Calvinism And The Fall: The Problem Ignored Again

Just saw this post called “Man’s Will: Before And After the Fall” which opens with these words:

Augustine and the Calvinistic tradition in general define the will’s freedom, or lack thereof, in relation to sin. Why? Because this is how the Bible defines it. Jesus declared “everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36) Augustine understood that before the fall, Adam was “able to sin and able not to sin“, that he, as representative of the human race, was in a probationary state, not sealed in righteousness (like the glorified saints). Likewise regarding man’s condition after the fall he said we are in the sad condition of being “not able not to sin” So Augustine understood the Bible to be teaching that Adam (pre-fall) was free in regards to sin’s bondage but his willful act rendered his post-fall descendants to be in bondage to corruption; to have a will that is no longer free at all (apart from grace) to make God-pleasing redemptive choices. It is worthwhile to remember this in your discussions about free will, because the historical debate about free will refers to man’s condition in sin after the fall (emphasis mine).

As usual, while this Calvinist refers to Augustine to describe the difference between pre-fall and post-fall abilities, the problematic implications of Augustine’s view for traditional Calvinist views on sovereignty (defined as determinism in Calvinism), free will and foreknowledge are conveniently ignored.  Sorry, but you just can’t have your cake and eat it too.

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3 Responses

  1. Well, Total Depravity is a lot easier to argue than meticulous providence. I remember my first conversation with my FNC (Friendly Neighborhood Calvinist), when he was genuinely surprised to have me push back on secondary causes. “So what causes us to have a sin nature? Yeah-huh. And what caused Adam to sin? Yeah, so…what caused SATAN to sin?” He had simply never thought what had to be at the beginning of all those secondary causes, and to this day he admits he has no answer.

    Also, you gotta love the supporting quotes, especially the one from Calvin: Man’s will is “self-determined”? It can’t be SELF-determined if it’s also determined by God, bro! In a deterministic framework, NOTHING is self-determined! It’s a contradiction in terms that a 3rd grader would catch!

  2. Since Calvinism is dedicated to a fully deterministic cosmology, there are actually multitudes of things within the scheme, which function as “MEANS” to an end. Determinism is a world of falling dominoes, each and all, functioning as a “MEANS” to the ultimate end.

    Since a basic tenet of Calvinism is: A **fixed** number of human souls designed specifically for a lake of fire, then (assuming we fully acknowledge the “dominoes” of determinism), it should be easy to see “Total Depravity” simply functions as one more “MEANS” to an end.

    Calvinists call “Total Depravity” a cause, in order to distance their deity from sinful/evil events, and thereby present a cosmetic appearance of orthodoxy. But the logician doesn’t fall for the ruse.

  3. Good points br.d. I like how Thomas Ralston showed this to be the case with regards to the Calvinist appeal to motives (as supposed means or secondary cause) irresistibly determining our choices:

    “Let us now contemplate these motives which are said to act upon the mind so as necessarily to influence the will. Let us look them full in the face, and ask the question, What are they? Are they intelligent beings, capable of locomotion? Are they endued with a self-moving energy? Yea, more: Are they capable of not only moving themselves, but also of imparting their force to something external to themselves, so as to coerce action in that which could not act without them? If these questions be answered in the negative, then it will follow that motives, considered in themselves, can no more act on the mind so as necessarily to determine the will, than a world can be created by something without existence. If these questions be answered in the affirmative, then it will follow that motives at least are free agents – capable of acting without being acted upon, and endued with self-controlling and self-determining energy. Necessitarians may fall upon either horn of the dilemma; but upon which horn soever they fall, their system must perish.”

    “If the attempt be made to evade this by saying that motives do not act themselves, but God is the agent acting upon man, and determining his will through the instrumentality of motives – if this be the meaning, then I demand, why not call things by their right names? Why attribute the determination of the will to the influence of motives, and at the same time declare that motives are perfectly inefficient, capable of exercising no influence whatever? Is not this fairly giving up the question, and casting “to the moles and to the bats” the revered argument for necessity, founded upon the influence of motives?”

    “Again, to say that motives exercise no active influence, but are only passive instruments in the hands of God by which he determines the will by an immediate energy exerted at the time, is the same as to say that God is the only agent in the universe; that he wills and acts for man; and, by his own direct energy, performs every physical and moral act in the universe, as really and properly as he created the worlds; and then that he will condemn and punish men everlastingly for his own proper acts! Is this the doctrine of philosophical necessity? Truly it is. And well may we say this is fatalism! This is absurdity!”

    Full article: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/08/18/thomas-ralston-on-freedom-of-the-will-part-9-the-doctrine-of-motives/

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