God’s involvement was sufficient enough to save Joshua and Caleb, yet insufficient for the rest of the Israel?

    That’s an excellent question. Thanks for being thoughtful in your reply.

    If all things are equal in 1 Cor 10, both of us agree there must be another explanation why some fell. Both of us must draw in other Scriptures to explain this. Why did the men in 1 Cor 10 “crave evil things” (verse 6)?

    I would begin with Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is (…) self control.”

    The fruit of Who? The Spirit. Would it be a stretch to say Jacob and Caleb had the Spirit bearing fruit within them?

    When God asks you on Judgment day why you were more self-controlled than others, will your response be that you knew it was the right thing to do? Or will you honor the Spirit for giving you self control?

    I would also refer to verses such as Philippians 2:12-13: “work out your own salvation (…) for it is God who works in you…”

    How about Ezekiel 36:27: “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

    This is a New Covenant promise, but didn’t some men of the Old Covenant have the influencing work of the Holy Spirit?

    Or Jeremiah 32:40: “I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.”

    Another New Covenant promise, God strongly influencing us with fear that He places within us.

    Those are some of the verses I’ve seen which tell me why Jacob and Caleb would not “crave evil things” (verse 6). Can you show me simple Scriptures that I can read “on the face” which would tell me why I should believe Jacob and Caleb did not “crave evil things” (verse 6)?

  51. Forgive me for replying to myself, forgot to include this.

    Isn’t it good to know there’s nothing particularly special about Abraham? God can cause the rocks to cry out! (Luke 19:40)

    Isn’t it good to know that God can use you to do even GREATER things than Abraham? Unworthy as you are?? What a God!

    Meditate on that and smile 🙂 John 14:12 may apply here, and is worth thinking about.

  52. JC,
    Can you spend some time addressing my thought process expressed here? It’s close to objection #3 above, but not quite. I don’t believe #3 is an accurate rendering of my thoughts, so it addresses the wrong problem.

    Thanks bro!

  53. Replying to myself again, haha. I see that I did not answer your first question: “why is Abraham held up as a model of faith throughout scripture when in reality he was a merely a model of circumstances?”

    What response is our Lord looking from from the readers of Scripture when they read of Abraham’s faith? Would it be to worship Abraham? Or would it rather be that He is seeking to grow our faith?

    Is this not another example of God using the influence of the Holy Spirit to change us?

    Isn’t it good to know that God can use you more than Abraham, unworthy as you are? Ask Him to use you!

    Did I answer your question?

  54. Chris,

    Thank you for your honest reply to my question. It answers how you view the differences in outcomes of individuals by the measure of God’s Spirit within them.

    I do not think that accurately represents what the text is saying, however. Throughout the chapter Paul is very clear in his application.

    “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.”

    He further explains: “Do not be idolaters… Nor let us act immorally… Nor let us try the Lord… Nor grumble…”

    and finally –

    “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”

    So if your view of the situation plays out, man’s choices have no impact in God’s decisions whether to save or to punish. Yet here in this very passage, and in Genesis as the thread references, we see men being praised for their actions, or punished for their disobedience. Otherwise, what instruction is there for modern day Christians, if my actions play no part in this story of God’s love and salvation?

    Instruction promotes action and choices, and the only logical conclusion from the text is that those actions and choices matter. Calvinists agree that our sins justifiably lead to death. Why is it hard to imagine that trying to abstain from evil by repenting would find God’s approval?

    Help me understand your position better, and thanks for the reply.

    P.S. I feel God’s demonstration of power in His leading the people out of Egypt were sufficient actions to cause great faith among the children of Israel, Joshua and Caleb included. As Joshua said:

    “Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.”

    and God continued:

    “How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?”

    If God was the sole cause of the people’s disbelief, how would such a comment from Him make sense? If we are not free to act, what good are any examples or faith or disbelief?

  55. Chris, I’d love to, but I’m actually not quite seeing how the point you’re driving at relates to it. Could you clarify?

    Oh, also, Ben doesn’t like comments to be posted with the ‘reply’ button, just submit a new comment at the bottom.

  56. J.C.,

    Yeah, I certainly left that objection open. It may be that some presentation of middle knowledge is the only way to secure both free agency (including mutual determination/influence between God and man) and God’s foreknowledge of all events. Otherwise, if you push the libertarian argument, then open theism is the inevitable result. Of course, you are aware of all this. If middle knowledge fails, then it seems that some sort of contradiction (or “antinomy” as Packer calls it) must be asserted. Then the issue becomes whether antinomy/paradox is a legitimate move, i.e., whether it should be allowed in dogmatics.

  57. Steven,
    First, thanks for trying to understand my point-of-view. You are the opposite of Proverbs 18:2. I want someone to seek to understand my point-of-view and try to pick it apart, for I’m walking a road not many have traveled; it’s not your typical Calvinism, and I *could* be believing a heresy. I welcome someone to understand my thoughts, explain them in such a way that I’d agree with them, and *then* tell me why I’m wrong.

    Second, bonus points for forcing me to read+listen to 1 Cor 10 again 🙂 The ESV website has a cool audio version for *free*. Aren’t we living in blessed times?

    As to your question, I think you’re stating this: actions and choices matter. Chris, you seem to say that since God influences our actions so heavily, He stacks the deck so heavily against us, how could our actions matter?

    From the perspective of those in the wilderness, is God required to give His Holy Spirit to them? Is He required to love the Son through them? It is, after all, _His_ Spirit. Are you not blessed beyond measure to have the Spirit within you, keeping you straight?

    All God is required to do is lay down the law.* That would be perfectly just. By contrast, grace is something given which is not deserved, and who deserves the Spirit? If grace MUST be given, it is no longer grace, by definition.

    * His nature demands this, but that’s another subject.

    Therefore God gets angry at men who don’t do what is required, who blaspheme His name. They are not meeting the basic requirements (that is, perfect perfection).

    But if a governor wants to give life to a death row convict, that’s grace, and he is COMPLETELY free to do so. Otherwise it is no longer grace, by definition.

    A governor can only give pardon, but how much more than pardon does our God lavish upon us!

    He gives righteousness! Foreign righteousness that I never ever could have earned. Meditate on 2 Cor. 5:21 some day.

    He gives regeneration! The heart that, influenced by the Spirit, desires to bless others instead of taking from them. Think more about Ezekiel 36:26-27 and Jeremiah 32:40. They are delicious verses.

