Purposeless Evil?

In order to prepare for a debate with Dr. James White I have been listening and reading through many various online discussions. Recently I have come across a troubling and quite confounding argument made by my Calvinistic friends. They seem to insist that all the heinous evil in our world must have been meticulously brought to pass by God’s sovereign plan otherwise it would prove (1) God has no purpose for evil’s existence or (2) He is powerless to do anything about it.

For instance, James White was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?”

He answered, “Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose… and God is responsible for the creation of despair… If He didn’t then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose.” (See comments for original source)

Another Calvinistic scholar, Matt Slick states,If libertarians were correct in that man has ‘free choice,’ then when man committed a gross evil against his neighbor, the evil committed would have been pointless. That is, if God had no control over what, where, or when evil took place, then it only naturally follows that the suffering produced from the evil was without purpose, and thus pointless. For example, if someone were robbed and beaten, and yet God had no say in the crime whatsoever (for it was a free, uninhibited action based upon the criminal’s free will), then the person robbed would not have only been unjustly treated, but the evil he endured would have had no point to it.  It was just a spontaneous action from a criminal.  God is sort of left helpless in the matter.” [Quotes taken from Matt Strider’s Blog]

I agree with what Matt Strider concludes, “It is obvious both Matt Slick and James White are committing the logical fallacy of a false dilemma. Namely they are insisting that there exists only two alternatives or solutions to a problem when in fact there are other valid options to be considered.”

Logical fallacies confound the issue and at times they can convince unsuspecting listeners of an argument’s validity. This approach is very similar to the fallacious question asked by Calvinists regarding the boast worthiness of the libertarian’s decision in salvation (see HERE). But, I assure you there is not much substance behind either of these baseless arguments. Let’s unpack it.

What Calvinists fail to acknowledge is that in our system evil is a consequence of autonomous human freedom (something they presume cannot exist). And, in fact, we do believe that God does have a purpose in giving man the ability to make autonomously free choices. So, it is only in presuming that God did not purpose to create autonomous creatures that one is left with the dilemma of either (1) God purposing evil or (2) purposeless evil. I believe a clear distinction must be made in the idea of God actively purposing evil and His actively using evil for His good purposes. The former impugns his Holiness while the latter highlights His redemptive sovereignty and ultimate glory as the perfect, sinless Creator.

So, in short, the Calvinist has assumed our premise cannot be true (question begging) and concluded that God is either (1) purposing all evil or (2) the existence of evil has no purpose (false dichotomy). Thus, their argument, once again, rests on a fallacy. Calvinists should be asking what we believe God’s purpose is in creating autonomously free creatures, not merely presuming He hasn’t, or couldn’t even if He so desired.  (And in turn we should be asking Calvinists what they believe God’s purpose is in creating non-autonomous creatures that He Himself determines to do evil.)

Historically, non-Calvinists have not avoided addressing this question. I believe CS Lewis gives the most plausible answer:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it–it is worth paying.”

 For another answer to this question, listen to this clip from Ravi Zacharias: HERE

But what is the answer for the Calvinist? Since God is obviously fine with determining mankind to think, believe and act as He determines, then why not just create them as He wishes them to be from the beginning? Why determine suffering, rape, molestations, and the like in order to produce in creatures what clearly He is more than willing to determine in them apart from such means anyway?  To claim there is a purpose in a given act of evil, one must establish what purpose that given evil act accomplished that could not have been accomplished equally as well through non-evil means.  The concept of “purposeful means” is a problem for the Calvinist.

For instance, in Romans 11:14 Paul anticipates that envy might provoke his fellow countryman so that they may be saved. What specific purpose does provoking a man to envy accomplish that is not effectually accomplished by the inward work of regeneration supposed by the Calvinistic system?  What actual purpose do signs and wonders fulfill that is not likewise accomplished by the effectual calling?  Calvinists claim to affirm the need of means but deny the purpose behind what makes such means necessary in accomplishing their biblically stated purpose.  After all, a man unconditionally elected and effectually regenerated, regardless of whether of not he sees a sign or is provoked by envy, will certainly be saved.  So too, a world with or without suffering, rape, molestations and other such “heinous means” would produce the same determined product if God so determined it.

Why condemn most of humanity to eternal torment in order to show those he determined to believe how great He is…as if He couldn’t have determined believers to fully realize that without the rapes, suffering and torment? Plus, does anyone really believe such deterministic teaching makes God appear more merciful or glorious to those of us he has saved? Even Calvin called reprobation a dreadful decree and most Calvinists speak of how difficult it is to accept these doctrines. In fact, many remain “closet Calvinists” and use fake names on twitter so as not to reveal their true beliefs due to the difficulty they impose.  If God’s purpose is to reveal to us something glorious about Himself, then why do so many of his own followers find such doctrines so incredibly terrible instead?  Why have doctrines that are meant to glorify God been splitting his bride in two for most of Christian history?

Maybe God just determined His church to be split over this issue? Why do you suppose that is?  Could it be that your false views about God are the autonomous cause of such strife in our churches?  I know that is a difficult thing to ponder, but mustn’t we all willingly and objectively consider that possibility? After all, think about it.  Either we are correct and Calvinism is causing unwanted strife in the church by their own autonomous choosing, OR God has determined for the non-Calvinists to cause these battles.

My dear Calvinists friends, you cannot get around this fact: Non-Calvinists are either correctly standing in defense of God’s glory or God has determined for us to be incorrect for the praise of His glory.

71 thoughts on “Purposeless Evil?

  1. Pastor Flowers writes, “For instance, James White was asked, ‘When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?'”

    God is both omnipresent and omnipotent. When a child is raped, God is present fully aware of the situation and watching events leading up to the rape and the trauma following. God is sovereign and in complete control of these events. The events cannot proceed without God making the conscious decision that they should – God could decide to step in and stop everything as God always exercises free will.

    Did God decree the rape by virtue of the conscious decision He made not to intervene to stop it? The Calvinist conclusion: Yes?

    Did God prompt the perpetrator to rape the child or cause the rape by any means? No.

    Is God ultimately responsible, even though not causing, everything that occurs? Yes. Why? Because He is sovereign and nothing can happen and nothing does happen unless God consciously decides, as sovereign, that it should.

    You say, “What Calvinists fail to acknowledge is that in our system evil is a consequence of autonomous human freedom (something they presume cannot exist).” It is impossible to there to be “autonomous human freedom” if God is sovereign. God, in His sovereignty, can decree that humans be allowed freedom to do evil such as rape a child. No human acts autonomous of God. A human acts “autonomously” within the constraints imposed by God. Either God is sovereign or man acts autonomously: both cannot be true at the same time.

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    1. You said, “God is both omnipresent and omnipotent. When a child is raped, God is present fully aware of the situation and watching events leading up to the rape and the trauma following. God is sovereign and in complete control of these events. The events cannot proceed without God making the conscious decision that they should”

      SHOULD? God is not APPROVING of or WILLING or DESIRING or DECREEING or in any active manner BRINGING TO PASS these horrible and terrible things (Jer. 7:31; Jam 1:13— these passages are just as inspired as the rest of the passages Cals quote to prove their views)

      God infinite ways are DIFFERENT than ours. We don’t have to imagine God sitting in the room of the rapist watching along nodding, while saying to himself, “Yes, this is what I think should happen.” That is ABSURD and offensive to every fiber of my being and ALL that I know of my Lord. The Spirit in me is revolted by this kind of speculations…

      I beg of you to read the Sermon on the Mount with fresh eyes and see how Jesus turns the OT up on its ear from the way they had come to understand the nature of God… 5 times he states, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” What is Jesus saying? He is saying that there are some common misapplications of the OT that need to be righted here. Two of them are vital to our conversation….

      Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it two miles. 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him.

      Love for Enemies
      43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

      God’s nature in regard to “Justice” is revealed…not eye for eye but MERCY
      God’s nature in regard to “Enemies” is revealed…not revenge and hate but LOVE and MERCY

      God is not a hypocrite who tells us to do that which He himself does not do. He shows love and mercy to all his enemies, just as he commands us to do. His perfect nature is marked by LOVE and MERCY, not HATE and JUSTICE.

      You say, “Did God decree the rape by virtue of the conscious decision He made not to intervene to stop it? The Calvinist conclusion: Yes?”

      And i would clarify by saying he did not prevent it, but HE DID NOT ACTIVELY DECIDE IT SHOULD HAPPEN. There is a difference whether you are willing to acknowledge it or not. There is a CLEAR and undeniable difference in God purposing evil and God redeeming evil for his good purposes.

      You say, “Did God prompt the perpetrator to rape the child or cause the rape by any means? No.”

