Judicial Hardening: God’s sinless use of sinful actions

Judicial Hardening: God’s sinless use of sinful actions

There is no small debate when it comes to understanding God’s sovereign control over moral evil. There are typically three main examples referenced from scripture in this discussion:

  1. Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Gen. 50:20
  1. Pharaoh hardened by God to accomplish the Passover: “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” Ex. 9:12
  1. The Crucifixion of Jesus: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross…They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 2:23; 4:28

All Christian scholars can agree that God at least allowed these sinful actions to take place for a greater plan and purpose. We can also all agree that God’s involvement was completely sinless. We could simply stop there and appeal to the mystery as to how God works in such instances, but philosophers are going to do what philosophers are going to do: philosophize.

Some have theorized that God is “meticulously deterministic” in his involvement of such instances. For example, John Hendryx, from monergism.com, speculates:

“In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism. For example, God is said to specifically ordain the crucifixion of His Son, and yet evil men willfully and voluntarily crucify Him (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). This act of evil is not free from God’s decree, but it is voluntary, and these men are thus responsible for the act, according to these Texts. Or when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, Joseph later recounted that what his brothers intended for evil, God intended for good (Gen 50:20). God determines and ordains that these events will take place (that Joseph will be sold into slavery), yet the brothers voluntarily make the evil choice that beings it to pass, which means the sin is imputed to Joseph’s brothers for the wicked act, and God remains blameless. In both of these cases, it could be said that God ordains sin, sinlessly. Nothing occurs apart from His sovereign good pleasure…

 Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor separately from God’s meticulous providence. Furthermore, compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise…” (emphasis added)

In this theory, God is involved at the level of determining men’s evil desires in such a manner that they could not have refrained from the given moral action (see the underlined portions above). In other words, Hendryx supposes that God brings these evil events about by meticulously determining all the circumstances and the evil desires of man. Hendryx denies that people ever have the ability of contra-causal choice (the ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). Instead, Hendryx is arguing that man is acting in accordance with the desires and circumstances that God has meticulously determined.

Hendryx intentions are noble because he clearly strives to maintain that God remains sinless in all His dealings, but I believe the compatibilist’s theory falls short in accomplishing that goal. James 1:13 teaches, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” Yet, would Hendryx have us believe that God refrains from tempting but somehow determines the very desires of the temper and the tempted so as to necessitate the sinful action in every circumstance? This theory simply cannot be supported from the whole counsel of scripture.

Please allow me to propose another theory.

[SIDE NOTE: Notice that I call it a theory and refrain from speaking with dogmatism and authoritative certainty about matters where scripture is not abundantly clear. Also notice that Hendryx and I share the same exact goal. We both desire to explain, from scripture, how God works in relation to moral evil while remaining sinless. Hendryx is not a heretic. I’m not upset with him. He is working with good intentions to best reflect what he believes scripture is revealing. He should be admired for such effort. I simply believe his speculations go too far and thus do not adequately reflect the revelation of God in scripture.]

I believe at times throughout history God does intervene to determine some things. That is what makes these things “of God” and uniquely supernatural. I also believe God uses means similar to what the compatibilist speculates in these instances. I do not believe, however, these unique determinations prove God’s meticulous determination of all things, especially man’s evil intentions. In fact, in every one of the instances listed above the purpose of God’s unique intervention is clearly redemptive. I refuse to believe God is merely seeking to redeem the very evil intentions and actions that He Himself determined.

How does God bring about these purposes while remaining sinless if not in the manner the Compatibilist supposes?

HARDENING

To be clear on this point there are two kinds of hardening taught in scripture.

  1. Self-hardening: This is where a morally accountable person, who is able to refrain or not refrain from given moral actions (contra-causally free), grows stubborn or calloused in his own ways.*
  1. Judicial-hardening: This is God’s active role in blinding an already rebellious person in their rebellion so as to prevent their repentance for a time. God’s motive is ALWAYS to accomplish a greater redemptive purpose through their rebellious actions (often including the potential redemption even of those being judicially blinded).*

 (*see footnote for biblical citations and further explanation)

In my view, judicial hardening is simply hiding or confusing the revelation of truth that could otherwise lead to repentance (Mark 4:11-12; Rom. 11:8). So God is not said to have caused or enticed anyone. He simply lets them continue down their already contra-causally free, self hardened path and makes sure no revelation convinces them to repent prior to His redemptive purpose being served.

Consider this analogy: When a police officer sets up a speed trap he has one ultimate desire: to stop speeders for the safety of all. However, by hiding the truth of his presence he is ensuring that those who want to speed will continue to do so. Thus, in one sense he wants the speeders to continue to speed so as to catch them speeding, but his ultimate purpose is the same: to stop speeders for the safety of all. The police officer does not determine the speeders desire to speed in any way, he simply hides the truth so as to ensure the speeder will continue to speed, something they have contra-causally chosen to do.

Let’s look at another analogy. Suppose my 4 year old daughter was told that she is not to take cookies from the cookie jar. In another room, out of sight, I see into the kitchen that my daughter is looking at the cookie jar. She looks around the room to see if anyone is watching. As a parent, I can tell what she is thinking. She is about to steal a cookie and she knows she is not supposed to.

Now, I could step into the room so that she sees me prior to her committing this sin. Upon seeing me she would forego her evil plot and give up the idea of getting the cookie (at least until the next time she was alone). However, suppose I decide to not step into the room. I remain out of sight to allow her to be tempted and then pounce into action to catch her with her hand in the cookie jar.

Now, by not stepping in at the moment I saw she was being tempted did I cause the temptation? No. I allowed it to continue, but I did not cause it. I did not determine for her to desire to steal. I could have prevented the action by simply showing myself, but I chose not to do so.

This is like judicial hardening. By simply hiding the truth (i.e. that I was present and watching) I allowed my daughter to be tempted and to act in sin. Am I in any way culpable for that sin? No. I merely allowed it though I could have stopped it.

Could God have stepped into the 1st century and clearly shown Himself in Christ to make all the Jews of that time believe Him? Of course. He could have ordained a “Damascus road experience” with all the Jews if He wanted to. He didn’t.

Instead we see Christ telling his disciples to keep things quite until the right time (Matt. 16:20). We see him hiding the truth in parables (Mark 4:11). WHY? If all people are born deaf, blind and unable to understand to the truth why would he need to do this? He did it because He did not want them to come to repentance YET (not until after he is crucified and raised up does he draw all men to himself). This PROVES that Jesus knew the truth was more than sufficient to draw the lost to repentance. He had a bigger redemptive purpose to accomplish through them first, so he blinded them from that enabling truth.

