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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8 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/

  4. One thing I notice is that many Calvinists claim Libertarian free will is incoherent but that Adam had it before the fall. Or that free will entails open theism but that Adam had it before the fall. The only consistent ones are those who say Adam didn’t have free will even prior to falling.

  5. Giles,

    That is exactly right. Did you click the post highlighted at the bottom of this one? It deals with some of those issue in more detail and is the post this one is a follow-up to. Here it is in case you missed it:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/sin-reprobation-and-foreknowledge-the-calvinists-attempt-to-have-their-cake-and-eat-it-too/

  6. The controversy of Libertarian free will in Calvinism:

    quotes from: “Jonathan Edwards on God and Creation” – by Oliver D. Crisp – page 61

    “Consider the….dogmatician Johannes Heidegger, who reasons that god cannot will other than he willed. That is, he cannot will “by some other act.”

    [Here Heidegger rejects god has access to “do otherwise” or “alternative possibility” as part of his rejection of libertarian freewill]

    Yet Heidegger also wants to say that “by one and the same act of willing God **MAY WILL DIFFERENTLY**; e.g. that events should be one way and another and so that different sets of things should exist”.

    But Heidegger’s observations can only help the theologian willing to concede that God’s freedom is compatiblist all the way down.

    In other words, Heidegger’s way of “solving” the difficulty can only have purchase if God is not indeterministically free in any aspect whatsoever. But this is just what Calvinist divines like Turretin deny for the very reason that they want to allow that God DOES have LIBERTY OF INDIFFERENCE when it comes to the created order.

    So it seems that at least some of the reformed were susceptible to a sort of THEOLOGICAL DOUBLETHINK about divine freedom………This THEOLOGICAL DOUBLETHINK concerning divine freedom was not a novelty generated by the reformed. Their medieval forebears had bequeathed it to them.” page 61

  7. Rational reasoning identifies DOUBLE-THINK as appearing in two forms, per Aristotle’s “Square of Opposition”. DOUBLE-THINK inherently occurs with two propositions at odds with each other. One denies (in some way) what the other asserts.

    The two forms of DOUBLE-THINK:
    The “Universal Positive” AND “Universal Negative” are contrary to each other.
    The “Universal Positive” AND “Particular Negative” are contradictory to each other.

    That God ordains via decrees *ALL* things which come to pass, is a “Universal Positive” proposition. Combining all Calvinist re-affirmations to this, we derive a “Composite” Proposition.

    God’s causal role in *ALL* events is *omnipresent* causation. Even a discrete secondary cause is not possible without God causing that specific discrete event to occur.

    Pantheism is the belief that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. (i.e., God is in everything). So Pantheisitic causality would be the idea that God causes *ALL* things which come to pass.

    The Calvinist’s struggle with his “Universal Positive” proposition is the ethical, moral, baggage that comes with it, which compels him to assert his second “Particular Negative” proposition (i.e., God does not cause SOME things which come to pass).

    This is the Calvinist rocking horse. He asserts a “Universal Positive” proposition and then works to deny it, hoping we are not savvy enough to see the DOUBLE-THINK. The bible calls this an “uncertain sound”.

  8. Thanks for the link.

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