      So, God is not sovereign over man’s desires/promptings? This is called “an inconsistent Calvinist” by scholars like Phil Johnson and other compatibilists…see monergism.com

      You say…”Is God ultimately responsible, even though not causing, everything that occurs? Yes. Why? Because He is sovereign and nothing can happen and nothing does happen unless God consciously decides, as sovereign, that it should.”

      Here is the contradiction that I was referencing… you say “God doesn’t prompt” so what/who does? You may say, “the nature of man.” And I ask, who determined his nature in such a way that he would certainly make that choice? So you aren’t getting around the problem of your systems claims. Only by acknowledging the freedom of man and revealing God in the way HE chose to reveal himself (as upset with sin, as not desiring it, as going to redeem it, as going to reconcile, etc) can you avoid this horrible way of seeing God.

      You say, “You say, “What Calvinists fail to acknowledge is that in our system evil is a consequence of autonomous human freedom (something they presume cannot exist).” It is impossible to there to be “autonomous human freedom” if God is sovereign.”

      I think my blog post HERE answers this objection sufficiently. Thanks

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      1. Pastor Flowers writes, “You say, “Did God prompt the perpetrator to rape the child or cause the rape by any means? No.”

        So, God is not sovereign over man’s desires/promptings?”

        This, a non sequitur. People are prompted/driven by their sin nature to both desire and carry out evil acts. God must actively restrain the evil that people desire and seek to do else we would be living in the days of Noah. God is sovereign over a person’s desires meaning that He knows those desires and consciously decides that evil people should be consumed by their desires and even that they be encouraged/prompted by Satan in those desires. Per Ephesians 1:11, God “works all things after the counsel of his own will:” As much as you don’t like it, this includes the evil as well as the good. Fortunately, God “works all things together for good to them that love God (i.e., to believers).” Of course, that does not mean that only good things accrue to believers as the experiences of Joseph, Daniel, Stephen, Paul and others attest.

        You also write, ” God is not APPROVING of or WILLING or DESIRING or DECREEING or in any active manner BRINGING TO PASS these horrible and terrible things…” Will you deny that God is present whenever people perpetrate evil? Will you deny that God knows even the thoughts and intents of the heart even before a person things them? Will you deny that God has the power to intervene to stop any and all evil. Will you deny that God exercises absolute control over each and every thing because He is sovereign?

        If you cannot deny any of these things, you have no argument. God does not have to give wicked people any ideas; God does not have to tempt wicked people; wicked people have more than enough imagination and evil desire to think up evil things with which to amuse themselves and this even without the help of Satan.

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  2. RHUTCHIN writes: “Did God decree the rape by virtue of the conscious decision He made not to intervene to stop it? The Calvinist conclusion: Yes”

    As Flowers has pointed out you are not unfurling the full banner of Calvinist theology in all its “glory.” You are being inconsistent because you cannot stomach Calvinist logic en toto. It is not enough to qualify the Calvinist view as simply God refusing to step in and intervene to stop rape from occurring. Since you are a Calvinist you must believe that all things are ordained by God and God’s ordinations are unconditional–that is to say they are not conditioned on any foresight God had as to man’s future actions. In Calvinism God is the conceptual origin (author) of everything men do. So what you should have said is, “In the Calvinist view did conceptual author and decree the rape by virtue of his own sovereign, unconditional predeterminations and then choose to not prohibit his own sovereign ordinations? Yes.” (Because it is patently absurd to say God allows or permits what he unconditionally determined ought to occur…as if God must get permission from himself to carry out his own decisions!”)

    If God being the conceptual origin for ALL evil is too unpalatable a pill for you to swallow RHUTCHIN then spit it out and stop calling yourself a Calvinist. Shalom.

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    1. stridermtb writes, “Since you are a Calvinist you must believe that all things are ordained by God and God’s ordinations are unconditional…”

      Ana as we both seem to know, God’s decision are His decrees to ordain all that happens. In none of this is God normally the cause of the event in question (exceptions being the impregnation of Mary, the confrontation with Saul on the Damascus Road, and such).

      So, I don’t know what your issue is here. If God does not cause, or need to cause, the events that He decides/decrees/ordains, what is your issue?

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  3. RHUTCHIN writes: “Did God decree the rape by virtue of the conscious decision He made not to intervene to stop it? The Calvinist conclusion: Yes”

    As Flowers has pointed out you are not unfurling the full banner of Calvinist theology in all its “glory.” You are being inconsistent because you cannot stomach Calvinist logic en toto. It is not enough to qualify the Calvinist view as simply God refusing to step in and intervene to stop rape from occurring. Since you are a Calvinist you must believe that all things are ordained by God and God’s ordinations are unconditional–that is to say they are not conditioned on any foresight God had as to man’s future actions. In Calvinism God is the conceptual origin (author) of everything men do. So what you should have said is, “Did God unconditionally conceive and decree every act of rape by virtue of his own sovereign, unconditional predeterminations and then choose to not prohibit his own sovereign ordinations for rape to occur? Yes.” (Because it is patently absurd to say God allows or permits what he unconditionally determined ought to occur…as if God must get permission from himself to carry out his own decisions!”)

    If God being the conceptual origin for ALL evil is too unpalatable a pill for you to swallow RHUTCHIN then spit it out, embrace a true portrait of God and stop calling yourself a Calvinist. Shalom.

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  4. Rhutchin, so you agree that God’s holy mind is the conceptual origin and author of every act of evil human choose? Do you also agree that God’s unconditional predeterminations are irresistible?

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    1. stridermtb writes, “…so you agree that God’s holy mind is the conceptual origin and author of every act of evil human choose?”

      I don’t see how we can draw that conclusion. I think we can attribute the conceptual origin and author of every act of evil humans choose to Satan who tempted Adam/Eve to put into their minds the thought to eat the fruit and has always tempted people and then to the desires and imaginations of depraved sinners. I don’t see that God must originate these things as Satan ans depraved humanity are more than capable of evil imaginations. What do you mean by “conceptual origin and author” and how are you proposing that God is involved in evil actions?

      stridermtb writes, “Do you also agree that God’s unconditional predeterminations are irresistible?”

      God’s predeterminations are the decisions He made before He created the world. In the course of time, God implements His decisions (His predeterminations). I do not know what you mean by “irresistible.” God decided to destroy the world with a flood and Sodom/Gomorrah later. Irresistible?

      Perhaps, you mean to limit this to the salvation of individuals. Certainly salvation is irresistible – who would desire eternal death over eternal life? When God “delivers a person from the power of darkness, and translates the person into the kingdom of his dear Son:) per Colossians 1, the person does find that kingdom irresistible and pursues it with his whole heart. What point are you trying to make?

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      1. Rhutchin, it really is not that difficult to understand what I am trying to say. I am not trying to trick you. You are either understandably squeamish (I would be!) about admitting that God’s exhaustive, unconditional predeterminations of all human choice (good or evil) necessitates that God’s mind is the ultimate, conceptual origin (author) for every act humans do (good or evil)… OR you simply suffer from a discomforting case of cognitive dissonance and refuse to own up to the logical implications inherent to the Calvinist view of God’s exhaustive decrees predetermining every human act. Either God’s mind is the origin of conception for what he predetermined or he isn’t. Of course we would agree that whatever God has predetermined to occur he has conceived, planned and authored! As such the issue is whether God has predetermined ALL THINGS that occur–including every act of sin and evil. You, being a Calvinist (I have my doubts you actually understand Calvinism), believe God has unconditionally predetermined all human actions and events and did so before the creation of the world. Ergo you must hold God’s holy mind and holy character in the origin of conception for all he has predetermined– including all sin and evil. If you disagree then welcome to Non-Calvinism! Lastly by “irresistible” I mean men are unable to resist or reject doing what God has unconditionally predetermined they do.

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      2. stridermtb writes, “God’s exhaustive, unconditional predeterminations of all human choice (good or evil) necessitates that God’s mind is the ultimate, conceptual origin (author) for every act humans do (good or evil)…”

        To say that God is the ultimate origin (cause) is to say that God created the world and is, thereby, the ultimate, origin (author) of every human action. But we both agree that God created the world. What is your point? After God creates the world, we see secondary causes as the immediate causes of actions – God does not cause sin, cause people to sin or incite people to sin nor is it necessary that He do so.

        God decrees (determines) everything that happens simply because He is sovereign and exercises absolute control over all that happens. God is the origin of conception only because He creates the world thus setting into play everything that follows – which He has necessarily decreed (predetermined). What in this do you disagree with and on what basis?

        Then you write, “Lastly by “irresistible” I mean men are unable to resist or reject doing what God has unconditionally predetermined they do.”

        So, do you know a way for any person to resist God?

