Muppet Calvinism

A puppet representing Calvinist thought seems about right to me…

MUPPET

Better than TULIP?

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91 Responses

  1. Do you people ever cease from troubling?

  2. Do you ask this same question of the many Calvinist blogs and books that attack Arminianism as heretical, call Arminians “barely” Christian, refer to Calvinism as a “nick name for the gospel”, refer to Arminianism as an intellectual sin of infirmity, and so on and so on? Or doesn’t that “trouble” you any? Just curious.

    You may want to check out the following posts:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/j-i-packer-calls-arminianism-an-intellectual-sin-of-infirmity/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/enjoying-some-classic-calvinist-compliments-on-arminian-teaching/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/bashing-calvinism/

  3. “You people”? You mean, my brothers and sisters in Christ, right?

  4. Why be a humble little MUPPET when YOU CAN BE THE DRIVER . . .

    Dead in sin (at least, “mostly dead”)
    Resisting grace as long as YOU want
    Ineffective atonement — until YOU say so
    Very non-specific corporate election lets YOU decide
    Evangelism that keeps YOU in the driver’s seat
    Remaining saved for as long as YOU can

    Gentlemen, start YOUR engines!

  5. Let me take a stab here (certainly no pun intended…wait, we’re not talking about Voodoo dolls are we?)

    DRIVER:

    Dead in sin (but not according to Calvinist presuppositions)

    Resisting grace–doesn’t happen in Calvinism, at least not until you get saved

    Ineffective atonement–Calvinist presuppositions prevent us from seeing it any other way

    Very non-specific corporate election–fits Romans 9 more contextually, but who are you Oh man to say that Calvinism is wrong?

    Evangelism that keeps you in the driver’s seat–say what? God is Lord of the harvest! The Holy Spirit is the one who leads all of us last I checked.

    Remaining saved for as long as You can–OK, so you can’t resist God in the beginning or in the end, but you can go kicking and screaming in the middle. I wonder why my Calvinist brothers dont’ just throw out all the warning passages since they seem like moot points.

    Hope you had a Merry Christmas Derek! And I do mean that sincerely 🙂

  6. Now Dimly,

    Nicely done, sir!

    Happy New Year!

    Derek

  7. At least you have a good attitude about it! Happy New Year to you too.

    Gene

  8. Theoparadox: In the non- and post-Calvinistic circles where I fellowship, I have yet to meet a DRIVER. To believe that there is such a thing as personal, human responsibility is not tantamount to playing God. And to protest against determinism is not to advocate unbridled human sovereignty.

    Wrt to “paradox”, nowhere in the Bible is personal responsibility ever set against God’s sovereignty as though they co-exist in an inexplicable paradoxical tension. A careful study reveals that they exist at different intersections on the timeline of God’s progressive revelation, e.g. Lydia first “feared” God before God opened her heart to the gospel. Nowhere is there a suggestion that God was the source of her God-fearing traits. There are numerous other examples all over Scripture, and so I don’t think paradox can be used as a tool to soften the horrific logical conclusions of 5 pt Calvinism.

  9. Derek,

    I really don’t understand your response here. Did you read what MUPPET stands for? Nothing in that acronym misrepresents Calvinist thinking. Instead, it uses terminology that Calvinists tend to prefer over the terminology of TULIP. So why respond with an acronym for Arminians that you know Arminians would take issue with? Is it the comment I added about a puppet representing Calvinist thought that troubles you? If so, why not focus on that? But the acronym itself and the terminology it represents is a very good representation of Calvinist belief, even better than TULIP when we consider that many Calvinists prefer language like “effectual grace” to “irresistible grace” and “particular redemption” to “limited atonement”, etc.

    As far as a very good Arminian acronym that actually rightly represents Arminian belief, we already have one:

    The FACTS of Salvation: A summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace

    God Bless,
    Ben

  10. Very non-specific corporate election–fits Romans 9 more contextually, but who are you Oh man to say that Calvinism is wrong?

    I understand what you are saying here, but really, there is nothing non-specific about corporate election when rightly understood:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Abasciano.%20Clearing%20Up%20Misconceptions%20about%20Corporate%20Election.%20ATJ.pdf

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/corporate-election-quotes/

  11. Gene,

    Your good-natured jab in response to my good-natured jab was easy to take with a good attitude. I believe the Calvinist/Arminian discussion can be great fun when brothers respect one another and walk in grace.

    Moreover, having one’s theology challenged is generally helpful, and not a threat, except to the degree that (a) our theology is not truly Biblical; and (b) we are unwilling to grow and change. Aside from those obvious pitfalls, challenges are immensely useful because they help us to think more carefully through the issues.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  12. Ben,

    The MUPPET thing was clever and I liked it, so I returned the favor with an even more silly analogy.

    Just as the puppet concept represents a parody of Calvinism, the idea of keeping you in the driver’s seat is a parody of Arminianism. Neither is particularly flattering or accurate, but fun nonetheless.

    No puppets or NASCAR drivers were harmed in the making of this comment.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  13. Tobie,

    In response to your first paragraph: these are fair points. I have never met a Calvinist who is a muppet, puppet, robot or computer program, either. Although I would bet we have both met people who took either “human responsibility” or “divine sovereignty” to unsafe extremes.

    In response to your second paragraph: I use “paradox” to describe situations where the Truth can rightly be stated in apparently contradictory terms. For example:

    P1 Jesus is fully human
    P2 Jesus is fully divine

    if used to describe anyone else, these statements would be contradictory and at least one of them would be a lie. In the case of God’s Son, they are both 100% true. Scripture teaches them clearly, and does not tell us exactly how they relate or coexist. How can we fathom it? The lack of information allows the two true statements to form a paradox that has a mystery behind it. The paradox is only possible because of the mystery. If the mystery were revealed, the paradox would no longer appear contradictory. And yet the mystery and the paradox do not in any way obscure the Truth revealed by God in Scripture, which happens to be the only correct conclusion: namely, that Jesus Christ is the unique God-Man, thus the One Mediator, and Lord of All.

    In my studies of the Word, I find a similar situation regarding exhaustive divine sovereignty and the measure of genuine freedom/responsibility that we are given as human beings. I find the same kind of paradox with regard to the divine and human origins of the Bible, the Three-in-One concept of the Trinity, and the sanctification of believers, among other core theological tenets which lie at the very heart of the historic Christian faith and the Gospel.

    I would challenge your comment:

    “Nowhere is there a suggestion that God was the source of her God-fearing traits.”

    with this question:

    Where, then, did her God-fearing traits originate? If from within herself, apart from God’s intervention, then are you saying there is good that can exist in us apart from Him? Independent of His grace? In that case, we are not actually dead in sin and wholly corrupted by it, and it would appear that we can contribute something good to the equation of salvation, adding to God’s work.

    On the other hand, if Lydia agrees with David, that “apart from You I have no good thing,” and with Jesus, that “there is no one who is good, except God alone,” and with Paul, that “there is no one who seeks after God,” then God Himself will receive all the glory for His superior work of grace in Lydia.

    I arrived at Calvinism quite literally kicking and screaming, through the gradual understanding that there is absolutely nothing good in me, except Jesus alone.

    This is not to say that only a Calvinist can give God the credit for Lydia’s initial God-fearing traits. I think Arminius and Wesley would also attribute this to Prevenient Grace.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  14. @derek?

    Are you new to Arminianism?

    Here’s a test if you really are informed about Arminianism:

    “Where, then, did her God-fearing traits originate? If from within herself, apart from God’s intervention, then are you saying there is good that can exist in us apart from Him? Independent of His grace?”

    I would want you to find for yourself the Arminian answer to:

    “…then are you saying there is good that can exist in us apart from Him?”

    Thanks. Clue would be the Arminians CORRECT interpretation of John 6 vs. the Calvinist and its doctrine’s initials are P.G.

    😉

    GBu,
    Rex

  15. Ben you said, “I understand what you are saying here, but really, there is nothing non-specific about corporate election when rightly understood.”

    I agree with you that it’s not “non-specific.” In my opinion, corporate election fits the whole model of Scripture (OT and NT) more clearly than Unconditional Election which seems (to me) to be read into certain NT texts and uniquely appears in a Christian NT context but not so much in the OT, especially given that Corporate Election happened in the OT quite clearly and people (Gentiles too) could freely enter into or break covenant with God. It’s interesting along this vein that there didn’t seem to be a Perseverance of the Saints in the OT based on an Unconditional choice by God. Our Calvinist brothers could certainly arrive at that conclusion based on their reading of NT passages, but that seems like a little too much for me to accept.

    I was responding fast and wasn’t paying much attention to detail, but wanted to reiterate my agreement with you above.

    Derek, I too arrived at Calvinism kicking and screaming and sat happy in it for years. Until I began to examine some things that didn’t sit right and was able to look at them a little differently, maybe more honestly for myself, and then found that all the arguments I’d used against Arminians were basically straw men–and that out of pure ignorance on my part, having listened only to Calvinist arguments which were taught by yet other Calvinists.

    And as we all talk about Muppets and Drivers or what have you, while it is said to be jokey or tongue-in-cheek, I think we all need to keep an eye on the cross and remember that we’ll be held accountable for every word we utter, speaking the truth in love (perhaps not misrepresenting my opponents’ conclusions, etc.) and that our opponents are part of the same Lord. It can’t be said too often that we ought to speak gently to one another, and do good especially to those of the household of the faith (Gal. 6:10).

  16. Derek, thanks for your gracious response. I’m in agreement with your views regarding paradox, but I don’t believe paradox is the answer to this particular debate. As you know, many Calvinists don’t either, and see it as an effort to sidestep some of the logical conclusions associated with their views.

    Re Lydia: I have written more extensively on this issue at http://naturalchurch.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/five-reasons-to-embrace-conditional-election/. My purpose with this article was simply to strip the debate from at least some inferences and presuppositions and present an interesting pattern of Scripture that is quite clear from a number of passages, namely that accounts of God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of individuals appear to be preceded by some or other reference to a heart condition.

    The issue is not wether this finding accords with a Calvinistic paradigm or not, but wether it is indeed in Scripture or not. You may argue that there was a double-drawing in Lydia’s life, first enabling her to “fear/worship God” and later to “respond to the gospel” (or a single drawing manifesting itself in two stages, if you wish) based on your acceptance of Calvinistic presuppositions, but the Bible never says this. On the contrary, the plain and obvious message of the Acts 16 narrative, as well as all the other examples mentioned in my post, is that God’s sovereign intervention in the lives of people depends on the state of their hearts.

    Of course there is much mystery here, and I’m not denying it. But I cannot deny the pattern of Scripture either, especially not the feeling that the Bible writers would have us believe that this is the way the whole thing works.

    As I often say to students: If God created the heart with a deterministic bent, and then pretends to”find” it like that, it is his good right. But surely we are not supposed to find him out, are we?

  17. Derek,

    You wrote,

    The MUPPET thing was clever and I liked it, so I returned the favor with an even more silly analogy.

    But there is a significant difference. The concepts attached to the MUPPET acronym were an extremely accurate representation of Calvinist theology that no Calvinist would deny. The concepts you attached to the DRIVER acronym were not at all accurate and I can’t imagine any Arminian that would accept them as so. See what I mean? So I don’t understand why you responded the way that you did.

    Just as the puppet concept represents a parody of Calvinism, the idea of keeping you in the driver’s seat is a parody of Arminianism.

    So it was the “puppet” comment that I made that you were responding to; but again, your response doesn’t seem appropriate in that you used inaccuracies in a made up Arminian acronym to answer very accurate Calvinist thought represented by a made up Calvinist acronym. Do you admit that the concepts attached to the MUPPET acronym accurately reflect Calvinist thought that Calvinists should have no problem giving a hardy “amen” to? Do you really think that Arminians would give a hardy “amen” to the way you described Arminian thought in the acronym you provided?

    Neither is particularly flattering or accurate, but fun nonetheless.

    But MUPPET is extremely accurate (even more so than TULIP) and I can’t imagine any Calvinist disagreeing with it.

    If it is my comment about puppets representing Calvinist thought, then I would be happy to debate that issue with you. I honestly feel that the complaint that Calvinism essentially makes puppets out of people to be very accurate in explaining the unavoidable logical implications of exhaustive determinism. I understand that Calvinists don’t like it, but they have yet to explain how it is not accurate (except to focus on things that the analogy obviously isn’t meant convey, like saying puppets aren’t conscious, or that people aren’t made of wood, etc.).

    Now I understand that you think that the implications of Arminianism are that we save ourselves or are sovereign over God or that Arminianism is mancentered (as evidenced by your emphasis on YOU), or some such thing. Of course, I find that wholly inaccurate, a complete caricature. I would be happy to debate the issue with you on both fronts in this thread (both the accuracy of the puppet analogy and the inaccuracy of the DRIVER implications you tried to draw). This would be a good place to do that. Let me know. If you just want to keep it “fun” and not get into a more serious discussion, that’s fine too. But I do think it is a discussion worth having.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Now Dimly,

    Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t think that you really saw corporate election as “non-specific”, but your comment could give that impression and I wanted to make sure nobody got the wrong idea about it.

    Your reminder about engaging each other with love and respect is much appreciated.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. rex,

    I took care of it for you.

  20. Tobie,

    Lydia and Cornelius are big problems for Calvinism in that Calvinists typically say that we are all God haters and unable to seek Him at all until we are regenerated. But it is clear that Lydia and Cornelius were not regenerated and were yet seeking God (and God fearing). That makes sense in Arminianism because in Arminianism God’s prevenient grace which makes it possible for us to seek God or believe the gospel is not regeneration. But in Calvinism (at least with regards to the way the ordo salutis is typically argued in Calvinism), it doesn’t make any sense how either could be seeking God or considered God fearing prior to regeneration.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  21. Derek,

    You write,

    This is not to say that only a Calvinist can give God the credit for Lydia’s initial God-fearing traits. I think Arminius and Wesley would also attribute this to Prevenient Grace

    Indeed they would, but Calvinism typically asserts that it is impossible to seek God or fear Him prior to His regenerating the person or giving them a new heart. So the examples of Lydia and Cornelius (to name just two) undercut this typical Calvinist accounting of how God brings people to faith and salvation.

    Also, if it is true that through prevenient grace Arminians can give God the credit for Lydia’s God fearing traits, then your comments about how “we can contribute something good to the equation of salvation, adding to God’s work” do not follow, which seems to plainly undercut the points you were trying to make in your DRIVER acronym regarding Arminianism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Ben,
    I appreciate your desire to say what we mean and mean what we say. I think that is important in the Arminian/Calvinist discussion because too often we Christians can be unclear and not portray our opponents’ rightly. I really like how Roger Olson qualifies his comments by stating, loosely quoted here, “If I were a Calvinist this is what I would have to believe,” rather than saying that “Calvinists believe that God is the author or sin” or something like that. It’s that type of phrasing that will help us to show the lost world (and especially each other) that while we disagree, we do love and respect one another in Christ as brothers and sisters.

  23. Ben,

    You said: “I honestly feel that the complaint that Calvinism essentially makes puppets out of people to be very accurate in explaining the unavoidable logical implications of exhaustive determinism. I understand that Calvinists don’t like it, but they have yet to explain how it is not accurate . . .”

    I would like to introduce you to a concept called “Compatibilism,” or the belief that genuine freedom of will and moral responsibility can exist by the decree of a timeless Creator who pre-determined all things that occur on planet Earth. It’s a bit of a mind bender, but then again so is the Trinity, right?

    Please note that my use of “Compatibilism” is not meant to represent the latest technical philosophical usage. I am not looking to co-opt human philosophy and import it into Scripture. My meaning for “compatibilism” is defined above and is, in my view, the ONLY POSSIBLE way to consistently interpret scores of Scripture passages. It is, in fact, the fruit of wrestling through the implications of many challenging statements and themes found in Scripture.

    Historically, you will find Calvinists emphasizing and affirming the concept of “voluntary” action, which I think you would agree is not something puppets engage in (do we need to define puppet? I am not sure, but would be happy to tackle that if you would like.) Equally non-puppet-like in Calvinism’s view of human freedom is the concept of volitional evil sourced entirely from within the creature, and the resulting moral responsibility rendering us guilty before God.

    So it is wholly inaccurate for anyone to claim that Calvinism has the “unavoidable logical implication” of making puppets out of people. As mentioned previously, this would be a mere caricature or straw man and certainly not a true engagement with what Calvinism actually teaches.

    You said: “… Calvinism typically asserts that it is impossible to seek God or fear Him prior to His regenerating the person or giving them a new heart. So the examples of Lydia and Cornelius (to name just two) undercut this typical Calvinist accounting of how God brings people to faith and salvation.”

    This is, again, a caricature of Calvinistic/Augustinian theology. What is critical to all Augustinians (including Calvinists) is that the glory for every iota of good goes to God alone because He is the sole Source of it. Likewise, we insist that the culpability for all evil remains with the creature alone, since God is not, and cannot be, evil. For those unfamiliar with these most basic Augustinian concepts, I recommend Augustine’s little book, “Enchiridion,” for an excellent treatment of God’s relation to good and evil. As a Calvinist I will simply say that Lydia and Cornelius were God-fearers because God was at work in them, positively bring about good. Nothing good can ever be sourced from within the depraved creature, independently. Not to mention that the term “God-fearer” is understood by some scholars to be a technical term for Gentiles who were in the earlier stages of initiation into Judaism. Either way, nothing in Calvinism is even slightly undercut by these accounts.

    Now, for you, a few questions related to my DRIVER analogy:

    1. Does Arminian Prevenient Grace bring the sinner partially to life, so that the sinner is able to exercise faith prior to regeneration? Can the sinner thus illuminated be considered “wholly dead” in sin?
    2. Does Arminianism teach that the sinner resists God without wanting to, and against his own will? Or does he resist God until he, though unregenerate, no longer wants to resist?
    3. Does Arminianism teach that the atonement is effective toward the sinner prior to the sinner’s decision to confess Christ and be saved?
    4. Does Arminian Corporate Election teach that specific individuals are elected by God from eternity? Or is it non-specific with regard to those who have not yet chosen to be saved?
    5. Is Arminian Evangelism intended to lead sinners to the point of synergistically making their own decision to follow Christ (like “drivers” who turn the steering wheel in the direction they want to go, as opposed to passengers who are monergistically carried along according to another’s choice)?
    6. Does Arminian Conditional Perseverance teach that a person remains saved only as long as he chooses of his own will to continue to believe? Does it teach that some truly regenerated believers are ultimately overcome by the seductive power of the world, the flesh and the devil, not having the strength to continue in faith?

    While my DRIVER analogy was scribbled out quickly and originally meant only to be a parody, on reflection I wonder if Arminian theology can actually escape the force of the conclusions it conveys. Perhaps DRIVER shows us the “unavoidable logical conclusions” of Armianian theology, after all.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  24. Derek,

    I have very little time today, so I won’t be able to fully interact with this till later. I will say that I find your response to be disappointing and basically what I expected. Just saying the word “compatibilism” and making assertions about it does not make an argument. Those are just assertions. It’s like saying, “Well, that’s just the way it is and you just need to accept it.” I am sure you would agree that isn’t an argument.

    As for the puppet analogy, you did exactly what I said in qualifying the argument- focused on things that the analogy is obviously not meant to convey. So let me simplify things for you.

    In traditional Calvinism (that which affirms exhaustive decretal determinism), is it possible for God’s creatures to move (in any way) unless moved? Is it possible for God’s creatures to act (in any way) unless acted upon? Is it possible for them to form a thought contrary to the decree of God? Is it possible for them to form a volition contrary to the decree of God? I think the answer is quite obviously “no” to all of these questions.

    If we can do nothing unless caused to do something (through whatever means you want to come up with to explain things) and cannot think, act, or choose independent of God’s predetermination, then the puppet analogy conveys this pretty well. The only recourse I can see is to just say “compatibilism” as if that addresses the argument. So if all you can do to address the argument is to say “compatibilism” or “paradox”, then I think you have made my point that you do not have a real answer for why the puppet analogy does not accurately express what it is meant to express: that we, as God’s creatures, have no independent control of ourselves (none), but can only act as acted upon (with no power to resist), just like a puppet.

    I will get to the rest when I get some more time.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  25. Derek,

    It doesn’t look like I will be able to get to a detailed reply today. However, I did want to address this comment:

    I would like to introduce you to a concept called “Compatibilism,” or the belief that genuine freedom of will and moral responsibility can exist by the decree of a timeless Creator who pre-determined all things that occur on planet Earth. It’s a bit of a mind bender, but then again so is the Trinity, right?

    You say this like I have never heard of compatibilism or never interacted with compatibilist arguments, which you know is not the case. So why do you frame your comment this way?

    Not only that, but I would argue that you often use the word “compatibilism” as more of a tag word for “mystery” or “paradox” which is not the traditional usage of the word with regards to determinism and free will. Traditionally, “compatibilism” redefines free will in such a way as to make it compatible with determinism, but this is only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework. But you don’t seem to always use the concept that way. Rather you seem to often use it as a label for things that are by all rational accounts mutually exclusive in order to give the impression that they are not, without in any way demonstrating how that can possibly be the case, almost like a magic word or something. That is why I said that just saying “compatibilism” does not an argument make.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  26. Derek,

    I don’t think comparing Compatibilism to the Trinity is in the same category. We’re talking about God’s doing vs. God’s being. I don’t find the fact that God is “three persons in one essence” paradoxical or “apparently contradicting.” I find it to be a true mystery. If we are talking about God determining my sinful behaviors in a way that excuses him and brings guilt to me, then I don’t find that paradoxical. I find it to be the wrong conclusion based on the same Bible we all read. God is the Sovereign Lord of Scripture, and man is clearly responsible. But it doesn’t follow that our real ability to make real choices necessitates divine determinism or compatibilism lest God somehow lose his sovereignty.

  27. Ben,

    You said: “I will say that I find your response to be disappointing and basically what I expected. Just saying the word “compatibilism” and making assertions about it does not make an argument.”

    I think you may have unintentionally set yourself up for the very disappointment you expected. You did not ask me to present an argument for compatibilism. You asked me to “explain how it is not accurate” to say that Calvinism makes people into puppets. In response, I “explained how it is not accurate” to say that Calvinism makes people into puppets by describing a Biblical form of compatibilism and showing that this to the way mainstream Calvinists have historically spoken of human freedom. Thus I demonstrated that Calvinism does not make people into puppets. You got exactly what you asked for, then complained that it was both “disappointing” and “expected.”