KEY POINT: Don’t allow the context of that judicial hardening of the Jews cloud your view of men’s inherent nature. Men are very much capable of hearing, seeing and repenting when confronted by the powerful gospel truth if they have not been judicially blinded to that truth (see Acts 28:27-28).

 Application

  1. Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Gen. 50:20

God’s ultimate purpose, like that of police officer, is only good. The brothers intention, like that of the speeders, is not good. God’s sovereign plan is to use their (contra-causally free) evil choices to accomplish His redemptive purpose, much like the officer’s plan to accomplish his purpose through the free choice of speeders. God’s intention is ONLY to redeem, save, and restore throughout this entire event yet to do so he must permit evil men to fulfill their own evil desires.  There is no reason to suggest God determines the desires of the brothers anymore so than there is to suggest the police officer determines the desires of the speeder.

  1. Pharaoh hardened by God to accomplish the Passover: “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” Ex. 9:12

Pharaoh contra-causally chose to rebel against God.  God chose to blind Pharaoh from the truth so as to ensure he would remain in that rebellious condition until the redemptive purpose of the Passover was accomplish (a foreshadowing of Israel’s hardening to accomplish the true Passover with Christ).  The text never suggests that God refuses Pharaoh the ability to refrain or not refrain from his morally evil actions.

  1. The Crucifixion of Jesus: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross…They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 2:23; 4:28

Hendryx points people to God’s determination of the crucifixion, “the worse evil of all time,” to prove his perspective of meticulous providence. His argument goes something like this: If God determined the worse evil of all time without blame then we should be able to accept that God can determine all evil events without blame.  First, I have no problem ‘blaming,’ or should I say ‘crediting,’ God with the redemption of sin as accomplished through the crucifixion.  While I agree that God did determine the cross by actively intervening in our fallen world to ensure it came to pass, by means of judicial hardening, I fail to see how that proves God likewise determined and actively worked to bring about all the sin that needed redemption on that cross.  Are we to believe God determined to redeem his very own determinations?

Foreknowing that someone will contra-causally choose to sin, as I did with my daughter standing in front of the cookie jar, does not in any way imply such knowledge causes, determines or necessitates the desire of the sinner to sin.  There is no reason we cannot merely accept that God is able to foreknow contra-causally free choices even though an element of mystery remains in the infinite nature of the one who knows.

In short, I believe God knows the choices of His creatures because He is omniscient, not because He is omni-deterministic. 

*Notes taken from study of various systematic theologies and commentaries:

  1. Self-Hardening of the heart goes beyond the tragic obtuseness of our inherited condition in the Fall of man. Working on the fertile soul of our innately immoral hearts, the act of sinning hardens the heart into a stubborn rebellion against all that is good. So, people may harden their own hearts, in sinful rebellion, in bitterness, or in sheer self-will. (Ex. 9:34-35; 2 Chron. 36:13; Zech. 7:12; Dan. 5:20; Eph. 4:18; Heb. 3:12-15)

This type of self-hardening is most clearly seen in Zech. 7:11-13:

“Your ancestors would not listen to this message. They turned stubbornly away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the law or the messages that the LORD Almighty had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the LORD Almighty was so angry with them. ‘Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me,’ says the LORD Almighty.”

  1. Judicial Hardening — In a few instances such as Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Ex. 7:3; 9:12), Sihon, king of Heshbon (Deut. 2:30), and the Hivites living in Gibeon (John 11:19-20), it is said that God hardened their hearts. Apparently these people were so irremediable in their rebellion against God that God entered into the hardening process so that he could accomplish his purposes in spite of, and yet in and through, that hardenness. It is God’s prerogative, as God, to do this (Rom. 9:18-21). That they are morally responsible for their condition is a theological given, and we are warned not to harden our hearts as they did, a command that would make no sense if hardening were simply God’s act (1 Sam. 6:6).

Israel’s hardening as a nation was an act of self-hardening followed by God’s act of judicial hardening as clearly portrayed in the scripture (Matt. 23:37; Rom. 10-11).

God tells Isaiah that Israel, with its calloused heart, will reject him as God’s messenger when he goes to them (Isa. 6:9-10). The event was taken as prophetic by Jesus (Matt. 13:14-15) and Paul (Acts 28:25-27) as referring to Israel’s rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah. For Paul, Israel’s hardening paved the way to a ministry of ingrafting the Gentiles (Rom. 10-11; Acts 28:28) and was not intended by God to be final, but only until the fullness of the Gentile’s ingrafting was accomplished.

Only the Word of God has the power to cut or pierce a hardened heart (Heb. 4:12) and he has given that word through his Son, the Apostles, the scriptures and by his Spirit all of which can be resisted and ignored as seen throughout the Bible as the hardenness and callousness of the heart only grows thicker with each act of rebellion.

According to scripture only those in a hardened state are unable to see, hear, understand and believe (Acts 28:26-28: John 12:39-40). Calvinism’s doctrine of Total Depravity teaches that everyone is essentially born in this condition due to the Fall of Man. The doctrine of Original Sin can clearly be seen in the scripture, but the Calvinistic system takes this foundational truth one step further by teaching that after the Fall God removed man’s capacity to willingly respond to the call of the gospel, yet God, according to Calvinism, still holds men responsible for that response. I can no longer see this as being a biblical position.

Bibliography. B. S. Childs, Exodus, pp. 170-75; L. J. Kuyper, SJT (1974): 459-74; H. Rä sä en, The Idea of Divorce Hardening; K. L. Schmidt, TDNT 5:1028-31.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/hardening-hardness-of-heart.html

49 thoughts on “Judicial Hardening: God’s sinless use of sinful actions

  1. Pastor Flowers writes, “I believe God knows the choices of His creatures because He is omniscient, not because He is omni-deterministic.”

    Let’s add sovereignty to God’s omniscience. To be sovereign means that God exercises complete control over all that He knows is to happen. It means that God decides/determines the future. We conclude this because God necessarily decides whether (1) to intervene in any future event to prevent that event and produce a different outcome, or (2) to do nothing and allow events to play out naturally to achieve the foreknown conclusion. Either way, God’s decisions determine what happens. Since God is both omniscient and sovereign, it must be true that God is omni-deterministic (He determines all events) – all future events are certain because of God’s omniscience and sovereignty.