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  5. To be fair to Dr White I went back to quote from the original source on his comments above:

    James White: I think it was God’s purpose to preserve the children of Israel alive in Egypt. So it was his purpose to send Joseph and he did so by having him sold into slavery in Egypt.

    George Bryson: Well, let me answer that with a question. Let me ask you this question – and this will put in perspective to show the difference. When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?

    White: If he didn’t, then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose. What I’m trying to point out, by going to Scripture —

    Hank Hanegraaff: So what is your answer there? Because I want to understand the answer to that question.

    White: I’m trying to go to Scripture to answer it. The reason —

    Hanegraaff: But what is the answer to the question he just asked, so that we can understand what the answer to the question is.

    White: I mentioned to him, yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen He created it without a purpose. That means God brought the evil into existence, knowing it was going to exist, but for no purpose, no redemption, nothing positive, nothing good. I say —

    Hanegraaff: So, he did decree and if he decreed it, then there’s meaning to it.

    White: that he – it has meaning, it has purpose, suffering (all suffering) has purpose, everything in this world has purpose. There is no basis for despair. But if we believe that God created knowing all this was going to happen, but with no decree. He just created and there is all this evil out there, and there’s no purpose, then every rape, every situation like that is nothing but purposeless evil and God is responsible for the creation of despair. And that is not what I believe.

    Bryson: For years, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that in order for rape to exist – or – unless God caused it to happen – there can’t be any purpose in it. God can use evil and he does. But to blame God, which is what a decree does, to blame God for the rape of a child is a horrible attack on the very character and love of God.

    White: How about to blame God for the destruction of the heart of a father, thinking his son has been killed for many years – the weeping that he underwent. Genesis 50:20 has not been answered yet. And Acts chapter 4 tells us that the early church believed that Pontius Pilate and Herod and the Romans and the Jews in the crucifixion of the sinless son of God ( which I believe we would all agree is the greatest evil that man has ever committed) that that took place on the basis of the sovereign decree of God (Acts 4:27-28). If you could tell me both what you believe Acts 4:27-28 means and —

    Bryson: Let me ask you if you think that rape is a sin.

    White: I believe that — Can we use a biblical example, Acts 4:27-28?

    Bryson: Rape is a biblical issue, is rape a sin?

    White: Just as the crucifixion was a sin, yes.

    Bryson: Ok. So, does God decree, and therefore is God the cause of, sin?

    White: Again, as you well know, having read all of these things, let me just read this into everyone’s hearing, so they can see it. The early church said: “For truly in this city there were gathered against your holy servant Jesus, whom you annointed, both Herod, Pontius Pilate, along with the gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur. And so here is an example where men committed evil and they did so at the predestining purpose of God. God is glorified. His intention is positive and good. The intention of Herod – the intention of the Jews – These were not innocent people and God’s standing behind them with a big gun, pushing them down the road, going “Be evil, be evil.” In fact, how many times did God restrain them!

    Hanegraaff: So, they’re making a choice in the process, in your view.

    White: They’re not only making a choice.

    Hanegraaff: So, they have the ability to choose.

    White: Within the realm of their nature, since they are fallen. Remember, God restrains men from committing evil. Let me ask you, do you believe that?

    Bryson: Why are men fallen? That is the question.

    White: Do you believe that?

    Bryson: The question is, why are men fallen?

    White: Could I ask – could I finish a point – Do you believe that God can keep someone from sinning?

    Bryson: I would like to ask you the question, is God the cause of that sin? That’s the issue. God can do anything.

    White: I’ve already pointed out, Genesis 50, that God’s decree is based upon his good intention. Can God keep a person from sinning? Will he violate libertarian free will, to keep a person from sinning, yes or no?

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    1. The key question in the White-Bryson discussion: “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?”

      Let’s set the stage. A man kidnaps a child in order to rape violently that child. God is present watching every detail of that event from the point where the man takes the child to the point where the man rapes the child and afterward as he discards the child in a dumpster. God hears the cries of the child throughout the entire episode and watches as the child dies.

      Is God responsible for the rape? No. The rapist is fully responsible for the rape. He conceived it in his mind and carried it out and did so freely, as free as his sin nature allows. But also, Yes, because God could have intervened to stop the rape and made a conscious decision not to do so.

      Did God decree the rape? Yes. As sovereign, God necessarily exercises absolute control over this event. God cannot treat any event passively or detach Himself from any event. God must consciously decide whether to intervene and stop the rape or not intervene and allow the rape to proceed to its natural conclusion. God had to consciously decide not to intervene to stop the rape. God make a decision – He choose not to restrain the rapist.

      Rape is sin. God neither causes rape nor tempts/incites people to rape. People engage in rape and do so of a free will as well as other evil acts because they are sinners (of course, Satan was likely involved).

      While Bryson is on the attack in the above, even he has no answer for rape. White should have taken the issue head-on and led the discussion to investigate a serious situation that has confounded all people.

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    1. Rhutchin you state, “To say that God is the ultimate origin (cause) is to say that God created the world and is, thereby, the ultimate, origin (author) of every human action. But we both agree that God created the world. What is your point?”

      Sorry. You are still ducking and dodging the question. You are confusion the making of X possible with the making of X actual. God’s creation of the world and men and women creates a context for choices to be made possible. But that is decidedly not the issue. The issue is whether or not God’s mind has authored EVERY decision humans make and determinatively willed all their actions–such that humans have no ability to resist doing what God has determined. We would agree that IF God determinatively willed a person to do something, that must must do it. He is unable to resist or reject. He would be compelled. So the real nub of the issue is whether or not God has indeed determinatively willed everything people do–such that God’s decrees necessitate all our choices. This is the logical end of Calvinism and it creates a host of problems. For starters it makes God’s holy mind and pure character the author and conceiver of all God dishonoring sin and evil. Moreover to say that God is not morally culpable for conceiving, planning and determining every act of rape and adultery SIMPLY BECAUSE he determines that other people carry out his decrees of evil, is no argument at all. It would be like saying a husband who hired an assassin to murder his wife cannot be found guilty for conceiving, planning and determining his wife’s murder because he didn’t actually pull the trigger. Your alleged “secondary causation” is smokescreen that is blinding your heart from accepting the full weight of horror that accompanies a theology that dictates God unconditionally decreed every act of evil and determinatively willed people to carry out his machinations irresistibly. As I said before, if this is too difficult a pill for you to swallow (which apparently it is because you consistently resist owning up to the full force of its logic) then welcome to the Non-Calvinist position. So I guess the question to asked is: Have you ever committed a sin that God did not previously author and determine for you to commit irresistibly? And by “author” I do not mean “doer” or “actor” I mean “conceive and plan.” Shalom.

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      1. You argue against Calvinism and it’s understanding of God’s interaction with His creation. Fine. However, you cannot offer an alternative. It’s fine that you personally don’t like the conclusions that Calvinism draws from the Scriptures. Until you come up with a viable alternative to explain these things, Calvinism rules.

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      2. stridermtb writes, “by “author” I do not mean “doer” or “actor” I mean “conceive and plan.”

        So, what is the issue. God exercises absolute control (sovereignty) over the actions of people but this does not require that He conceive or plan the actions of people. People are capable of conceiving and planning their sinful actions. God, in the exercise of His sovereignty, can stop whatever people are trying to do, just restrain them, or do nothing so that the person acts freely and unrestrained to carry out his desires. God does not need to cause people to sin or otherwise tempt or provoke them to do such things.

        I still don’t see your problem other than building strawman arguments on false assumptions. It starts with sovereignty, and you don’t seem to have grasped the concept that God is sovereign or what that means.

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      3. rhutchin, what is God restraining if man isn’t autonomously free? Is God restraining something He determined for the man to do or something the man chooses to do by his own autonomous will?

        It makes little since for God to restrain his own determinations because that would imply God is undermining something he determined. Thus, God must be restraining something that has its origin outside of Himself, which necessitates autonomous freedom. Right?

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      4. Pastor Flowers writes, “Is God restraining something He determined for the man to do or something the man chooses to do by his own autonomous will? ”

        God restrains people from doing as much evil as they desire. By restraining a person from doing certain evil actions, God determines what they do. This is because sinful people strain at the lease (so to speak) striving to do all that they desire. It is God who holds the lease (if you accept the analogy) and restrains them. A Biblical example of how God can do this is found in Genesis 20 where we read of God speaking to Abimelech in a dream.

        So, that which God restrains is that which He determines – they end up being the same. Man is not autonomous; he acts within the constraints placed on him by God – not everyone is an Einstein or a Michael Jordan; bank robbers are thwarted by police forces; people lack the money to do what they would with unlimited funds; we could come up with other examples of indirect and direct means.

        When a man’s ways please the LORD, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
        We know that God is working all things together for good to them that love Him.