    You said: “In traditional Calvinism (that which affirms exhaustive decretal determinism), is it possible for God’s creatures to move (in any way) unless moved? Is it possible for God’s creatures to act (in any way) unless acted upon? Is it possible for them to form a thought contrary to the decree of God? Is it possible for them to form a volition contrary to the decree of God? I think the answer is quite obviously “no” to all of these questions.”

    Actually, I think you are wrong here. We can very well equivocate over the meaning of the word “possible.” A thing being un-decreed does not render it impossible; it simply means it is not the thing that will happen. Beyond this, the decree is mysterious and doesn’t necessarily fit into tight philosophical categories. God has told us in His Word that nothing happens apart from His decree, but He hasn’t offered a detailed explanation of how that reality intersects with human freedom. Your series of questions and the “quite obvious” answer you propose are more reflective of the presupposed puppet concept which you take as the “unavoidable logical conclusion” of Calvinism than they are of the actual Biblical teachings which form the foundation of Calvinistic compatibilism.

    You said: ” I would argue that you often use the word “compatibilism” as more of a tag word for “mystery” or “paradox” which is not the traditional usage of the word with regards to determinism and free will. Traditionally, “compatibilism” redefines free will in such a way as to make it compatible with determinism, but this is only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework.”

    I defined what I mean by compatibilism, and, incidentally, my definition accords nicely with the summary definition provided by the astute philosophy professors at Stanford. They define the term succinctly in this way: “Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism.” Google “compatibilism stanford” if you’d like to see this for yourself. However, as I mentioned previously, I am not looking to import human philosophy into the Scriptures; I only bring this up because you implied that I am using a definition of compatibilism that does not fit with the traditional usage. By definition, a compatibilist affirms human freedom, and this is not “only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework.” Although it is true that some compatibilists minimize or downplay free will, the concept may be framed in many other ways and with varying emphases. I have made my own Biblically based definition crystal clear and have now added to this a demonstration of the fact that my use of the term precisely fits the traditional definition. Neither the traditional definition, nor my adapted definition, nor the doctrines of historic Calvinism “force free will into a deterministic framework.” There is no need to “force” something that already fits together perfectly well.

    To say that there is mystery involved in any discussion of human freedom and moral responsibility, in view of the Biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty (or even His exhaustive foreknowledge), is simply to say that God does not reveal in detail how it all works. As a Biblical compatibilist, I affirm (based on Scripture) that it works; I do not pretend to fully explain how it works.

    You said: “That is why I said that just saying “compatibilism” does not an argument make.”

    As I mentioned, our discussion was not framed as an argument for and against compatibilism. You proposed that we discuss “the accuracy of the puppet analogy and the inaccuracy of the DRIVER implications.”

    FWIW, my primary argument for the compatibilism I have described is the Bible itself. You are undoubtedly a dedicated student of Scripture. If you have not already found undeniable proof of compatibilism in the Bible, then there is no argument I can make that will convince you.

    My argument regarding the accuracy of the puppet analogy is straightforward:

    P1 Compatibilism at its most basic level may be defined as “the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism,” a Biblical version of which is “the belief that genuine freedom of will and moral responsibility can exist by the decree of a timeless Creator who pre-determined all things that occur on planet Earth.”
    P2 Calvinism teaches this kind of compatibilism, thus affirming that human choices are both free and determined.
    P3 The actions of a puppet are determined
    P4 The actions of a puppet are not free; therefore,
    C1 Puppets are deterministic but not compatibilistic; and thus
    C2 Calvinism does not teach that people are like puppets

    I have also argued for the accuracy of my DRIVER analogy, which on reflection appears to be a reasonably valid description of Arminian theology as best I can tell.

    Thanks for your time.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  28. First, let me address this:

    You quote me as saying:

    “… Calvinism typically asserts that it is impossible to seek God or fear Him prior to His regenerating the person or giving them a new heart. So the examples of Lydia and Cornelius (to name just two) undercut this typical Calvinist accounting of how God brings people to faith and salvation.”

    And then respond with:

    This is, again, a caricature of Calvinistic/Augustinian theology.

    Hardly. First, I said that Calvinism “typically asserts” that no man can seek or fear God prior to regeneration. That is demonstrably accurate. Over and over Calvinists will tell us that we cannot even begin to seek God outside of His changing our hearts in regeneration. Indeed, they go even further and say that we are nothing but God haters prior to God regenerating us. Here are just a few quotes along those lines,

    Just browsing the internet…

    For those of us who have experienced the miracle of regeneration, we testify to the reality of a new spiritual life. We no longer desire to seek a sinful lifestyle, but we turn toward belief in the gospel and the pursuit of godliness. It’s a work that turned us from being God haters to being God lovers (bold mine).

    http://www.gty.org/resources/Print/Blog/B110321

    Irresistible Grace

    Those God elected will come to Him. God gives his people a new heart; a new nature; indwells them with His Spirit; and transforms them from God haters, to God lovers. (Psalm 22:9, Ezekiel 11:19-20, John 6:37, Romans 8:38-30, John 10:16, Acts 13:48) (bold mine)

    http://www.newlifetucson.com/the-doctrines-of-grace/

    Moreover, according to the scriptures the problem with the natures of natural men is that their natures are such that they are haters of God, their carnal minds are at enmity against God, and there is no fear of God before their eyes… Will a man who hates God willfully choose to come to the God that he hates? Will a man who is free to choose ever choose to come to the God that he considers to be his enemy? What would ever motivate a man with these feelings toward God to seek out the God for whom he has no fear or reverence? It is agreeable to logical reasoning that a man with this kind of thinking would never according to his willful pleasure desire the presence of God…So the natural man does not fear God. He does not respect God. He does not reverence God. He does not seek God. God is not in all of his thoughts. Moreover, if you force the issue by introducing the thought of God to his mind, you will find that the problem is more than a lack of interest in God. The real problem is a deep hatred of God and a carnal enmity against God. If you could see into that mind, you would find that the very thought of God is a terrible thought. The possibility of an all-powerful God is a horrifying idea to an unregenerate mind. A wicked man does not wish to think of a God that has the mighty power to destroy (italics theirs, bold mine).

    http://www.dspbc.com/articles/larger-writings/holy-spirit-unassisted-regeneration/

    From some respected contemporary Calvinists:

    The Bible presents a strong contrast between God who is able to save…and man, who is unable to make even the first move toward God due to the corruption of his nature, his slavery to sin, and his hatred of God…Outside of the miracle of divine grace [regeneration] changing a God-hater into a God-lover, no man would ever be saved.” (James White, Debating Calvinism, pp. 63, 63 italics his, bold mine).

    “Sinners are hostile to God, and when God touches their lives with his sovereign grace [regeneration], he frees them from sins bondage [which up until that point makes them hostile to God].” (Robert A Peterson &Michael D. Williams, Why I Am Not An Arminian, pg. 185, bold mine)

    “We understand the Bible to present this [irresistible regenerating] grace, rather, as a power that transforms the desires of the heart, so that people turn from sin and begin instead to delight in God as their highest treasure. In the descriptive language of Jesus, they are transformed from those who love evil and hate the truth into people who love and practice the truth (John 3:19-21)” (Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware, Still Sovereign, pg. 14, cf. pp. 203-227, bold mine)

    This last one is especially interesting when we compare John 3:21 with Acts 10:34, 35.

    You write,

    What is critical to all Augustinians (including Calvinists) is that the glory for every iota of good goes to God alone because He is the sole Source of it. Likewise, we insist that the culpability for all evil remains with the creature alone, since God is not, and cannot be, evil.

    But this doesn’t change the fact that Calvinists repeatedly make the claim that regeneration is necessary before we can seek or fear God. Indeed, prior to regeneration we are God haters and nothing more (see above quotes)

    For those unfamiliar with these most basic Augustinian concepts, I recommend Augustine’s little book, “Enchiridion,” for an excellent treatment of God’s relation to good and evil. As a Calvinist I will simply say that Lydia and Cornelius were God-fearers because God was at work in them, positively bring about good.

    OK, so you are one Calvinist stating his opinion. But this does nothing to address the many Calvinists who agree with the way I stated it. So your charge that what I said was a caricature is vacuous.

    Nothing good can ever be sourced from within the depraved creature, independently. Not to mention that the term “God-fearer” is understood by some scholars to be a technical term for Gentiles who were in the earlier stages of initiation into Judaism. Either way, nothing in Calvinism is even slightly undercut by these accounts.

    Your point about “God fearers” doesn’t really do justice to the context regarding Cornelius. I would advise you to carefully read that account again. Either way, you have now said that God was working in them to seek God and fear Him, but that this work is not regeneration. Well, what is it? Why can’t this work of God in them which brings them to a point of seeking and fearing God also take them to the place of receiving the gospel? I think this is a far bigger problem for Calvinism than you care to admit. But my main concern was to demonstrate that your charge of my creating a caricature was wholly inaccurate.

  29. Derek,

    I know you answered further, but it seems hard to address your follow-up without addressing your initial comments first.

    You write,

    I would like to introduce you to a concept called “Compatibilism,” or the belief that genuine freedom of will and moral responsibility can exist by the decree of a timeless Creator who pre-determined all things that occur on planet Earth. It’s a bit of a mind bender, but then again so is the Trinity, right?

    Yup, the Trinity is a bit of a mind bender, but compatibilism as traditionally defined is not, and the Trinity is demonstrably non-contradictory (see Now Dimly’s comments above), while some claims by compatibilists are not.

    Please note that my use of “Compatibilism” is not meant to represent the latest technical philosophical usage. I am not looking to co-opt human philosophy and import it into Scripture. My meaning for “compatibilism” is defined above and is, in my view, the ONLY POSSIBLE way to consistently interpret scores of Scripture passages. It is, in fact, the fruit of wrestling through the implications of many challenging statements and themes found in Scripture.

    Well, I will just have to disagree with your “view” regarding compatibilism and the issue we are now addressing (free will and determinism).

    Historically, you will find Calvinists emphasizing and affirming the concept of “voluntary” action, which I think you would agree is not something puppets engage in (do we need to define puppet?

    But let’s not just repeat historical Calvinist affirmations and assertions. Let’s get to what the Compatibilists means by “voluntary.” Historically, in Calvinist compatibilism, to say an action is “voluntary” is just to say that nothing inhibits the physical act from happening post volition. In other words, the post-volitional act is considered voluntary as long as nothing prevents the act. But that sidesteps the issue of the volition behind and controlling the act which is, in Calvinist compatibilism, completely determined and outside the control of the one making the post-volitional “voluntary” act. So we could say that a puppet acts “voluntarily” when its arms are tugged by the puppeteer since nothing stops the arm from going the way that the puppeteer manipulates it to go. You need to do better than that.

    I am not sure, but would be happy to tackle that if you would like.)

    No need, I already tackled it.

    Equally non-puppet-like in Calvinism’s view of human freedom is the concept of volitional evil sourced entirely from within the creature, and the resulting moral responsibility rendering us guilty before God.

    You may need to explain this a little better. That volitional evil is sourced entirely within a creature doesn’t mean the creature has anything to do with that sourcing or is in control of that sourcing in anyway. When a person plays a violin, we could say that the sourcing of the vibrations that produce the sound comes from “within” the violin with regards to the vibration of the strings and the echoing of that vibration through the hollow body. But the violin is powerless to vibrate unless manipulated and cannot resist in any way how it is manipulated. Nor can it resist the laws of physics which cause the vibration and the transference of energy from the persons’ muscles to the bow to the strings to the body to the sound. That is pretty analogous to a puppet with regards to how I am using the analogy and how it has traditionally been understood as analogous to the effects of exhaustive determinism on people.

    So it is wholly inaccurate for anyone to claim that Calvinism has the “unavoidable logical implication” of making puppets out of people. As mentioned previously, this would be a mere caricature or straw man and certainly not a true engagement with what Calvinism actually teaches.

    Calvinism asserts that we can only move as we are moved and can only act as acted upon. Everything we think, desire and do is under the irresistible control of an eternal divine decree. So you can talk about “sourcing” all day long, but that doesn’t change the fact that according to the fundamental principles of Calvinist exhaustive determinism we, just like puppets, can only move as we are moved with no power to resist how we are moved.

    You write,

    While my DRIVER analogy was scribbled out quickly and originally meant only to be a parody, on reflection I wonder if Arminian theology can actually escape the force of the conclusions it conveys. Perhaps DRIVER shows us the “unavoidable logical conclusions” of Armianian theology, after all.

    I can’t say I am surprised that upon further reflection you find that you fully endorse your DRIVER analogy rather than stand behind your earlier claim that it was just a lighthearted “unflattering” and admittedly “inaccurate” description to make a point. But that seemed rather obvious from the start which is why I mentioned that your response didn’t seem appropriate given the fact that the MUPPET acronym (unlike your DRIVER acronym) perfectly conveys Calvinist thought in a way that no Calvinist would disagree with. Now on to your caricature:

    1. Does Arminian Prevenient Grace bring the sinner partially to life, so that the sinner is able to exercise faith prior to regeneration?

    No, prevenient grace is not a partial regeneration. Arminius sometimes spoke in a way that seemed to covey that idea, but it is debatable as to if that is what he really meant. I personally don’t think that is what he meant, but some disagree. At any rate, most, if not all, Arminians today do not see prevenient grace as a partial regeneration.

    Can the sinner thus illuminated be considered “wholly dead” in sin?

    Yes, because prevenient grace is not a partial regeneration. There is no granting of spiritual life in prevenient grace. Spiritual life always follows faith in Scripture and never precedes it.

    2. Does Arminianism teach that the sinner resists God without wanting to, and against his own will? Or does he resist God until he, though unregenerate, no longer wants to resist?

    Honestly, I find this convoluted. It is not so much about “wants” as ability. “Wants” need to be defined. In Calvinism a “want” is typically conflated with choice, so it is hard to know what you are asking.

    I will just respond that until the operation of prevenient grace, the sinner is not able to respond to the Gospel. Prevenient grace makes faith possible where it was previously impossible, but it does not guarantee a faith response (hence, resistible).

    3. Does Arminianism teach that the atonement is effective toward the sinner prior to the sinner’s decision to confess Christ and be saved?

    Again, this is worded awkwardly. The provision of atonement is available prior to conversion and applied upon conversion. The atonement is not “effective” towards the sinner in Calvinist pre-conversion either, by the way (if I understand your meaning correctly).

    4. Does Arminian Corporate Election teach that specific individuals are elected by God from eternity? Or is it non-specific with regard to those who have not yet chosen to be saved?

    The corporate view is not that anyone (except Christ) is elected from eternity, so it is erroneous to say it is non-specific with regards to an eternal individual election. It is specific when election takes place- when the person puts faith in Christ and thereby becomes part of His chosen people. Election of the individual doesn’t take place until the individual becomes one of God’s chosen people (the corporate body of Christ) through faith union with Christ. So there is no “non-specific” election to speak of, regarding that person, prior to that person’s conversion whereby the person becomes elect. People can go from non-elect to elect and from elect to non-elect, and very specifically so (cf. Rom. 11:11-24).

    5. Is Arminian Evangelism intended to lead sinners to the point of synergistically making their own decision to follow Christ (like “drivers” who turn the steering wheel in the direction they want to go, as opposed to passengers who are monergistically carried along according to another’s choice)?

    Arminian evangelism is the preaching of the gospel by which man may be saved. Only faith is synergistic in Arminianism (in that it is enabled by grace, but resistible). Salvation itself is a monergistic work of God.

    6. Does Arminian Conditional Perseverance teach that a person remains saved only as long as he chooses of his own will to continue to believe?

    As God enables him to continue in faith, yes.

    Does it teach that some truly regenerated believers are ultimately overcome by the seductive power of the world, the flesh and the devil, not having the strength to continue in faith?

    No. God’s power to overcome and remain faithful is always available, but not irresistible.

    See my further response below:

  30. Derek,

    You write,

    I think you may have unintentionally set yourself up for the very disappointment you expected. You did not ask me to present an argument for compatibilism.

    You’re right. I didn’t ask you about compatibilism at all.

    You asked me to “explain how it is not accurate” to say that Calvinism makes people into puppets

    Right, and by explain I didn’t mean to just make assertions about compatibilism. If compatibilism is the answer, then you need to show how it actually answers the problem. I don’t see that you have done that.

    In response, I “explained how it is not accurate” to say that Calvinism makes people into puppets by describing a Biblical form of compatibilism and showing that this to the way mainstream Calvinists have historically spoken of human freedom.

    But you didn’t explain how your compatibilism actually works to address the difficulty. You just asserted that it does. If that is all you wanted to do and feel that is adequate, I guess I can’t fault you for that. But I can be disappointed that it is all you offered in response and felt it adequate to address the problem effectively.

    Thus I demonstrated that Calvinism does not make people into puppets.

    First, I don’t see that you “demonstrated” anything. You made some assertions, but that is not the same as demonstrating something.

    Second, I never said that Calvinism makes people into puppets. That seems to imply a transformation of people into puppets. Here is what I said,

    I honestly feel that the complaint that Calvinism essentially makes puppets out of people to be very accurate in explaining the unavoidable logical implications of exhaustive determinism.

    This means that in determinism, people take on a certain fairly obvious characteristic of puppets, namely that they cannot move unless moved. This is very obvious given determinist presuppositions and the analogy is easy to understand. That is why it won’t go away despite how annoying it might be to Calvinists.

    You got exactly what you asked for, then complained that it was both “disappointing” and “expected.”

    I didn’t ask for unargued assertions. But I didn’t fully exclude them either, just assumed I would get something more if one was going to seriously try to address the problem. So you are right that I might have just set my self up for disappointment.

    I said,

    “In traditional Calvinism (that which affirms exhaustive decretal determinism), is it possible for God’s creatures to move (in any way) unless moved? Is it possible for God’s creatures to act (in any way) unless acted upon? Is it possible for them to form a thought contrary to the decree of God? Is it possible for them to form a volition contrary to the decree of God? I think the answer is quite obviously “no” to all of these questions.”

    You responded”

    Actually, I think you are wrong here. We can very well equivocate over the meaning of the word “possible.” A thing being un-decreed does not render it impossible; it simply means it is not the thing that will happen.

    So given the decree, it is impossible. Did you think I was talking about things that were not decreed?

    Beyond this, the decree is mysterious and doesn’t necessarily fit into tight philosophical categories.

    Of course…”mysterious” though it may be, we know that nobody can resist the decree of God.

    God has told us in His Word that nothing happens apart from His decree, but He hasn’t offered a detailed explanation of how that reality intersects with human freedom.

    According to your personal interpretation of Scripture, of course. If this is going to shape up to the answer of “it’s a mystery”, then I fear we have both wasted a lot of time. Why not just answer my question with: “it’s a mystery” and leave it at that. Why all the rest?

    Your series of questions and the “quite obvious” answer you propose are more reflective of the presupposed puppet concept which you take as the “unavoidable logical conclusion” of Calvinism than they are of the actual Biblical teachings which form the foundation of Calvinistic compatibilism.

    So you assert.

    I said, ” I would argue that you often use the word “compatibilism” as more of a tag word for “mystery” or “paradox” which is not the traditional usage of the word with regards to determinism and free will…Traditionally, “compatibilism” redefines free will in such a way as to make it compatible with determinism, but this is only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework.”

    And you responded with:

    I defined what I mean by compatibilism, and, incidentally, my definition accords nicely with the summary definition provided by the astute philosophy professors at Stanford. They define the term succinctly in this way: “Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism.” Google

    But this explains nothing about how free will is compatible with determinism. It just asserts that the two are compatible. The important question is: how are they compatible according to the compatibilists? I already gave the answer to that above:

    Traditionally, “compatibilism” redefines free will in such a way as to make it compatible with determinism, but this is only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework.”

    Contrary to your fondness of paradox, traditional compatibilism is not paradoxical with respects to free will and determinism. In redefining free will in a strictly deterministic way, it removes any “paradox” from the equation. Now if you were to assert that we are free in a libertarian sense and this is compatible with exhaustive determinism, then you might be able to appeal to paradox (though inappropriately). But traditional compatibilism with regards to free will and determinism rejects libertarian free will precisely because it is incompatible with exhaustive determinism.

    This is why I made the point that your use of compatibilism and paradox is confusing. If you are holding to the traditional compatibilist view then there is no paradox to be found. But you always seem to speak of compatibilism as an example of paradox. In this case it isn’t, unless you hold that libertarian free will is compatible with determinism, which traditional compatibilism does not hold. If it did hold that, then “compatibilism” would indeed amount to something of a “magic word” that, by its mere mention, is supposedly sufficient to resolve irreconcilable contradictions.

    By definition, a compatibilist affirms human freedom, and this is not “only done by forcing free will into a deterministic framework.”

    Please take the time to demonstrate this rather than just assert it.

    Although it is true that some compatibilists minimize or downplay free will, the concept may be framed in many other ways and with varying emphases.

    But never in the sense of libertarian free will. Otherwise, “compatibilism” becomes nothing more than a magic word.

    I have made my own Biblically based definition crystal clear and have now added to this a demonstration of the fact that my use of the term precisely fits the traditional definition.

    Then there is no paradox to be found, and the unavoidable implications of determinism remain, one of those being that we can only move as we are moved (in every conceivable way), just like puppets.

    Neither the traditional definition, nor my adapted definition

    You just said you held to the traditional definition. So which is it? Traditional or adapted? Please get very specific so that we do not waste any more time discussing this. Thank you.

    nor the doctrines of historic Calvinism “force free will into a deterministic framework.” There is no need to “force” something that already fits together perfectly well.

    Only if libertarian free will is jettisoned, because it is plainly incompatible with exhaustive determinism.

    To say that there is mystery involved in any discussion of human freedom and moral responsibility, in view of the Biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty (or even His exhaustive foreknowledge), is simply to say that God does not reveal in detail how it all works.

    Who said there was no mystery?

    As a Biblical compatibilist, I affirm (based on Scripture) that it works; I do not pretend to fully explain how it works.

    So now at least you admit that you have thus far only made unargued assertions.

    I wrote,

    “That is why I said that just saying “compatibilism” does not an argument make.”

    You responded with:

    As I mentioned, our discussion was not framed as an argument for and against compatibilism. You proposed that we discuss “the accuracy of the puppet analogy and the inaccuracy of the DRIVER implications.”

    So you have no argumentative answer for the puppet analogy, only assertions. Got it.

    FWIW, my primary argument for the compatibilism I have described is the Bible itself. You are undoubtedly a dedicated student of Scripture. If you have not already found undeniable proof of compatibilism in the Bible, then there is no argument I can make that will convince you.