    The issue now becomes the starting point for people’s personal decisions. Pastor Flowers writes, “Calvinism’s doctrine of Total Depravity teaches that everyone is essentially born in this condition due to the Fall of Man….the Calvinistic system takes this foundational truth one step further by teaching that after the Fall God removed man’s capacity to willingly respond to the call of the gospel, yet God, according to Calvinism, still holds men responsible for that response.”

    Calvinism says that Adam’s sin removed man’s capacity to willingly respond to the call of the gospel. Thus, Jesus can tell the Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” Paul tells believers, “in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” This is one aspect of original sin. Adam’s children were corrupted by Adam’s sin and they were not born with free will – “they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;…to be carnally minded is death;…Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

    Total Depravity says that people are corrupt and naturally desire to sin but are not as sinful as they want because God restrains them. Thus, God did not allow Joseph’s brothers to kill him but only to sell him into slavery and this to accomplish His purposes while holding the brothers accountable for their action.

    If Total Depravity does not apply, then all people are born with a free will – essentially as Adam possessed. Anyone with free will yields to the gospel when it is preached to them. People with free will can only be denied salvation by God’s judicial hardening. They may self-harden themselves, but because of their free will, the preaching of the gospel will still result in them yielding to the gospel.

    Thus, under Pastor Flowers system, people go to hell only because they are judicially hardened by God, and it is God who chooses whom He will judicially harden and send to hell.

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  2. I agree with Rhutchin in this sense, if God’s omniscience is defined as knowing all eventual human choices before creation then they must be foreordained by Him and His sovereignty guarantees them. But I would add against Rhutchin and Calvinistic objections, that such divine sovereign preordination must include Adam’s freewill sin and thus make God culpable for all mankind’s sin. So, instead, I believe Scripture’s definition of God’s omniscience and sovereignty is that He knows, according to the sovereign plan of His purpose, all the possibilities of human decision and only the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities.

    The Scripture’s voluminous use of commands to the unregenerate and regenerate and its voluminous use of subjunctives (might, may, could, should) clearly indicate the truth of free will, responsibility, and open possibilities. Add to that the passages that clearly indicate that God is still sovereignly making decisions (e.g. Jer. 18, 1Cor. 12:11), clearly refutes the false doctrine that everything has been preordained, unless, of course, the Scripture is lying to us and human philosophy’s definition of sovereignty is correct. (NOT!)

    As Brother Flowers correctly summarizes – “throughout history God does intervene to determine some things.” And judicial hardening to further the gospel for others has been one of those things. Whether the judicial hardening is just allowing sinful hearts continue without God’s gracious intervention of conviction and enlightenment or it is a more active hardening so that even with the word preached there is no effect, all glory still goes to God for drawing each person to at least one enlightened, convicting moment where they become response-able to accept or reject the salvation He paid for in Christ! (John 12:32, 1:9, 16:7-8)

    One question, Brother Flowers – Have you considered that if judicial hardening makes it divinely impossible for someone to believe during that period of being hardened, even if they hear the gospel at that time, wouldn’t it follow that depravity from Adam may be equally as hardening so that only divine enlightenment and conviction can and must aid the preaching of the gospel to give a hearer, “ears to hear”? The reception of salvation becomes possible at those moments when the hardening is removed, but not irresistible. That salvation can still be resisted, otherwise the Scripture’s warning would be senseless which says – Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart.

    As a side note of interest, as you have pointed out with excellence in this post and others, God used the hardening of Jews in Jesus day to guarantee His death and payment for sin. I like the fact that at least some of those hardened priests, and hardened Pharisees, like Paul, had their judicial hardening removed and were given the opportunity to believe (cf. Acts 6:7, Phil 3:7-9)!

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    1. Brian asked: “One question, Brother Flowers – Have you considered that if judicial hardening makes it divinely impossible for someone to believe during that period of being hardened, even if they hear the gospel at that time, wouldn’t it follow that depravity from Adam may be equally as hardening so that only divine enlightenment and conviction can and must aid the preaching of the gospel to give a hearer, “ears to hear”?”

      Does scripture teach this anywhere? It appears to me that Israel was pretty unique in their being judicially hardened or ‘cut off’ (Mark 4:11-12, John 12:39, Acts 28:27-28, Rom 11:7-8).

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      1. Brother Flowers, Perhaps I am not understanding the limitations on the meaning of judicial hardening that you are making. I reread your post on the Walking Dead to try to understand your view on the depravity received from Adam and its accompanying inability. Whatever that inability entails, it seems that you agree that we did receive from Adam a nature that has been judicially limited in its ability (Rom. 5:12, Eph. 1:1-3) and that God’s grace in some form is necessary to overcome those limitations in ability to provide a bona-fide offer of the gospel that makes a person enlightened enough and convicted enough to receive salvation, but not irresistibly.

        You yourself pointed out passages where others were judicially hardened in the OT that weren’t Israelites. I would suggest that Paul and Barnabas (if you accept him as Hebrews’ author) and John all warn of a judicial hardening that will be impossible to overcome when the gospel is thoroughly rejected (2Thess. 2:11-12, Heb. 6:4-6, Rev. 14:10-11). I think it is reasonable to see that these warnings are not just for Israel, but are also examples of divine hardening.

        Add to this that self-hardening (and Adamic or temporal judicial hardening) must be overcome by God’s grace for a person to be enlightened and convicted enough to be able to receive the gospel. I think the parable of the sower indicates that just the preaching of the gospel seed alone does not produce salvation. But God does promise that every person will have a merciful opportunity shown at some point, even if, I believe, they were judicially or self-hardened before they ever hearing the gospel for the first time. So it might not be the first time that they audibly hear the gospel that they will have that mercy of actually hearing it. This is why I think Jesus kept saying – “He that has ears to hear, let him hear” and why the warning stands “Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart.” Once you have that opportunity to truly believe, God is no longer obligated to give you another one, in my view!

        Here is an additional and final verse in answer to your request that I especially like, because it helps counter the Calvinist’s misuse of Rom. 9:15-24 in their false teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation. It is found in one of Paul’s concluding thoughts from this context – Rom 11:32 “For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” Yes, salvation not based on man’s will, but on God’s mercy to enable everyone’s will at some point to be convinced of and able to receive His salvation, but not irresistibly.

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    2. brianwagner writes, “I believe Scripture’s definition of God’s omniscience and sovereignty is that He knows, according to the sovereign plan of His purpose, all the possibilities of human decision and only the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities.”