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  6. Rhutchin, it is very obvious you truly don’t understand or grasp the nuances of the very theology you hold. You do realize Calvin and many mainstream Calvinists concede God is the ultimate cause of all things–including all evil? Do you need to be provided quotes? You say people can conceive their own actions. What you fail to see is that if God has determinatively willed what people do, his will of decree is the origin of conception for what all men and woman do through their secondary acts. I can only restate the question you avoided to help you see this: Have you ever committed a sin that God did not previously author and determine for you to commit irresistibly? And by “author” I do not mean “doer” or “actor” I mean “conceive and plan.”

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    1. stridermtb writes, “You do realize Calvin and many mainstream Calvinists concede God is the ultimate cause of all things–including all evil?”

      We understand that they mean that God is the first cause – God created the world.

      stridermtb writes, “What you fail to see is that if God has determinatively willed what people do, his will of decree is the origin of conception for what all men and woman do through their secondary acts.”

      Perhaps you can explain what makes this the case. Why must God conceive the evil that people imagine to do rather than just restrain the evil that which people imagine to do?

      Finally, “Have you ever committed a sin that God did not previously author and determine for you to commit irresistibly? And by “author” I do not mean “doer” or “actor” I mean “conceive and plan.””

      No. I came up with that goofy stuff all by myself. although I’ll allow that Satan could have helped me and probably did.

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  7. Rhutchin, like Flowers has already asked I would like to also ask, what exactly is God deliberating over as to restrain or not restrain what people do IF he already authored and determined what all men must do via his irresistible, sovereign will before the world began? Do you believe God deliberates over whether or not to restrain the outworking of his own sovereign predeterminations? How does that make sense?

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    1. stridermtb writes, “…you concede every sinful act you have ever done was an act God conceived, authored and determined you must do before you were born.”

      Let me correct the record. I oppose the idea that God does, or must, conceive the evil I personally choose to do. I concede that God is the author of evil because He created the world and is, thereby, the first cause from which all secondary causes proceed. I concede that God determined to grant me a free will whereby I could then conceive much evil either instigated by myself or prompted/ tempted by Satan.

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      1. Pastor Flowers writes, “Why do you suppose most Statements of faith, including the most popular Calvinistic ones specifically declare that God is NOT the author of evil?”

        It is not necessary for God to prod or provoke people to evil. People are naturally gifted in devising all sorts of evil because they have a sinful nature (or a nature inclined to sin – however you see it). The point of the Statements is that God works for the good of those who love Him.

        However, as God created the world and the people who then devise all sorts of evil, God can be described as the author of evil in a limited fashion because He is the first cause – He created the world. For example, Hitler’s parents can be said to be the authors of the holocaust simply because they gave birth to Adolph.

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  8. Rhutchins, I just saw your comment above to Flowers. You state: “God restrains people from doing as much evil as they desire. By restraining a person from doing certain evil actions, God determines what they do.”

    You are so mistaken on this issue it is astounding you call yourself a Calvinist. If God restrains someone from exercising their own wills, then he limits their actions–he doesn’t determine their actions! You are confusing divine permission with divine determination. Divine restraint is meaningless in a world of divine determinism where ALL men can do and MUST do is in accordance with what God determined before they were born. It appears you need to a dose of Calvin:

    “But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavors, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it… Does God work in the hearts of men, directing their plans and moving their wills this way and that, so that they do nothing but what He has ordained?… For the man who honestly and soberly reflects on these things, there can be no doubt that the will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things. But of all the things which happen, the first cause is to be understood to be His will, because He so governs the natures created by Him, as to determine all the counsels and the actions of men to the end decreed by Him.(Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-178)

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    1. stridermtb writes, “If God restrains someone from exercising their own wills, then he limits their actions–he doesn’t determine their actions!’

      There is no difference between God limiting that which a person can do and God determining that which a person will do. As Calvin wrote, “He so governs the natures created by Him, as to determine all the counsels and the actions of men to the end decreed by Him.”

      God governs by a variety of means one of which is to restrain the evil in which man desires to engage. It is not necessary that God cause a person to think about evil things that they can do – such ability comes naturally from a sinful nature (or nature inclined to sin, whichever position you choose to take). It is necessary that God govern that which men actually do in the course of history and to do this may involve governing the natures of people as Calvin writes.

      Ephesians 1 tells us that God works all things by the counsel of His will – here, all things is to be taken as encompassing every act of man and other life as well as non-life. He does this by directly intervening to bring about a specific outcome (e.g., the impregnation of Mary) or directing secondary causes toward the outcome He seeks (e.g., David’s numbering of Israel).

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  9. Rhutchins was asked, “Have you ever committed a sin that God did not previously author and determine for you to commit irresistibly? And by “author” I do not mean “doer” or “actor” I mean “conceive and plan.””

    Rhutchins answered, “No. I came up with that goofy stuff all by myself. although I’ll allow that Satan could have helped me and probably did.”

    Clearly we have entered a new level of the strange and absurd. On the one hand you concede every sinful act you have ever done was an act God conceived, authored and determined you must do before you were born. On the other hand you say every act of sin you have committed you “came up with… all by myself.”

    Care to explain how God authored all your sin and yet you “came up with it all by yourself” (authored it all by yourself)?

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  10. Rhutchin writes, “There is no difference between God limiting that which a person can do and God determining that which a person will do.”

    You are still confusing the category of divine permission with divine determination. So I assume you are also a parent? Do you think there is no difference between allowing your children the freedom to disobey you and determining they disobey you? Do you think there is a difference between choosing not to restrain (allowing) your child to disobey your instruction to not touch the hot stove and determining, planning and wanting your child to touch the hot stove?

    You keep wrongly assuming the Calvinist position on God’s determinations and decrees of sin have nothing to do with God conceiving, influencing and working in the heart to affect our internal desires and affections (for evil) to bring about his prior determination for human action and choice. I can only point you to Calvin again,

    “The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.”

    You are also very confused about what “author” means. For Calvin it meant everything we do is contrived by God and firstly originates in his divine mind and will. It has nothing to do with God created men with the potential to think and act. Again I quote:

    “But the objection is not yet resolved, that if all things are done by the will of God, and men contrive nothing except by His will and ordination, then God is the author of all evils.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.179)

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    1. stridermtb writes, “You are still confusing the category of divine permission with divine determination.”

      Divine permission is God’s decision not to intervene in a person’s life to prevent his exercise of his will. The key here is that God makes a decision. God’s decisions determine events – in this case that those events which follow a person’s willful decisions will prevail. The example is Adam/Eve in the garden. It was God’s decision NOT to intervene providing divine permission for them to eat the fruit thus determining that they would eat the fruit and all subsequent events following (death, expulsion from the garden, etc.)

      As far as Calvin is concerned, if your understanding is correct, then Calvinist theologians have surpassed him on this point. You should update your understanding of Calvinism by reading Jonathan Edwards paper on the freedom of the will.

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  11. Calvin continued on God being the author and conceiver of the acts he willed we do: “But it is quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.” (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God p. 176)

    Once again, if you don’t like the logical implications inherent to Calvinism–just drop and move on 🙂

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    1. stridermtb writes, ‘Calvin continued on God being the author and conceiver of the acts he willed we do: “But it is quite frivolous refuge to say that God otiosely permits them, when Scripture shows Him not only willing but the author of them.”

      Elsewhere, I believe Calvin objects to people exercising choices by “bare permission” of God. My understanding is that Calvin opposed the idea that God acts passively toward people as if He somehow detaches Himself from the decisions people make. Calvin maintained that God is always actively involved in the decisions people make. Thus Calvin’s complaint about those who say “God otiosely permits them.” Rather God is willing (it is God who decides what man shall do in the exercise of his will and thereby determines the end of man’s decisions) and God becomes the author of those acts performed by the person who now serves as God’s agent to bring those ends about.

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  12. Rhutchin says, “Rather God is willing (it is God who decides what man shall do in the exercise of his will and thereby determines the end of man’s decisions) and God becomes the author of those acts performed by the person who now serves as God’s agent to bring those ends about.”

    Exactly! God first unconditionally decides what men WILL DO before they are born and then he determinatively renders it certain they do only what he first conceived and decided they will do. So why do you contradict yourself and insist God’s holy mind IS NOT the origin of conception for what God decided they must do? Why do you say this is a “strawman?” In what way is that so? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to recognize your inconsistent, contradictory thinking. You cannot on the one hand say God is the author of our acts ONLY in virtue of creating us with the capacity to make decisions and not limiting or restrain our decisions… and then on the other hand insist God’s mind decides what we will do before we are born and then renders it certain our actions only follow what his mind first conceived we are to do. I challenge you to demonstrate (not just flippantly state) how these positions are not inconsistent.