    I don’t reject compatibilism in the Bible at all. For example, I hold that libertarian free will and God’s exhaustive foreknowledge are compatible. Do you? Why or why not? But I do reject that the “compatibilism” that you are asserting regarding free will and determinism can do anything to avoid the implications I have highlighted with the puppet analogy.

    BTW, do you agree that there are passages of Scripture which seem to plainly indicate that there are things that God does not know? Likewise, do you agree that the Bible seems to plainly teach that there is nothing that God does not know? How do you deal with that? Do you affirm both that God exhaustively knows everything including the future and also that his knowledge is limited and that there are things he did not know prior to those things happening under the happy concept of “paradox”? If not, why not? (and I am not an Open theist, just trying to understand this process you keep mentioning of how your honest way of reading Scripture forces you to accept all these paradoxes).

    My argument regarding the accuracy of the puppet analogy is straightforward:

    Oh wait, an argument…?

    P1 Compatibilism at its most basic level may be defined as “the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism,” a Biblical version of which is “the belief that genuine freedom of will and moral responsibility can exist by the decree of a timeless Creator who pre-determined all things that occur on planet Earth.”

    Assertion #1 (and note that I never said anything about moral responsibility at any point in this discussion)

    Also, please define “genuine free will.”

    P2 Calvinism teaches this kind of compatibilism, thus affirming that human choices are both free and determined.

    Yes, Calvinism asserts this and does so by rejecting libertarian free will (“genuine” free will?) and defining free will in a deterministic way.

    P3 The actions of a puppet are determined

    Yes! Very good.

    P4 The actions of a puppet are not free;

    Right, precisely because they are determined.

    therefore,
    C1 Puppets are deterministic but not compatibilistic;

    Why not? Compatiblistic “freedom” is still determinism, so wherein lay the difference? (hint: this would require argumentation)

    and thus
    C2 Calvinism does not teach that people are like puppets

    Fair enough. It doesn’t “teach it”, but I never said it “taught it” anyway. I said it was the unavoidable logical implication. You haven’t shown that this is not the case. You have just made counter assertions. Oh well, I guess I was expecting too much.

    Thanks for the interaction anyway.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  31. Ben,

    Thank you for your detailed reply. I will not have time to respond to everything you’ve written, and certainly don’t want to waste your time; however, a couple of points are worth mentioning:

    First, you seem to present the assumption that “libertarian free will” is the only genuine freedom that can be possessed by a human being. Unfortunately, this begs the question because LFW definitionally presupposes incompatibilism with regard to divine pre-determination and volitional freedom.

    Second, the distinction between what you deem to be “argumentation” vs. “assertion” appears artificial and contrived. You assert repeatedly that I am not presenting arguments, yet by your own terms you have repeatedly offered little more than assertion. This becomes a back and forth game of “so you say . . .” which renders discussion awkward. Claiming the other person is merely making assertions does not actually deal with their arguments.

    Thanks for engaging.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  32. Derek,

    To your points worth mentioning:

    Yes, I do assume that LFW is the only genuine accounting of freedom when referring to freedom of the will. This is universally intuitive in my opinion, that if we have no power at all to do other than what we do, we are not, in that case, free in any meaningful sense. This basic intuition is what puts the burden of defining free will in a deterministic sense and making an argument that explains why this should be the proper understanding of freedom on the one who denies this most basic intuition about what freedom has reference to.

    The reason we even use “libertarian” to describe free will is because of determinists trying to use a word that simply does not seem appropriate given their presuppositions. To the average person, you don’t need to use “libertarian” before free will for them to understand what you mean by free will (that the will is only free if it has the power to do otherwise). But because of certain determinists not wanting to give up on the terminology of free will, despite the fact that determinism plainly undermines it as normally understood and defined, we are forced to add “libertarian” in front of free will to make the distinction known, which is redundant and unnecessary if not for certain determinists who still want to claim free will.

    As far as assertions, my point is that you have just made a series of claims and have not argued for them. In fact, I had to make the argument on your behalf at times (or at least explain and define concepts that you just left hanging out there in such a way that most people not familiar with this debate would most easily get the wrong idea concerning what you meant by these concepts). An example of this is when you made comments about compatibilists holding that we do things “voluntarily.” Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that you probably know that when you say we can do things voluntarily in compatibilism, most people would understand that in the sense of volitional freedom. But you deny volitional freedom. So you mean something quite different when you speak of “voluntary action” which I had to explain, because you did not.

    I think you made my point well enough in your final argument. You agreed that a puppet is determined. You also agree that we are determined under determinism (a simple truism). So determinism does cause people to take on this same characteristic as puppets (a characteristic that everyone recognizes of puppets), in that people, just like puppets, are fully determined in determinism (again, a simple truism) with no power to do anything other than what they have been determined to do- just like a puppet is powerless to do anything contrary to how it is manipulated. So the analogy holds strong. That is all it is meant to convey. Now, we could draw conclusions from this about accountability as well, but that was not something I was doing and is not the most basic principle being expressed in the analogy.

    You have said that the analogy is inaccurate because in determinism we have “genuine” compatibilistic freedom. But this “genuine freedom” just means that nothing hinders us from doing what we have been determined to do. So it really has no significant bearing on the analogy with regards to determinism. Compatibilistic freedom doesn’t make determinism any less deterministic.

    And again, what this compatibilistic freedom entails is not something you cared to share, which is again why I said that all you have offered is assertions. What I was “hoping” for was for you to actually carefully explain how determinism renders us anything less than determined (which you would need to do in order to avoid the implications of the puppet analogy). This you haven’t done. Of course, I think it is because it simply can’t be done. As long as determinism means what it means and as long as people are fully determined in determinism, then puppets serve as a good analogy to illustrate how determinism affects people.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. relevant definitions of “puppet”:

    Oxford Dictionary: a person, party, or state under the control of another person, group, or power:

    Merriam-Webster: “a person or an organization that is controlled by another person or organization”

    Dictionary.com: “a person, group, government, etc., whose actions are prompted and controlled by another or others”

  34. Arminian,

    Thanks. Hard to argue with that (but I suspect someone will still try).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  35. […] about Calvinism. And on another note, Arminians may assert that Calvinism makes puppets (or muppets) out of people. If this is not received well by Calvinists, then Daniel’s idea that […]

  36. Hello Ben,

    Just wanted to say that you did a great job presenting the puppet analogy and its relation to Calvinism. Calvinists resent when non-Calvinists bring up this analogy for Calvinism and yet if they are consistent with their own claims then God does in fact control us in a manner analogous to the way a puppet master controls his puppets.

    Robert

  37. Thanks Robert. I agree that it is analogous as far as it is meant to communicate the fact that in Calvinism we have no real control of ourselves, but are ultimately (and meticulously/exhaustively) controlled by God (regardless of how many secondary causes, etc. He may employ in controlling us).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  38. Ben,

    Has it crossed your mind that it might come across as a little bit presumptuous for you to try to tell me what my argument should be, what it means, and why it is absurdly wrong on that basis? You seem to be arguing not so much against my views as against your own preconceived notion of what my views should be. As long as you only recognize a caricature of Calvinism, you will always find it easy to convince yourself that you have won an argument and will not find any significant challenge to your own views. However, the kind of Calvinism you are arguing against is not the historic, mainstream variety. Thus you are not actually engaging with Calvinism. In fact, your insistence that a puppet analogy is representative of genuine Calvinistic theology only proves the point: you reject straw man Calvinism. That is excellent. So do I. Thus, we apparently agree on the fact that your caricature of Calvinism is not a true reflection of the Bible’s teachings.

    I could quote a dictionary definition of “DRIVER” that would show how accurate that word is as a description of Arminianism, but I’ll leave that research to you if you’re interested in pursuing it.

    Have a blessed evening.

    Derek

  39. Ben,

    I am going to freely choose to respond to a few of your statements:

    You said: “An example of this is when you made comments about compatibilists holding that we do things “voluntarily.” Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that you probably know that when you say we can do things voluntarily in compatibilism, most people would understand that in the sense of volitional freedom. But you deny volitional freedom.”

    No, I do not and have not (in this discussion or anywhere else) denied volitional freedom. Apparently, because you assume that volitional freedom cannot exist within a divinely (meticulously) decreed and/or pre-determined framework, you assume that my affirmation of decrees equals a denial of volitional freedom. Thus you are putting words in my mouth rather than dealing with what I have actually argued (or merely “asserted,” according your assertion). As a Biblical Calvinistic compatibilist, I hold that we act with volitional freedom within the scope of our limitations.

    As an example, I cannot jump ten feet into the air from a standing position on level ground. I can want to do so. I can even try to do so. But I can’t actually do it no matter how much I want to or try to. It is quite literally impossible. On the other hand, I can jump one foot into the air from a standing position on level ground. In fact, I just did. And I did so by own choice and without coercion. God also decreed from eternity that I would jump. Nevertheless, I jumped on my own accord, and I am solely responsible for my jumping. I had the ability not to jump, and could just as well have made that decision a moment ago. The fact that I was decreed to jump does not somehow take away my ability to not jump or force me to jump. I jumped voluntarily, responsibly, and by my own choice. The decree does not enable me to jump, force me to jump, or prevent me from staying seated in my chair. It simply says, in eternity and from God’s transcendent perspective, what I will freely choose to do before I freely choose to do it. This all seems perfectly intuitive to me, given God’s freedom and omnipotence, and given my experience, and I don’t find any reasonable argument that would lead me to suppose it is somehow contradictory or impossible. Why do you doubt this is exactly how things work? There are mountains of Scripture passages that illustrate this principle, which I am calling Biblical Calvinistic compatibilism. Please note, once again, carefully, that I am not importing the latest technical philosophical definition (although I have already demonstrated that my understanding at least does not contradict the general definition offered by some leading philosophers).

    You said: “I think you made my point well enough in your final argument. You agreed that a puppet is determined. You also agree that we are determined under determinism (a simple truism). So determinism does cause people to take on this same characteristic as puppets (a characteristic that everyone recognizes of puppets), in that people, just like puppets, are fully determined in determinism (again, a simple truism) with no power to do anything other than what they have been determined to do– just like a puppet is powerless to do anything contrary to how it is manipulated.”

    Here you are completely ignoring my argument (as a humorous side note, your words brought to mind the scene in that irreverent Monty Python movie where they are deciding whether or not to drown the witch). So I will present my argument again, in very simple terms:

    PEOPLE = both determined AND free.
    PUPPETS = only determined.

    See the difference? Here it is once more:

    PEOPLE = both determined AND free.
    PUPPETS = only determined.

    I am arguing that people are both determined in some genuine and meaningful sense and free in some genuine and meaningful sense because God is able to strike the perfect balance of both phenomena (go back to my initial definition of compatibilism and you will readily see that this was my starting point in the conversation, and you have not yet addressed it; you have simply assumed a priori that incompatibilism is true and argued from that basis). God is able to determine that we shall be free. We are made with the ability to choose freely, and also, by the facts and circumstances of the case, are divinely determined.

    I never said that we have “no power to do anything other than what we have been determined to do.” Quite the contrary. I believe we do have the power to do otherwise. We do not exercise that power for two reasons: because it is not decreed AND because we freely choose not to exercise it. In no way does this imply that we lack the power or ability to do otherwise than we are decreed. By conflating determinism and Calvinistic compatibilism, you burn a man of straw. I do not hold to simple determinism. I hold to compatibiism, which is a distinct position involving beliefs that are foreign to the kind of incompatibilistic determinism you argue against. I agree, however, that incompatibilistic determinism is not what the Bible teaches.

    You said: “You have said that the analogy is inaccurate because in determinism we have “genuine” compatibilistic freedom. But this “genuine freedom” just means that nothing hinders us from doing what we have been determined to do.”

    This is not at all what I mean when I say we have genuine compatibilistic freedom. Again, you are putting words in my mouth and imputing to me the argument you think I should make. This is not the argument I have actually made. I have made the argument that we possess, by God’s decree, a voluntary volitional freedom and the ability to do otherwise than we have been decreed to do. The decree does not determine what we are able to do, but what we will do. And what we actually do is done by our own choosing, as we exercise our own will and decide based upon what we think is best. Simultaneously, the all-wise God is in control of it all, decrees it all, and mysteriously works His holy will through it all. But the “all” includes our freely made choices.

    Tell me, again, why He can’t do this? Explain to me why God lacks the ability to make us both genuinely free and determined? Demonstrate for me how this understanding violates any Biblical principle? If it is simply that the concept does not seem logical to you, I would invite you to gaze once again on the five core propositions describing the Trinity, and show me how you logically reconcile them:

    1. There is one God.
    2. The Father is God.
    3.. Son is God.
    4. The Holy Spirit is God.
    5. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct (i.e., they are not one another).

    Why would this God — timeless, eternal, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise — lack the ability to transcendently decree all events AND create free creatures? How, exactly, would His decrees destroy the freedom with which He endowed us?

    Blessings,
    Derek

  40. Derek,

    You write,

    Has it crossed your mind that it might come across as a little bit presumptuous for you to try to tell me what my argument should be, what it means, and why it is absurdly wrong on that basis? You seem to be arguing not so much against my views as against your own preconceived notion of what my views should be.

    How can I argue against your views if you do not argue for your views? You need to explain what your views are if you want someone to be able to address them in the way you seem to be requesting. That is largely why I kept mentioning that you were simply making assertions and not making arguments. You didn’t seem to like that. Should I just let your unargued assertions stand? If you don’t want to be misunderstood, then you only need to take the time to carefully explain what you mean by the things you are saying so those things can be properly analyzed.

    However, I find all of this interesting in light of your endorsement of Patton’s “Irrationality of Calvinism” post where he continually told Arminians why they held to Arminianism instead of Calvinism (e.g., because they don’t like mystery, want to make things “fit”, are too rational, can’t deal with the hard truths of Scripture and on and on). Do you likewise find that to be presumptuous? I have seen you make the same sorts of claims about Arminians on your blog. Do you consider those arguments presumptuous?

    As long as you only recognize a caricature of Calvinism, you will always find it easy to convince yourself that you have won an argument and will not find any significant challenge to your own views. However, the kind of Calvinism you are arguing against is not the historic, mainstream variety. Thus you are not actually engaging with Calvinism.

    Derek, this sort of stuff gets really old. I have probably read just as much from historic Calvinists as you have. I have likewise read a ton from contemporary Calvinists. Why is it that you seem to think that only Calvinists can rightly understand Calvinism? That seems presumptuous to me. If I have misrepresented something, then please carefully explain that misrepresentation and how it is in fact a misrepresentation. Otherwise, it is nothing more than assertions again.

    In fact, your insistence that a puppet analogy is representative of genuine Calvinistic theology only proves the point: you reject straw man Calvinism. That is excellent. So do I.

    First, let me remind you that I said the puppet analogy is representative of the unavoidable implications of Calvinism. I did not say it was what historic Calvinism teaches. I also explained exactly why it serves as a good analogy given fundamental Calvinist assumptions. If you think it is a straw man, you need to explain how.

    Thus, we apparently agree on the fact that your caricature of Calvinism is not a true reflection of the Bible’s teachings.

    As far as I am concerned, I haven’t made any caricature of Calvinism, but I do think that Calvinism is not a true reflection of the Bible’s teaching.

    I could quote a dictionary definition of “DRIVER” that would show how accurate that word is as a description of Arminianism, but I’ll leave that research to you if you’re interested in pursuing it.

    I’m interested in you making arguments to back up your claims. If you are just going to defer to me looking something (what exactly?) up in a dictionary and doing my own research, then I see no reason for you to keep coming back here and leaving comments. It seems clear you don’t want to back up your assertions. That’s too bad.

  41. Derek,

    You quote me as saying,

    “An example of this is when you made comments about compatibilists holding that we do things “voluntarily.” Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that you probably know that when you say we can do things voluntarily in compatibilism, most people would understand that in the sense of volitional freedom. But you deny volitional freedom.”

    And respond with:

    No, I do not and have not (in this discussion or anywhere else) denied volitional freedom. Apparently, because you assume that volitional freedom cannot exist within a divinely (meticulously) decreed and/or pre-determined framework, you assume that my affirmation of decrees equals a denial of volitional freedom. Thus you are putting words in my mouth rather than dealing with what I have actually argued (or merely “asserted,” according your assertion).

    This last part in parentheses gets to the heart of it. You haven’t argued for anything yet. It is also strange that you seem to think that pointing out that someone has made unargued assertions is somehow invalid as this would amount to an assertion. Are you saying that it is not appropriate to ever point out that someone has made unargued assertions in a discussion or debate because you think that pointing such things out is just another “assertion”?

    As a Biblical Calvinistic compatibilist, I hold that we act with volitional freedom within the scope of our limitations. As an example, I cannot jump ten feet into the air from a standing position on level ground.

    True, but that describes a physical action, not a volition.

    I can want to do so. I can even try to do so. But I can’t actually do it no matter how much I want to or try to. It is quite literally impossible.

    Fair enough. I never said you couldn’t want to do something you can’t actually do in compatibilism. I don’t see how this is really relevant at this point. But you can’t even “want to do” something unless God decreed that from eternity.

    On the other hand, I can jump one foot into the air from a standing position on level ground. In fact, I just did.

    Did you really? That’s funny.

    And I did so by own choice and without coercion.

    But this sounds exactly the same as how I described voluntary action in compatibilism (since you hadn’t bothered to explain it yourself). I said,

    Historically, in Calvinist compatibilism, to say an action is “voluntary” is just to say that nothing inhibits the physical act from happening post volition. In other words, the post-volitional act is considered voluntary as long as nothing prevents the act. But that sidesteps the issue of the volition behind and controlling the act which is, in Calvinist compatibilism, completely determined and outside the control of the one making the post-volitional “voluntary” act.

    Note the part in bold. Let’s see if you get around to addressing that very important part of the issue.

    God also decreed from eternity that I would jump.

    Which makes it impossible for you to not jump, unless you believe that you have power (or “ability”) to contradict and violate God’s eternal decree. Is that what you believe?

    Nevertheless, I jumped on my own accord

    Meaning what? You jumped in accordance with God’s irresistible eternal decree? By “own accord” do you simply mean that whatever you do is in accordance with God’s decree?

    I had the ability not to jump

    You need to carefully explain this. In what sense did you have the “ability” not to jump? You had the “ability” to act contrary to God’s decree for you to jump?

    and could just as well have made that decision a moment ago.

    Not if God predetermined your volition from eternity. If God’s eternal decree said you were to decide to jump, then “jumping” was the only decision you were able to make.

    The fact that I was decreed to jump does not somehow take away my ability to not jump or force me to jump.

    In that instance, yes it does take away your ability, unless you are claiming to have the ability to contradict and act contrary to the eternal decree of God. In other words, you are powerless to resist the eternal decree of God and think, do or act in any way contrary to that decree, just like a puppet is powerless to do anything other than how the puppeteer manipulates it. If God decreed that you jump, then you must jump. You have no “choice” in the matter (even if you “think” you do).

    I jumped voluntarily, responsibly, and by my own choice. The decree does not enable me to jump, force me to jump, or prevent me from staying seated in my chair.

    But these are just more word games. Here is the question I would love for you to answer: Can you do anything contrary to the eternal decree of God? Yes or no? It’s really that simple. You still haven’t answered it. The best you have done is to say that if God’s decree were different, it would be “possible” for you to do something different. But that is not an answer. As I said, given God’s decree it is impossible to do anything contrary to that decree.

    It simply says, in eternity and from God’s transcendent perspective, what I will freely choose to do before I freely choose to do it.

    More word games. God’s decree comes long before you think or do anything and that decree dictates all that you will think, desire or do (in historic Calvinism). It necessitates all things (which means you “must” do what has been decreed, not just that you “will” do what has been decreed for you to do). Even God’s foreknowledge is based on His decree (in Historic Calvinism). God only knows what you will do because He has decreed for you to do it and you have no power to resist His decree. His decree for you to jump is irresistible, just like the tug on a puppet’s limb is irresistible. You have no more power to resist God’s eternal decree to jump than a puppet has power to resist the tug on its limb.

    In the end, you can only move as you are moved and you have no power to think , desire, decide or act in any way contrary to the irresistible eternal decree of God. If you did, you would have the “power” to contradict God’s decree and falsify His foreknowledge. Surely you do not attribute such power to yourself, do you?

    This all seems perfectly intuitive to me, given God’s freedom and omnipotence, and given my experience, and I don’t find any reasonable argument that would lead me to suppose it is somehow contradictory or impossible. Why do you doubt this is exactly how things work?

    Exactly how what works? What is intuitive to me is that nothing can resist or act in anyway contrary to the decree of God. I don’t even think you would disagree with that.

    PEOPLE = both determined AND free.
    PUPPETS = only determined.

    See the difference? Here it is once more:

    PEOPLE = both determined AND free.
    PUPPETS = only determined.

    But “free” is still “determined” in Calvinism, so saying “and free” doesn’t address the problem. I can come up with a sort of “freedom” that a puppet might have as well. The puppet is “free” to move just as it is moved. See that? Now puppets are free too. But you said puppets were determined and not free. But now I say they are free. What to do?

    God is able to determine that we shall be free.

    Yes, God determined that we shall be free in the libertarian sense. Do you deny His freedom and power to do such things?

    We are made with the ability to choose freely, and also, by the facts and circumstances of the case, are divinely determined.

    But we are not “free” in a libertarian sense, right? But why not? Why can’t God likewise, “strike a balance” between determinism and libertarian free will? But you seem to deny that such a thing is possible. Such things are incompatible I suppose. I wonder why.

    I never said that we have “no power to do anything other than what we have been determined to do.” Quite the contrary. I believe we do have the power to do otherwise. We do not exercise that power for two reasons: because it is not decreed AND because we freely choose not to exercise it. In no way does this imply that we lack the power or ability to do otherwise than we are decreed.

    So you affirm that we are fully determined and possess libertarian free will (alternative power in the will- the power of contrary choice). No? Then why do you keep speaking like you hold to libertarian free will? But the first part of what you say is the real problem. Given the decree we have no power to do anything that has not been decreed. So you are just playing word games again.

    By conflating determinism and Calvinistic compatibilism, you burn a man of straw. I do not hold to simple determinism. I hold to compatibiism, which is a distinct position involving beliefs that are foreign to the kind of incompatibilistic determinism you argue against.

    Compatibilism is still fully deterministic.

    I wrote:

    “You have said that the analogy is inaccurate because in determinism we have “genuine” compatibilistic freedom. But this “genuine freedom” just means that nothing hinders us from doing what we have been determined to do.”