      We can speak of “all the possibilities of human decision” as existing prior to the creation of the universe. When God creates in Genesis 1, God has selected from among an infinite set of possibilities to make certain one unique set of possibilities. “..the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities,” was accomplished at Genesis 1. Before Genesis 1, any event is possible; at Genesis 1, the decisions God made render everything that follows certain. Those things that God “freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities,” was rendered certain at Genesis 1. History unfolds according to God’s plan which encompasses all the decisions God made about possible events; that plan was settled at creation.

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      1. You can repeat your view, Rhutchin, over and over without biblical evidence. But it is only a theological, philosophical guess, that God decided everything before Gen. 1:1 and left no possibilities for free-will interaction for Himself and mankind during human history. And you not only do not provide biblical evidence for your view… you go without reasoned rebuttal against the clear biblical evidence that I provided in my comment.

        It truly baffles me why you want to tenaciously hold on to, and repeat, your position without giving biblical support for it or without offering reasoned contextual alternatives to the Scriptural evidence that counters your view. Love for the truth should counter every loyalty to long held positions or to favorite theological gurus! We should never be afraid to love God enough to say, “I was wrong, even for years,” when the clarity of His truth undoes your dogmatism!

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      2. brianwagner writes, “it is only a theological, philosophical guess, that God decided everything before Gen. 1:1 and left no possibilities for free-will interaction for Himself and mankind during human history.”

        BUT earlier, he said, “I agree with Rhutchin in this sense, if God’s omniscience is defined as knowing all eventual human choices before creation then they must be foreordained by Him and His sovereignty guarantees them.”

        So, yes, I define God’s omniscience as “knowing all eventual human choices before creation.” Necessarily, because of omniscience, if God knows X in 2014 then God knew X when He created the world.

        Now, you seem to have a different definition of omniscience. Just to play fair, can you give us your definition of God’s omniscience so we know how you came to the conclusion that it is not true that knew everything before creation and consequently, not true that “God decided everything before Gen. 1:1.”

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      3. Rhutchin, perhaps I was not clear, but I think that if you read my initial post above again, you will see that I was quoting the logic of your definition of omniscience for Brother Flower’s benefit. It was his post to which I was replying. But I then clearly gave my definition of omniscience and sovereignty in opposition to yours, and in fact you even quoted it in your reply to my post! Now you are asking for it again and have suggested that I had not played “fair” in not giving it before! You really do confuse me! I wish you would admit these silly discussion mistakes you are making, and would do a better job of reading the posts and editing your replies before hitting the “post comment” button.

        I do think there is also another underlying issue that perhaps I should have addressed earlier. Where should we get our definitions for theological words like omniscience and sovereignty? Should we get them from man-made dictionaries or theological textbooks, especially the most popular ones? Or should we get them from how the Bible discusses these subjects by doing our own full study of each related context? Should we just assume those popular dictionaries and textbooks got it right? What biblical evidence did they use in support? What biblical evidence did they misuse or miss altogether?

        Omnipotence, for example, does not mean God can do anything! The Bible says God cannot lie! So there is something He cannot do. Immutability does not mean God can not change in anyway! For the Bible says that God became man! That was certainly a big change! Omniscience cannot mean God knows everything! For the Bible has Jesus, who is God, saying “Depart from me, I never knew you,” and “not even the Son of Man” knows the day or hour of His return.

        So for you to say Omniscience means knowing (and ordaining) all eventualities of human decision before creation, without any biblical support, is just a less-educated guess, nothing more. But when I say that omniscience means knowing fully all possibilities that truly exist within the limits of God’s plan and all eventualities that He has planned, and then I give reasonable biblical support for that definition, where’s the problem, even it disagrees with some popular theological textbook?

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      4. brianwagner writes, “I then clearly gave my definition of omniscience and sovereignty in opposition to yours, and in fact you even quoted it in your reply to my post! ‘

        What you said was, “He knows…all the possibilities of human decision and only the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities.”

        What does the phrase, “…the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities,” really mean. To what should we point in the Scriptures to lead us to this? As possibilities seem to come before and eventualities after, you are identifying a logical order. Nonetheless, both possibilities and eventualities must be known before creation as God is omniscient before creation and after. You seem to be trying to split hairs where there is no room for such. Are you saying anything other than that God knows all events of history and knew them at creation.

        brianwagner also writes, “So for you to say Omniscience means knowing (and ordaining) all eventualities of human decision before creation, without any biblical support, is just a less-educated guess, nothing more.”

        Must we re-invent the wheel. This is a settled matter as far as theology goes. Are you proposing that God knows certain things before creation and then knows additional things after creation?

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      5. Well you are doing a little better Rhutchin, for at least you almost affirmed that I had indeed given my definition of omniscience in my first post of this discussion. It would be nice if you would admit your oversight of it. That would foster a more collegiate atmosphere to our discussion.

        You ask for further meaning and biblical support for my definition of omniscience. Does it help to say, that the Scripture clearly teaches that some events were ordained before creation, but it never says all events were ordained at that time? God can only know as eventualities the events He ordains. You even conceded that God knew all possibilities before creation, but then, without biblical proof you dogmatically state that He got rid of all possibilities by ordaining every future event. I have already given clear biblical support that shows that true possibilities still exist right now (evidenced in biblical commands, subjunctives, and God’s active ordaining). Did you read that evidence? Do you have a specific response to that evidence. Or do you have any evidence of your own from Scripture to prove that all things were ordained before creation?

        I am not re-inventing the wheel! I am throwing out the flat tire that traditional theology has created and going back to the wheel that the Lord invented in His Word! I am sure Luther was confronted by many who said, “Why are you Luther re-inventing the definition of salvation that ‘is a settled matter as far as theology goes.” Thankfully Luther went back to Scripture and saw clearly that the so-called “settled matter” was a false gospel. He then tried to redefine faith, grace, and Scriptural authority back to their biblical definitions. I hope you will do the same thing Rhutchin concerning omniscience, and also, like Brother Flowers has successfully done, concerning God’s mercy for all mankind!

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  3. I don’t know exactly why but I am always helped by illustrations that involve cookies.

    Merely calling a logical contradiction “compatible” does not make it so. Saving faith cannot be both irresistible and voluntary.

    Thanks Leighton

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  4. brianwagner writes, “God can only know as eventualities the events He ordains.”