    He gives adoption! Calling me son, and making me actually (gasp) deserve to inherit the entire Universe, and come into His presence. Think about Romans 8.

    Is He required to give any of that? No. He is only required to lay down the law, and demand that we obey.

    So 1 Cor 10 was written down for our instruction. Observe these men, who were not just given air to breathe and food to eat as gentiles in some foreign country, but they were mere inches from The Maker Himself, source of everlasting joy (think about Psalm 16:11).

    He gave them His presence. He gave them spiritual food. He gave them spiritual drink. He poured out grace upon grace, which showed them the nature of Christ.

    In verse 13, God Himself supervised every temptation that came their way, ensuring that none of them was too severe for them to overcome, and they refused to take the out. They refused to endure.

    God’s wrath is just. How wicked! Given so much and still disobeying!

    Makes me so aware that I need a Savior! I need help! I was just like these men! In some ways I still am. I’m so thankful for Jesus’ foreign righteousness, for I can boldly approach the throne of grace in my hour of need.

    I need to be arrested with love for the second and first Persons of the Trinity by the third Person, such that I will gladly endure any temptation. Lord, help me!

    This study and meditation has led me to feeling more helplessness in myself, less confidence in myself and more confidence in the Savior, and the regeneration He purchased for me. The adoption. The righteousness. The pardon.

    It has led me to beg for the Spirit’s help. And OH! He has delivered! For “God (…) gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 ESV) I have seen more of myself decrease, and more of Him increase, and watched — with jaw dropping — Him work through me more because of it. What a mighty, mighty Savior!

    To sum it up, God must only require law keeping but is free to influence men’s desires whenever He pleases, and the means of that influence is love for the Father and Son from the gift of the Spirit.

    Can you explain that to me in such a way that I’d agree, and then tell me if I’m mistaken? You might not be able to, because I’ve left out some key important parts to this for the sake of time.

    You said, I feel God’s demonstration of power in His leading the people out of Egypt were sufficient actions to cause great faith among the children of Israel, Joshua and Caleb included.

    With what other tool does the Spirit use to influence people except Scripture? (For these, it would have been “living” Scripture.)

    So I agree.

    I don’t want you to hear that I’m saying men are influenced by circumstances. 1 Cor 10:1-6 would prove me wrong, for those men were surrounded by incredible circumstances. Food from nowhere + water from rocks = hard hearts????

    But I did not come to the same conclusion you did in response to this. See above.

    You said, If God was the sole cause of the people’s disbelief, how would such a comment from Him make sense?

    God isn’t the sole cause of the people’s disbelief, but this begins to bridge into another discussion, so I’ll end it here. See above.

  58. JC,
    Sorry, I’m developing quite a thread so I understand why you can’t grip it all. You actually wrote me a letter addressing something like this a long while ago that I stuck in my “when I have time” folder. Haven’t forgotten to read it, and I’ll probably just go there instead of asking you to repeat yourself.

  59. Chris,

    Thanks again for taking the time to give another reply!

    First off,let me say that I agree with the fact that we need a Savior. God in His grace has always been kind to His creation, and for that I am very thankful. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if it wasn’t for His kindness to the entire human race.

    While completely worthy of every word you wrote, I still feel that it doesn’t quite strike at the heart of my question, and the point of this thread as it was posted. Does God give any weight to men’s choices?

    God’s grace was poured out on Israel as it is poured out on Christians today. We all drink from that same spiritual rock, Jesus Christ. Yet why did some fall in the wilderness, and others not? The passage is clear- it was because of their individual choices. God structured the passage so that He was be completely guiltless in His treatment of Israel – they had every opportunity to obey and live.

    The parallel is made to Christians today. Bestowed even with such a marvelous grace that we have been, God tells us – “take heed lest we fall.”

    I am not trying to elevate mans’ choices to a level that outweighs God’s grace. I am simply trying to let God’s Word teach me about how our relationship with Him works. Determinism makes many of these passages empty and void of meaning. I am not a determinist because it doesn’t allow me to take most of these passages at face value.

  60. Steven,
    I still feel that it doesn’t quite strike at the heart of my question, and the point of this thread as it was posted. Does God give any weight to men’s choices? (…) The passage is clear- it was because of their individual choices. God structured the passage so that He was be completely guiltless in His treatment of Israel – they had every opportunity to obey and live.

    Well, I wish you would have stated my opinions in such a way that I would agree with them, and then help me understand why you believe my thoughts don’t give weight to men’s choices. I’m afraid I’m left helpless here, for in my mind it’s abundantly clear — without God’s (FREELY GIVEN!!) influence I am still rightly condemned for my individual choices not to meet the righteous demands of the law. You should take heed of *my* life, lest you fall.

    So I’m asking for your help. Care to try again?

  61. Chris,

    I will try my best to clarify! Would you say that God’s influence determines man’s choices, such that man’s actions play no part in the outcome of events?

  62. Nope, but thanks for trying. Maybe I can re-state it differently.

    Man’s actions and choices are what He judges. Man’s actions and choices reflect the nature of the heart from which they spring, and prove what is really going on in the heart.

    God must only require all creatures keep His laws, and is just to be angry with being He created who do not keep the law (make the right choices). He’s not angry with cats, who have always obeyed Him by eating mice and playing. He’s not angry with trees of the field, who always live to glorify Him and will clap when He comes to bring justice. He’s angry with a family of created beings who rebelled by their choices.

    Law-keeping is a just, righteous, expected demand for the Creator.

    Also, He is completely, totally, and absolutely free to influence men’s desires whenever He pleases. If He were required to give something not deserved (my definition of grace), namely, the regenerate heart of the influencing work of the Holy Spirit, then grace is no longer grace.

    Grace is no longer grace when it is not free to be given, when it is something that is required. The Arminians have the concept of “prevenient grace.” Calvinists, “sovereign grace.” But either kind of grace were required, it becomes by definition something different.

    He has met His own internal requirements by giving and demanding the law be kept. End of story. Nothing else is required. His hands are not tied.

    And the law must not only be kept externally, but as though springing from a regenerate heart that gladly, quickly and only chooses right (like the heart of the Holy Spirit). The Ten Commandments become Ten Promises: You WILL not covet, you WILL not worship idols, you WILL not murder or hate, you WILL not lust, etc.

    We will be given this heart 100% in Glory. Say hallelujah! It could be that we’ll have plenty of opportunities to rebel, but never the desire.