    You responded:

    This is not at all what I mean when I say we have genuine compatibilistic freedom. Again, you are putting words in my mouth and imputing to me the argument you think I should make.

    If this is so, it is only because you didn’t bother to make any arguments yourself.

    This is not the argument I have actually made. I have made the argument that we possess, by God’s decree, a voluntary volitional freedom and the ability to do otherwise than we have been decreed to do.

    Actually, you didn’t even really mention anything about volitions. You said things about “voluntary action.” It wasn’t until I said you deny volitional freedom behind those actions that you said you hold to volitional freedom. You can’t rightly complain that I didn’t know you claim to hold to volitional freedom (contrary to typical compatibilist accountings) when you hadn’t said anything about holding to volitional freedom or explaining how volitional freedom is truly compatible with determinism.

    The decree does not determine what we are able to do, but what we will do.

    It determines both unless it is not exhaustive. It determines what we are able to do. It determines what we are not able to do. It determines what we will do only because it determines what we must do. It is exhaustive. That means it determines everything.

    And what we actually do is done by our own choosing, as we exercise our own will and decide based upon what we think is best.

    The decree dictates what we think and therefore dictates what we think is best. You have no power to act contrary to the decree of God, unless you believe that we can violate and contradict the eternal decree of God. Even what you “think is best” is necessitated by that decree. You can only think as you have been decreed to think.

    Simultaneously, the all-wise God is in control of it all, decrees it all, and mysteriously works His holy will through it all. But the “all” includes our freely made choices.

    Free in the libertarian sense? If not, why not? And if not, please carefully explain what you mean by “feely choose” rather than just saying “freely choose.” You don’t mean it in a libertarian sense. But if you mean it in a compatibilist sense, please explain how it is that we “choose” freely and how this is different than the libertarian accounting of what it means to “choose freely.” And I am going to insist that you begin by carefully doing this before commenting any further on this thread. Thank you.

    Tell me, again, why He can’t do this? Explain to me why God lacks the ability to make us both genuinely free and determined?

    Because it’s contradictory unless you deny libertarian free will. But if you deny libertarian free will, you need to explain how it is that you think we “choose freely” and have the “power to choose otherwise” and why this so called “freedom” should be considered “genuine.”

    Why would this God — timeless, eternal, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise — lack the ability to transcendently decree all events AND create free creatures? How, exactly, would His decrees destroy the freedom with which He endowed us?

    If the freedom He endowed us with is libertarian freedom, even you affirm that His decree destroys this freedom. But why? Is it just because it doesn’t make “logical sense” to you? Stop acting like you are willing to “transcend” logic because God is so wise, etc., when you clearly are not. That is why I asked you if you affirm both that God exhaustively knows everything, including the future, and that there are lots of things about the future He does not know. You ignored that for some reason.

    The fact is that there are plenty of things you reject, even things that seem to be taught in the Bible, on logical grounds. So your tactic of trying to shame others who don’t agree with you as simply not being willing to believe God is capable of doing things that transcend our reason is bogus, and simply provides a convenient way for you to sidestep the difficulty and sound very noble and godly in doing so. If you are not willing to play by your own rules, then don’t expect others to find such rhetoric helpful or convincing.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  42. Ben,

    I am completely mystified. What would you consider to be an “argument,” if not the following:

    Merriam-Webster: a reason given in proof or rebuttal; discourse intended to persuade

    Oxford Dictionaries: a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong

    Dictionary.com: a process of reasoning; series of reasons; a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point; an address or composition intended to convince or persuade

    To quote Inigo Montoya: You keep on using this word . . .

    On the other hand, our conversation seems dysfunctional as it follows a repeating pattern:

    Ben: Calvinism is [insert caricature]; therefore, what I say about it is accurate.
    Derek: No, it isn’t that. It is [insert clarifying statement]; therefore, your argument does not hold. [insert arguments].
    Ben: You are just making assertions; Calvinism is [insert misstatement of Calvinistic theology]; you are just making assertions.
    Derek: If you say so; [insert additional arguments and clarifications]
    Ben: You are wrong and haven’t made any arguments; Calvinism is [insert fallacy] and makes people into [insert caricature]
    Derek: [passes out while beating head against wall]

    Should we make one of those Extra Normal videos using this as a script?

    Anyway, that’s enough frustration for me for now.

    Have a blessed day.

    Derek

  43. Derek,

    I am sorry you find this frustrating. I likewise find it frustrating that you don’t seem to understand what I am saying and why I am insisting that you haven’t really made any substantial arguments, but have just basically made a series of assertions.

    The problem is that you say things that seem to be plainly incoherent and do not bother to explain why they should be seen as anything but incoherent. You just say them like it settles things just because you said them. That is why I asked you not to comment further unless you at least explained what you mean by things like “choose freely” and “freely choose”. Here is what I asked:

    Free in the libertarian sense? If not, why not? And if not, please carefully explain what you mean by “freely choose” rather than just saying “freely choose.” You don’t mean it in a libertarian sense. But if you mean it in a compatibilist sense, please explain how it is that we “choose” freely and how this is different than the libertarian accounting of what it means to “choose freely.” And I am going to insist that you begin by carefully doing this before commenting any further on this thread. Thank you.

    This is just one of many things you need to carefully explain if you want to make an actual argument against the puppet analogy (I am especially interested in hearing you explain how you have the “power” to act contrary to the eternal unchangeable decree of God, a statement that seems to plainly strike against the Classical Calvinist accounting of divine sovereignty by attributing some sort of “power” to the creature over God Himself). But you ignored this simple request for important clarification and left a comment anyway, even though I asked you not to comment further until you addressed this question. This has happened before in discussions with you and it is indeed frustrating.

    Your reference to “The Princess Bride” seems highly ironic as it seems plain to me that over and over you are using words and phrases in ways that they are not normally understood. This can easily give the casual reader the wrong impression. It comes across as basically deceptive. I am not saying you are trying to deceive, but that is how it comes across. Others have pointed this same thing out to you in the past. If your position is so strong, why hide things? Why not lay it all out so we can analyze it and see it for its strength?

    So I feel like I am in a bit of a catch 22. You call me presumptuous if I make assumptions about what you mean by certain things you say, but you won’t explain what those things you are saying mean. This is especially important since it seems plain that you are using words and phrases in ways that do not represent normal use. This is why I asked you to address the question above before commenting further. I think I understand the only possible way you can say things like you have power or ability to choose otherwise in a determined world, based on the classical compatibilist accounting, but I wanted to be sure I understood you first so I wouldn’t “put words in your mouth” or be “presumptuous.” But instead of answer those questions as I asked, you just left a comment about how frustrating it is to discuss this with me. It may indeed be, but I think that is in large part due to your own unwillingness to carefully engage the details; details that make all the difference in the world.

    So I am going to ask you a question based on my understanding of compatibilism: When you say that you have the “power to choose otherwise”, do you just mean that you could have chosen otherwise “if you had wanted to”? If so, this is an important detail to add, a detail that you left out as well as the very important detail that your “wants” have been exhaustively predetermined.

    Here is a typical Calvinist accounting of such “freedom”,

    “A person chooses or acts according to his character. The will is not independent of the person and nature who chooses. We do what we want to do (Duet. 30:19; Mt. 17:12; Jas 1:14), even though our characters, which are themselves determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside of our control, determine what we want to do.” (Peterson and Williams, Why I Am Not An Arminian, pp. 155, 156, emphasis mine)

    Notice that these compatibilst Calvinists plainly admit that in compatibilism what we “want to do” is “determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside our control.”

    So is this what you mean when you say you “could have done otherwise”, that you “could have done otherwise” IF you had “wanted to” even though what you “want to do” is “determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside of our control”? If so, I will just agree with the following assessment that such an accounting doesn’t accurately portray the “power to do otherwise” or the power of contrary choice”,

    “Despite the classical compatibilists’ ingenuity, their analysis of could have done otherwise failed decisively. The classical compatibilists wanted to show their incompatibilist interlocutors that when one asserted that a freely willing agent had alternatives available to her—that is, when it was asserted that she could have done otherwise—that assertion could be analyzed as a conditional statement, a statement that is perspicuously compatible with determinism. But as it turned out, the analysis was refuted when it was shown that the conditional statements sometimes yielded the improper result that a person was able to do otherwise even though it was clear that at the time the person acted, she had no such alternative and therefore was not able to do otherwise in the pertinent sense” (Chisholm, 1964, in Watson, ed., 1982, pp.26–7; or van Inwagen, 1983, pp.114–9, italics theirs, bold mine).

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/compatibilism/index.html#3.3

    If you don’t find it too frustrating, I would welcome you to come back and carefully explain what you mean when you say the things you say so that I don’t have to guess and be “presumptuous”, etc. I am especially interested in hearing you explain how you have this “power” to do something contrary to the eternal unchangeable decree of God.

    Thank you,
    Ben

  44. I hate to interrupt at this crucial moment of the conversation because I’m really looking forward to Derek’s answers to Ben’s most recent questions. But I’m going to chime in and say that I agree with the thrust of what Ben is saying when it comes to the wording of Derek’s statements. I have some questions of my own which I will wait to ask until later. But I would like to know this from you Derek. What do you mean by or how do you define the term “decree?” I think that would be most helpful to understanding your POV.

    This is from http://www.dictionary.com

    de·cree [dih-kree] Show IPA
    noun
    1.
    a formal and authoritative order, especially one having the force of law: a presidential decree.
    2.
    Law. a judicial decision or order.
    3.
    Theology . one of the eternal purposes of God, by which events are foreordained.

    If you mean by decree this 3rd entry, then I would be interested in knowing how something can be foreordained by God and at the same time there would exist the possibility to do the opposite, regardless of desire, ability, etc. That’s all…carry on.

  45. …and looks like the Compatibilist View(as defined by derek) is what the OVTs are against.

  46. Ben,

    It’s often stated that “God ordains all things that come to pass” (cf. Eph 1:11 and this article:
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/qna/sovereignfree.html ). I feel that this ignores the context of Ephesians regarding God’s eternal purposes in Christ which were previously hidden (key word, “mystery” vv. 1:9; 3:3,6,9; 5:32; 6:19) and Paul’s own context of being an apostle to the Gentiles and yet being passionate for his own people to be provoked to jealousy so that they might return to the Lord (Romans 9-11).

    Ephesians 1:11 states: “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (ESV).

    How is this seen instead as God ordering every molecule when Paul isn’t even talking about that, rather he’s speaking about blessings “in Christ”, and essentially the gospel? It also ignores verses 9-10 which tell us about God’s purposes:

    “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

    So while God does “work all things according to the counsel of his will,” we have to ask what his purpose is: it’s to bring every person who believes (Eph. 1:1) under the headship of Christ so that we might be holy (1:4); it’s to reveal the mystery of Christ to the world, both Jewish and Gentile. Where is the ordaining of every single event and thought in human history there? In the words of the article above, “the multitude of clear scriptural declarations on this matter outweigh all unaided human logic.” Seems to me that context backfires on that argument.

    Gene

  47. Ben,

    Thank you for your response. I think your questions warrant a reply, so I will offer a few thoughts which will, hopefully, move the discussion forward, or at least provide an adequate means of moving toward a reasonable conclusion.

    First, I cannot possibly affirm “Libertarian Freedom” for the simplest of reasons: by definition, that view of freedom entails incompatibilism. To affirm it, I would have to deny what I take as plain Biblical teachings concerning the sovereignty of God, or His foreordaining and control over all things as LORD of all creation (including time, matter, will, and everything else that exists). In short, an affirmation of incompatibilism on my part would reflect either an embrace of hard determinism (including the denial of moral responsibility) or a repudiation of the absolute Lordship of God (which, for me, is not an option as I am “held captive to the Word of God”).

    Thus, when I speak of volitional “freedom” or “freedom of will” I mean exactly the kind of freedom to decide/choose which is attributed to human beings in Scripture, and which we exercise on a continuous basis in real life. This is a genuine, God-given freedom of will which exists in compatibility with God’s total Lordship, as revealed in Scripture, and with man’s moral limitations as revealed in Scripture.

    One might make a number of compelling Biblical arguments in favor of this genuine volitional freedom (just as one can make equally compelling arguments regarding God’s foreordination and control of all things). I agree with those Biblical arguments favoring human freedom to the extent that they do not deny God’s foreordination and control over all things. These are “twin truths” that must be held in balance, not competing or contradictory stances which would have to be taken as mutually exclusive. My question for you is: what would require them to be mutually exclusive, particularly from a Biblical standpoint?

    When it comes to explaining philosophically, or metaphysically, what is meant by “freedom” in a Biblical Compatibilist sense, I don’t have much to offer beyond what I see in the Biblical text as an affirmation of divine foreordination occurring continuously in full compatibility with God-given human freedom. Outside of the text, I can only speculate, since the Bible is my sole authority in these matters. Many others have speculated along these lines, and I find their arguments compelling in some regards; however, I do not find any of the proposed explanations to be complete or fully satisfying in answering my own curiosity. I do not expect to find them fully satisfying, being merely the thoughts of men. Much less do I expect any of those explanations to satisfy you. What satisfies me is A) the fact that I am able to see a compability between divine foreordination and human freedom in a plain, consistent reading of the Scriptures; and B) the fact that various rationally and Biblically consistent philosophical/theological models have been developed in an attempt to work toward an explanation of it; and C) the fact that God Himself, who created and rules over all things, most certainly understands the explanations for all of the mysteries entailed in this viewpoint. (by “mystery” I mean something that is not revealed to us in His inerrant Word).

    In short, I do not believe that indeterminism or incompatibilsm have to be assumed as true for the Bible’s broad ranging instruction on this subject to be fully embraced. In fact, I believe the Biblical text, taken as a whole, veritably forces us to embrace some type of compatible relationship between God’s foreordaining and our freedom. So my goal is not to explain everything, but simply to lay out the Biblical boundaries of the subject. The question, for me, is not whether the relationship between human volitional freedom and divine foreordination can be explained unassailably, but whether they are both taught in the Scriptures. In the Biblical sense, our volitional freedom does not put us outside of God’s control; and God’s control does not put Him inside of culpability for our evils.

    Next, concerning the power to do otherwise, it seems to me that power/ability is a separate argument from foreordination. I explained this with regard to my jumping (and yes, I did literally jump one foot into the air just before I wrote that. Like you, I found this humorous, and on a side note, I take literally our Lord’s command to “leap for joy.” I have found that few activities stir up my joy more than literally leaping in obedience to that command!). The fact is, I have had the power to jump one foot into the air “at will” since I was at least 5 or 6 years old. I am now almost 40. During all this time, God’s Providential kindness has sovereignly decreed that I should have this ability. The question of exactly when I have made the choice to use this power is hidden within the foreordination of God and my own peculiar reasoning. At times, the choice to jump has been extremely beneficial, allowing me to win athletic contests and avoid tripping over dangerous objects (and even express joy). I am grateful that God has generously allowed me to have and use this ability to leap “at will” for all of these years. His foreordination means that He determines when and how I will use the ability; however, my own will has always been the direct cause of all my jumping (and non-jumping) over the years. I have exercised this will with complete freedom in the manner described above (that is, in the Biblical manner).

    In summary, and returning to the main subject of our conversation, I do not consider myself (nor most other human beings) to have any resemblance to a puppet, which lacks a mind and will of its own by which it chooses and for which it is responsible. While the puppet is determined, it is not in any sense “free” to choose (as freedom is described in the Bible). I, on the other hand, am free to choose (as freedom is described in the Bible), though I am nonetheless simultaneously foreordained. It is a tension I am more than happy to
    live with, as I find it to be a Biblical one. Those who take the view I am describing will never find any resemblance between their Biblical viewpoint and your puppet analogy (which we would describe as an obvious caricature).

    If one wanted to work toward a speculative explanation of foreordination and freedom, as most Calvinists find them in the Bible, one might begin with one or more of the following critical theological concepts:

    1. Creator/Creature Distinction
    2. Time/Eternity Distinction
    3. Oneness and Three-ness of God in Trinity
    4. Full Humanity in union with Full Deity in the Incarnate Christ
    5. Transcendence and Immanence of God
    6. Noetic effects of sin as a limitation on all human understanding
    7. Divine incomprehensibility as a limitation on human understanding of God and His ways
    8. Divine Omnipotence as the power to foreordain and control free creatures without destroying their freedom
    9. Divine Wisdom as the ability to logically reckon with concepts beyond the conception of the human mind
    10. Divine Justice as the inability of God to treat His creatures unrighteously
    11. Divine Love as the benevolence of God in allowing His creatures the greatest measure of freedom possible

    (On a side note, I do not take Libertarian Freedom as the greatest measure of freedom possible, since for me it entails a denial of something I find undeniably taught in Scripture, as explained above. The “greatest possible” in any category will always comport with what is taught in the Bible).

    Although I am refraining from developing the philosophical/theological model you seem to be requesting, and do not believe this is necessary since the truth of God’s Word does not depend on any person’s speculation, I do want to bring these potential starting points to your attention. Much better minds than mine will need to tackle the project if they are so inclined. Perhaps you should give it a shot.

    At the end of the day, our Biblical convictions are radically different, and mere philosophical speculation about human freedom is not going to convince either of us to believe differently than we do presently on the foundational presuppositional and hermeneutical level. I am okay with that. The problem, as I see it, is that your puppet analogy does not accurately reflect the viewpoint held by most Calvinists.

    Finally, I think it is worth noting that you have specifically asked me to state what I believe rather than to “prove” what I believe. Thus, I have simply stated my core position (Biblical Compatibilism), the general basis for it (the Bible), the motives behind it (faithfulness to the Bible and its Author), and the main reasons why your puppet analogy does not hold (i.e, it is a caricature based on hard determinism and not an accurate reflection of the Biblical Compatibilism held by myself and most Calvinists).

    You might respond by saying the puppet analogy holds, and at this point I think we have both presented interesting arguments for and against that point of view. I would therefore suggest we are at an impasse.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  48. Gene,

    Thank you for your astute question. I think my response to Ben only partly addressed the issue you have brought up.

    The simple answer to your question is that “possibility” can exist on many different levels. What is “decretally possible” is known only to God and can never have any direct bearing on our human view of what is “possible” when we are looking forward into the future. From our perspective, a great many possibilities exist at all times, and we choose on the basis of the various possibilities conceived within our minds. In the human realm (the realm in which we live and make choices), all of these different possibilities are genuine; i.e., they are actual possibilities and from our viewpoint are indetermined until the point of actual choosing. Since we cannot see exactly as God sees or think exactly as God thinks, we lack the ability to distinguish (or even to properly conceive of) what is decretally possible or decretally impossible. We only know what is humanly possible or impossible, and we choose on that basis.

    In other words, the eternal decree of God is mysterious, existing on a level that is beyond our conception: eternal, transcendent, and hidden within His unrevealed will. Thus it does not affect our range of humanly possible choices.

    The factor which limits our choosing the most, on any Christian accounting of human freedom, is “moral possibility.” As an example, while saving faith is “humanly possible” at any time for most people who have heard the Gospel, I think we would both agree that unless the grace of God intervenes, saving faith remains a moral impossibility for the sinner.

    In the end, our free choices, made within the scope of what is humanly and morally possible for us, somehow coincide with God’s eternal decree. Only a very, very wise God can cause these two things — the single-possibility decree and our multi-possibility free choices — to align perfectly. To be honest, I have not idea how He does it. I do know that with God all things are possible (as He reveals in His Word), and I do know that our choices are genuine and significant (as He reveals in His Word).

    Blessings,
    Derek

  49. Derek, you say that you are held captive by Gods’ Word so answer these 2 questions for me:

    1. Where does it state in Scripture that God has foreordained and determined all things, including mans will and Adam’s fall and every abominable sin (such as genocide, rape, torture) that ever has been and will be committed in this world?

    2. Where does it state in Scripture that God cannot foreknow anything unless he first has decreed it?

    I too am held captive by God’s Word which is why I would reject both of these things.

    Also, you continue to bring up the Trinity to support your paradox of compatibilism but what if I believed this and called it a paradox?

    1. Jesus is God (because he forgives sin and receives worship which can only be done by God).
    2. Jesus is not God (because he said that he does not know all things according to Matt. 24:36 “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” God must know all things)

    Could I call that a paradox or would you call that a contradiction? I believe that this is an exact parallel to what you call compatibilism which I call contradictionism. If God has determined what we will do and foreordained it, we have no free will. It does not matter that we think we have free will because we would only be deluded if we really thought that.

    BTW, I do believe in the Trinity and do not see in any way how that is a good example to cite when trying to prove compatibilism.

  50. Derek,

    You wrote,

    First, I cannot possibly affirm “Libertarian Freedom” for the simplest of reasons: by definition, that view of freedom entails incompatibilism. To affirm it, I would have to deny what I take as plain Biblical teachings concerning the sovereignty of God, or His foreordaining and control over all things as LORD of all creation (including time, matter, will, and everything else that exists). In short, an affirmation of incompatibilism on my part would reflect either an embrace of hard determinism (including the denial of moral responsibility) or a repudiation of the absolute Lordship of God (which, for me, is not an option as I am “held captive to the Word of God”).

    1) This is instructive as you admit that your view of sovereignty as necessarily entailing exhaustive determinism controls your philosophy. So determinism must stand and cannot be held in “tension” with libertarian free will. This tells me a lot about your claims to just embrace tension and hold to paradox, etc. You are only willing to do such things if they “fit” with what you hold to be the fundamental controlling thought in your philosophy: divine exhaustive determinism. This means that there are plenty of “tensions” you are not willing accept, based on “your” interpretation of Scripture. So trying to argue against Arminians on the basis of an unwillingness to “embrace tension” as you so often do (and as Patton did in his post that you promoted on your site), is shown to be a canard.

    2) It is nice to see you admit that your view of exhaustive determinism is simply what “you” take to be the plain teaching of Scripture. This gets us back to what should be the heart of the disagreement between Calvinists and Arminians: Biblical interpretation. I only point this out to illustrate that your philosophical approach to determinism and free will is based on your personal interpretation of the text, which allows for the fact that Arminians don’t see the need to draw the conclusions that you see as so important simply because we do not interpret Scripture as you do (which again fully nullifies the thrust of Patton’s post which you endorsed on your site. For my 5 part response to Patton, see here: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/five-part-series-responding-to-c-michael-pattons-the-irrationality-of-calvinism/)

    Thus, when I speak of volitional “freedom” or “freedom of will” I mean exactly the kind of freedom to decide/choose which is attributed to human beings in Scripture, and which we exercise on a continuous basis in real life.