    Therefore, given that God ordains all events so God knows all events – “eventualities” in your language.

    Brianwagner writes, “You even conceded that God knew all possibilities before creation…”

    This means that God was aware of the variety in decisions He could make and the implications of His deciding in one direction rather than another. When God created, He decided all things. There could be nothing to be decided later that could not be known when He created else God would not be omniscient.

    brianwagner writes, “…without biblical proof you dogmatically state that He got rid of all possibilities by ordaining every future event.

    Let’s rehearse that which we are both already aware. The psalmist writes, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” In Revelation, we read of the Book of Life, “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast,…Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” In Isaiah, God says, “Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counsellor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?…his understanding no-one can fathom…“Present your case,” says the LORD. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come tell us what the future holds, so that we may know you are gods.”…I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” To these, we can add the prophecies, particularly of Christ and of His coming to die and to judge the world. What we take from these, and all the Scriptures say, is that God is omniscient and nothing is hidden from Him; God knows all that has happened, is happening, and will happen – He has ordained all. What is it that God did not know about his earth when He created it?

    brianwagner writes, “I have already given clear biblical support that shows that true possibilities still exist right now (evidenced in biblical commands, subjunctives, and God’s active ordaining). Did you read that evidence? Do you have a specific response to that evidence. Or do you have any evidence of your own from Scripture to prove that all things were ordained before creation?”

    You cite a couple verses which you seem to misunderstand. God’s commands and subjunctives do not negate His knowledge else He would not be omniscient – or do you mean to argue that He is not? God is not ordaining anything new; He is bringing about that which He has ordained – “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” It is God who determines the work of His spirit – who else? Will you argue that God did not already know His will as expressed in 1 Corinthians when He created the world?

    You defined omniscience to include “…only the eventualities of those human choices as He freely ordains during human history to limit those possibilities.” So, you have God ordaining – or bringing about – in the course of history those things He knew already when He created the world. No one disagrees that God works in our lives within a historical context to bring about various things. That God does so does not say that God did not know that He would do these things all along.

    What point are you arguing here – pertaining to God’s omniscience? Are you saying that God knows some things when He creates the universe and then learns additional things later on? Can you state what you believe about omniscience – in terms that address the issues you seem to contest?

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    1. Thank you Rhutchin for making a more reasonable attempt by actually trying to give some biblical support for your definition of omniscience and trying to give some response to the biblical support I raised for my definition of omniscience. When you asked – “What point” is being argued, I was taken back a little. We both believe that omniscience means knowing all things, generically speaking. But I would believe you would agree that God only knows things as they truly exist. Where we differ is whether the fact that all things were pre-ordained before creation truly exists or whether that fact that exists is that God ordained before creation that there should be still a huge number of true possibilities and only a limited number of pre-ordained things. God knows which fact between these choices truly exists.

      You rattled off a number of Scripture quotes to support your view of omniscience. You should give references when you discuss evidence from Scripture so that the individual can check the context more quickly. Generally speaking, none of your verses clearly state that God ordained all things before creation. The only verse that even mentions creation is the quote you gave from Rev. 13:8 (cf. 17:8) and that verse does not say “before creation” but “from creation”. The inference in that passage is that names are added to the Book of Life “from creation” on, if one wants to make a reasonable inference.

      All the other passages support the idea that God has ordained or planned within human history to control outcomes in the future and then He can even state the prediction that He has made such plans and has that control. And you are wrong about my misunderstanding of 1Cor. 12:11. It does not say “as He willed” but “as He wills” (present tense). Either He is truly making choices or the Scripture is lying.

      Your response – “God’s commands and subjunctives do not negate His knowledge else He would not be omniscient” is an obvious evidence that you are not yet truly ready to jettison your loyalty to man-made traditional definitions even if the tenor of Scripture obviously rejects that definition. And I am not negating God’s knowledge in anyway. I believe I am glorifying it, by truly representing it according to His self-revelation in Scripture and not according to man’s philosophy.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “We both believe that omniscience means knowing all things, generically speaking. But I would believe you would agree that God only knows things as they truly exist.”

        Just for clarification. Are you Open Theist?

        “…generally speaking.”!! What does that mean? God knows all things – including the future. Presumably, you have no problem with God knowing all things in the present and in the past. Your problem seems to be with the future. Omniscience means that God knows the future as He does the past – everything in the future is certain because of omniscience; there are no “possibilities” for anything to happen different than God knows them to be.

        So, how do “possibilities” exist? What do you mean by that? In His omniscience, God knows every second of your day on March 1, 2015 – as well as every other person. He has known this since creation – many would argue from eternity but creation can be used as a reference point.

        The real issue for you seems to be God’s sovereignty. That God is omniscient has less impact until we add God’s sovereignty. So, at issue seems to be God’s sovereignty. However, even this is settled. Sovereignty means that God exercises complete and total control over all events. This means that for any event, it is God who decides either (1) to actively intervene to direct an event to the conclusion He wants or (2) passively allow events to proceed to their natural conclusion without interference from Him. Thus, any future event has already been settled by God – God has already decided His response to every event in the future. The future is as settled as the past from our perspective; from God’s perspective all events are as past events.

        You write, “And you are wrong about my misunderstanding of 1Cor. 12:11. It does not say “as He willed” but “as He wills” (present tense). Either He is truly making choices or the Scripture is lying.” If God is omniscience, then where the Bible says, “He wills,” then we understand that God has known His will from the creation and brings about His will in the course of history. It does not mean that God only then decided what he would do. God had always known what He would do.

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      2. Here we are again Rhutchin, where we have been before on other pages on this website. We are speaking past each other, and you are just repeating your loyalty to your definitions of sovereignty and omniscience and ignoring the biblical evidence and reasoning I provide to counter those definitions. You can have the last word, but you must admit that you have taken a verse – 1Cor. 12:11 – that says clearly God is now deciding things in human history and you are saying that because of your theological traditional definitions of sovereignty and omniscience it really can not mean that, because you must believe everything was previously decided! As for your question if I am an Open Theist, you will have to tell me what you mean by that label, though I do not think labels are usually very helpful. I like to limit my labels to evangelical, fundamental, baptistic, and dispensational, if that helps any. How about you, besides the label Loyal Calvinist? 🙂

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      3. brianwagner writes, “We are speaking past each other, and you are just repeating your loyalty to your definitions of sovereignty and omniscience…”

        I use those definitions that people have held in the past. What this shows is that you recognize the difficulty omniscience and sovereignty pose to those seeking to develop theologies and who are trying to avoid the implications of both.