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    1. stridermtb writes, “So why do you contradict yourself and insist God’s holy mind IS NOT the origin of conception for what God decided they must do? Why do you say this is a “strawman?” In what way is that so?”

      God is dealing with people who will do specific acts if unrestrained. For example, Adam/Eve will eat the fruit in the garden when tempted by Satan. However, God exercises absolute control over that situation. Therefore, nothing can happen unless God consciously decides that it should happen. God decides whether to intervene to stop Adam/Eve from eating the fruit or not to intervene thereby granting Adam/Eve freedom to do as they desire and eat the fruit. God has the final say on what Adam/Eve will do. All Adam/Eve know is that they are doing what they want to do – carrying out the wants/desires of their minds – unless God intervenes to stop them. God does not make Adam/Eve desire to eat the fruit. That desire comes from their own capacity to think and make decisions about what they want to do.

      I don’t see a contradiction. How about if you explain the contradiction that you see here. God is sovereign; people pursue their desires within the constraints imposed on them by God in the exercise of His sovereignty. Where is the contradiction?

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      1. The contradiction you embrace is quite obvious. You have already conceded that God’s mind planned, decided and pre-determined what we do UNCONDITIONALLY. That means God did not consult his foreknowledge about some future state of what men WILL DO if they were placed in situation X verses situation Y. His predeterminations do not take into account any aspect of God foreknowing what people will desire to do in situation X as opposed to Y. As such it requires the view that God’s predeterminations are based entirely upon his own MIND and and will that first conceives and decides what he wants us to do–and then renders it certain via irresistible decrees. As such can’t sweep all that under the carpet and say, “God’s mind did not conceive and author my actions. I did. God just chooses whether he will intervene and stop me from doing what I want.”

        Your example of Adam and Eve is the Arminian explanation. So–once again welcome to Arminianism. The Arminian view says God chose not intervene and stop Adam and Eve from exercising their wills. The Calvinist version says God INTENDED, DESIRED AND PREDETERMINED that Adam and Eve fall into sin.

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      2. stridermtb writes, “Your example of Adam and Eve is the Arminian explanation. So–once again welcome to Arminianism. The Arminian view says God chose not intervene and stop Adam and Eve from exercising their wills. The Calvinist version says God INTENDED, DESIRED AND PREDETERMINED that Adam and Eve fall into sin.”

        Ephesians 1 is still true – God works all things after the counsel of his own will. So, when God created the world, every event in history was known to Him and established (INTENDED, DESIRED AND PREDETERMINED) at that time and for His purposes. Among those things intended, desired, and predetermined was that Satan enter the garden in order to tempt Adam/Eve to sin and God would not intervene to stop him. When God created the world, He necessarily set all this in motion even though He did not have to induce or provoke Satan to tempt Adam/Eve nor did He have to manipulate Adam/Eve to cause them to eat the fruit other than to send Satan into the garden to accomplish that purpose.

        You don’t like that, but you have found no way to argue against it. There is no way to argue against it except by denying that God is what He says He is – sovereign. God does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What are you doing?

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  13. Because you are still confused as to the distinction between permittance and determination it may help if you answer the query I posted to you. Do you think there is no difference between allowing your children the freedom to disobey you and determining they disobey you? Do you think there is a difference between choosing not to restrain (allowing) your child to disobey your instruction to not touch the hot stove and determining, planning and wanting your child to touch the hot stove?

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    1. stridermtb writes, “Do you think there is no difference between allowing your children the freedom to disobey you and determining they disobey you? Do you think there is a difference between choosing not to restrain (allowing) your child to disobey your instruction to not touch the hot stove and determining, planning and wanting your child to touch the hot stove?”

      If the parent is sovereign and exercises absolute control over their children, as God is sovereign, then there is no difference between allowing and determining that the children disobey given that the the child is a sinner and the intent of the child is to disobey.

      The parent that must make a conscious decision not to intervene to prevent the child disobeying thereby granting the child such freedom as it wants to disobey thereby determining that the child will disobey. When the parent makes a conscious decision not to restrain the child from touching the hot stove, we know that the decision is made with a purpose. That purpose speaks to a plan that necessitates the child being unrestrained and granted freedom to touch the stove. That decision determines the outcome – unrestrained, the child touches the hot stove.

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      1. Rhutchin, parents choose every day not to coercively restrain and intervene in their children’s freedom to obey or disobey! That doesn’t mean they WANT their children to disobey them! It means they realize the development of their children will be stunted if they are constantly restrained from exercising their free choice in such a way that they are never allowed to experience the consequences of a disobedient will. For example I may instruct my child not to touch the hot stove 9 times, but I also realize that if my child continues to flaunt my instruction and stubbornly and perpetually seeks to reach out to the hot stove, he could be severely burned when I am not around. So I may choose to not restrain him on the tenth time so that he can experience the consequences of his disobedience and learn from it. But even then I am hoping at that tenth time he will obey me. I do not at any time WANT him to touch the hot stove, and therefore I would never determinatively coerce him to disobey me and burn his hand through some sort of irresistible persuasion.

        In the Calvinist view you adopt God WANTS his people to disobey him. You concede this saying, “God decides what man shall do in the exercise of his will and thereby determines the end of man’s decisions and God becomes the author of those acts performed by the person who now serves as God’s agent to bring those ends about.”

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      2. stridermtb writes, “…parents choose…”

        You are halfway there. God chooses. That much you seem to understand. God is always present observing history play out according to His choices. As a parent chooses whether to let his son touch the hot stove, so God chooses whether to let sinners play out their evil fantasies. You say, “I also realize that if my child continues to flaunt my instruction and stubbornly and perpetually seeks to reach out to the hot stove, he could be severely burned when I am not around.” notice your deflection – “…when I am not around.” God is never not around; God is always present watching intently while sinful humanity engages in evil acts no matter how horrendous; God consciously chooses (expressing His intent and desire and thereby predetermines) whether to intervene to stop it. All this, God did before He created the world and set in motion every decision He had made. This, even you have not found a way to deny.

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  14. Pastor Flowers,

    I would like to start out by commending you for engaging in an open public dialog by doing a debate with Dr. White, which is something all the other “trad.” statement defenders and John 3:16 Conference / Connect 3:16 speakers have been unwilling to do. I look forward to attending the debate, God willing. I would like to address a couple of things about the theodicy you present here though, and as a Southern Baptist Calvinist, I would like to address your critique of Calvinists presenting a false dichotomy.

    First, let me explain my own view of the evil that happens every day around the world. Theoretically there may be two types of evil. I would identify these types as purposeful and purposeless evil, but these terms are pretty vague in explaining what I mean. I believe that purposeful evil is eternally intended by God to perfectly accomplish His ultimate ends. Unlike many in the Reformed camp, I do not concede that God has Libertarian Freedom. He is free in a way that creatures never could be in that His actions are in no way determined or influenced by anything outside of Himself. He has the natural ability to do other than what He does, but He lacks the moral ability to commit any action that is not the absolutely perfect action. Perfect Knowledge requires perfect action. In the state of eternity past I believe God knew exactly what He should achieve and how to perfectly achieve it. He knew that He should create and exactly how to create. He knew perfectly His own initial actions in creation and every repercussion of those actions as they played out in causal sequences moving forward. He knew of the fall of angels and of men. He knew of every act of moral evil His creatures would ever commit. He knew of every time He would intervene directly in His creation to change the course of things as well as every time that He would simply allow things to take their course. If God created in a way that would perfectly accomplish His perfect ends and evil happens within that creation, then it necessarily follows that the evil that happens within creation is absolutely necessary in accomplishing perfection. This is what I call purposeful evil. It is not only purposeful, it is necessary in achieving God’s perfect ends, and since it is necessary in bringing about the greater good, it would be evil not to create a world in which these purposeful evils took place. Because of this I believe that God eternally intended every evil action within His creation.

    I do not believe that purposeless evil exists in reality. By purposeless evil I mean any evil not necessary in accomplishing God’s perfect ends. A person may believe that God sometimes takes lemons and makes lemonade, but that isn’t the omniscient, omnipotent, holy God of scripture. If anyone thinks that God allows any gratuitous evil that is not absolutely necessary in perfectly accomplishing the perfect ends for which creation was created I think they have impugned the holiness of our awesome Creator.