    But this only assumes that libertarian free will is not what stands behind the Scripture’s picture of choosing and deciding. I agree that the Scripture holds to a certain view of free will and this view is the same as we exercise in real life, but see that freedom as libertarian freedom: genuine alternative power in the will.

    This is a genuine, God-given freedom of will which exists in compatibility with God’s total Lordship, as revealed in Scripture, and with man’s moral limitations as revealed in Scripture.

    But we strongly disagree with what is “revealed” in Scripture. This should be a given. So I don’t understand why you keep asserting that your view is simply the Biblical view. I understand that you believe that. That’s great. I strongly disagree with how you read and interpret the Bible. I am quite certain you know that, so why do you keep bringing this up? The discussion, from the start, was not about our own personal convictions about what Scripture teaches, but whether or not you can show that the puppet analogy doesn’t hold given your fundamental commitment to exhaustive determinism.

    All of the rest of this about how you personally view Scripture and your own personal convictions about what Scripture teaches is not really pertinent to the precise question we are addressing. Can you logically demonstrate that the puppet analogy is not proper given your view of exhaustive determinism? I understand that you feel like you are getting your ideas from Scripture. You don’t need to keep repeating that. If we are going to move forward, we really need to streamline things. That is why I have tried to narrow your focus to very specific questions.

    One might make a number of compelling Biblical arguments in favor of this genuine volitional freedom (just as one can make equally compelling arguments regarding God’s foreordination and control of all things). I agree with those Biblical arguments favoring human freedom to the extent that they do not deny God’s foreordination and control over all things. These are “twin truths” that must be held in balance, not competing or contradictory stances which would have to be taken as mutually exclusive. My question for you is: what would require them to be mutually exclusive, particularly from a Biblical standpoint?

    1) If freedom is defined in the context of exhaustive determinism, then even you admit that it cannot be libertarian freedom. Libertarian freedom is necessary to avoid the implications of the puppet analogy. If libertarian free will is not required, then you need to show how. That’s what this is all about. You can define freedom in a deterministic sense and then say that since you have defined it in such a way, you can call it “twin truths.” But given the deterministic way you must define freedom in order to have your “twin truths”, how do you then avoid the implications of the puppet analogy as I have repeatedly described it?

    2) I understand you “agree” with those arguments that favor freedom in a determinist context. Did you think I didn’t realize that? It really seems you could have saved yourself a lot of time by just getting to the heart of the issue: given your commitment to exhaustive determinism and your defining freedom within the context of exhaustive determinism (rejecting libertarian freedom), how do you avoid the logical implications illustrated in the puppet analogy?

    When it comes to explaining philosophically, or metaphysically, what is meant by “freedom” in a Biblical Compatibilist sense, I don’t have much to offer beyond what I see in the Biblical text as an affirmation of divine foreordination occurring continuously in full compatibility with God-given human freedom. Outside of the text, I can only speculate, since the Bible is my sole authority in these matters.

    1) So you don’t think you need to provide an answer as to how your view avoids the logical implications illustrated in the puppet analogy because you just accept what you personally think the Bible teaches about determinism and deterministic freedom being (quite obviously) compatible?

    2) The Bible may indeed be (in some sense) your sole authority on such matters, but you also apply logic to the way you interpret Scripture. That is the only way you can reject (wrongly, in my opinion) libertarian fee will. You reject libertarian free will because you recognize that such a view of freedom is incompatible with your view of exhaustive determinism (You admitted this above). So in interpreting Scripture, you apply the law of non-contradiction. Otherwise, you could embrace libertarian free will or at least have no real complaint against those who do (based on Scripture). This is why I mentioned things like Open Theism being incompatible with the idea that God exhaustively knows the future. Those concepts are plainly contradictory, so we must reject one or the other, even though there are definitely passages of Scripture which seem to “plainly” teach both concepts. So it is not just a matter of seeing two seemingly contradictory concepts “plainly” taught in Scripture and then just embracing those “tensions” as an example of being truly honest with all that the Bible teaches.

    So instead of embracing tensions, you allow your non-negotiable view of exhaustive determinism to control the way you understand freedom. So determinism comes first and, for that reason, everything else must be made to conform to determinism. That’s fine. But if that is the case, you need show how your conforming of “freedom” to determinism avoids the logical implications illustrated by the puppet analogy since you strongly proclaimed that your “compatibilist” view does exactly that (remember way back when you supposedly “introduced” me to compatibilism as the obvious and rather simple solution?).

    Many others have speculated along these lines, and I find their arguments compelling in some regards; however, I do not find any of the proposed explanations to be complete or fully satisfying in answering my own curiosity.

    We are close on this, except I don’t find those arguments compelling at all.

    I do not expect to find them fully satisfying, being merely the thoughts of men.

    How do you know that the way you are interpreting Scripture is not just another example of “the thoughts of men”?

    Much less do I expect any of those explanations to satisfy you. What satisfies me is A) the fact that I am able to see a compability between divine foreordination and human freedom in a plain, consistent reading of the Scriptures;

    But why can’t you help others “see” this too? In my plain consistent reading of Scripture I see both God’s sovereignty and His creature’s libertarian freedom. God, in His sovereignty, freely determined to create free moral agents (in the libertarian sense) and hold them accountable for their choices and actions. While God doesn’t exhaustively predetermine His creature’s every thought, desire, decision and action, He is still able to accomplish His overall plan for humanity. My view of God is in no way threatened or intimidated by the libertarian free will of His creatures and is in no way hindered by that freedom from accomplishing all that He desires to accomplish, in exactly the way He desires to accomplish it (which often includes the libertarian free will choices of His creatures). You seem to think hat God giving His creatures a measurer of free will (in the libertarian sense) somehow threatens His sovereignty. Maybe you just have a smaller view of God than I do.

    and B) the fact that various rationally and Biblically consistent philosophical/theological models have been developed in an attempt to work toward an explanation of it;

    “Attempt” being the key word.

    and C) the fact that God Himself, who created and rules over all things, most certainly understands the explanations for all of the mysteries entailed in this viewpoint. (by “mystery” I mean something that is not revealed to us in His inerrant Word).

    But there really is no mystery when exhaustive determinism is your controlling philosophical assumption and all else must be conformed to that fundamental philosophical assumption.

    In short, I do not believe that indeterminism or incompatibilsm have to be assumed as true for the Bible’s broad ranging instruction on this subject to be fully embraced. In fact, I believe the Biblical text, taken as a whole, veritably forces us to embrace some type of compatible relationship between God’s foreordaining and our freedom.

    So long as “freedom” is made to conform to the fundamental and controlling philosophical assumption of exhaustive determinism, of course.

    So my goal is not to explain everything, but simply to lay out the Biblical boundaries of the subject.

    I never asked you to “explain everything”. I only asked you to demonstrate how your fundamental assumption of exhaustive determinism can avoid the logical implications illustrated by the puppet analogy. You seemed to plainly imply you could do this in your initial reply, but you still have yet to do so.

    The question, for me, is not whether the relationship between human volitional freedom and divine foreordination can be explained unassailably, but whether they are both taught in the Scriptures.

    But this is a matter of interpretation. We simply disagree on this. The question is: can the implications that result from your personal interpretation of Scripture alleviate the implications illustrated by the puppet analogy? That is the question you seemed to want to answer at the outset. Are you just no longer interested in answering that question and showing how those implications do not unavoidably follow given your view of exhaustive determinism?

    Next, concerning the power to do otherwise, it seems to me that power/ability is a separate argument from foreordination.

    I think it is strongly related. Really, how can anything be a separate issue when exhaustive determinism is the fundamental reality that dictates everything else?

    The fact is, I have had the power to jump one foot into the air “at will” since I was at least 5 or 6 years old. I am now almost 40.

    But “at will” only has meaning if it was determined from eternity that you “will” to jump in accordance with an irresistible and unchangeable decree. Maybe that is why you put it in quotes.

    During all this time, God’s Providential kindness has sovereignly decreed that I should have this ability.

    This seems like equivocation. You do not have the “ability” to do anything that has not been decreed for you to do. Your “abilities” are bound up in exhaustive determinism just as everything else. You make it sound like you have some latent independent ability that you just don’t use at times. But that seems extremely strained against the back drop that nothing can possibly happen outside of the eternal exhaustive and unchangeable decree of God.

    The question of exactly when I have made the choice to use this power is hidden within the foreordination of God and my own peculiar reasoning.

    This statement seems so loaded with equivocation and special pleading it seems very difficult to even respond to. To say things like “the choice” when you have no real alternative to “choose from” just seems like word games and an attempt to hide the unavoidable implications of exhaustive determinism. “Power” seems likewise to be very contrived. But even if you can rightly say you have the “power” to jump, that doesn’t address your claim to have the “power” to not jump (the “power” to do otherwise), given the fact that you have been decreed to jump and nothing can possibly change or resist that exhaustively determining eternal decree

    His foreordination means that He determines when and how I will use the ability; however, my own will has always been the direct cause of all my jumping (and non-jumping) over the years.

    And you say this as if your “will” is not likewise under the complete “control” of God’s exhaustively determining eternal decree. I will refer you again to Calvinist compatibilists Williams and Peterson:

    “A person chooses or acts according to his character. The will is not independent of the person and nature who chooses. We do what we want to do (Duet. 30:19; Mt. 17:12; Jas 1:14), even though our characters, which are themselves determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside of our control, determine what we want to do.” (Peterson and Williams, Why I Am Not An Arminian, pp. 155, 156, emphasis mine)

    I have exercised this will with complete freedom in the manner described above (that is, in the Biblical manner).

    Right, “freedom” in the sense that your will was completely predetermined leaving you no independent control over that “will”.

    In summary, and returning to the main subject of our conversation, I do not consider myself (nor most other human beings) to have any resemblance to a puppet, which lacks a mind and will of its own by which it chooses and for which it is responsible.

    This is very simplistic and ignores again what the puppet analogy is meant to convey. The puppet can only move as it is moved. It is entirely controlled by forces outside of itself. Williams and Peterson describe this correlation very well in admitting that in determinism our wills “are themselves determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside of our control…” Do you not see how this correlates very strongly with the puppet analogy?

    While the puppet is determined, it is not in any sense “free” to choose (as freedom is described in the Bible). I, on the other hand, am free to choose (as freedom is described in the Bible), though I am nonetheless simultaneously foreordained. It is a tension I am more than happy to live with, as I find it to be a Biblical one. Those who take the view I am describing will never find any resemblance between their Biblical viewpoint and your puppet analogy (which we would describe as an obvious caricature).

    Yes, I understand that you believe you are just being strictly Biblical. I also understand that you would never want to describe your view in the sense of being like a puppet, but that is still the unavoidable logical conclusion, which is plainly illustrated by compatibilist Calvinists Williams and Peterson above.

    (On a side note, I do not take Libertarian Freedom as the greatest measure of freedom possible, since for me it entails a denial of something I find undeniably taught in Scripture, as explained above. The “greatest possible” in any category will always comport with what is taught in the Bible).

    And again, we disagree on what the Bible teaches. No need to keep pointing this out.

    Although I am refraining from developing the philosophical/theological model you seem to be requesting, and do not believe this is necessary since the truth of God’s Word does not depend on any person’s speculation, I do want to bring these potential starting points to your attention. Much better minds than mine will need to tackle the project if they are so inclined. Perhaps you should give it a shot.

    So now it is up to me to defend your compatibilism and demonstrate how your view avoids the logical implications of the puppet analogy?

    At the end of the day, our Biblical convictions are radically different, and mere philosophical speculation about human freedom is not going to convince either of us to believe differently than we do presently on the foundational presuppositional and hermeneutical level. I am okay with that. The problem, as I see it, is that your puppet analogy does not accurately reflect the viewpoint held by most Calvinists.

    It does if logic in anyway guides our thinking. But if you refuse to submit to it, there is nothing anyone can do about that. You might as well have just said “I don’t accept that as the logical implication, though I can’t demonstrate why it is not the logical implication.” That would have saved us both a lot of trouble.

    You might respond by saying the puppet analogy holds, and at this point I think we have both presented interesting arguments for and against that point of view. I would therefore suggest we are at an impasse.

    I suppose so. Thanks for giving it your best shot.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  51. It seems strange that Derek would say we can do otherwise, yet deny libertarian freedom when being able to do otherwise is the most typical definition of libertarian free will.

    It also seems to me that Derek is not facing up to the reality of what choice is. It is nonsensical to speak of us having a choice or making choices when we cannot but do the one thing God decrees for us to do as Calvinism would have it. Not being able to do other than one thing is pretty much the definition of not having a choice.

    Saying we can do other than God decrees seems misleading and incoherent when holding that the omnipotent God will make sure what he has decreed comes to pass.

  52. Arminian,

    Very concise observations. I also find it a major stretch to try to locate power (or “possibility”) to do otherwise in the hiddenness of the decree (as he seems to do at times, like in his response to Now Dimly). The idea that since we don’t know what we are irresistibly decreed to think and do in any given situation is supposed to mean we have genuine choice is a major stretch. It does seem to show that Derek is more concerned about subjective feelings and perceptions than objective reality. But the crux of the debate is about objective reality and not about subjective feelings or perceptions. And, given the fact that we are supposed to accept decretal determinism as Biblical, we would need to purposely fool ourselves in “choice” making into thinking that since we don’t know what is decreed for us, our “choices” then have significant meaning, or that they, for this reason, somehow ground responsibility.

    But suppose someone used mind control to get Derek to “choose” to rob a store and Derek doesn’t know he is being controlled. He “believes” he is acting freely. Indeed, he is acting in perfect accordance with his desires and wants since the mind control device controls his wants and desires. The one controlling his mind knows it is not actually a real “choice” when Derek robs the store, since he is the one controlling Derek to “want to” rob the store. The “choice” really belongs to the one doing the controlling and not to the one being controlled. Likewise, according to Derek’s logic, he should be held responsible for his actions since he was doing what he “wanted” to do and even had the “power” to do otherwise, “if” it were not for the fact that his wants are being irresistibly controlled by someone using a mind control device.

    But his argument seems to also go further than this. It also states that even if Derek knows he is being controlled by another so that he cannot help but to want to do what he wants to do, he is still making a “genuine” choice, with full power to do otherwise and should be held fully accountable for that “choice” because until he makes the actual choice, he is oblivious to the way the controller has determined to control him.

    Of course, I may be misunderstanding Derek here, but that seems to be the argument when all the obfuscation is cleared away. How this is supposed to explode the implications of the puppet analogy, I do not know.

  53. Ben,

    Yeah, not being able to do other than the one thing God decrees obviously leaves one with no choice. Not knowing what God has decreed might leave one with the illusion of choice, but it would just be that, an illusion. So one would not have a genuine (i.e., real, non-illusory) choice. And one would not genuinely choose. In terms of the analogy, which seems to fit so well, he would just do what the puppet master determined him to do; he would act as the pulling of his secondary causal strings would dictate.

  54. This is a great quote from you Ben:

    “In my plain consistent reading of Scripture I see both God’s sovereignty and His creature’s libertarian freedom. God, in His sovereignty, freely determined to create free moral agents (in the libertarian sense) and holds them accountable for their choices and actions. While God doesn’t exhaustively predetermine His creature’s every thought, desire, decision and action, He is still able to accomplish His overall plan for humanity. My view of God is in no way threatened or intimidated by the libertarian free will of His creatures and is in no way hindered by that freedom from accomplishing all that He desires to accomplish, in exactly the way He desires to accomplish it (which often includes the libertarian free will choices of His creatures). You seem to think that God giving His creatures a measure of free will (in the libertarian sense) somehow threatens His sovereignty. Maybe you just have a smaller view of God than I do.”

    And I would add that not only does the view you presented not hinder or threaten God in any way, but it also allows us to give a proper account of sin and not in any way implicate God as the author of sin. This, I believe is paramount: His Love, His Goodness and His Holiness and must be preserved in any interpretation of Scripture. God could have created muppets if he wanted to. I have no problem with that. My concern is with representing God in a way that honors his great name.

  55. Gentlemen,

    What a great blazing bonfire the man of straw doth make! See him burn!

    If ever you escape the self-imposed shackles of incompatibilism, you may discover there are vast possibilities beyond the assumed dichotomy of “libertarian” free will and hard determinism (which you seem to conflate with Biblical Compatibilism).

    Until then . . .

    Blessings,
    Derek

  56. Derek,

    The only things that burned in a blazing bonfire were your incoherent and hopelessly contrived arguments. This last response seems to support that “reality” quite well, but you seem to prefer subjective feelings and perceptions to reality for some reason. If you ever want to try to truly grapple with the issue without all the obfuscation and distraction techniques, you are welcome to give it another go.

    Until then…

  57. For a concise Arminian account of Biblical sovereignty and free will, these “brief notes” are very helpful:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/an-additional-brief-notes-on-the-facts-write-up-7-point-arminianism/

  58. Derek said,

    “If ever you escape the self-imposed shackles of incompatibilism, you may discover there are vast possibilities beyond the assumed dichotomy of “libertarian” free will and hard determinism (which you seem to conflate with Biblical Compatibilism).”

    LOL. If escape is what I need, into “Biblical Compatibilism” then it’s odd that God determined I should leave it in the first place. With what I see as genuine God-given freedom (as Ben described and JPC quoted most recently) and due to the fact that there seems to be no real difference given between hard determinism and whatever you want to call it’s biblical alternative, it’s hard to imagine the vast possibilities. As Ben said, it’s a matter ultimately of biblical interpretation for me, not one of assumption of a false dichotomy or any other assumption. I just don’t see Calvinism in Scripture, and when I study the alternative I can accept that in my reading. Perhaps God has allowed (in the real sense of “allow”) varying interpretations to give us an opportunity to practice grace, humility and kindness to one another. By the way, you do some assuming of your own, inferring that LFW is incompatible with a sovereign God (I disagree that it is). You did this when you affirmed your commitment to determinism, and your assumption is bound up in your deterministic interpretations of Scripture.

    Going back to your response to me:

    “The simple answer to your question is that “possibility” can exist on many different levels.”

    I see where you’re going, but when the rubber meets the road possibility is either real or it isn’t. I can’t see how we could have a real possibility of doing something if God knows there is no chance of it every coming about because he determined it to be otherwise.

    You did not define decree. If it is God foreordaining things strictly, making them come about with no possible alternative but what he has decreed, then we do not have a true possible alternative. There is no “jumping” if “not jumping” is what he decreed. Therefore, while we may be able to jump up and down all day long because of our athletic ability, it will not be a reality. As a Christian trying to live in reality, trying to make real decisions day to day, compatibilism can easily overwhelm a believer and make him/her want to just give up trying to make the right decision since it’s all fixed anyway. For someone who really cares, it can get overwhelming and turn you into a light-weight hyper-Calvinist. Just consider passing up the opportunity to share Christ with someone you thought you should have spoken to–you begin to rationalize by saying to yourself, “it was decreed anyway that I not talk to them, so try not to feel bad about it.” Looking into the past, that is the only way you can think about it since you can’t change God’s decrees or the past.

    Please define “voluntary.” dictionary.com states: 1. done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc., of one’s own accord or by free choice: a voluntary contribution. 2.
    of, pertaining to, or acting in accord with the will: voluntary cooperation.

    So voluntary is done by “free choice” and “in accord with the will.” Why go to such lengths to substitute “free will” with “voluntary” when they appear to mean the same thing? It seems you have plugged “voluntary” into the determinist scheme and its definition depends on a determinist perspective, almost redefining the word. I see no reason to do this given my reasons above (genuine God-given freedom as previously described).

    I have some questions for you.

    Is every choice you make decreed? How do you know that to be true? What Scripture would you turn to for proof? Is there any possibility that you will make a choice contrary to the decree? Doubtless you will say no, and if so why would God decree you to make sinful choices as a believer?

    (Quoting you from earlier) If the decree “says, in eternity and from God’s transcendent perspective, what I will freely choose to do before I freely choose to do it,” but he does not enable you, force you or prevent you from doing said action, then it really isn’t much different than God simply knowing beforehand what you will do, is it? If it is simply God saying what will happen, much like prophecy or prediction, then why go through all the pain of even using the word “decree” to begin with? Why not just say that God foreknew it would happen?

    This is the problem I encounter when I read Boettner, et al. Calvinists say one thing, then they define it all weird-like and add mix a bunch of seemingly contradictory statements and definitions, and I can’t follow what it is you and they are really trying to say. It’s gobbledegook to my mind. I think we first need a definition of what compatibilists means by “decree.” Because by definition “decree” means foreordain, and foreordain means to predestine, and to predestine means to destine in advance or to predetermine, which means to determine beforehand, meaning to cause, compel beforehand. So we’ve gone full circle here just to figure out what “decree” means, and we arrive at God influencing strongly at best–which apparently the way you’re talking, we could not go against God’s decree–or at worst God causing everything (i.e. sin, evil), which you are no doubt not willing to admit. So now you can see how confusing it is, just as Ben said, when you use words in ways that don’t seem normal. It sounds like you are using them one way but meaning something else. It really just seems to me that the term “decree” is so loosely defined by Calvinists because it has to have a fluidity to it in order to uphold what you believe: God causes all things, yet he doesn’t. It’s like a magic wand waved over a hat, and with some sleight of hand a rabbit appears out of nowhere.

  59. Derek,

    There really has been no straw man here from our side. I wonder if you truly understand compatibilism. Compatibilism is no less deterministic than hard determinism, as Monergism.com rightly notes (http://www.reformationtheology.com/2007/08/compatibilistic_determinism.php). One of the main differences between hard determinism and compatibilism (also known as soft determinism) is that the former concedes that man is not free whereas the latter redefines free will from the normal definition to something that comports with determinism. We understand compatibilism. We just disagree with it, finding it unbiblical and incoherent.

  60. Agreed. That’s a great quote. Reminds me of someone who once said that Calvinism did not make enough of God’s sovereignty, and so he was forced to become an Arminian to do justice to his belief that God can create free moral agents without frustrating his own plans in the process.

  61. (I’m referring to JPC’s comment above)

  62. I hope derek’s not leaving the discussion yet.

    I have a question if he agrees with the Calvinists I encounter in interpreting 1 Corinthians 2 verses 8 and 14 as Man will irresistably, or cannot do otherwise but to believe once God gives them The Spirit first before believing.

    In short, what’s his Ordo Salutis? 🙂

  63. Rex,

    My ordo salutis is concisely laid out here: http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/2012/09/a-biblical-ordo-salutis-for-biblical.html

    Essentially, I argue that regeneration and faith are concurrent. As with so many other issues, there are needless debates over which comes first, all of which overlook the fact that they can occur simultaneously. Just another false dichotomy, apparently.