        Your use of 1 Corinthians to show that God is making decisions in “human history” accomplishes nothing (besides being a wrong understanding). Any decision that God supposedly makes in “human history” would be a decision that God had already made in “God’s history.” That which God wills and brings about in the course of “human history”, as in 1 Corinthians, was decided long ago. God’s omniscience includes all that God has willed or currently wills. As Psalm 139 and other passages tell us, God knows the future and has always known it – from the creation onward.

        We are speaking past each other because you are in denial about omniscience and sovereignty and I am not. You need to come to an understanding of both omniscience and sovereignty before trying to explain anything else the Bible tells us. So, far, you have avoided giving sound definitions of each concept telling readers that you have not done your homework on this.

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  5. Doug Sayers writes, “Saving faith cannot be both irresistible and voluntary.”

    Why not? That a person finds something irresistible does not negate the freedom he exercises to choose – even when certainly being influenced in his choice by that irresistible allure. That eternal life is more attractive – even irresistibly so – than eternal death does not mean that a person chooses life against his will or involuntarily. If a person were to choose eternal death, we might think that he did not do so voluntarily and that something was wrong. Pastor Flowers says such a decision comes because God has judicially hardened the person so that he will not choose life.

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  6. Pastor Flowers writes, “Hendryx denies that people ever have the ability of contra-causal choice (the ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). Instead, Hendryx is arguing that man is acting in accordance with the desires and circumstances that God has meticulously determined.”

    Let’s read this in context. People are born sinners and sin because they are sinners. That is the essence of Total Depravity. So, all people are Totally Depraved, and it is because of this depravity that people do not have “the ability of contra-causal choice.” God decided/determined that all people would be born in a depraved state as a consequence of Adam’s disobedience.

    We see the effect of this illustrated in Romans 1, “…when [people] knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,…”

    2 Peter 3 offers another illustration, “…For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:”

    Instead of having “the ability of contra-causal choice,” unsaved humanity is marked by willful ignorance. That ignorance is the absence of contra-causal choice.

    The preaching of the gospel frees the person leading them to accept salvation. The exception, as Pastor Flowers argues, are those that God has judicially hardened denying them the opportunity to accept salvation.

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  7. Pastor Flowers concludes, “The doctrine of Original Sin can clearly be seen in the scripture, but the Calvinistic system takes this foundational truth one step further by teaching that after the Fall God removed man’s capacity to willingly respond to the call of the gospel, yet God, according to Calvinism, still holds men responsible for that response. I can no longer see this as being a biblical position.”

    Whereas Calvinism concludes that God must intervene in the lives of the unsaved to enable the gospel to affect salvation, Pastor Flowers proposes that God must intervene in the lives of the unsaved to prevent the gospel from affecting salvation. He has made an interesting distinction. I look forward to analysis of this view by the RC Sprouls of the world.

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  8. Let us assume that libertarian free will which could trump God’s plan is the reality. How does then God achieve his plan? Let us say, Judas decided not to betray Jesus. Or Jewish religious leaders thought that Jesus is not that big of an issue and decided not to pursue him. How is God going to respond in such a situation under your scheme? Or do you believe that God did not have a plan to begin with and He responds as and when each situation pops up in whatever He could do? That was not very clear from this article.

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    1. In our view LFW doesn’t trump God’s plan, it is God’s plan… He designed us with response-ability (the ability to respond). The infinite manner in which God works his plan out despite and even through the free choices of man is beyond our comprehension or ability to explain. If we could explain it then it wouldn’t be all that impressive, now would it?

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      1. That is what I believe too. I don’t see anything to disagree there. I believe that our free will choices are under the overall creative decree of God. God execute His creative decree through the freewill choices of men.

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      2. I believe in freewill that is subject to the creative decree of God. For example, Judas chose freely to betray Jesus, but Judas could not have done otherwise as it would go against creative decree of God.

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      3. Pastor Flowers writes, “In our view LFW doesn’t trump God’s plan, it is God’s plan… He designed us with response-ability (the ability to respond). ”

        By free will, the idea is usually contra-causal freedom. To say that the will is “free” to do this or that – contra-causal freedom – requires three things.

        1. A person must have an awareness of the choices available (e.g., eternal life and eternal death).
        2. A person must have some sense of the value inherent in the choices that exist.
        3. A person must be able to rationally choose this or that.

        In the salvation case, where the choice is between eternal life and eternal death, the person with contra-causal free will always chooses eternal life. If a person chooses eternal death, that tells us that he had no free will and was enslaved to his depraved will and Satan. Judas did not have free will, as we are told “after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That you do, do quickly.” Judas then went out to conspire with the Jews to take Jesus while under the control of Satan.

        God designed people with response-ability, but this was destroyed when Adam sinned. It is only when God restores that response-ability through regeneration that a person is then able to choose salvation which he then does naturally through contra-causal choice.

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      4. Rhutchin you cannot bring back contra-causal choice to the elect after regeneration and remain true to Calvinistic determinism! And if you do, then there is no reason to believe that it is not only possible but consistent with the teaching of Scripture that God can bring all the unsaved to have the ability of contra-causal choice without needing regeneration, but only divine enlightenment and conviction so that they can accept or reject the offer of the gospel (John 1:9, 16:8-9).

        You present a false disjunctive syllogism when you say the choice to the unbeliever is between everlasting life and everlasting death. There are more choices that you are ignoring. The choices are to either trust Jesus and HIs offer of forgiveness and everlasting life or to trust that other survival possibilities are still available after death or that the Jesus choice can be accessed later. The warning “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Heb 3:7-8) is still being avoided by you! It cannot be for the elect in the Calvinistic system, since if they hear His voice they supposedly cannot harden their heart, and it must be for those who actually do hear HIs voice, and receive an opportunity to come to salvation but not irresistibly!

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      5. brianwagner writes, “there is no reason to believe that it is not only possible but consistent with the teaching of Scripture that God can bring all the unsaved to have the ability of contra-causal choice without needing regeneration, but only divine enlightenment and conviction so that they can accept or reject the offer of the gospel (John 1:9, 16:8-9).”

        Anyone with contra-causal freedom will choose consistent with enlightenment and conviction else he was neither enlightened nor convicted.

        In John 1:9, ” every man” refers to both Jews and Gentiles.