    A regenerate, pure heart doesn’t need to be told not to do things, because it only desires to do right. This is only found in the heart of God Himself. It requires God to love God.

    Let me state that again: It requires God to love God.

    Another way to state my hypothesis is: Free will, without love for the Son and Father produced by the Holy Spirit, is a curse.

    Another way to state it is: Evil can come into existence where a creature is given a desire to worship, and decision-making abilities, but not the influence of the Holy Spirit loving Jesus and the Father through that creature.

    So I believe you can see this working out in 1 Cor. 10. Some men were not given the influence of the Spirit, Joshua and Caleb were given the fruit of the Spirit (one of which is self control). The other men were required to keep God’s Law, as though from a rich, alive, heart that beats for God. Damned, they be, for not keeping the Law. Heed their choices. Beg God to give you the Holy Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34).

    Can you process that and tell me what I’m saying?

  63. Did Joshua and Caleb obey God for any other reason than the influence of the Holy Spirit? Make sure your answer gives glory to God.

  64. Chris,

    Your comments seem to point to the idea of man (and angels) having a ‘disaster-prone’ free will. The idea of this post isn’t so much how God obtains obedience from us, but the reasons God gives behind some of His interactions with us. Scripture is clear that God blessed Abraham because of his obedience, the exhaustive determinist view (not necessary to, but extremely common to Calvinism) implies that God doesn’t regard man’s will in His decisions (i.e. God doesn’t do anything ‘because’ of something man does).

    Per the example given, if God had unconditionally decided to bless Abraham, and also decided that he obey as a step in the process, then it can’t rightly be said that God blessed him because of his obedience, since both decisions had already been unconditionally made by God. His obeying would have been another link in the chain of events, but itself irrelevant as a factor in God’s decision.

    Did Joshua and Caleb obey God for any other reason than the influence of the Holy Spirit?

    Steven quoted from the passage that the people drank from the same spiritual rock, which is Christ (1 Cor 10:4). It doesn’t seem reasonable to say that God let all of them partake of Christ, yet denied to some the means to endure. So why did some fall? In Acts 7:51, Steven condemns the high priest’s council for resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers had done. So Joshua and Caleb believed due to the influence of the Spirit, yes; their peers didn’t, not due to lack of the Spirit’s operation, but because they resisted Him. As it’s written, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

  65. One of the frustrating aspects of trying to interact with these topics is it can seem as though I’m being told that I can’t eat apples, only eat fruit.

    Perhaps I should arrange a phone call some time in the future. Maybe talking it out will help.

  66. JC,
    I’m being impatient, please forgive me. I just mean that I affirm everything positive you just said and it doesn’t disprove my beliefs. It’s like you’re saying to me “you can’t eat apples, only fruit.”

    Either I’m really deceived (possible) or not being clear enough. A phone/video call might help things, but I dunno when that’ll be.

  67. Chris,

    If you aren’t being clear, perhaps it’s because we are trying to drill down into what I would consider only two possible base scenarios – either God’s will irresistibly influences man’s choices such that they have no impact on outcomes, or man’s decisions have an impact in spite of God’s influence.

    If you are wanting to end up somewhere in the middle of those, maybe that is where we are missing each other. I have a hard time thinking outside of those two boxes, so if that is my issue then forgive me.

    I think from my current study of Scripture that I agree with the latter premise that I outlined above. The Genesis passage from the article and the 1st Corinthians 10 text that I mentioned help me come to that conclusion. In coming to that conclusion I am in no way minimizing God’s grace, (which is essential to any favorable outcome for man) rather I am trying to apply how God reveals we operate within that context of His mercy and kindness.

    So the issue (as JC stated above) isn’t whether or not “Joshua and Caleb obeyed God for any other reason than the influence of the Holy Spirit?”, but could men under the influence and grace of God’s Spirit still disobey?

  68. I do believe I’ve found an answer that’s between the two. Could men under the influence and grace of God’s Spirit still disobey?

    Yes, and no 🙂

    Yes, they could at any moment have decided not to do that which they (key word) wanted to do.

    No, they would not not do that which they want to do.

    They were “forced,” in the way that a man crawling out of a desert is “forced” to drink a cold glass of water. The way that a lover is “forced” to sing of his beloved. The way you are “forced” to enjoy the company of a good friend.

    The way you’ll be “forced” to worship and enjoy the Savior forever. This love is freely given. God will commend us for this ongoing faith.

    Is that helpful?

  69. …and when God commends us, we’ll cry “Christ is all!” in perfect humility. God commends our faith, we cry “Christ!”, in an endless circle of loving humility.

  70. Yes and no 🙂

    It is helpful in that I understand your position better, so thank you.

    It isn’t helpful in that the picture painted in those passages doesn’t demonstrate what you describe.

    Some of Israel accepted to cool water offered by God through faith. Others rejected it.

    Some sang of God’s majesty and power while others complained it wasn’t enough for them.

    Some trusted in God while others doubted. All saw the same things. All were baptized under the cloud and sea. All drank the same gracious Rock that is Christ. Yet despite those influences which caused others to find belief and faith, others did not, in spite of God’s influence.

    Do you see why I have difficulty applying your position? It would be easy if all Israel fell, or if Abraham wasn’t commended for obeying, etc. It would also be different if some were given a greater measure of a relationship with God than others. Yet this was not the case. Given equality from God’s perspective, men went in different directions. What is the variable in the story, if not the choices of men?

  71. “Do you see why I have difficulty applying your position?”

    Yes, but what I’m getting at is God put “taste buds” for the “cool water” in some. Both were offered the same “cool water” but not all wanted it.

    We desperately need “taste buds” for God’s cool, life-giving water.

    Here’s a verse which might apply, if the context supports it (sorry, I haven’t examined the context, just re-discoved it today): “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

  72. Steven, you’re correct in believing there to be only 2 possible positions here. For ‘yes or no’ questions that aren’t loaded or ambiguous, we can’t take both answers, there can be only one (the other one get decapitated in single-combat, provided they’re not on holy ground). The question of whether God does anything based upon something man freely does is such a question – He does or He doesn’t.