    This distinction between the two types of evil is a true dichotomy. I understand why you have seen a false dichotomy, but I would like to also point out that the purpose that you provide for the existence of evil is not the same thing as providing a purpose for individual acts of evil. If the parent of a child who has been raped and murdered asks, “why did God let this happen to my child?” no answer is going to take away their pain. The explanation that God gave people Libertarian Freedom and would not violate that freedom is no comfort at all and only leads to further questions that show the deficiencies of this view. The answer that, on this side of death, we will probably never know the details of why this particular atrocious act was committed within the creation of an all knowing, all powerful God may not be of any comfort either, but the knowledge that there was a reason and that reason was a contribution to the perfect accomplishment of God’s ultimate glory and ultimately our good as His children who love Him is of some consolation. I know that the God who gave His own sinless son on behalf of sinful people is still in complete control and has not relegated his sovereign control to people who rape and kill children for the purpose of preserving their autonomy.

    This brings me to question your answer to the question that was asked of Dr. White and, along with questions about the holocaust, is commonly asked of Calvinists. The purpose that you point to, along with Plantinga and others, is the preservation of Libertarian Freedom. To begin with, I don’t see this type of freedom taught anywhere in scripture. I understand that you deduce it from the fact that man is given commands and is held responsible for whether or not he obeys them, but I think we need to be careful in affirming what we want to be true about God in opposition to what is true. I also understand that you view Libertarian Freedom as essential to man being held morally responsible for his actions, but I think this is based on a value judgement made by fallen, sinful, self-centered creatures with limited knowledge against our omniscient Creator. The idea that the preservation of LF ranks so high on God’s list of priorities is not only not found in scripture, it goes against scripture. I can point to multiple places in scripture where God prevents people from acting out their sinful desires.

    As a fellow Southern Baptist I know you believe that God knew of a child rapist and killers intentions in eternity past and had the power to prevent them from succeeding in accomplishing those intentions. If a parent asked you, “Why did God let this happen to my child?” it seems that your answer of God giving and preserving human autonomy boils down to telling that parent that the preservation of the pedophile’s LF was more important to God than the life of their child and their child’s will to live and not be raped! God could have prevented this great evil because it did not serve a purpose (at least not any ultimate necessary purpose). God could have thwarted the pedophile’s attempts and still been perfectly just in holding the pedophile responsible for his evil intentions, but it seems that your position is that God wouldn’t do that because it would be a violation of human autonomy.

    You see the scriptural view of a mighty, all knowing, and sovereign God who has eternally intended (decreed) everything that happens and has a purpose for it is much more palatable and comforting than a God who has surrendered His sovereignty at the altar of human autonomy. I type this as person who has been paralyzed from the chest down and confined to a wheelchair due to an accident over 4 years ago. I don’t know all the details about why God allowed and intended this to happen, but I know that I serve a mighty God who is in absolute control. I know that my circumstances will ultimately achieve the greatest glory for my Lord and ultimately work toward my eternal good. I have found contentment in this knowledge, and if I had the power to walk again at the expense of detracting from God’s glory and perfect purposes in just the slightest degree, I would stay seated. I believe the absolute sovereignty of God is a beautiful thing, not the ugly scandal you are presenting it to be.

    God bless brother,

    Matt

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    1. Thx Matt. You lay out your views well and if I get some time I will attempt to engage with your thoughts. Meanwhile consider your concept of the perfect God in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matt 5. His challenge to be perfect like the Father was given in the context of our need to be like Him by loving our enemies. Sometimes we attempt to define divine characteristics to fit our logic rather than simply applying Jesus’ example and teaching. His power isn’t displayed most by the eye for an eye justice of the OT, but in mercy. His perfection isn’t best made manifest in wrath for enemies but in love. That’s the heart of the sermon on the mount as corrects misconceptions about the desires and nature of God (“you have heard it said but I say to you”)

      Hopefully we can meet or engage more later. Blessings brother

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      1. Pastor Flowers,

        Thank you for responding as time permits. I may be misunderstanding you in some way, so please correct me if I am. It seems that in your short response you have presented a false dichotomy when you say, “His power isn’t displayed most by the eye for an eye justice of the OT, but in mercy. His perfection isn’t best made manifest in wrath for enemies but in love.” I would never claim that God’s power and perfection is always displayed best in His justice and wrath, but I would also never claim that His power and perfection is always displayed best in His mercy and love. Ultimately both justice and mercy must be displayed for all of God’s perfect attributes to be seen. Only our omniscient Creator knows all the details of which and how in each specific instance.

        If we consider the cross, any view that concentrates on certain attributes at the exclusion of others is incomplete. We see an amazing act of God’s grace, love, and mercy as the eternal, sinless Son gave Himself for undeserving sinners. We also see a terrifying act of God’s holiness, justice, and wrath as the eternal, sinless Son is crushed and bruised for our sins. The voluntary giving for rebellious sinners is beautiful to us as sinners. The punishment for sin is terrifying to us as sinners. However; both are perfect, and both are necessary. God will also be eternally glorified for both.

        In Matthew 5, Jesus’ instructions about loving our enemies and blessing those that curse us are instructions to us as sinners who have been forgiven much. We are to treat others with the love and grace with which God has treated us. Sometimes when I get mad at someone and want to return evil for evil, I think about the parable of the unforgiving servant in Mt. 18. Verse 33 says, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” I’m not in the place of God. I’m not the judge of the universe. I’m not sinless. As a terrible sinner who has been forgiven everything, there is only one morally right way for me to respond to others who have treated me wrong. On the other hand, God is the perfect, sinless Judge of the universe. It is His prerogative to act in justice or mercy either one, as He knows will best accomplish His purposes. I’m commanded to imitate His love, but I have no right to imitate His wrath.

        God bless brother.

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  15. Mayo, wouldn’t you agree it is absurd for Jesus (in the Sermon on the Mount) to instruct us to pray “Father… do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil” if Jesus actually believed God was predetermining the very evils we commit. In the Calvinist scheme Jesus is essentially instructing his followers to pray, “Father… do not lead us into the temptations sovereignly ordained for us and the evils you unconditionally predetermined us to commit.” Lastly, I give you a hearty “amen” to your faith to affirm God’s sovereignty in your physical limitations. But being paralyzed is not a moral issue. Wouldn’t you concede that the issue is much more questionable if you were gang raped or suffered from a horrible porn addiction and were told that God sovereignly predetermined such events to occur in your life? I work with children who have suffered in many ways– including sexual abuse. You cannot even begin to fathom how their faith in God would be crushed if they were taught that God conceived, planned, desired and determined the evils done against them. You can use whatever euphemistic terminology you want–but it all comes down to God WANTING and therefore unconditionally predetermining all the sordid evil of our world. Shalom.

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    1. STRIDERMTB,

      I will attempt to answer your questions in a straight forward way without euphemisms. When considering Jesus’ words in the model prayer I think we should first consider the purpose of making requests in prayer. I think we can both agree that God already knows what He will do and what will happen. We can’t inform God of anything that He hasn’t eternally known, and He has known the words of our prayer from eternity. I believe that He has not only determined the outcome of whatever it is that we’ve prayed about, but has determined all the means leading to that outcome also. Those means include our prayer for the purpose of deepening the relationship between Himself and us as His children. If we as His children are led by The Spirit then the requests that The Spirit lays on our hearts will certainly be answered as we request. I think this is what is meant when Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, ask anything in My name and it will be done” and “The prayer of a righteous man avails much”. If a person will encounter circumstances where they will be tempted later on that day, praying to not be led into temptation will not get God to intervene to prevent the situation that He had previously planned would happen. This would require God to do something that He did not already know He would do to bring about something that He did not already know would come about.

      Looking to the request to not be led into temptation, I think we should remember the words of James 1:13-14. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” First of all, I would like to point out that because we have sinful desires, we cannot go through life without encountering circumstances in which we are tempted. Secondly, I think this verse is clear that circumstances are not the source of temptation, but our desires are. God cannot be tempted because He has no need of anything and thus cannot be tempted to obtain it by improper means such as Jesus being tempted in the wilderness (the exception to this statement), and God has no sinful desires. You can’t be tempted to do something if you have no desire prompting you to do it.

      I know you’re probably pulling your hair out screaming, “but Calvinism requires that God determined that people would have sinful desires”. You’re right, but God didn’t actively work an evil desire in anyone’s heart. God created man good, yet because man is not omniscient, man is mutably good. God gave Adam one prohibition with a warning, so Adam was given good instructions by God. God knew that Adam would fall and intended the fall, but did God do anything wrong? I can’t think of a single action of God that was unrighteous in all of this. After the fall Adam had a sinful nature, and as a result we are all born naturally self-centered and in rebellion to God. God has not directly created anyone who is already bent on rebellion to Him. He did absolutely determine that people would have fallen, sinful desires though. Before creation God knew exactly what He should accomplish and how He would accomplish it through creation. He knew how He would act to create and every minute detail of every repercussion of His creative actions down to the orbit of every electron around the nucleus of every atom. If God is truly omniscient then He knew all this, and if He knew it before creation and then, with that knowledge, created; He necessarily intended to infallibly bring about everything that He knew would result from His actions. So, God infallibly determined all of our sinful desires along with all of the evil in the world, both natural and moral. However, God never did anything evil Himself. That may seem like a technicality to you, but if you consider what I wrote in my original comment to Pastor Flowers about God only acting in ways that perfectly accomplish His perfect purposes, the idea of a mere technicality disappears. If fallen creatures are required within God’s creation in order to willingly choose to do certain evil acts that are necessary in accomplishing God’s perfect purposes in the perfect way, then God would be less than perfect if He did not ensure that everything required was infallibly determined.