  64. ^ How about the irresistability of sending in the Spirit. I do not know any Calvinist that would say Man can still do otherwise(your compatibilism) in regards with these 1 Corinthians scriptures.

  65. Rex,

    The way that Derek seems to explain how things are “possible” and how we have “power to do otherwise” against the back drop of an unchangeable and irresistible eternal decree would give the impression that Calvinists can just as easily and rightly say that depraved sinners have “power” to choose Christ, even though they are totally depraved. Likewise, given his nuance on “possibility”, Calvinists should say that it is “possible” for a totally depraved sinner to choose Christ.

    Here is how: Derek seems to say that when he jumps we should understand that it is also “possible” for him to not jump, if not for the decree that renders his jump a necessity and his not jumping an impossibility. So why can’t a compatibilist also say that the depraved sinner has power to choose Christ (power to choose otherwise than to reject Christ) if not for the person’s depravity or if not for the decree that necessitates his rejecting Christ and renders his choosing Christ impossible?. That seems like the same description of “possibility” and “power” that Derek has thus far argued for.

    But let’s take it even further to the idea of a reprobate having the possibility and power to choose Christ since the reprobate doesn’t know he cannot choose Christ and does not know the decree that says he cannot choose Christ. So according to Derek’s logic, since the reprobate is oblivious to the decree that is hidden within God, the reprobate’s potential choice to choose Christ is real and grounds responsibility for not choosing Christ. So even reprobates have full power to choose otherwise (i.e. “choose Christ”) and choosing Christ is possible for the reprobate if not for the decree that is hidden in God.

    Really, Derek’s idea of power and possibility seems to amount to the following: Such things are possible if not for the fact that such things are impossible, and for this reason, we should view them as possible. I invite Derek to explain how this isn’t essentially what he has argued for to this point.

    If this is the case, then the Arminian takes the problem of depravity far more seriously than compatibilist Calvinists in that the Arminian holds that it is entirely impossible for totally depraved sinners to choose Christ until they are enabled by divine grace. Arminian Dan Chapa does a good job highlighting this problem within the context of the compatibilist claim that they can “do otherwise” if they wanted to, even though they are powerless to control their “wants” since these “wants” are dictated by the eternal unchangeable divine decree. Or, as Williams and Peterson so aptly express it:

    “A person chooses or acts according to his character. The will is not independent of the person and nature who chooses. We do what we want to do (Duet. 30:19; Mt. 17:12; Jas 1:14), even though our characters, which are themselves determined by a myriad of forces external to us and outside of our control, determine what we want to do.” (Peterson and Williams, Why I Am Not An Arminian, pp. 155, 156, emphasis mine)

    Here is Chapa’s post: http://evangelicalarminians.org/calvinisms-problems-with-total-depravity/

    The only way out of this difficulty for the compatiblist that I can see is to be very arbitrary and inconsistent with regards to what constitutes “possibility” and “power to do otherwise”, in simply refusing to apply their fundamental assumptions on possibility and power to the issue of depravity. Oh, they could also just say “paradox” and leave at that, I suppose.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  66. Ben,

    The misrepresentation thing is getting old, and it would take a real Rumpelstiltskin to spin all of this straw into gold. However, I will yet again present a few clarifications in response to your misstatements of my position.

    For starters, I have mentioned three kinds of possibility, which you have conveniently ignored. I will now offer a further explanation of them.

    Decretally possible – this is outside of our domain, and beyond our comprehension or direct interaction. God alone knows what is decretally possible, and how that reality interacts with our choices.

    Humanly possible – this is what we are responsible for and humanly capable of. This is the only kind of possibility that we know enough about to reasonably build an argument for human choice, freedom and responsibility from.

    Morally possible – this is a subset of what is humanly possible. It is the factor that is affected by total depravity, making it impossible for us to trust Christ apart from the operation of God’s grace. Fallen man is enamored with sin; he cannot come to Christ because he will not come to Christ. His will is voluntarily bound to other cherished things, rendering it morally impossible for him to savingly trust in Christ.

    Ben, the argument you are presenting attempts the impossible: it tries to directly apply decretal possibility as a limit to human possibility, while overlooking moral possibility. You have not built any kind of argument to address the three distinct categories I presented. Your man-made, incompatibilistic “libertarian free will” concept falls obviously flat in comparison to the full-orbed possibilities of a compatibilistic freedom that is rooted in the profoundly sovereign greatness of a God who makes everything out of nothing and calls the things that are not as though they are. ALL THINGS are possible with Him. Moreover, He decrees what is possible and in what sense it is possible. His decree does not destroy possibilities; it establishes them!

    On the other hand, you repeatedly insist that a choice decreed by this God cannot possibly be a genuinely free choice. I suspect you may be placing unnecessary philosophical limitations on choice, or decree, or God, or perhaps all three.

    To the questions from Rex (excellent questions, BTW) …

    As per the model of possibility proposed above: Man in his fallen condition is morally incapable of turning to Christ on his own. When presented with the glories of Christ, he turns up his nose because he is enamored with sin and finds insufficient value in Christ to motivate repentance. What a wretched condition! However, when the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of the sinfulness of sin, the sinner can no longer resist the glories of Christ, for he is desperate to escape his sin. Thus, it is morally impossible for the sinner sufficiently convicted of sin to resist turning to Christ when He is presented. This a bit of a different situation from jumping, and relies explicitly on moral possibility and impossibility.

    The three-possibility model is nothing more than a slightly speculative attempt to explain by categories what is so plainly taught in the Bible.

    For the record, Ben, Williams and Peterson do not speak for me. Quoting them proves nothing. But they do seem to be pretty solid Calvinists, so I am glad you are reading them.

    Finally, for your edification, look at the interesting parallels between the three categories of possibility and the Trinitarian essence of God:

    The Father, unseen, establishes decretal possibility.
    The Son, incarnate, experiences human possibility.
    The Spirit, regenerating, restores moral possibility.

    What a glorious, gracious and magnificently mysterious God!

    Have a good evening in Christ, friends.

    Derek

  67. Hi derek, lets go back to scriptures. What does those passages from 1 Corinthians 2 teach then regarding Total Depravity?

    Verse 14 With the Spirit can Natural Man choose Or not choose God?

    ^ in relation with verses 6-8.

    Thanks.

  68. Derek,

    What is getting old for me is your refusal to own the necessary implications of what you say. The decree is extremely important in deciding what is objectively (that is “really”) possible. Objective reality is what matters here and if Calvinism is true, then the decree fully grounds reality, and it is this decree that is the main problem for all of your claims and that seems to be why you want to put it out of the conversation. You want to relegate it to irrelevance when it is absolutely pivotal to the coherency of your claims. It looks like a plain case of slight of hand. Like Now Dimly said, it is like just waving your hand over a hat. Sorry, you don’t just get to say the decree doesn’t matter because it would explode your whole argument.

    It’s time to face reality here and face up to the implications of what you are claiming. And not everything is possible for God in the strict sense. Surely, you know this. God cannot make falsehood into truth. To claim such things is to insult the God who is truth. That is why the Scriptures plainly teach that God cannot lie. But you seem to think that God can “possibly” lie since you seem to plainly hide behind “with God all things are possible” to avoid admitting that what you have offered here is simply incoherent (i.e. false). You seem to think that the hiddenness of this supposed decree (a decree nowhere described in Scripture) gives you license to pass off nonsensical claims as truth, “truth” that conveniently cannot even be examined on logical grounds since you have swept that away into the cloud of this supposedly inscrutable decree.

    Now if you want to hold to some contrived view of freedom (which we all know you believe is just the supremely Biblical view in contrast to our supposedly “man-made” view), then that’s fine. Nobody can stop you from doing that. Likewise, if you want to wave off all objections by just referring to the secretiveness of the decree, we can’t stop you from doing that either. But you can’t rightly say we are misrepresenting you when we are just going by what you have actually written here. If we are all misunderstanding you so badly, maybe that has more to do with you than us. Everything I have said is in accordance with your particular claims and with the normal understanding of compatibilism (as described by Peterson and Williams). You can say that what they write doesn’t represent you, but that seems pretty convenient to me.

    You began this thing by saying you were going to introduce us to this concept of compatibilism. You have also repeatedly said that we just don’t understand compatibilism and keep misrepresenting compatibilism, but when respected Calvinist compatibilists are then referenced with regards to the meaning of compatibilism, you want to distance yourself from it. Why? You didn’t say we didn’t understand your particular, specialized, ever fluid and ever changing version of compatibilism. How could we possibly understand that? You said we didn’t understand compatibilism. But we clearly do. So where exactly is your disagreement with these “solid” Calvinists?

    I don’t have the time tonight, but I will go back to your comments and show you exactly how I have drawn the conclusions I have drawn and why those conclusions are fully warranted based on what you have said. Could I have you wrong? Yes (and I said as much in my replies). But if I have you wrong, I think you are mostly to blame for the way you have explained things and repeatedly failed to explain things. Or it might be that I don’t have things wrong at all, but that you just don’t want to own up to the many serious problems your claims have created. I promise you I am in no way trying to misrepresent you. I have zero interest in misrepresenting what you say. That is why I asked you numerous questions to bring clarity to what you were saying, clarity that you seemed very reluctant to offer (go back and look over how this discussion developed). That is strange behavior for someone who supposedly just wants to burn straw men.

    I have only tried to honestly and carefully analyze your arguments based on what you have so far provided, but I do not have an interest in acquiescing to your claims just because you feel I should. Maybe you are just not used to your views being so carefully scrutinized or challenged. Sorry, but you just aren’t going to get any free passes here. You are going to have to work for it. I would only ask you to be very honest with the implications of what you write as well and stop with all of the unnecessary grandiose rhetoric about how you are just being painfully Biblical and how your view of God is just so awe inspiring and that is the reason why this makes sense to you and not to us (not to mention that our views are “man-made” while yours are …I’m not sure what..divinely inspired?). OK. We get all that. You think you are super Biblical and we are just a bunch of misguided humanists who are all about being man-centered and slighting God and not giving God His proper due, and on and on. No need to keep going back to that well.

    Maybe we will both be able to see things more clearly in the morning and have a careful discussion minus the unnecessary and distracting rhetoric. I think that would serve us both well..

    God Bless,
    Ben

  69. Some more helpful comments on compatibilism from these “solid” compatibilist Calvinists Peterson and Williams:

    “We do as we please. But we are not so absolutely free as to be able to please as we please. The compatibilist holds that every human choice and action has a sufficient cause outside of the human will. Freedom in the compatibilist sense is the contention that even if every choice we make and every act we perform is determined by forces outside ourselves, and ultimately by God’s ordaining guidance, we are still free, for we still act according to our desires.” (Why I Am Not An Arminian, pg. 156, bold mine)

    Exactly. Freedom in the compatibilst sense is simply that we are free to act in accordance with our desires (assuming we are not prevented from such action, in which case we would not be “free”), even though we have no control over those desires as they are determined by forces outside ourselves and ultimately by God. Again, given these facts, stated by compatibilists themselves, it is hard for me to understand why compatibilists do not see how stronlgy the puppet analogy illustrates the basic thrust of their view- lack of control in being under the control of forces outside of their control. Unable to “please as they please”, because the decree dictates what they please.

    When compatibilists object to the puppet analogy, their objection seems to be couched in a notion that the puppet analogy is meant to convey the idea of being manipulated against one’s will (coerced). For example, Peterson and Williams protest:

    “God did not ordain the actions of Herod or Pilate as if they were puppets. None of those involved in the death of Jesus acted contrary to their wills or in violation of their character. They did as they chose to do.” (ibid., 151)

    But that is not what the puppet analogy is meant to convey. It is not meant to convey coercion as the compatibilist understands such as a violation of compatibilist freedom. It is meant to illustrate that just like a puppet cannot move unless moved and has no control over how it is moved, so determined people have no power to move unless moved and are not in control of their choices or actions. They cannot “please as they please”, but can only “please” as they have been determined to “please”. As Arminian well said, it would be like a puppet being manipulated by its secondary causal strings. If we picture a marionette, we can just view the strings as the predetermined “wants” and “pleasings” that dictate our actions and “choices.” So we are moved about by wants, desires and pleasings that we have no control of and no ability to resist just like a puppet being pulled around by its strings. Look at Peterson and Williams again:

    “God did not ordain the actions of Herod or Pilate as if they were puppets [but He did ordain them so that they had no power to do anything other than what they were ordained to do]. None of those involved in the death of Jesus acted contrary to their wills or in violation of their character [never mind that they have no control over their will or character]. They did as they chose to do [with no power at all to choose any other way].” (ibid., 151)

    The only way to avoid the obvious implications illustrated in the puppet analogy is to explain things in such a way that ignores or hides the vital details (see the brackets above) which are what makes the puppet analogy entirely appropriate in describing the unavoidable affect that Calvinist determinism has on people.

    Think about this comment: “every choice we make and every act we perform is determined by forces outside ourselves, and ultimately by God’s ordaining guidance.” See that? Every choice and act determined by God’s ordaining guidance, just as every act of a puppet is determined by the ordaining guidance of the puppet master. The analogy couldn’t be presented in a more concise and revealing way, and it is presented based not on the straw man caricature of a so called man-centered incompaitibilist, but on the very carefully chosen words of compatibilist Calvinists.

    It would be nice to have a discussion with a compatibilist who will engage the important details and grapple with the actual issues, rather than repeatedly hide the details when convenient (as illustrated by the brackets of the second quote above) in order to avoid the force of the puppet analogy when it is these very details that make the case. It would also be nice to see compatibilists who base their whole system on the absolute priority of an exhaustively determining eternal decree (as Derek admits is his controlling assumption) be willing to engage the implications of that exhaustively determining decree rather than speak as if it is not really relevant when it gets to the thorny issues of freedom, possibility, ability, power to do otherwise, etc. It is a strange thing to see a move from “the decree means everything and is the basis of how everything should be understood” to “the decree is not really relevant here” or “try not to think about the decree”, etc. Not trying to misrepresent or burn straw men. I honestly just don’t get why such tactics should be seen as rationally acceptable.

  70. Great comments in your most recent reply Ben, as usual.

    I just wanted to add, let’s remember, “making a choice” with no power at all to choose any other way is not really making a choice. That’s pretty much the definition of not having a choice. It is illusory choice at best. It’s puppet choice. Or should I say, Muppet choice? Or should we coin a new word, poice? moice? puppoice? muppoice?

  71. Arminian,

    Very true. That is why I often put “choice” or “choosing” in quotes in these interactions. The best they can offer is an illusion of choice since there are no real alternatives to choose from as the mind can only ever move in one direction- the predetermined one:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/the-reality-of-choice-and-the-testimony-of-scripture/

  72. Ben;
    Thank you so much for your tenacity in this discussion with Derek. I’ve been following it since it began, and though I haven’t commented, I have sure appreciated all the work you’ve invested to hone in on what is really being said and keep out front the logical implications of it. What you’ve had to say has been hugely instructive and I have really enjoyed and benefited from both the wisdom and the tone with which you’ve responded.

    If I could sum up my sense of what Derek has had to say so far, it would be that I have felt the wind of his rhetoric, but not the weight of his argument. Derek, I don’t say that to slight you; I say that as more of an invitation. You’re a gifted writer, yet it seems to me that I still haven’t heard from you something of significant substance that takes a bite into what, I think at least, Ben has been asking from you all along. Ben stated it concisely when he wrote,

    “It would also be nice to see compatibilists who base their whole system on the absolute priority of an exhaustively determining eternal decree (as Derek admits is his controlling assumption) be willing to engage the implications of that exhaustively determining decree rather than speak as if it is not really relevant when it gets to the thorny issues of freedom, possibility, ability, power to do otherwise”

    I, for one, would really appreciate hearing a more direct response from you that engages those implications. You may not think so, but you’re being heard in this discussion, and I, for one, have also benefited from what you’ve written. I think more from you with that specific focus would only be a continued benefit.

    That’s my two cents worth. Actually, since they did away with the penny up here in Canada, I have to say that’s my ‘nickel’s’ worth :^)

    Grace and peace,
    David

  73. Ben,

    Rather than trying to clarify the abstract theological points one more time, I am going to cut to the chase and ask you to consider the implications of some Biblical examples:

    Mt. 26:33-34 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

    Mt. 26:69-75 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

    This account (also recorded by Luke in a parallel passage) well illustrates the point that Libertarian Free Will (including the incompatibilism entailed therein) is not supported by the Bible, besides hinting that compatibilism is the necessary solution to the supposed problem of divine pre-determination and human responsibility/freedom to choose.

    The account actually demonstrates a good deal more than I have argued for, so it is more than sufficient for the argument I am making. Jesus stated ahead of time, on earth, and in Peter’s hearing (rather than secretly in eternity), that Peter would deny Him three times. By this statement it was rendered impossible (at least decretally impossible) for Peter not to deny the Lord, right? Putting it another way: was there any chance that Jesus’ statement would not come to pass? Could His words prove false? Did His words determine beforehand what would occur? Could Jesus have prevented the events from occurring? Did His words express God’s irresistible will? If so, they fit the definition of a decree. Could His words have been resisted successfully? If not, they fit the definition of a decree. Otherwise, why didn’t Jesus say the following: “Peter, you will be tempted to deny me three times; the outcome is purely up to you, since you have Libertarian Free Will, and I would never turn you into a puppet by pre-determining what is going to happen with you — especially with regard to your sins. I am hoping you will make the right choice here, but maybe you will use your free will to deny you ever knew me.” No, the Lord said, “YOU WILL . . .”

    To amplify the point, Peter was vehemently saying, “No, I will NEVER deny you!” In his mind, the choice was already made, and his will was settled.

    Was it humanly possible for Peter to do other than Jesus’ said he would do? Obviously, on my view, it was. As a human being with God-given freedom, Peter surely had the human ability to say nothing, or to say something other than he said. But that is not what he freely chose to do, and it was also not the thing decreed.

    In view of the Lord’s statement, given in direct opposition to Peter’s stated intentions, what can we say?

    Did Peter freely choose to deny the Lord? In the same way, we freely choose to do what is decreed.

    Was Peter responsible for his choices and actions? In the same way, our responsibility is not diminished by the decree.

    Did Jesus’ words in any way mitigate Peter’s freedom of choice? Much less would a hidden, transcendent decree diminish our freedom of choice.

    Did Jesus’ words make it humanly impossible for Peter to avoid denying Him? Much less would the secret decree render alternative choices humanly impossible to us.

    Did Jesus’ words make Jesus responsible for Peter’s failure? Neither does God’s decree make Him responsible for our sins.

    Did Jesus’ words express approval for Peter’s sin? Neither does the decree imply that God approves of sin.

    Did Jesus’ words render Peter a mere puppet? Was Peter merely making a “puppet choice” with “puppet freedom”? Neither does the decree render us as puppets making “puppet choices” with “puppet freedom.” Nor muppets with moice or muppoice.

    An interesting aspect of this account is the fact that Peter apparently forgot the Lord’s words, and remembered what had been decreed only after the denials had occurred. Similarly, my argument for compatibilistic freedom points to the fact that we are unaware of the decree at the time of our free choosing, and thus our choice cannot be directly influenced by it. You may mock at this by saying I am “more concerned about subjective feelings and perceptions than objective reality.” (a poorly concealed ad hominem attack, BTW). However, your mocking may actually be against what is taught here in the Scriptures, and might be a natural outflow of the misguided assumption that your mere human mind is capable of dealing logically with the hidden decrees made by an incomprehensible God in eternity. I don’t think your view can logically deal with one decree that was made openly on earth and recorded in Scripture, let alone those decrees that were made secretly in God’s hidden wisdom before the world began.

    I would propose that here in the story of Peter’s denials we have a fine little window on the mysterious functioning of the decree. How do you make sense of this from an incompatibilist Libertarian Free Will standpoint? Here we have an act of SIN (actually three of them), rendered certain by the Lord’s own words. Do you just deny that Peter was responsible, and claim that God forced him to sin? My view certainly doesn’t commit that kind of blasphemy. On your view, it would seem that Jesus’ decree must necessarily have made genuine freedom and moral responsibility impossible for Peter.

    However, we can go even further. Look at Jesus’ words to Peter immediately preceding His prediction of the denials:

    Luke 22:34-35 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

    Jesus was not simply watching the events unfold. There was clearly a plan, and that plan included Peter’s denials, his ultimate victory by faith, his repentance/restoration, and his ongoing service to fellow believers. When Jesus prays, is he not pre-determining the outcome? Or can His prayers fail? If they can fail, we are all in deep, deep trouble.

    Did Peter have a free choice with regard to whether he would “turn again” after the denials? Did He have a free choice regarding his own faith, and whether or not it would fail? Jesus seems to assume that His prayer determined what would occur with Peter, and that the result would be Peter’s “turning again” and Peter’s “faith not failing.” So we see that not only were Peter’s denials pre-determined, but his restoration was also pre-determined. If it had not been pre-determined that Peter would deny Christ, then the Lord would have been praying about an event that might never occur, and guaranteeing by His prayers a “turning again” that might never be needed. With all of this divine pre-determining going on, how does the proponent of LFW avoid denying that Peter had a real choice in what occurred? My view reckons with all of this quite nicely, by acknowledging that God is able to render us free while also pre-determining the events. My view does not make Peter into a puppet. Ironically, your view, if I have read it correctly, seems to require that he was a mere puppet, because God spoke pre-determinately of his actions.

    Add to all of the above David’s comprehensive statement of divine pre-determination:

    Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

    Every one of his days were written in God’s book beforehand? Sounds like “decrees” to me …

    And remember, those “days” David speaks of (the ones he says God wrote in His book beforehand) weren’t entirely sinless. So, did David have any real choices during his entire life, or was he (like Peter) just a muppet/puppet?

    My days were written in God’s book before any of them existed.
    Unless He prays for me, my faith will fail
    Peter, you will deny me three times
    Peter, your restoration is pre-determined by my prayers
    Every day of David’s life was written beforehand
    Too bad libertarian freedom isn’t compatible with any of this

    I just find it incredibly ironic that if these Biblical texts can be taken at face value, it is your LFW — and not my compatibilism — that makes us out to be powerless puppets.

    Blessings,
    Derek

  74. Rex,

    You asked: “Hi derek, lets go back to scriptures. What [do] those passages from 1 Corinthians 2 teach then regarding Total Depravity?
    Verse 14 With the Spirit can Natural Man choose Or not choose God?
    ^ in relation with verses 6-8.”