    No one is suggesting that sinful men (to include Abraham) could please God apart from His grace. The issue here really comes down to irresistibility and unconditionality. Call this factor ‘thirst,’ ‘desire,’ ‘want,’ ‘taste buds,’ ‘unction,’ ‘irresistible influence,’ or whatever you will, if it’s framed in such a way that:

    1. Abraham would necessarily obey with it, and necessarily disobey without it
    2. There’s no conditionality pertaining to receiving it on Abraham’s part

    Then we’re still saddled with the same problem: Both the decision to bless and the decision to confer this factor upon Abraham would have been made unconditionally, which would negate God’s statement that Abraham was blessed because he was obedient.

  73. Mitch wrote,

    So using your last comment I would state it this way. Knowledge requires that God knows with absolute ”certainty” what man will do when placed in that given scenario and that being true he cannot do otherwise or the charge of God learning or guessing come into play.

    Notice how you move from “will do” to “cannot do” without any justification (as highlighted above). If we just change the “cannot do” at the end of your statement to “will not do” then the supposed problem seems to me to be entirely resolved. Otherwise, we are just making assertions concerning God’s supposed inability to know what someone will freely choose (“do” can be misleading since it speaks more to post volitional action rather than to the nature of the volition itself, whether it be free or not) in a given situation. What we are maintaining is that God has the capability to foreknow what someone will freely choose in a given situation. You seem to be saying that God cannot do such a thing, but have not furnished us with any good reason to agree with you on that (outside of mere assertion).

    I think J.C. already highlighted this in his comments that you were responding to here, but you seemed to have missed it. So in the end, despite your seeming acknowledgement on the differences between necessity and certainty, you continue to conflate the two when arguing for your position or against ours.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  74. Mitch,

    Sorry it took me so long to get to this:

    I read the comment along this train of thought. You directed someone to an article about regeneration coming after faith and the post was about Abraham obeying God, specifically in Gen. chapter 22.

    This is what led me to believe that perhaps you are saying that Abraham’s obedience in chapter 22 is what led to him being born-again. Of course there was some ambiguity in my thinking of what exactly you meant, hence my asking the question that I did.

    I linked to my post on Ezek. 36 because it seemed to me that Chris was misapplying the passage in his comments. I wasn’t really thinking about when Abraham became a believer or when he became born again (if we can even extrapolate the born again experience to the OT). Ezek. 36 has reference to the working of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life under the New Covenant that the passage looks forward to. Since the Holy Spirit is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 5, 14, the entire chapter is instructive with regards to this present discussion), Ezek. 36 really is not addressing how one comes to be a believer, which it seemed to me was where Chris was going with his references to Ezek. 36 and similar passages which look ahead to the blessings of the New Covenant.

    Was Abraham a believer prior to chapter 22? Yes, in accordance with Abram’s obedience to God going all the way back to chapter 12 and the explicit declaration of believing unto righteousness in 15:6. Hope that helps.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  75. J Miller wrote,

    So, I wondered, do Arminians view Geisler as an Arminian who “hasn’t come out of the closet.” Or do they see him as a Calvinist (which he claims) who hasn’t come far enough in his theology?

    Geisler calls himself a moderate Calvinist and shuns the label of Arminian. Geisler is basically Arminian in his take on free will and the need for God’s enabling grace to make a faith response possible. Yet, his views on election would not be readily adopted by many Arminians. He holds to unconditional election, but claims that it is unconditional only from God’s perspective while it is somehow conditional for us. This could fit with the nuances of the corporate election view which is thoroughly Arminian, but not the way that Geisler expresses it.

    He also says some strange things about foreknowledge and determinism that I do not think many, if any, Arminians would likely agree with (e.g., that God foreknowingly determines and determinately foreknows, etc.). Honestly, much of what Geisler says about his position seems incoherent to me. He also holds to a brand of eternal security that both Calvinists and Arminians tend to find completely unbiblical and dangerous (that even someone who becomes an unbeliever after an initial faith response is still guaranteed heaven). Hope that helps,

    God Bless,
    Ben

  76. Chris wrote,

    Kangaroodordt (love the name btw), I didn’t mention Ezekiel 36 as proof of regeneration preceeding faith, but I may check the article later on that topic. I mentioned it to point out that God works by strong influence. Doubtless you’ll agree that’s one inference you can draw from Ezekiel 36:26-27.

    The point is that the passage has nothing to do with how one comes to faith. Rather it speaks to the working of the Holy Spirit in believers subsequent to faith. Does it speak to a powerful influence within that specific context? Yes, but that did not seem to be the way you were trying to use those passages.

    In reading through a few of your posts it seems to me that you are really struggling to see the important difference between resistible influences (no matter how strong) and irresistible causation. You seem to continually conflate influence with irresistible causation, which seems to have led to a great deal of difficulty in discussing this issue or understanding J.C.’s basic points made in his post.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  77. JC,
    Then we’re still saddled with the same problem: Both the decision to bless and the decision to confer this factor upon Abraham would have been made unconditionally, which would negate God’s statement that Abraham was blessed because he was obedient.

    I can conceive of both possibilities. God blessed Abraham because he was obedient. God gave him the “taste buds” to desire the “cool water.”

    If you were to ascend into heaven and interview Abraham, how would he speak of his obedience?
    A.) “Why yes, I was obedient.”
    B.) “Christ is all!”

    Kangaroodort,
    Does it speak to a powerful influence within that specific context? Yes, but that did not seem to be the way you were trying to use those passages.

    OK, well, that’s how I meant to use them 🙂

    You seem to continually conflate influence with irresistible causation, which seems to have led to a great deal of difficulty in discussing this issue or understanding J.C.’s basic points made in his post.

    Making false assumptions and being deceived is possible, so I appealed to Steven, and really everyone, for help. I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, and I can still see a distinction in my mind, and it still seems JC did not refute my point-of-view with his basic points.

    Pretend I’m new to this… I appeal for help. Please go more slowly.

  78. Cool!

    I reviewed JC’s “objection #3” more slowly and then read+meditated the whole chapter (Genesis 22). Then I started thinking of all of the connections all over the place to the events of the chapter.. Hebrews 6, James 2, Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Hebrews 11… I definitely think I’m onto something with my hypothesis.

    Wish I had time to explain, but I’m grateful for the Spirit influencing me through JC 😉

    And bonus points for making me meditate on Scripture.

  79. Chris,

    I think I am starting to see some of the reasons that are causing you to struggle with what I am saying. My light bulb went off when you wrote:

    “If you were to ascend into heaven and interview Abraham, how would he speak of his obedience?
    A.) “Why yes, I was obedient.”
    B.) “Christ is all!” ”

    When you view man’s obedience, you seem to view it in direct contradiction to God’s grace. When presented with those two options, you view them as opposites when in reality they are complimentary. For someone who is trying to find some middle ground, you seem to avoid it when it comes to those two answers above.