      Looking to the request to be delivered from evil, I think the translations that render the substantival adjective with the definite article as “the evil one” in reference to Satan are more accurate to the meaning in the Greek. This would imply that even Satan is under the control and restraint of God. While I believe that Satan’s every move springs from desires to oppose God, I think he is only allowed to do what God has eternally intended for him to do. Examples of this from scripture are Job 1:8-12 where God brings Job into the conversation knowing that Satan resents how God has blessed and protected Job. He instigates Satan against Job but still places limits on what he can do to attack him. Of course the whole episode is recorded for us in scripture to learn many things from, and Satan ends up failing to do what he claimed and is thus humiliated for opposing God. Another example is found in the Gospels. In Lk.22:31-32 Satan has asked for Peter, but Jesus has prayed for him instead. Satan was denied, but in the case of Judas Satan was allowed to enter him (Jn.13:22). Satan’s evil efforts ultimately ended up contributing to the son of perdition fulfilling the scriptures and doing his part in bringing about God’s plan of salvation.

      As for my injury, my point in mentioning it was to say that I am much more content and am comforted by knowing that God is in absolute control when bad things happen to people. I fell out of a tree when a seemingly healthy branch dropped out from under me, resulting in 14 broken bones, including 3 broken vertebrae and a severed spinal cord. No one was responsible for me falling, but the same questions of “why” pertaining to God still arise. He knew that branch would break. I’m one of His children. He had the power to prevent my injuries. Why didn’t He? I can see so many good things that have come from my injury. I was working 70+ hrs. a week and my relationship with God as well as with my family was suffering. I was healthy, worked out, and was in good shape to the point that I was prideful. I was way too self-reliant, and the list goes on and on. Now I have much more time with my family, and devote much more time to God. I am closer to God now than I have been at any other time in my life. I still battle with pride, but everything associated with being a paraplegic has given me a crash course in humility. I turn to God and rely on Him much more than ever before. I know that God chastises those He loves, and I have no doubt that I was in need of chastisement. The fact that I’m still alive tells me that God has more for me to do in this life and apparently whatever it is doesn’t require walking. God is most perfectly glorified and my ultimate good as His child is most perfectly achieved with me in a wheelchair right now. I’m content with that. It wouldn’t make a difference in my contentment if someone had randomly shot me in the spine. However, if I believed that my accident was just an unfortunate purposeless occurrence that didn’t really have to happen and could have been prevented by God without making any difference in the perfect accomplishment of His perfect purposes, I think it would be a lot harder to accept.

      I think it’s great that you work with children who have been through terrible experiences. Most children don’t have the comprehension or attention span to explain a detailed theodicy and all the theological foundations required to fully grasp it all to them. If they were the victim of sexual abuse or something else awful, the simple free will answer might be the easiest thing to say and satisfy their questions for the time being, but I wouldn’t give them that answer because I don’t believe it is truly an answer. Accepting children may grow up into skeptical adults who ask the harder questions. What would you say to the parent of that child or the parent of a child that was raped and killed if they asked the harder questions and pushed for deeper answers?

      ex. “Why did God let them do this to my child?… but didn’t He know what they were going to do?…Why didn’t he protect my little child?… What could be more important to Him than the life of my child?… How could a good God allow this kind of evil to happen?…” etc.

      I don’t think I have used any euphemistic terminology in explaining my views. I wouldn’t use terms like “wanting” or “desired” when talking about God and evil because they often carry connotations of something being pleasing in a moral sense. I do not believe that evil is in any way morally pleasing to God. That would be the equivalent of saying God is evil. I understand why you don’t like the idea of God determining that evil events will happen or who will and will not be shown mercy, but I think if we examine your view of God’s sovereignty the idea of God allowing all kinds of unnecessary evil will become even less palatable than my view. I believe God intends evil that is necessary in bringing about God’s purposes perfectly. I see no problem in that type of evil existing. The real problem would be if it didn’t exist. You seem to believe in all kinds of unnecessary evil that accomplishes no purpose perfectly. How can a good God have created a world full of all this truly sordid evil?

      I have babbled on much longer than I intended. I may be a while in responding further, because I have other things that require my time. There is no way to give a full defense of my views in this format and anticipate and answer every possible objection, but I would be happy to continue the dialog if you would like. God bless you brother.

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  16. Rhutchin, I have no doubt you are very intelligent and wise… but with your word play it has become all too clear you are either unable or unwilling to be logically consistent… and at minimum acknowledge the logical ends of statements you make. Your arguments and counter arguments are a diluted mixture of Calvinism and Arminianism. When the logical implications of Calvinistic determinism become too unpalatable for you, you suddenly adopt Arminianism with its emphasis on God’s sovereign permission to allow creatures to act upon their evil desires. This has been brought to your attention a couple of times already and you strangely defend yourself by lapsing right back into an amalgamation of divine determinism and divine permission without realizing it is ridiculous to speak of God allowing or permitting the very acts he determined…including the desires and motives of men that bring about choices. Does God need to get permission from himself to reach his own determined ends? It is hard to know if your word play is intentional or you just don’t realize your confusion due to a lack of critical study. But for this discussion to bring about more light than heat you need to demonstrate at least a modicum of willingness to stop contradicting yourself and staying true and consistent with your remarks. Now notice how I will now actually back up that accusation with examples rather than just re-quote you and try to deflect your argument by saying something that contradicts some earlier remark made (which apparently is your preference).

    So for example, you state: “As a parent chooses whether to let his son touch the hot stove, so God chooses whether to let sinners play out their evil fantasies.”

    No Rhutchin–that doesn’t fit at all. Again you are being inconsistent. You have already conceded that God unconditionally predetermined every human choice before the world began and that people can only desire to choose to do what God determined they choose to do. If you were consistent you would have said, “God chooses whether or not to let sinners play out the evil fantasies HE UNCONDITIONALLY PREDETERMINED for them.”

    You say, “God is never not around; God is always present…”

    It is clear you missed the point and query of the parent analogy… or perhaps you want to avoid the force of it. It had nothing do with with geographical presence or divine omnipresence. It had to do with why a father might allow his child to disobey him while at the same time not WANTING his child to disobey him (i.e. determining that his child must disobey him without fail). I was simply trying get you to at least admit there is a difference between someone allowing X to occur though he does not want it to occur, and someone predetermining that X occur unconditionally–which inescapably implies someone wanting X to occur.

    You keep defending divine predetermination of all things by adopting an Arminian theology of God’s divine permission to allow events to occur even though he may not want them to occur. You seem astute enough to realize the logical end of God unconditionally predetermining all human decision renders all sin and evil a product of God’s will of conception. Because you don’t like this logical conclusion you dismissively ignore it by conveniently forgetting that “acts no matter how horrendous” (that you mentioned) are the very acts of horrendous evil God’s predetermined before a soul ever desired them! Thus all the horrendous evil men do was first conceived and determinatively planned out in God’s holy mind.

    One last example of your inconsistent reasoning. You write, “God is… watching intently while his sinful humanity engages in evil acts; God consciously chooses (expressing His intent and desire and thereby predetermines) whether to intervene to stop it. All this, God did before He created the world and set in motion every decision He had made.

    No Rhutchin, if God predetermined all human decision and evil acts unconditionally then God does not deliberate over whether or not to intervene in any given situation. Why? Because it is meaningless to say God deliberates over whether or not to allow or intervene in what he has already planned and determined must occur according to his own sovereign desires. Moreover you fallaciously try to argue God’s predetermination is based on his choice to intervene or not intervene in what we choose to do. Not at all. You are just wrong on this point. In the Calvinist scheme God’s predetermination of all human choice is not based at all on his decision to intervene or not intervene in our choices (as you try to argue). Rather in theology of divine determinism of all things God’s predetermination of human choice is based on what he determined humans will and must choose to do before they were born! That this simple logical deduction keeps being missed by you is quite concerning. Hope things change soon!

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    1. stridermtb writes, “If you were consistent you would have said, “God chooses whether or not to let sinners play out the evil fantasies HE UNCONDITIONALLY PREDETERMINED for them.”