    Going back to the Scriptures is always a good idea. This passage is very instructive, and there is much that could be discussed here. However, I will stick to your question. I do not take verse 14 to refer to the unregenerate, per se. In context, Paul is addressing the fact that the Corinthian believers (affirmed in chapter 1 as genuine believers) are not “spiritual,” but fleshy/unspiritual/natural in their thinking (cf. 3:1). Thus, they cannot receive the wisdom message Paul would offer to the mature. In short, this passage is about spiritually stunted Christians who have not matured into wisdom, and not about unbelievers who cannot believe the Gospel.

    To answer your question in a more broadly theological way, I do believe the unbeliever is morally unable to savingly believe, though he is humanly capable of belief in the Gospel. When conversion occurs, God doesn’t believe for the sinner; he leads the sinner to believe. Although faith is granted to him by God, it is granted to him. Thus it would seem to be humanly possible for a human being to exercise saving faith. Total Depravity is an exercise of our own free will that restricts our own moral ability, so that apart from grace we never will choose to believe. We basically join with Adam in having committed spiritual suicide – unless God intervenes and and raises us from the dead.

    Getting back to 1 Corinthians 2 and Total Depravity, that passage would also appear to teach that the regenerated believer is not immune from the ongoing effects of Total Depravity. We are called to persevere in faith and grow to maturity, fighting our flesh all the way (rather than fighting one another, as the Corinthians were doing).

    Blessings,
    Derek

  75. Derek,

    I haven’t read over your response yet and I probably won’t have time to do so or respond until Monday (Sat-Sun are always very busy for me). I can only hope that your response does not amount to just more deflection and side stepping the direct questions that have been repeatedly asked of you. Like I said, I should get back to this at Monday.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  76. Ben,

    Thank you for your reply. No deflection or side stepping here. Hopefully you will not continue to put words in my mouth, misrepresent, caricature, mock, distort, ad-hom, or otherwise muddy the waters of our discussion. I look forward to your reply, assuming it will avoid these undesirable elements and instead offer a Biblically grounded argument.

    Have a great weekend.
    Derek

  77. Derek,

    This is the last thing I have time for today. Of course, I don’t believe I have done any of those things you just accused me of doing (at least not intentionally). I have worked very hard to get you to carefully explain not only your view but how that view is coherent as you claim (since it seems so plainly incoherent). After all, if you are going to say that determinism and free will are compatible, that requires a lot of careful explaining since it seems so obvious that free will and determinism are not compatible.

    I do admit to being aggressive in pointing out why I think your views are wrong and internally inconsistent, but only because your own description of things seems to illustrate such inconsistency and lead to such conclusions. I have also not tried to put any words in your mouth. Rather, I have only tried to understand what you are saying, which has been hard since you often refuse to give the necessary clarification or answer direct questions which have been much repeated (hence my latest comment about deflection and dancing around the issue). I think anyone who has followed this discussion will see what I mean by that.

    So as I said in a recent comment above, any such perceived misrepresentation or putting words in your mouth is due in large part to the way you have concealed aspects of your views, not grappled with the very important details, and refused to answer rather straightforward questions. That’s the way I see it anyway, and you can certainly disagree. But from what I have read from other commenters, I am not the only one who feels that way.

    So I am especially puzzled when you say I have tried to “muddy the water” of the discussion when I have been trying hard to do just the opposite:

    1) Get you to be very clear in what you believe and how you explain what you believe

    2) Get you to carefully define words and concepts you are using which seem to be very different from normal usage

    3) Get you to zero in on the important details which are at the heart of the debate.

    I look forward to interacting with your latest comments when I have the time and I am glad you do not believe your latest comments are characterized by deflection or dancing around the issue. If that is the case, that will be very refreshing and will help us to have a more concise and productive discussion.

    Till then…

    God Bless,
    Ben

  78. Derek,

    I hope my questions amidst the overall conversation with you, Ben and others don’t bog you down being that you’re the only Calvinist present, but I really want to understand you. So I have a few questions, most of which have been unanswered.

    Question 1: I’m still really curious about how you define the word “decree” (I asked on 1/22 and you can reference my 1/27 questions). Sometimes you give it the feel of “cause” while other times you give it the feel of “foreknow.” You keep using the word but have not told us what you mean by it.

    Question 2: On what basis do you say that Matt 26:34, “you will deny me three times…” is an irresistibly decreed fact and not simply a foreknown fact within the mind of God/Jesus? Where do you see that in the text? Throughout your entire argument you assume that this event is decreed but you really don’t show how. You give your opinion, but don’t show how you arrive at that conclusion. Maybe I’m missing something. And I think it’s at this point that I also will express my frustration with you asserting that it is so, but you really have yet to explain why/how. There are some steps missing from your arguments and maybe that is why Ben has said you make assertions but don’t give an argument. I’m starting to agree with him on that point.

    And part B of this question would be, On what basis do you then transpose your interpretation of this verse (things are decreed & not simply foreknown) onto everything else that happens in existence, in all times, as being a decreed (caused?) thing? How do you know that all things are decreed to come about even if you can prove that some things are irresistibly decreed to happen? I guess this depends on how you define decree, so I really hope you can explain “decree” (and its synonym “ordain”) before moving on. I posed the question/argument on 1/24, “Where is the ordaining of every single event and thought in human history there?” (i.e. in Ephesians 1:1-11, given the fact that Paul is speaking about God’s redemptive plan in Christ specifically, and not every event in life all over the globe and galaxy).

  79. Just as an observation: “kangaroodort, on January 29, 2014 at 11:15 am said:” is putting words in his mouth. The whole comment was just about what you think he’s saying instead of your own views. Also, I’d like to see more argument from Scripture.

    For Derek–for my own edification, I’d like to see answers from this one: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/muppet-calvinism/#comment-12027 as would the commenter I’m sure. That may have gotten lost in the shuffle.

    As a classic Calvinist, I just don’t see how there is a disbelief that nothing can be commanded without God’s approval, his foreknowledge occurred & he made his decisions on what would become of things before anything happened, and yet I know from my own experience and commands in Scripture that I can make choices. Some are guided by God, but I don’t know to what degree. I can also see how God saved me without me having a say in it, and I’m really glad he did that. I’m not an argumenter (other than I make up my own words), so I can’t answer any questions. I guess I’m just saying that it’s interesting how people believe so differently, and we’ll still be seeing each other in heaven.

    Peace to you,
    Jeff

  80. According to Jonathan Edwards arguments for theological Determinism, the will of man cannot be self-caused. So he argues that man is a defective slave to its external environment, lacking any ability to do other then what he desires most. In other words, man is a defective stimuli, unable to do other then what it’s external environment determines him to do.

    Man is not necessarily a muppet in Calvinism, he’s more of a robot with a defective software program that he’s been involuntarily, & purposely uploaded with, so he may be controlled by its external environment to break Gods commandments.

    This is the only logical conclusion of man, if his Will cannot be self-caused to act & make choices not caused by his external environment.

  81. Jeff,

    Thanks for taking the time to read through this long exchange.

    You wrote,

    Just as an observation: “kangaroodort, on January 29, 2014 at 11:15 am said:” is putting words in his mouth. The whole comment was just about what you think he’s saying instead of your own views.

    This sentence is a little hard to understand. Are you saying I was not putting words in his mouth since I was just trying to draw what seemed like reasonable implications based on what he said (which is exactly what I was doing), or are you trying to say something else?

    Also, I’d like to see more argument from Scripture.

    For what exactly? This is a discussion about logical implications regarding a deterministic worldview. Derek holds that the Bible teaches exhaustive determinism and this determinism is what it means for God to be sovereign. I am granting him that for the sake of argument. The point of dispute is that Derek finds it unacceptable to say that this determinism renders people much like puppets in that they cannot move unless moved and have no real control over their thoughts, feelings, desires (wants), or actions. The burden is on him to demonstrate this and to demonstrate that his version of free will does anything to alleviate the problem that his view of determinism creates. So it is not really a Scriptural argument. If you want Scriptural arguments for my view regarding freedom and the proper view of God’s sovereignty (which is not exhaustive determinism), or regarding any feature of Calvinism, my site is filled with posts and articles that deal those things from a Scriptural standpoint. Feel free to have a look around.

    As a classic Calvinist, I just don’t see how there is a disbelief that nothing can be commanded without God’s approval

    Arminians wouldn’t say this necessarily, if by approval, you mean permission or non-prevention. But Calvinism asserts more than just “approval” in their view of exhaustive determinism.

    his foreknowledge occurred & he made his decisions on what would become of things before anything happened, and yet I know from my own experience and commands in Scripture that I can make choices.

    So it may be that your experiences and Scripture are giving you a clue that the Calvinist view of sovereignty =exhaustive determinism isn’t accurate.

    Some are guided by God, but I don’t know to what degree.

    If you mean by “guided” some sort of influence, then there is no problem as long as that influence is not irresistible. If you mean guided in that God irresistibily moved you in a certain way, then you had no real choice since you had no alternatives to choose from. You could only act as God irresistible “guided” you with no power to do otherwise. In such a scenario, you would be much like a puppet that is likewise powerless to resist the way it is moved about and manipulated. See the correlation?

    I can also see how God saved me without me having a say in it, and I’m really glad he did that.

    I can see how God saved me and allowed me to have a say in it in that He saved me in a resistible and conditional manner.

    I’m not an argumenter (other than I make up my own words), so I can’t answer any questions. I guess I’m just saying that it’s interesting how people believe so differently, and we’ll still be seeing each other in heaven.

    It is interesting, but I would say that the Arminian view makes much more sense of why people have such differing perspectives since we are free to respond to influences and arguments in a variety of ways. In Calvinism, all such differences of opinion, arguments and disagreements, even those that cause great and unfortunate divisions in the church, are decreed by God from eternity in such a way that they must be just as they are. So the God who is, according to Scripture, not the author of confusion, decreed a great deal of confusion from eternity and continues to create and cause confusion in that His decree necessitates it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  82. Derek,

    You cite the denial of Peter and Jesus’ prediction of that denial before it happened and then write,

    This account (also recorded by Luke in a parallel passage) well illustrates the point that Libertarian Free Will (including the incompatibilism entailed therein) is not supported by the Bible, besides hinting that compatibilism is the necessary solution to the supposed problem of divine pre-determination and human responsibility/freedom to choose.

    Not at all. I hold that Jesus was able to foreknow Peter’s libertarian free will decision to deny Him three times. So this in no way creates a problem for LFW.

    The account actually demonstrates a good deal more than I have argued for, so it is more than sufficient for the argument I am making. Jesus stated ahead of time, on earth, and in Peter’s hearing (rather than secretly in eternity), that Peter would deny Him three times. By this statement it was rendered impossible (at least decretally impossible) for Peter not to deny the Lord, right?

    No. Jesus’ prediction based on His foreknowledge of what Peter would freely do did not necessitate that Peter do what he did. Rather, it is simple advance knowledge of what Peter would freely do. Knowledge is not causative. Knowledge doesn’t make things happen. It only “knows” about them.

    Putting it another way: was there any chance that Jesus’ statement would not come to pass? Could His words prove false?

    No, because Peter would indeed deny Christ and Christ knew this. But knowing what Peter “would” do doesn’t mean he was necessitated to do it. It is the difference between necessity and certainty. God’s foreknowledge of contingent free will choices is of what “will” happen (certainty) and not of what “must” happen (necessity). His knowing or even stating something in advance does not render that thing necessary and does not cause it to happen.

    Did His words determine beforehand what would occur?

    No. Knowledge is not determinative or causative. If that is what you want to claim, that is something you need to prove.

    Could Jesus have prevented the events from occurring?

    Not at this point since it would then falsify His foreknowledge. When Jesus made the prediction that also made it clear that He was not going to prevent Peter from freely denying Him three times. If Peter were to freely decide not to deny Christ, then His foreknowledge would have been different and the prediction would have been in accord with that reality instead since His foreknowledge mirrors what will (certainty) actually happen, but does not dictate what must (necessity) happen.

    Did His words express God’s irresistible will?

    No.

    If so, they fit the definition of a decree.

    Well, in my view, the answer is no. But in your view, since you do hold that Peter acted in accordance with an irresistible decree, the answer would be yes (a simple truism). But that leaves you again with the inevitable implication that Peter acted much like a puppet in that he could only do what God irresistibly decreed for him to do with no more power to do anything else than a puppet has to resist the manipulation of its strings.

    Could His words have been resisted successfully? If not, they fit the definition of a decree. Otherwise, why didn’t Jesus say the following: “Peter, you will be tempted to deny me three times; the outcome is purely up to you, since you have Libertarian Free Will, and I would never turn you into a puppet by pre-determining what is going to happen with you — especially with regard to your sins. I am hoping you will make the right choice here, but maybe you will use your free will to deny you ever knew me.” No, the Lord said, “YOU WILL . . .”

    See above. You “will” fits perfectly with LFW and infallible foreknowledge since “you will” speaks only to the certainty of what he would do and does not render such actions necessitated. I recommend you read some good Arminian articles on the compatibility of foreknowledge and LFW and specifically about the important differences between certainty and necessity. Here are some resources for you to check out from a footnote in a post I recently published:

    [3] See Picirilli’s book, Grace, Faith , Free Will: Contrasting Views of Salvation: Arminianism vs. Calvinism, pp. 36-44, 59-63. See also his theological article (http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Picirilli.%20Foreknowledge,%20Freedom,%20and%20the%20Future.pdf) which covers most of the same ground (see his published response to open theism here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/robert-e-picirilli-an-arminian-response-to-open-theism/). See also Thomas Ralston’s treatment of the issue (http://evangelicalarminians.org/thomas-ralston-on-freedom-of-the-will-part-8-can-free-agency-be-harmonized-with-divine-foreknowledge/). Probably the strongest argument for the consistency between true libertarian freedom and exhaustive foreknowledge can be found in Daniel Whedon’s refutation of Jonathan Edwards in John D. Wagner’s edited reprint, Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, pp. 227-235. An unedited original version of Whedon’s work can be read online here: http://evangelicalarminians.org/daniel-d-whedon-the-freedom-of-the-will-as-a-basis-of-human-responsibility-and-a-divine-government/). The same sections can be found there on pages 271-292.

    ************

    To amplify the point, Peter was vehemently saying, “No, I will NEVER deny you!” In his mind, the choice was already made, and his will was settled.

    His will may have been settled then, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily fixed from that point on. I’m not sure why you draw that conclusion. You can’t think of numerous examples of people being adamant about something and then changing their mind at a later time? It seems like you are really grasping here.

    Was it humanly possible for Peter to do other than Jesus’ said he would do? Obviously, on my view, it was. As a human being with God-given freedom, Peter surely had the human ability to say nothing, or to say something other than he said. But that is not what he freely chose to do, and it was also not the thing decreed.

    But again, the decree dictates all of reality, every single part (or it is not exhaustive). Reality is simply the unfolding of God’s unchangeable and irresistible eternal decree. So to say it was “humanly possible”, you would need to temporarily shelve your presuppositions about the all encompassing decree of God. So given the decree (or, we could say: given reality), it was not in any way possible for Peter to think, desire, will or act in any way contrary to the all-controlling, all encompassing, exhaustive, unchangeable decree of God. Again, you put the decree first and subordinate all things to that decree, but then when it creates difficulties for your claims, you seem to want us to pretend the decree is somehow not a significant factor, when it is the primary factor in the discussion!

    In view of the Lord’s statement, given in direct opposition to Peter’s stated intentions, what can we say?

    That despite his present (best) intentions, things changed and so did his intentions, just like what very often happens with people in a variety of ways and situations every day.

    Did Peter freely choose to deny the Lord?

    In my view, yes.

    In the same way, we freely choose to do what is decreed.

    But you still haven’t shown this in your view, just asserted it. You do so again here. Choice makes sense in my view since there are alternative possibilities in my view, but choice doesn’t make sense in your view where there is only ever one course of action possible- the predetermined one. It is up to you to show how the concept of “choice” makes any sense against the backdrop of exhaustive determinism. You still haven’t tackled that or shown why your use of the word “choice” is not contrived.

    Instead of responding to all the other questions about Peter, I will just refer you to the difference between certainty and necessity in my view and how that leaves room for foreknowledge of LFW choices and remind you again that given your commitment to the exhaustive unchangeable decree of God, you still have not made sense of how we can “choose” anything or do anything contrary to that decree. All you have done is found a story in the Bible and read your ideas into it. But that does not show that it is the only way the passage can be understood, so it does nothing to lend support or evidence to your compatibilist claims. I am not sure why you would take this approach instead of just answering many of the direct questions you have been repeatedly asked. So it does seem like more side stepping and distraction (even if not intentional on your part).

    An interesting aspect of this account is the fact that Peter apparently forgot the Lord’s words, and remembered what had been decreed only after the denials had occurred. Similarly, my argument for compatibilistic freedom points to the fact that we are unaware of the decree at the time of our free choosing, and thus our choice cannot be directly influenced by it.

    But this assumes again that the decree is what dictated Peter’s denial. There is no reason to read the text that way so your points do not necessarily follow. But, if the decree rendered his denial a necessity (as it must if the decree is defined in Calvinist terms), then it doesn’t matter if he remembered Christ’s words or even if Christ never said anything at all to him. He would still not have any real choice in the matter since only one course of action was possible for him, the eternally predetermined one. This “reality” is again an issue you seem to continually side step and dance around. Why do you keep doing that? So contrary to your assertions, our “choices” are not only “directly influenced” by the decree, but necessarily dictated by the decree so that we have no real “choice” at all.

    You may mock at this by saying I am “more concerned about subjective feelings and perceptions than objective reality.” (a poorly concealed ad hominem attack, BTW).

    That is not mocking or ad hom. It is simply an inference based on what you have said and the questions you refuse to answer, assuming that you stand behind what you say and mean what you say. What is motivating your continual refusal to deal with the reality of things rather than just how things may seem to appear in your view? Please explain.

    However, your mocking may actually be against what is taught here in the Scriptures

    Again, I wasn’t “mocking”. Were you mocking me when you said, “If ever you escape the self-imposed shackles of incompatibilism, you may discover there are vast possibilities beyond the assumed dichotomy of “libertarian” free will and hard determinism”?” Was Patton mocking all Arminians when he suggested that we reject Calvinism because we just cannot accept tensions or mystery in our theology (among other things)? If so, why did you endorse his post on your site? Again, you don’t seem to want to play by your own rules for some reason.

    As far as “what is taught in Scripture”, I simply disagree with how you have interpreted Scripture here and in numerous other places. Sorry about that.

    and might be a natural outflow of the misguided assumption that your mere human mind is capable of dealing logically with the hidden decrees made by an incomprehensible God in eternity.

    And your view might be a misguided assumption that contradictions and illogical arguments should be found acceptable and even commendable because you think an incomprehensible God can render falsehood as truth. But then why not hold things like God has exhaustive foreknowledge and yet doesn’t know a lot about the future? Or why not hold that Calvinism and Arminianism are completely compatible views? After all, it might just be our mere human minds that see them as incompatible and that might just be an example of short changing the incomprehensibility of God’s hidden wisdom in eternity, etc.

    But again, though you repeatedly say such things you also apply certain rules to interpretation and find some things unacceptable based on the law of non-contradiction. It is unclear why this particular claim of yours should get a special pass. Why should the law of non-contraction apply to views you reject but not to the view you advocate? When it is your view it suddenly becomes an issue of God’s incomprehensible wisdom. See why I mentioned special pleading in other comments?

    I don’t think your view can logically deal with one decree that was made openly on earth and recorded in Scripture, let alone those decrees that were made secretly in God’s hidden wisdom before the world began.

    I don’t hold that any such secret exhaustively determining decree is taught in Scripture. But why are you concerned about the logic of my view when you are so seemingly unconcerned about the logic of your view?

    I would propose that here in the story of Peter’s denials we have a fine little window on the mysterious functioning of the decree.

    Only if you read your assumptions into the text and thereby give yourself a pass regarding the major logical problems your view creates.

    How do you make sense of this from an incompatibilist Libertarian Free Will standpoint?

    See above. Do you really think that this passage is a major problem for Arminianism? That might show how unfamiliar you are with Arminianism.

    Here we have an act of SIN (actually three of them), rendered certain by the Lord’s own words.

    I would say “declared certain” as His words did not necessarily render them certain and the text nowhere even suggests this. But it is instructive that you say “certain” rather than “necessitated.” You are on to something important there.

    Do you just deny that Peter was responsible, and claim that God forced him to sin?

    Why on earth would I do that based on how I interpret this passage? It is weird that you seem to impose a view of this passage onto me without first seeking to find out how I might interpret it differently than you. Would I be justified in saying you are being “presumptuous” here and maybe even “putting words in my mouth”, or something like that?

    My view certainly doesn’t commit that kind of blasphemy.

    So now my view, which you don’t even seem to know, is “blasphemous”?

    On your view, it would seem that Jesus’ decree must necessarily have made genuine freedom and moral responsibility impossible for Peter.

    Not at all. It seems you are being presumptuous about my view and putting words in my mouth, or something like that. Maybe you are just trying to “mock” me now. It’s hard to tell.

    However, we can go even further. Look at Jesus’ words to Peter immediately preceding His prediction of the denials:

    No need. Everything I have said about foreknowledge and the important distinction between necessity and certainty addresses everything in this passage that you seem to think creates big trouble for “my view.”

    So we see that not only were Peter’s denials pre-determined, but his restoration was also pre-determined.

    Neither follows unless we read your assumptions into the text. But I see no reason to read those assumptions into the text. Indeed, they seem plainly foreign to the text.

    If it had not been pre-determined that Peter would deny Christ, then the Lord would have been praying about an event that might never occur, and guaranteeing by His prayers a “turning again” that might never be needed. With all of this divine pre-determining going on, how does the proponent of LFW avoid denying that Peter had a real choice in what occurred?

    And on and on you go.

    My view reckons with all of this quite nicely, by acknowledging that God is able to render us free while also pre-determining the events.

    But you are just “acknowledging” your assumptions that you have read into the text and “acknowledging” incoherent concepts as coherent without in anyway explaining how they are not, in fact, incoherent.

    My view does not make Peter into a puppet.

    Only if you refuse to own the necessary implications of your view regarding exhaustive determinism. But that is incoherent since your view of determinism controls everything else. It seems clear at this point that your only recourse is to assert that these are not the implications of exhaustive determinism based on your arbitrary and unargued opinion grounded in assumptions that you read into certain Biblical texts, texts that in no way require the interpretations you have assigned to them.