    The bottom line is this: we do not have to go up into heaven and ask Abraham anything – God gave us insight into His own mind and told us the answer! We can either accept it or not. But which of us feels like arguing with God? Please don’t miss the forest for the trees 🙂

  80. Christ wrote,

    Making false assumptions and being deceived is possible, so I appealed to Steven, and really everyone, for help. I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, and I can still see a distinction in my mind, and it still seems JC did not refute my point-of-view with his basic points.

    Pretend I’m new to this… I appeal for help. Please go more slowly.

    Maybe I am not grasping your point of view. From what I have read it seemed to amount to the claim that some people are under more powerful influences than others in certain situations. Along the way you seemed to slip into equating powerful influence with necessary results. In other words, you seemed to be saying that if someone comes under a powerful influence that means he cannot resist that influence. Maybe there is more to it, and maybe I am missing something. Maybe it would be helpful for you to concisely restate your position and how you see it relating specifically to this post.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  81. Steven,
    I really didn’t understand you, sorry. I’m convinced Abraham’s answer would be “B.) Christ is all!!”

    Ben,
    Thanks for trying, I can’t take any more time to explain, sorry.

    Piper preaches a little bit of Objection #3 above:

    Gripping THEOparadox helps things like the unconditional/conditional covenant with Abraham make sense. Both are true!!

    Really enjoyed discussing this but I must stop now. Got a lot going on.

    Meditating on the unconditional and conditional covenant (one and the same) with Abraham has really, really been fruitful and helpful, and I appreciate that about these discussions.

    Don’t forget to meditate on John 13:35, and may God be with you!!

  82. Gripping THEOparadox helps things like the unconditional/conditional covenant with Abraham make sense. Both are true!!

    Right….

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/ive-finally-come-to-embrace-open-theism/

  83. A thought Ben, while the Bible does indicate that God answers prayers and heeds what we ask (even in extreme cases such as Joshua’s command for the sun to stand still in Jos 10:12-14), I’ve always gotten the impression from scripture that He did so because He was gracious rather than by compulsion.

    John Piper teaches,

    “…God has ordained to make our prayers real causes of real events.”

    So if,

    * God ordains prayers to be the causes of events
    * The events are performed by God rather than the prayers themselves
    Then this would effectively be stating that God has decreed that some mens’ prayers cause His own actions.

    But were that true, then if no one can resist what God has ordained, presumably even God Himself, then wouldn’t this logic be tantamount to saying that God ordained that He must obey certain things that men ask Him?

  84. Whoa!!!! That seems way man-centered dude! That is basically the point I made while discussing the issue of intercessory prayer with Manata a while back,

    “Perhaps Paul is saying that God decreed from eternity that the prayers of “X” would irresistibly move God to save in time. That would seem to indicate that the believer can force God to do things, which strikes me as quite contrary to Paul’s position. If the prayers of “X” don’t really force any kind of response from God, then they really have nothing to do with the means or His decree as Paul seems to be describing. Again, they don’t accomplish anything. “S” will be saved regardless and the prayers of “X” have no real bearing on the process. The best we can say is that they have an imaginary bearing on the process (i.e. they only appear to have something to do with it).”

    It seems to me that the Calvinist really just needs to give up on the idea that prayers are any kind of meaningful cause (or “means”) at all. It just doesn’t comport with their fundamental doctrines.

  85. Chris,

    We are all in complete and total agreement with you that without the Spirit enabling us, without the Spirit’s influence, we could do no good thing; we could not please God.

    The big question here is whether it is possible to resist the Spirit.

    Because it is by God’s Spirit that we stand, you will not find anyone here that glories that he stood. You will not find anyone who would say, “Big kudos to me for not resisting the Spirit!”

    To tie back into the main topic, the Scripture tells us that Abraham obeyed God and that God blessed him for his obedience. Yes, Abraham obeyed because God’s Spirit was with him, but could he have resisted the Spirit’s grace and disobeyed? If Abraham had no other choice than to obey, if the Spirit irresistibly caused or compelled him to obey, then why would the Scripture even mention his obedience as the reason for God’s blessing? Instead perhaps the Scripture might talk about how God willed Abraham to offer his son and ensured that His will were accomplished or perhaps it might mention that the Spirit compelled Abraham to accomplish His good pleasure, but it doesn’t. Were Abraham forced to obey, were he unable to do otherwise, a rewrite of Scripture would seem to be in order.

    So it all comes down to the big question: Can man resist God’s Spirit?

    Blessings,
    Rachael

  86. If the T of tulip is true, which seems logical with Eph. 2:1, then it is also logical that the constitution of man is in bondage to sin. If sin effects the entire being, then it is also logical for sin to affect not just the moral facilities of man, but also his intellect, emotions, and volition. Historically, Finney believed that sin just corrupted the just moral being ((Charles Grandison Finney, Systematic Theology [1878] (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library), 191.). It would seem logical that if Finney’s theology is correct, then man is capable of choosing God.

    But I believe that Paul answers the question with his argument of bringing the whole world into condemnation, Romans 3:10, 11, “there is none righteous…there is none that seeks after God.” Paul later, I believe puts the emphasis of where salvation where it belongs to the Lord, when he states, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). This would be consistent with Eph. 2:8, 9. It was God’s grace that gave me faith, which justified me, and He will get full glory for what He has done in me for choosing to bestow His love on me even though I am unworthy, dead in my sin, till He brought me life (foreknew from Rom. 8:29 conveys the idea of heart felt love, like how Adam knew Eve. The Greek word, προέγνω, conveys this active, deep, personal love.)

    God will not share His glory with another. Is there anyone here who wishes to steal God’s glory so that you may boast that you choose God? Or did God in His compassion choose you?

  87. Justin,

    The ‘foreknew’=’forelove’ argument is an old canard; and since we can only believe by grace, we as unworthy servants of the most High have no room for boasting, which justification by faith excludes (Rom 3:27-28).

    Now were you going to say anything pertaining to the topic?

  88. Justin,

    I don’t have time for a lengthy reply, but I wanted to address a few things.

    First, this post was written by an Arminian from an Arminian perspective. I mention that because no one is defending Finney (who was not an Arminian) or his theology in this post, so it is strange that you brought him into the conversation. No one here is denying total depravity.