        In John 16:8-9, “the world” also refers to both Jews and Gentiles.

        One of the basic themes of the NT is that salvation is not just for the Jews; it is for Gentiles, also. It is especially prominent in John.

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      6. brianwagner writes, “You present a false disjunctive syllogism when you say the choice to the unbeliever is between everlasting life and everlasting death.”

        The Scriptures present one choice – eternal life vs eternal death – “That whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

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      7. brianwagner writes, “The warning “Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart” (Heb 3:7-8) is still being avoided by you! It cannot be for the elect in the Calvinistic system, since if they hear His voice they supposedly cannot harden their heart, and it must be for those who actually do hear HIs voice, and receive an opportunity to come to salvation but not irresistibly!”

        I see no reason why it should not apply to the elect who are addressed as Brethren–
        12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
        13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
        14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
        15 While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts,…

        So Paul warns in Galatians–

        6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
        7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

        Then in Timothy–

        12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
        13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
        14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

        It is proper to warn the elect (believers) of the spiritual warfare in which they are engaged.

        10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
        11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
        12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
        13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

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      8. Rhutchin, I am glad that you finally interacted with John 1:9 and 16:7-8, which I have referenced often. You have clearly demonstrated how some Calvinists twist the Scripture away from its contextual meaning by trying to make it fit into their theological system. Give the Bible to 100 unsaved people (for whom John was written) and ask them to look at the contexts of John 1 and 16 and then at the verses 1:9 and 16:7-8, and then at the words “every man” and “world”. Even let them choose between the meanings “every individual person in the world” or “Jews and Gentiles as groups”. The contextual meaning is evident. God was not trying to hide or confuse His meaning!

        And you also ignored commenting on the reasonable choices for rejecting the gospel that I listed, falling back on your false disjunctive syllogism as having to be true, just because you say so!

        Finally, I will recommend that you look more closely at the context of Hebrews 3 and Galatians (the Timothy and Ephesians passages are irrelevant). Both Hebrews and Galatians were written to professing Christians, some of whom are in danger of being lost forever because they are hardening their hearts. The use of the address “brethren” or the pronoun “you” when preaching to a crowd of professing believers does not guarantee that everyone in that crowd is truly born again. Ask any preacher of the gospel. But the warnings that some of them may end up lost forever are real! And the appeal to their true “response-ability” to heed that warning is real!

        Calvinism takes the Bible out of the hands of the people for whom it was written and says to them – “God really did not mean what you think it says. He does not enlighten every man. He does not convict everyone in the world. Jesus was not the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. God does not want all to be saved. God did not plan for everyone to come to repentance, but planned for some to perish!”

        Such twisting of the Scripture does not indicate whether a Calvinist is saved or lost himself, but it certainly hinders the prayers and efforts to truly love all the lost and give the gospel to all the lost! Many of these Calvinists are brilliant, but their willful loyalty to traditional definitions and philosophies and to the brilliant men who posed them willfully deadens their ability to humbly see what the plain teaching of Scripture is concerning our merciful God who wants to demonstrate His mercy more than His wrath!

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      9. brianwagner writes, “let them choose between the meanings “every individual person in the world” or “Jews and Gentiles as groups”. The contextual meaning is evident. God was not trying to hide or confuse His meaning!”

        The basis for the focus on Jews and gentiles is Ephesians 3, “If you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you: How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:”

        Now, you need to show that Scripture that supports your contention that “every individual person in the world” is in view. If you cannot do so, you are advocating that we give priority to man’s wisdom over God’s revealed wisdom.

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      10. brianwagner writes, “And you also ignored commenting on the reasonable choices for rejecting the gospel that I listed, falling back on your false disjunctive syllogism as having to be true, just because you say so!”

        If you can provide Scriptural support for your alternatives, they are open for discussion. If you just made them up, let’s not waste our time.

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      11. brianwagner writes “Calvinism takes the Bible out of the hands of the people for whom it was written and says to them – “God really did not mean what you think it says. He does not enlighten every man. He does not convict everyone in the world. Jesus was not the propitiation for the sins of the whole world. God does not want all to be saved. God did not plan for everyone to come to repentance, but planned for some to perish!” ”

        When God created the world, He knew His elect and the reprobate. History would play out as God knew it would and His elect would come to salvation and the reprobate would not. On this we must both agree.

        God enlightens and convicts His elect leading them to salvation. Does God enlighten and convict the reprobate? Since they do not come to salvation, there is no purpose to God enlightening or convicting them. Since the reprobate do not come to salvation, you only speculate – you imagine – in saying that God enlightened/convicted them.

        As the elect and reprobate were known to God when He created the world, and history proceeds in accordance with God’s omniscience, it is impossible that God have wanted all to be saved and that the reprobate were to perish from the beginning.

        If you intend to give up omniscience or deny that omniscience encompasses all future events, then you can proceed in your fantasies. Otherwise, you should give them up and give God glory for what He is doing even if you do not understand why He is doing it this way.

        As 1 John 2 tells us that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the world and Calvinists agree, that is not an issue.

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      12. I am praying for you Rhutchin that the Lord will reveal to you how your trust in a theological/philosophical system has led you to twist the meaning of important Scriptures out of their contexts. Please stop taking verses that correctly demonstrate God’s grace to groups (Jews and Gentiles) to undermine the contextual meanings of other verses that teach His grace is universal. Please!

        Paul said that the Lord loved him and gave Himself for him (Gal. 2:20). It would be ludicrous to use that verse and say it proves that “every man” in John 1:9 and “world” in 16:7-8 really only means Paul. Please stop leading others to trust a system of theology instead of the clear teaching of Scripture. Please!

        And you are certainly not familiar with Calvinist teaching on 1John 2:2. Some Calvinists (Pink) actually try to use your false connection to Jew and Gentile to undermine the meaning of “the whole world” in that verse. Calvinists do not believe Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world if they believe in Limited Atonement as taught by most self-proclaimed Calvinists. Read Calvin on this verse.

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    2. brianwagner writes, “Rhutchin you cannot bring back contra-causal choice to the elect after regeneration and remain true to Calvinistic determinism! ”

      Basic Calvinism is that people are Totally Depraved being enslaved to sin and having no free will. Through regeneration, God removes that depravity sufficient to return free will enabling a person to respond to the gospel.

      Under Calvinism, determination is not causation.

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      1. Pastor Flowers writes, “When you say that regenerate man are free, do you mean libertainly free? They are able to refrain or not refrain from moral actions?”