    Ironically, your view, if I have read it correctly, seems to require that he was a mere puppet, because God spoke pre-determinately of his actions.

    You haven’t “read it correctly.” Not even close.

    Add to all of the above David’s comprehensive statement of divine pre-determination:

    Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

    Every one of his days were written in God’s book beforehand? Sounds like “decrees” to me …

    Sounds like you reading decree into the text to me. God seeing us as unformed or knowing in advance our “days” and even recording our “days” does not necessitate the conclusion that He has exhaustively decreed our every thought, desire, or action from eternity. If this is your primary text in support of exhaustive determinism, your view is in trouble.

    And remember, those “days” David speaks of (the ones he says God wrote in His book beforehand) weren’t entirely sinless. So, did David have any real choices during his entire life, or was he (like Peter) just a muppet/puppet?

    If exhaustive determinism is true, then no David didn’t have any choice but to sin as his sinning was simply the irresistible unfolding of an unchangeable and exhaustive eternal decree. So you are still in the same bind you began in and have done nothing to explain how this decree does not render people “puppet like” in that we are incapable of self-motion, but can only move as moved with no control at all over how we are moved about, just as a puppet has no control over how it is moved about.

    My days were written in God’s book before any of them existed.
    Unless He prays for me, my faith will fail
    Peter, you will deny me three times

    None of this strikes against my view or supports yours.

    Peter, your restoration is pre-determined by my prayers

    The text says nothing of predetermination, only what will in fact happen.

    Every day of David’s life was written beforehand

    No problem here either. See above.

    Too bad libertarian freedom isn’t compatible with any of this

    Too bad you are still unwilling to grapple with the actual details regarding the implications of your view of exhaustive determinism. Too bad you read your assumptions into various texts and assume we should all follow you in this practice. Too bad you are not more familiar with Arminian theology.

    If you comment further, please address the real issue. Just scroll up to see numerous times this issue has been explained to you and the total absence of a direct answer to this point in the conversation. Please also see the many extremely relevant questions that have been asked of you (even just in the most recent 4 or 5 posts) and give direct answers to those questions. If you are not willing to do that, please do not comment further on this thread. I simply don’t have time for the usual run around anymore.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  83. As a followup, I want to clarify something I said in the previous comment that was not worded very well.

    Derek asked,

    Could Jesus have prevented the events from occurring?

    And I responded with:

    “Not at this point since it would then falsify His foreknowledge. When Jesus made the prediction that also made it clear that He was not going to prevent Peter from freely denying Him three times. If Peter were to freely decide not to deny Christ, then His foreknowledge would have been different and the prediction would have been in accord with that reality instead since His foreknowledge mirrors what will (certainty) actually happen, but does not dictate what must (necessity) happen.”

    ________________

    The first sentence of my reply can lead to misunderstanding and so needs a little clarification. It would have been more precise for me to say that Jesus “would not” prevent the events, rather than imply that He “could not” (though I do make this clear in the rest of the comment). It is true that if He prevented the events He would falsify His foreknowledge, which is impossible (as I further explained), but it is impossible simply because His foreknowledge mirrors not only Peter’s free action, but Christ’s action or inaction as well. So Jesus foreknowledge speaks to what Peter would do, and possibly to what Christ would not do, based on the fact that He (Jesus) would not intervene to prevent it (which would take an act of irresistible mind control on Jesus’ part as He was in no position to intervene when Peter denied Him since He was in custody at the time).

    So with respect to Jesus and Peter, foreknowledge mirrors what will happen, not what must happen. So while Peter had full power to remain faithful rather than to deny Jesus, he would instead choose to deny Christ three times, just as Christ foreknew he would do. And while Christ had full power to intervene (through mind control?), he would allow Peter to freely exercise his will to deny Christ. All of this is comprehended in Christ’s foreknowledge because His foreknowledge simply mirrors what will (not must) actually happen.

    So again, things “could” have gone differently, though Jesus knew they wouldn’t go differently and His knowledge of how they “would” go had no causative affect on the events themselves. If Peter were to freely exercise his will to affirm rather than deny his knowing Christ, those events would then be the subject of Christ’s foreknowledge and His prediction would have reflected that future free choice instead.

    Dr. Robert Picirilli gives a helpful caution about saying “can and cannot” when talking about foreknowledge of contingent events in a footnote of the article on Open Theism I point to in my above comment:

    “I should probably comment on the words “can” and “cannot,” which are especially ambiguous. Used in one way, the sentence “If God’s foreknowledge is infallible, then what he sees cannot fail to happen” is true. In this sense, “cannot” is being used with respect to facticity. But if “cannot” is made to speak of necessity, the sentence is not true. It is therefore best to avoid “can” or “cannot” in sentences dealing with these issues and speak of certainty and necessity, using “will” or “shall” to refer to certainty and “must” to refer to necessity.”

    You can read the full footnote (#23 on page 269) here:http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Picirilli.%20Foreknowledge,%20Freedom,%20and%20the%20Future.pdf

  84. Rusty Freeman,

    Your Q&A strung together with numerous Calvinist proof texts was not approved since it was not directly related to this post. If you have a comment that is directly related to this post, feel free to make it, but try to keep it concise. As far as your numerous Calvinist points you were trying to make, please have a look around the site. You should be able to find several appropriate post here that deal with those various issues where you can more directly interact in their respective comments threads. You will also likely find Arminian answers to many of your questions and the Scriptures you used to support your answers.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  85. @kagaroodorg
    “His will may have been settled then, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily fixed from that point on. I’m not sure why you draw that conclusion. You can’t think of numerous examples of people being adamant about something and then changing their mind at a later time? It seems like you are really grasping here.”

    Jesus indeed prophesied Peters denial, but to walk away with the conclusion that Gods foreknowledge was likewise His “Irresistible Will”, is to presuppose 2 ideas via isigesis, not found in scripture:

    1. Everything that happens is by Gods Immutable Decree.

    2. God ONLY foreknows what He has Immutably Decreed.

    According to 1 Sam.23:9-12, both of these conclusions are false.

    In 1 Sam.23:9-12, the men of Keliah where never Immutably Decreed to deliver David to Saul, but Calvinism teaches God kept that to Himself answering David, “They WILL deliver thee up” (v12), when David inquired of their future, if him & his men would be delivered to Saul by the people of Keliah.

    If all things had been Immutably Decreed & the future was fixed & predetermined, as Calvinism teaches, God should have answered, “They will NOT deliver thee up”, since God “cannot lie”.

    Yet, consistent Calvinism teaches God spoke this falsehood regarding David, his men, & their future with, “They WILL deliver thee up” not because it was the truth, but as a MEANS to bring forth His one & ONLY future for them, His Immutable Decree for David & His men to not be delivered up & depart.

    Since God cannot lie:

    1. God has not Immutably Decreed whatsoever comes to pass.

    And

    2. God has foreknowledge of alternate futures that may come to pass that may be prevented.

    The argument is irrefutable. Hopefully, with every Biblical truth we share with them, the overall picture will hopefully become clearer & the scales from their eyes fall off, amen!

  86. Isaiah 1v18,

    Good comments, but just to be clear, what you quoted me saying was in reference to Peter’s will not being fixed from that point on, not Jesus’ will. You probably know that, but your comments immediately following the quote made me wonder if maybe you read me wrong.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  87. Hi Ben,
    Yes, I was aware the reference was to the Will of Peter, there was no misunderstanding. My apologies for not communicating this more clearly.

    Bless you for passionately proclaiming Gods uncompromising truth, amen!

  88. OK, just wanted to be sure. Thanks for the encouragement. Time for bed!

  89. Ben,

    Thank you for your reply. It has been quite a busy week and I am just now able to read and respond to your comments. I think you make some good points in drawing the necessary distinction in Arminianism between certainty and necessity. I also anticipated that you would take the view that Christ’s words to Peter express mere foreknowledge rather than pre-determination.

    However, I do not think you have yet recognized the power of the argument provided within this text. If Jesus merely “foreknew,” within His own mind, what Peter was going to do, I would see merit in your foreknowledge approach. Once He speaks those words to Peter, though, the matter becomes an immutable pronouncement beforehand, leaving only one course of action and (according to Libertarian Free Will) no alternative possibility. What if the Lord appeared to you each morning and told you in minute detail everything you would do all day long – every thought, word, decision, sin, etc.? Would you still feel that your Libertarian Free Will was unviolated? That you were able to make all of these decisions “freely”? That you had a real choice in the matter? Could you believe that your choices were not somehow being pre-determined by Him through the words He spoke to you?

    In other words, if Christ did more than just “know” what Peter was going to do, but spoke immutable words to Peter about the sinful decisions Peter would make prior to the making of those choices, His words can no longer be classified as mere foreknowledge, and Peter’s actions can no longer be classified as having alternative possibilities, and thus Libertarian Free Will cannot apply to Peter’s choices.

    I doubt you will agree with this point, but it seems incontrovertible to me!

    I need to mention, again, that my view and the view of historic Calvinism are decidedly NOT “exhaustive determinism.” The view is a Biblical form of compatibilism which leaves much room for human freedom.

    In support of that notion, I would refer you to this book:
    “Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in the History of Early-Modern Reformed Theology,” ed. Willem J. Van Asselt/J. Martin Bac/Roelf T. te Velde (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2010), and especially Jeongmo Yoo’s excellent book, “John Edwards (1637-1716) on Human Free Choice and Divine Necessity,” which contains a deep exploration of the Reformed doctrine of human freedom, especially as held by English theologian John Edwards (not to be confused with Jonathan Edwards, the American theologian) and expounded thoroughly in Edwards’ debates with Arminians, Socinians and other opponents of Calvinism. (an extract is available here: http://www.v-r.de/pdf/titel_inhalt_und_leseprobe/1009639/inhaltundleseprobe_978-3-647-55042-8.pdf). Yoo effectively points out that early Reformed thought is not at all synonymous with mere “determinism.”

    In summary, it is simply untrue to say that historic Calvinistic compatibilism is “fully deterministic,” if by “deterministic” is meant a ruling out of genuine human freedom. The whole point of compatibilism is to make room for genuine human freedom alongside the operation of determinism or something like it.

    On another note, check out the school of philosophy known as “comprehensive compatibilism” — they actually believe that determinism and indeterminism are both true! I am not saying I subscribe to this, but it is illustrative of the vast diversity within the world of “compatibilism,” and the fact that compatibilism does not necessarily equate to metaphysical determinism. Jonathan Edwards (the American) certainly doesn’t have the last word on this. John Edwards (the Englishman) was perhaps more reflective of a consistent, Reformed approach on this topic.

    Life in the “real world” has become exceptionally busy for me these days, so I am going to have to leave off at this point. There are many other avenues of thought and questions that I would have enjoyed exploring with the various commenters on this thread; however, I have attempted to stay focused on the primary issues and maintain direct interaraction with you, Ben.

    I really appreciate your time and the thoughtfulness you have put into our discussion. It is at the very least an interesting exploration of the fundamental disagreement(s) between historic/moderate Calvinism and classical Arminianism. As I have mentioned elsewhere, at the end of the day we agree on much more than we disagree about. It is just that we have a very, very strong disagreement regarding certain key points of philosophical theology and exegesis (and I am fairly sure you have not yet reckoned with the realities of Reformed Historical Theology, as well). Nevertheless, I gladly call you “brother” and pray you are greatly blessed in all things. Have a great weekend, brother!

    Blessings,
    Derek

  90. Derek,

    You write,

    However, I do not think you have yet recognized the power of the argument provided within this text. If Jesus merely “foreknew,” within His own mind, what Peter was going to do, I would see merit in your foreknowledge approach. Once He speaks those words to Peter, though, the matter becomes an immutable pronouncement beforehand, leaving only one course of action and (according to Libertarian Free Will) no alternative possibility.

    But this is simply to load Jesus’ words with necessity. That is reading into the text. It is the same with much of prophecy that has reference to free will decisions. There is simply no reason to assume that just because Jesus says something in advance about a free will choice means that His very words irresistibly cause it to happen. If it is foreknowledge, then it is simply prior knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t make things happen, it only knows about them. So my view allows foreknowledge to be exactly what it is: knowledge in advance (prescience), whereas your view adds something to it, something that is foreign to knowledge- causation.

    If by “immutable” you mean “necessary” in that it must happen, then you are wrong that this is an “immutable” pronouncement. But if you mean “certain” then that would fit with my view that while it will happen (certainty), this does not mean it must happen (necessity). Again, it is simply prior knowledge. This is the natural reading of the text, especially since Jesus says “you will deny me,” and not “you must deny me.” Your reading of the text adds something completely foreign- the idea that Jesus’ prior knowledge and present declaration of Peter’s denial made it happen. If you are going to claim that your view is simply what Scripture plainly teaches, then you should not be using Peter’s denial as support for your claims. This narrative simply will not give you what you want.

    What if the Lord appeared to you each morning and told you in minute detail everything you would do all day long – every thought, word, decision, sin, etc.? Would you still feel that your Libertarian Free Will was unviolated?

    It really doesn’t matter what I feel. Feelings are not the issue here. If the Lord’s predictions are based on my free will decisions, then I do have alternative power even though the Lord knows exactly which choices I will make. Keep in mind that He also foreknows His telling me what I would do and how that might influence my decisions. His foreknowledge comprehends all things. And since the Lord has exhaustive foreknowledge of all that He will do in the future as well, will you also suggest that even God has no alternative power when making choices? Is God then bound by His foreknowledge? Is He bound by necessity? It would seem so if you are going to assert that His foreknowledge of future choices and actions makes those things happen in such a way that God no longer has “alternative possibilities”?

    Just think about what this would mean. It would mean that if God has foreknowledge of choosing you for salvation, then He had to choose you for salvation! There was no “alternative possibility.” God was bound and necessitated by His foreknowledge to choose you for salvation! There was no alternative possibility of His passing you over instead. Where does that leave the Calvinist argument that we should glory in the fact that God had mercy on any at all, since He didn’t have to have mercy on any of us at all? But if His foreknowledge of His future actions renders those actions necessitated (void of any “alternative possibilities”) then this cannot be the case. God indeed did have to choose those He chose and had to have mercy on them because His foreknowledge removes any alternative possibilities. Is this where you are willing to go with this line of argument?

    That you were able to make all of these decisions “freely”? That you had a real choice in the matter? Could you believe that your choices were not somehow being pre-determined by Him through the words He spoke to you?

    Notice that you join my view of freely doing things with alternative possibilities. But you have tried to say that when we make choices in your view we also have alternative possibilities- the power to do otherwise. While I think this is plainly incoherent given your commitment to exhaustive determinism, these are still the claims you have made. So if you are now saying that Jesus’ words to Peter eliminate alternative possibilities, this must be true in your view as well, which means the puppet analogy holds stronger than ever. I think your words here indicate that while you give lip service to alternative possibilities and power to do otherwise in your view, your view really has no room for such things, which has been my point all along.

    In other words, if Christ did more than just “know” what Peter was going to do, but spoke immutable words to Peter about the sinful decisions Peter would make prior to the making of those choices, His words can no longer be classified as mere foreknowledge, and Peter’s actions can no longer be classified as having alternative possibilities, and thus Libertarian Free Will cannot apply to Peter’s choices.
    I doubt you will agree with this point, but it seems incontrovertible to me!

    See my comments above. Your conclusions simply do not follow despite how things might seem to you.

    I need to mention, again, that my view and the view of historic Calvinism are decidedly NOT “exhaustive determinism.” The view is a Biblical form of compatibilism which leaves much room for human freedom.
    In support of that notion, I would refer you to this book:

    This is an amazing claim on your part. You have already affirmed more than once that your view holds that everything has been predetermined by way of God’s unchangeable eternal decree. Well, that is exhaustive determinism and this is most certainly the historic view of Calvinism. As has been already said and documented, compatibilism still holds to exhaustive determinism, even though it posits a form of “free will” that is made to conform to exhaustive determinism. It is like you have now changed your position or something, or are trying to shift the nature of this discussion from what it has been about from the beginning. So you now deny that everything that happens has been decreed and determined by God? So which things do you now hold can and will happen that God has not predetermined?

    Yoo effectively points out that early Reformed thought is not at all synonymous with mere “determinism.”

    I read the excerpt from the book that you provided in the link. The claim is that John Edwards argued for a form of divine necessity and did not rule out “free choice” and “the power of contrary choice.” However, the excerpt does not say how Edwards came to these conclusions or describe how such things can be the case. You have to buy the book to see that, which I am not willing to do at present. If you have it and have read it, please feel free to enlighten us as to his argumentation. I have no problem with that. However, I have two problems with the book to this point:

    1) It is not proper to say that Calvinist thought on determinism and its relationship to “free will” has been misunderstood and misrepresented based on the writings of John Edwards. Many others have written on the subject from the reformed camp and they certainly do advocate the form of compatibilism that is also accepted by contemporary Calvinists (and they derive this directly from Calvin, the Westminster confession, etc.). So while Edwards may represent a different view, that does not mean his view is how “historic reformed theology” has largely understood divine determinism and free will.

    2) While Yoo does not give the argumentation in this excerpt, his characterization of “free will” sounds strikingly like the same sort of compatibilist definitions that we have been discussing. In footnote 2 on page 13 he writes, “When I use the term free will, unless otherwise noted or is obvious from the context, I am referring to the freedom from compulsion that is part of the nature of the faculty of will (voluntas). Nevertheless, when I directly quote Edwards’ or other figures’ primary sources, I will not make any change for their use of terms.” (emphasis mine) That sounds exactly like the typical understanding of compatibilist free will which simply defines free will as freedom from compulsion (not being forced to do something against one’s will). So if he is offering something new, then it is hard to tell what that might be. Again, if you have read the book, please feel free to enlighten us (whenever you get the time, of course)

    It is also unclear what you mean when you say, “mere determinism”, but seems that from your further statements below, you simply mean a determinism that denies any sort of free will (see my comments below). But, nobody is denying that many Calvinists have still used the words “free will” and argued for a concept of “free will” in the context of determinism, but that doesn’t make determinism any less deterministic. Even the many things that you have said in this exchange firmly establish that. Traditional Calvinist Compatibilism has never claimed that determinism is not exhaustive, which is why your claim above is truly baffling.

    In summary, it is simply untrue to say that historic Calvinistic compatibilism is “fully deterministic,” if by “deterministic” is meant a ruling out of genuine human freedom.

    Derek, this is really rather silly. For as often as you like to complain about straw men, don’t you see how this last post of yours is essentially a straw man? The debate has been about what exhaustive determinism necessarily entails. Nobody denied that compatibilists have their own special version of freedom. That is not the issue. The issue is whether or not their special version of free will does anything to alleviate the problem that determinism (which compatibilists plainly hold to) creates in that we can still only move as we are moved and everything we do is predetermined so that we can only move or think or act just as we have been predetermined to think, move or act.

    On compatibilism, we still have no control over our wants, desires or actions. I have quoted well known and well respected Calvinist compatibilists on this point, and their description of compatibilism is not novel (even if some Calvinist like John Edwards, contra well known compatibilists like Jonathan Edwards, have argued otherwise, which remains to be seen). According to compatibilism, our desires (or “wants”), which we have no control over, dictate our actions in a way that we likewise have no control over. So that certainly does render us very puppet like in that we can only move as we are moved and have no control over how we are moved about. No traditional Calvinist compatibilist will deny this, though they might rail against the inevitable implication that this does indeed render us puppet like. So you (and compatibilists) are still left with the same problem you began with. In determinism (and in compatibilism), we can only move as we are moved, and we have no control over how we are moved about, just like a puppet can only move as it is moved and has no control over how it is moved about.

    The whole point of compatibilism is to make room for genuine human freedom alongside the operation of determinism or something like it.

    But this “genuine freedom” does nothing to change all of what I just said with regards to the unavoidable implications of the view, given its “incontrovertible” commitment to exhaustive determinism. And, Of course, I deny that compatibilist freedom is “genuine” freedom. That is exactly the problem with compatibilist freedom as I see it: It is contrived freedom, rather than genuine (it is just being “free” in the sense that God decrees for us to want to do what He has decreed for us to do). As I mentioned before, we could say a puppet is “free” in a contrived way as well, since nothing hinders it from moving just as it is moved. In other words, it is free to move as it is caused to move. That’s pretty analogous to compatibilist freedom to me, and that is why it is not properly called “genuine”.

    On another note, check out the school of philosophy known as “comprehensive compatibilism” — they actually believe that determinism and indeterminism are both true! I am not saying I subscribe to this, but it is illustrative of the vast diversity within the world of “compatibilism,” and the fact that compatibilism does not necessarily equate to metaphysical determinism. Jonathan Edwards (the American) certainly doesn’t have the last word on this. John Edwards (the Englishman) was perhaps more reflective of a consistent, Reformed approach on this topic.

    Perhaps he was, and perhaps he was not. Perhaps he was just more inconsistent than Jonathan Edwards. Still, Calvin held to determinism and this has always been a primary (if not the) primary feature of Calvinism ever since. It is basically synonymous with Calvinism. I understand that some, like Muller, want to say that historical Calvinism wasn’t a certain sort of determinism (though it is hard to tell what sort it is and what sort it isn’t), but how the “proper” sort of historical determinism relieves the tensions I have outlined with regards to the puppet analogy is still, well… a “mystery.” As far as “comprehensive” compatibilists, as long as they still hold to determinism, the same problems necessarily apply. If they hold that determinism is compatible with LFW, then that is plainly contradictory and even more incoherent than the view for which you have been advocating.

    There are many other avenues of thought and questions that I would have enjoyed exploring with the various commenters on this thread; however, I have attempted to stay focused on the primary issues and maintain direct interaraction with you, Ben.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but to chuckle a little at this statement.

    (and I am fairly sure you have not yet reckoned with the realities of Reformed Historical Theology, as well).

    Based on what?

    Nevertheless, I gladly call you “brother” and pray you are greatly blessed in all things. Have a great weekend, brother!

    Likewise.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  91. Quick question, in light of the appeal to Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial:

    Does 2 Kings 20 shed any light on this issue? What do we do with God telling Hezekiah that he’s going to die, then turning around and specifically and explicitly changing that decree as a result of Hezekiah’s prayer? It seems to me that this is a case of God explicitly changing his pre-ordained plan as a result of a prayer made in time by one of this creatures (and it also seems to me that in Hezekiah’s prayer and Peter’s pride and panic, we have two different reactions to knowledge of God’s pre-ordained plan).

    I go into this question a little (a lot?) more here: http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/2012/05/changing-future.html

    Can this be a possible solution to the “problem”?

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