    Second, J.C. and I would obviously disagree with the way you are using Rom. 9:16, Eph. 2:8, 9, and Rom. 8:29. All of those passages have been addressed on this site in the past. If you want I can give you some links.

    Third, you write,

    God will not share His glory with another. Is there anyone here who wishes to steal God’s glory so that you may boast that you choose God? Or did God in His compassion choose you?

    I think this little bit of rhetoric is over the top. Are you really suggesting that those who hold to the idea that God endowed His creatures with a measure of free will are just trying to steal glory from God? That is a rather bold accusation to make against fellow believers. Have you considered the possibility that God glories in giving His creatures a measure of free will and holding them accountable for their actions? Have you considered the possibility that the God who is “love” glories in the genuine relationships that result from those who freely choose Him, not because they were caused to, but because they found value in God? Will you deny God the sovereign right to give His creatures free will for whatever reasons He may see fit? Can you show from Scripture where men possessing free will robs God of glory? If not, I would suggest a different rhetorical approach.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  89. Justin,

    Let me also point out that your comments are not really addressing the subject matter of the post. Please stay on topic. Thank you.

    Ben

  90. Looks like J.C. beat me to the punch on the need to stay on topic.

  91. JC, you said something to Ben which makes me see you’re starting to understand my point-of-view. You said,
    “A thought Ben, while the Bible does indicate that God answers prayers and heeds what we ask (even in extreme cases such as Joshua’s command for the sun to stand still in Jos 10:12-14), I’ve always gotten the impression from scripture that He did so because He was gracious rather than by compulsion.
    (…)
    But were that true, then if no one can resist what God has ordained, presumably even God Himself, then wouldn’t this logic be tantamount to saying that God ordained that He must obey certain things that men ask Him?”

    If you include the possibility that God both ordains prayers He answers AND prayers He does NOT answer, you’re seeing eye-to-eye. Some prayers are just sweet smelling incense, as Revelation tells us. Sometimes we grow by asking selfish prayers, then reading James see one reason God did not answer that selfish prayer. God has purposes in unanswered prayers.

    I decided to rewrite JC’s objection #3 in my own words. Words flowed 🙂 Hope it’s not too much. I rewrote his objection because I do NOT want it to be said that I didn’t understand his arguments. I thought it only fair that if I asked people to understand me, that I seek to understand him.

    This does not answer why Abraham obeyed, which was my original question above. I sought to answer that question above, so I’ll skip that here. This is only intended to be a rewrite of objection #3.

    Objection 3 — The ‘unconditional AND conditional decree’
    Some Calvinistic Christians hold to this one. If you could interview Derek “THEOparadox” Ashton, John Piper, Sam Storms or Jonathan Edwards, they may say that they hold to this one. God makes ‘unconditional AND conditional decrees,’ a decree conditioned upon criteria man fulfills. Simultaneously, God so influences man’s decision that it WILL come to pass. In one helpful passage preceeding the sacrifice of Issac, God said to Abraham, “(…) walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you…” (Genesis 17:1-2 ESV) Abraham falls on his face and God says, “Behold, my covenant is with you (…) you shall be the father (…) I have made you the father (…) I will make you exceedingly fruitful (…) I will make you into nations (…) kings shall come from you (…) I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant (…) I will give to you and to your offspring (…) everlasting possession (…) I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:4-8 ESV)

    Thus God fulfills His desire AND blesses Abraham because of his obedience.

    This causes a massive logical problem for some, because they perceive the result to be short-circuiting any conditions. They object, “God caused Abraham to obey in order to cause Himself to bless him. (…) It cannot be truly said that God blessed him because of his obedience.” But these would do well to learn that “Objection #3 Calvinistic Christians” (hereafter O3CCs) love to watch God ordain both ends and means. Ends and means. Ends and means. Ends: “I will establish my covenant (…) for an everlasting covenant.” Means: “Walk before me, and be blameless.” God uses the means or steps He decrees to influence His own decisions.

    Further, we should be reminded that just because one has a massive logical problem with a fact does not make it any less a fact (assuming that fact is taught by Scripture).

    Some still object, “such a phenomenon would still be man affecting God’s actions, he would just be doing so by God’s decree.” O3CCs would state it, “God affects His own actions by influencing men’s actions, thus in the beginning is God, in the middle is God and in the end, God.” A closer examination of the Abrahamic covenant would help see this.

    From Abraham’s perspective, the covenant has constantly been pressing upon him as future fact. It WILL happen, as far as Abraham knows. He has been briefly given conditions (17:1, 17:9-14, possibly 12:1), but also told on numerous occasions that it WILL happen, spoken of as though it were future fact (Genesis 12:1-3, 7, 13:14-17, 14:19, chapter 15, 17:4-8, 21:12).

    It is interesting to note that when Abraham was told to sacrifice his son Issac, whom he loved (22:2), he was not told that the future of the covenant would be conditioned upon his obedience here. He was only told to do something. I think this is noteworthy, and applicable.

    Further, He was surely overwhelmed about God’s kindness to Him, promising to be Himself Abraham’s treasure (see Genesis 15:1 in the KJV). Though he was an idol worshiper (Joshua 24:2,3), God undeservedly promises a treasure of immense proportions (namely, Himself), which must have absolutely floored Abraham.

    Can you imagine how that must have struck him??? What a kind God.

    And so when he was simply told to sacrifice his son Issac, whom he loved (22:2), and was not told that the covenant would be conditioned upon his obedience, Hebrews 6:15 tells us he just patiently waited for the promises. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises (!!) was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead…” (Hebrews 11:17-19 ESV)

    It’s like he’s thinking, “This is future fact. Kill the one I love? Sure. God’s going to have to bring him back to life to satisfy His promises. OK, sure, whatever He tells me to do! The Lord will provide.” (“You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works (…) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:22,24 ESV)

    It is interesting to note that in 17:1 Abraham was commanded to be blameless, yet it appears he had sinned both after covenant was initially given in 12:1 (in 12:10-20 and 16:2) and after the command and condition was given to walk blameless (again in 20:1-18). Yet the covenant stands. Isn’t it good to know that God is full of mercy and grace, forgiving, continuing to bless Abraham and the nations through him (22:18). God is a graceful, merciful, covenant-keeping God, and He intends to keep the covenant He made with himself (15:12,17-21, Hebrews 6:13-18), no matter how much we fail. What a kind God.