        Free only with respect to a salvation decision – having “ears to hear.” Moral decisions require the renewing of the mind – “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (i.e., free from sin)

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      2. The Bible does not indicate anywhere that regeneration is necessary for a man to have “ears to hear” to respond to salvation’s invitation. It is more normal to point to verses about God’s gracious enlightenment, conviction, and the power of the gospel to enable all to have “ears to hear” at some point in their lives. But with that hearing of the invitation comes the clear biblical warning – “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” This is a warning that does not fit into Calvinism!

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  9. I think you’ve got a bit of rosy view of judicial hardening as always being for a “redemptive purpose.” Consider one of the original “judicial hardening” passages quoted so often from Isaiah:

    Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed.

    Redemptive purpose? Not so much.

    Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate,

    Ah, but when it’s quoted in the NT we get all gracey with it? Let’s take a look:

    Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

    Redemptive purpose? Not so much.

    For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

    Right after this Christ quotes that original passage in Isaiah to reemphasize his point. Come to think of it, it wasn’t so redemptive for Pharaoh either.

    I also find it quite a bit hypocritical that you reject “prevenient grace” a doctrine well attested among theologians and in Scripture because, you say, because you “prefer to avoid theological jargon” when other Biblical words suffice and the term itself is not found in the Bible and find it “redundant and unnecessary to give it another theological name.” Hello “judicial hardening” much? Why not just call it “judgment,” or you could even call it “the Gospel” or “revelation.” But no, you love the fancy complicated term “judicial hardening” because it helps you fight a particular theological idea Calvinists hold. I think you’re being quite a bit arbitrary picking and choosing terms for your own purposes, and also playing a bit fast and loose with the text to make judicial hardening mostly redemptive. I think your ministry and blog would garner a whole lot more respect and influence if you exercised a little more intellectual rigor, diligent honesty in the Word and a bit more open to listening to valid theological ideas of those gone before you (such as prevenient grace).

    I’m a supporter but I’m not just gonna give you cotton candy feedback. I think your ministry could be something even more effective then it is.

    Let a righteous one strike me in kindness,
    and let him chasten me.
    It is oil for my head; let not my head refuse.

    blessings

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      1. Prevenient simply means “preceding in time” and grace is a very biblical term. So it’s just a way of saying God gave us grace before salvation, which is very much a Biblical phrase. cwutididthere :p

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  10. you say:
    The doctrine of Original Sin can clearly be seen in the scripture, but the Calvinistic system takes this foundational truth one step further by teaching that after the Fall God removed man’s capacity to willingly respond to the call of the gospel, yet God, according to Calvinism, still holds men responsible for that response. I can no longer see this as being a biblical position.

    The reason you can no longer see it as a Biblical position is because you reject prevenient grace. By rejecting prevenient grace you change a lot of the Biblical ordering of salvation and come to false conclusions, such that Total Depravity leaves humans some wiggle room for self-goodness in your theology until a definite point that the Word of God comes (which alone is sufficient grace in your view, whereas the Bible says one sows and another reaps), then you see a yes/no choice as determining an eternal destiny (since you also believe in the unbiblical “eternal security,” a term found nowhere in Scripture… another theological redundancy to be sure, but one that fits your theology). In your view of the “Word” being the embodiment of all the grace we need, there is absolutely no need for “preparing the way of the Lord,” or “making ready a people prepared for the Lord,” since the Lord can just show up and that’s all the grace they need.

    But the Bible doesn’t give us that simplistic picture: it gives us a picture of total depravity followed by a series of prevenient graces, leading up to a choice into salvation or judicial hardening, which leads further on to more grace and a steadfast righteousness until the end, or a falling away and shipwreck of faith. Take away parts of this soteriological chain, and things start to not fit Scripture anymore. Once we see that prevenient grace matches total depravity in a beautiful harmony that retains free will, we see a paradigm that fits the whole counsel of God. No longer do we have to attribute any inherent goodness to human beings, yet still we can retain their autonomy, thus preserving the fact that no one, on their own, would seek God, but that a human can still “find grace” in the sight of YHWH. We can also preserve true doctrines of election and names written before the foundation of the world, while retaining autonomy and depravity, due to foreknowledge of the various disobediences and judgments given over time.

    Thus rather than all being given the same grace, the disobedience of many prevents the grace of God from reaching many, rather than God himself decreeing humans be lost or sinful. Under this view, judicial hardening is really a true judgment of God—a wrath of God revealed from heaven, due to a suppression of the truth. And God may use men’s sins for his purposes, but he would never allow a judicial hardening just for a redemptive purpose, a notion that seems to make the judgments of God kind of a game almost as much as Calvinism. As if, you allowed your daughter to sneak into the cookies while watching, not so that you could instruct her that disobedience is bad, but so that in the end, her and all her friends could get even more cookies, but she just can’t have a cookie now because that would prevent more cookies later. Judicial hardening is not this kind of disingenuous ulterior-purposed act in Scripture, but rather a straightforward judgment for resisting the Holy Spirit.

    Otherwise God is using a sin now to later have mercy on others, and I don’t think that what Romans 11:30 means. God in his mercy may have used the disobedience of the Jews to show mercy to the Gentiles’ disobedience, and mercy towards the Gentiles’ disobedience to have mercy back on the Jews’ disobedience, but God didn’t play an “active role” in “preventing their repentance,” nor was God’s motive just to give more cookies later. His mercy may know no bounds, but his judgments are not things he uses to show mercy, mercy and judgment are antithetical ideas, as James shows us when he contrasts mercy triumphing over judgment. It would be like saying Adam’s sin was just “judicial hardening” of the human race so God could use it to later send Jesus to save those hardened. God doesn’t make us trip so that he can be the “hero” to catch us when we fall—human sin produces judgment.

    Thus I don’t think judicial hardening should be viewed this way, as somehow an avenue of God using his judgments to bring further mercy, because God is just that merciful and gracious: even though God is absolutely merciful and gracious, it’s disrespectful and wrong to see his judgments as something other than real judgments for human sin that should be seen for what they are and not irreverence as a further means of mercy. God’s mercy stands on its own as his constant calling men to repentance, patient forbearance and deep forgiveness, but not his judgments or judicial hardenings. As Paul said, how much better would it be if the Jews had life from among the dead—whatever judicial hardening God used among the Jews, there would have been a greater spiritual harvest if that hardening had never been necessary. The wages of sin is always death.

    bless

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