    There is another example in Scripture of a covenant that was not only demanded of mankind, but also the resources supplied to meet the demands of the covenant, ensuring its certain passage. Check out Ezekiel 36:26-27: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” What a kind God.

    “But if, as Ezekiel 36:27 says, God puts his Spirit in man and causes him to walk in his statutes (and thus fulfill the conditions of the covenant), then a promise can be both conditional and certain of fulfillment. If God commits himself to work so that Abraham fulfills the conditions of the covenant promises, then there is no inconsistency in saying that the promises are sure, steadfast, irrevocable and conditional.” (John Piper, http://www.soundofgrace.com/piper81/101881m.htm, emphasis his)

    This New Covenant is fulfilled in Christ’s work, not ours. Celebrate that!! “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV) (Could the “promised Spirit” here be referring to Ezekiel 36:26-27?? What a kind God.)

    Indeed, all of Galatians 3 is a good chapter to meditate on. Think about the unconditional nature of this covenant. Think about Abraham’s conditions — “Law keeping” as it were, keeping commands, and faith, which I define as believing God’s promises, taking Him at his word about future facts. Think about how Abraham’s condition keeping (which I believe is roughly analogous to “Law keeping” here) relates to the future fact of the blessing.

    Also consider Jeremiah 32:40: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.” (ESV) What a kind God, to put fear in our hearts so that we may always keep the conditions of the covenant. The Lord WILL provide. (Genesis 22:14 ESV) What a kind God.

    Could Abraham have disobeyed? Yes. But it must be remembered, he did NOT. The unconditional aspect of the covenant stood. God did what He said He would do, even while depending upon a falliable human to keep his conditions, and blessing that human for his obedience. What a kind God.

    What a kind, kind God. He is like a father who trains his child to ride a bike without training wheels. He runs along behind the child, holding onto the bike so that it won’t fall over, smiling as the child shouts, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it!”, unaware that his father is right behind him, holding him upright. This father congratulates the child for doing it on his own, still knowing all along that if he wasn’t behind him holding him up the child would never have been able to accomplish the great feat on his own.

    And what a priviledge for us, those whom God intended to redeem all along! “(…) in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles…” (Galatians 3:14 ESV) What a kind God.

    God intends that we be balanced in our understanding of His work in us, and our need to obey. We must “work out [our] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12 ESV), for “a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24 ESV) And yet “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. (Philippians 2:13 ESV) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (James 2:23 ESV) Both are true, and this apparent paradox is a tool of God’s to keep us in balance. It is His protection. It is His care. It is His loving kindness. What a kind God.

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.” (Romans 11:33,36 ESV) What a kind, kind God.

    So in summary, O3CCs believe that God intends to work both ways. He moves upon us to obey, by influencing us with love for the treasure that is Himself, so as to keep the promises He says WILL CERTAINLY come to pass. He presents both aspects to us to keep us balanced, keeping the conditional aspects of the covenant, thus fulfilling the unconditional aspects of the covenant. God keeps us balanced, keeps us obedient, and keeps His promises. What a kind, kind, kind God.

    Some view this as a “massive logical problem,” but a good Berean will examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11). So I urge you to take each of the verses I’ve given and take some time to meditate on the chapters they’re in. Don’t be in a hurry, this is God’s Word, and you’ll bear more fruit as you meditate on it more (Psalm 1). God will strive to keep you balanced. What a kind, kind, kind, kind, kind God.

    If, after careful meditation on God’s Word, you discern that I’ve made serious error in my interpretation, please pray for me. I’m not infallable. I trust that God’s Spirit is able to keep me from stumbling and present me blameless, for He promises to do so.

    And so I end with this: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up (…), keep yourselves in the love of God (…). Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 20,21,24-25 ESV)

    What a kind God. What a kind, kind God.

  92. (In reflecting on what I just wrote, the phrase “self-fulfilling prophecy” comes to mind as a way of framing the unconditional/conditional covenant. Maybe that’ll be helpful.)

  93. (That’s not to say “self-fulfilling prophecy” is 100% accurate. It’s just a helpful tool, a somewhat similar idea, a bridge to get to what I see in Scripture.)

  94. Chris,

    Ends: “I will establish my covenant (…) for an everlasting covenant.” Means: “Walk before me, and be blameless.” God uses the means or steps He decrees to influence His own decisions.

    O3CCs would state it, “God affects His own actions by influencing men’s actions, thus in the beginning is God, in the middle is God and in the end, God.”

    I think the ‘ends/means’ idea is where the problem arises for me. Let’s take some conditional action God is going to do, for convenience sake,

    action = ‘A,’
    condition = ‘C’

    Assuming for sake of argument that God unconditionally and immutably caused C with no contingencies whatsoever, the question then is ‘why (with relation to A) did He cause C to happen?’ Some Calvinists answer that ‘C is a means to A.’

    If He decided that C would be performed with the goal (the ‘ends’) of doing A, and didn’t allow for any contingency whatsoever (i.e. made C absolutely necessary), this would mean that A was already an immutable and unconditional goal when C was decided upon, which means He would have already unconditionally decided to do A logically prior to causing C.

    In plainer language: If God wants to do A, and therefore makes a man do C so He’ll decide to do A, then this is effectively saying,

    “The goal to do A was His reason for immutably causing C to influence Himself to decide to do what was already His goal to do.”

    Which doesn’t make any sense. He didn’t need any ‘influence’ to decide to do A because He’d already unconditionally decided to do it — that’s the reason He decided to cause C to happen at all! That’s why I conclude that if everything is exhaustively predetermined by God, then none of man’s actions can be a reason behind God deciding anything.

    From Abraham’s perspective, the covenant has constantly been pressing upon him as future fact. It WILL happen….

    Could Abraham have disobeyed? Yes. But it must be remembered, he did NOT. The unconditional aspect of the covenant stood.

    I don’t think the covenant with Abraham was necessarily unconditional at all. God can state things in terms of ‘X will happen,’ but then revoke the promise to one who rejects their end of the covenant (which is the nature of covenants). A notable example is Eli:

    “Therefore the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the LORD says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.” (1 Samuel 2:30)

    And as a punishment to Israel if they were unfaithful (which they were):

    “Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known–wood and stone. … And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘You shall never see it again.’ …” (Deuteronomy 28:64, 68a)

    “And so when he was simply told to sacrifice his son Issac, whom he loved (22:2), and was not told that the covenant would be conditioned upon his obedience…”

    A condition unstated in a context doesn’t negate conditions implied or stated elsewhere. I would think that God fulfilling His promise to Abraham because he didn’t withhold his son implies that God was requiring such faithful obedience of him.

    “He intends to keep the covenant He made with himself (15:12,17-21, Hebrews 6:13-18), no matter how much we fail.”

    If you’re talking about Genesis 15, then that covenant was with Abraham (vs 18); likewise in Hebrews 6, the covenant was with Abraham (stated in vs 13, and by extension, to the heirs of promise who follow him in faith). I don’t think there’s any reference in scripture to God making a covenant with Himself.

    “But if, as Ezekiel 36:27 says, God puts his Spirit in man and causes him to walk in his statutes (and thus fulfill the conditions of the covenant), then a promise can be both conditional and certain of fulfillment.”

    While it is by the Spirit that we can endure at all (2 Tim 1:14), I don’t think God putting His Spirit within us immutably makes us follow Him. Even with the Spirit in us, we’re still capable of sin and grieving Him (Eph 4:30).

  95. “If God wants to do A, and therefore makes a man do C so He’ll decide to do A, then this is effectively saying,

    ‘The goal to do A was His reason for immutably causing C to influence Himself to decide to do what was already His goal to do.’

    Which doesn’t make any sense.”

    OK that didn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand what you’re saying here, sorry. Can you re-explain?

    I do know it’s hard to press a 3D God into a 2D brain. When I meditated on Abraham’s covenant I saw both unconditional and conditional. I saw that God pressed the unconditional upon Abraham, and pressed upon Him the joys of knowing Himself, and quite probably influenced him with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we saw the unconditional coming to pass. Self-fulfilling prophecy, in a way, something like that.

    “If you’re talking about Genesis 15, then that covenant was with Abraham (vs 18)”

    I should have explained. I was thinking of the smoking pot+flaming torch, God and God, with Abraham left in a deep sleep, unable to participate.

    “While it is by the Spirit that we can endure at all (2 Tim 1:14), I don’t think God putting His Spirit within us immutably makes us follow Him. Even with the Spirit in us, we’re still capable of sin and grieving Him (Eph 4:30).”

    While I cannot, by Ephesians 4:30, deny the clarity of Ezekiel 36:26-27, I can consider both verses some more.

    It could be that Ezekiel 36:26-27 is actually speaking of heaven, giving us insight into how we will NOT sin, or it could be that the obedience to the statutes is not a condition of the covenant, that God simply swears an oath to Himself to “give a new heart,” period. End of story.

    Just so you know, I am less impressed with logical arguments than Scriptural ones. I am not quickly persuaded by arguments like “A causes C which brings about Q dunking into G’s coffee taking X for a spin on the back of M’s airplane wing.” If God is infinite, it is not a stretch for me to conclude that He is complex. It’s hard to press a 3D God into a 2D brain.

    But I was impressed by your find of 1 Samuel 2:30 and Deuteronomy 28:64, 68a. I hope to discover more of our delightful, kind God. If it’s anything like Abraham’s story, I’ll bet there is more to these verses than either of us are currently aware.

    Until then, what I see today in Scripture is that God makes promises and demands, and provides the very means to man in order to meet the demands that the promises, um, demand 🙂

    We get the delight of enjoying the fruit of the covenants while He gets ALL the glory for making it come to pass. I was grateful that you “forced” me to study Abraham so that I could see this in his life 🙂

  96. Chris, glad you enjoyed the passages. I think God’s relationship with Israel is telling of His covenants in general.

    “Can you re-explain?”

    I’ll try. What I was saying was, in the determinist view of the example here, if it was God’s goal to bless Abraham, and that goal was the reason He caused Abraham to obey, then Abraham obeying couldn’t have been the reason God decided to bless him, because that was already God’s goal. Put in a question and answer format, it would look something like this:

    Q: “Why did God decide to bless Abraham?”
    A: “Because he obeyed.”

    Q: “Why did Abraham obey?”
    [determinist] A: “God irresistibly caused him to obey.”

    Q: “Why did God irresistibly cause him to obey?”
    A: “Because He’d decided to bless him.”

    Which I’m sure you can tell is circular. Hence, I don’t think it’s viable to say that God irresistibly caused Abraham to obey to ‘influence His decision.’

  97. “I was thinking of the smoking pot+flaming torch, God and God, with Abraham left in a deep sleep, unable to participate.”

    I think that was a sign of the covenant He was making with Abraham, (who was the one who put down the animal carcasses).

  98. To Isaac God says,

    “And I will multiply your descendents as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendents all these lands; and by your descendents all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept my charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”

    When we inject determinism into the narrative we get,

    “…because I irresistible caused Abraham to obey Me and keep My charge, and obey My statutes and laws.”

    I just do not see any justification for such a twist.

    Plainly, anyone in Israel could be cut off from covenant blessings through disobedience, and many were. If we work within a deterministic framework we would have to say that God is the one who failed to uphold the covenant by not irresistibly causing His people to be obedient to it (and remember God was ready to entirely destroy Israel and start over with Moses when they committed idolatry with the golden calf). But God did not fail. His people did. That only makes sense if God’s people have independent wills that sometimes do not respond to God as God wants. But if God always controls the wills of His creatures then He is the one who failed in the covenant and caused His people to break the covenant.

    Further more, holding up men as examples of faith in Hebrews 11 becomes somewhat silly. Those men and women did nothing worthy of note since God irresistibly controlled their wills to faith and obedience. Why uphold them as heroes of faith? They only did what they had to, with no ability to do otherwise. It is also silly that Jesus would ever be amazed at someone’s faith (like the centurion in Luke 7:6-9, cf. Matt. 8:5-13), or be amazed at someone’s lack of faith (Mark 6:6). Why should Jesus be amazed in faith or lack of faith when He knows that God controls the wills of His creatures either to faith or unbelief? Was Jesus expressing amazement at how God was controlling the wills of men? And why should those who have not seen and yet believed be more blessed than Thomas? (John 20:29) According to Calvinism everyone comes to faith the exact same way, by an irresistible working of God. Determinism makes such a mess of Scripture it truly “amazes” me that anyone can believe it. Just my two cents.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  99. Glad to see that Chris admits to the possibility of being a “Robot”. By the way, one of the definitions of love is that it doesn’t have to have it’s own way. God is Love!

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