      We have two true statements: (1) God chooses whether or not to let sinners play out the evil fantasies; and (2) God UNCONDITIONALLY PREDETERMINED that sinners play out the evil fantasies.

      To say that God has “chosen” is to say that God has “made a conscious decision” and this is to say that God has “determined” and because everything God has chosen/decided/determined was accomplished before He created the world, we say that God predetermined all things. God’s decisions are not conditioned on what people do. So, the two statements are equivalent – they say the same thing.

      In all this, it is not necessary that God directly cause that final condition in which a person finds himself. God is still the ultimate cause in that nothing happens that is outside His control.

      I don’t see the point you are trying to make here. What is the inconsistency that you are claiming in the statement, “As a parent chooses whether to let his son touch the hot stove, so God chooses whether to let sinners play out their evil fantasies.” Is it because a parent is not God and cannot predetermine what happens but can only react to circumstances as they occur in time? If so, how does this generate an inconsistency on God’s part. If not, what do you mean?

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    2. stridermtb writes, “Rather in theology of divine determinism of all things God’s predetermination of human choice is based on what he determined humans will and must choose to do before they were born!”

      While this can be called divine determinism, it also reflects the situation that God is sovereign. It is because God is sovereign and thus absolutely controls all things that we can conclude that God “determined humans will and must choose to do before they were born.”

      So, are you having a problem with God being sovereign because it requires divine determinism?

      You also say, “it is meaningless to say God deliberates over whether or not to allow or intervene in what he has already planned and determined must occur according to his own sovereign desires.’

      As God has a free will, He can certainly deliberate within Himself as to any course of action He will follow. We can say that God deliberates over that which He has planned and determined. That deliberation can encompass the extent of His involvement in the lives of people.

      God impregnated Mary. Nothing prevents us concluding that God deliberated over that decision which then impacted Mary’s life. In a similar way, we can conclude that God deliberated the fate of Sodom/Gomorrah and determined that they would engage in evil and be destroyed because of it. God has determined that you would be born and that you would sin and whether you would enter heaven. But, after all, God is sovereign.

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  17. The exercise of God’s Sovereignty is His choice to exert His power according to all possibilities consistent with His nature. He is certainly able to pre-determine an entire human history, with a semblance of free-will for humans to experience. If He did plan such a completed human history than His knowledge of it would be only of those eventualities He commanded to take place.

    But His Sovereignty and Knowledge of the future in human history, as defined by Scriptures and its use of the Subjunctive and other conditional statements, reveal that God has NOT pre-determined all things. There is not even one Scripture verse that says He has predetermined all things. Besides the few things God has said He has pre-determined there are only true undetermined possibilities in the future so that God and man can freely interact with each other according to His mercy and grace. Praise His name!

    Because of this God can honestly say when it comes to the horrors of evil – “which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart” (Jer. 7:31, 19:5, 32:35). These were some of the things, according to God, that He did not command… therefore they were not ordained by Him!

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    1. brianwagner writes, “The exercise of God’s Sovereignty is His choice to exert His power…”

      Sin and Satan rule the world except where God exercises His power to move the world in His direction. The key term you use is “choice.” It is God’s choice. Even under the open theist philosophy, God still exercises His sovereignty except that He operates in real time in the present. That requires God to be more active – more heavy handed – to work things out all things (e.g., the betrayal of Judas, the crucifixion of Christ). Such things cannot be left to chance. The only thing omniscience adds to this is to make all these decisions occur before God creates the world.

      brianwagner writes, “He is certainly able to pre-determine an entire human history, with a semblance of free-will for humans to experience. If He did plan such a completed human history than His knowledge of it would be only of those eventualities He commanded to take place.’

      Because of sovereignty, all eventualities become certainties. The Scriptures tell us that Christ was slain before God created the world. Thus, in creating the world, God had both purpose and plan in mind. His plan would prevail so God would be mehodically manipulating events to carry out that plan.

      One issue is what you mean by free will. Compatibilist free will says that people act consistent with their wants/desires. Libertarian free will says that wants/desires only influence people’s decisions so that it is possible for a person to choose contra their wants/desires (their strongest want/desire at the time the decisions is made). Does this ever happen? Libertarians cannot come up with examples that are clearly different from compatibilist decisions. Under compatibilist free will, a person is ruled by his sin nature and God merely restrains or enables that nature to carry out His plan. He effectively does this whether omniscient or limited in knowledge by open theism.

      brianwagner writes, “There is not even one Scripture verse that says He has predetermined all things.”

      Ephesians 1: “[God] works all things after the counsel of his own will:” That tells us that God has the final say in all things. If God has the final say, then His decisions determine all things. Since God’s decisions come before the action occurs, God predetermines all things. Our understanding of “all things” depends on the definition of the Greek, “panta,” translated here as “all things.” It seems to be comprehensive within the context.

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    2. brianwagner writes, “Because of this God can honestly say when it comes to the horrors of evil – “which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart” (Jer. 7:31, 19:5, 32:35). These were some of the things, according to God, that He did not command… therefore they were not ordained by Him!”

      Do you look up the verses you cite?? All three say the same thing.

      31 And [the Israelites] have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart.

      God has never commanded His people to engage in child sacrifice. This and all evil come out of the heart of man and not God. At the same time, God choose not to exercise His sovereign power to restrain Israel from doing this. By choosing not to restrain Israel, God ordained the outcome – the final decision always rests with God so God necessarily always ordains the final outcome.

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  18. Rhutchin, it has become increasingly obvious to me that you are unwilling to engage in honest conversation wherein you remain consistent with your own theological remarks. Two examples will suffice:

    1) Your position dictates that God unconditionally predetermined evil fantasies for people to desire to act on. That is to say it is God, first and foremost, who decides the evil fantasies we desire to do. As I argued from the beginning this makes God’s holy nature the origin of conception for all evil–that opposes his holy nature. You disagree calling this a strawman argument–but that contradict yourself time and again by admitting that God decides in advance what people will do and that “God’s decisions are not conditioned on what people do.”

    But then when you are forced to deal with the moral absurdity of your view you try to couch it as nothing more than “God UNCONDITIONALLY PREDETERMINED that sinners play out the evil fantasies.” No–Rhutchin. Once again you are adopting a position of divine permission, not divine determinism. Divine permission says God eternally decided to allow men to pursue or play out their free will even when such freedom is misused in a manner that brings about evil. So again what you should have said was that, “God unconditionally predetermined the evil fantasies that sinners will play out.” Your statements once again betray an unwillingness to remain integrous to your own position.

    2) I stated, “It is meaningless to say God deliberates over whether or not to allow or intervene in what he has already planned and determined must occur according to his own sovereign desires.’

    To this you strangely reply: “As God has a free will, He can certainly deliberate within Himself as to any course of action He will follow. We can say that God deliberates over that which He has planned and determined. That deliberation can encompass the extent of His involvement in the lives of people.”

    No Rhutchin, you are missing the point again. Yes of course God can deliberate within himself as to what he wants to do. But if God has unconditionally predetermined that person Y will commit the evil of X, it is meaningless to then say God deliberates over whether or not to stop person Y from committing the very evil of X he previously determined he will do. Once again does God need to get permission from himself? In your world there is really only one actor–God. All the other actors (people) are instrumental actors of a secondary, causal nature akin to my holding a stick to move a pebbl. Yes the stick moves the pebble, but I am the cause of the stick moving the pebble. The stick can only move in a manner that I determine it to move. Therefore it is absurd to speak of me “allowing” the stick to move a stone, right?

    Once again if the logical demands of Calvinism are too morally repugnant for you…please let it go…there is no use trying to defend it by adopting language and theology that cannot cohere with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. stridermtb writes, “it is God…who decides the evil fantasies we desire to do….this makes God’s holy nature the origin of conception for all evil–that opposes his holy nature.”

      How do you get from:
      “it is God…who decides the evil fantasies we desire to do”
      to
      “this makes God’s holy nature the origin of conception for all evil–that opposes his holy nature.”

      Their is an alternative conclusion:
      “this makes God the one who restrains the evil that enters a person’s thoughts.”

      God need only limit that set of evil actions that a person will be allowed to fantasize about. Your solution is contrived to feed your strawman argument.

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    2. stridermtb writes, “But if God has unconditionally predetermined that person Y will commit the evil of X, it is meaningless to then say God deliberates over whether or not to stop person Y from committing the very evil of X he previously determined he will do.”

      Before God created the world, He was free to deliberate about what that world would be like and what He would restrain or enable.

      I think your issue is with God being sovereign and what that entails.

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    3. stridermtb writes, “You have already conceded two major premises:

      1) God unconditionally conceives, decides and determines in eternity past what people desire to do before the world began.

      2) Men can only desire to do what God originally conceived, decided and determined they will desire to do. ”

      So long as we remember that God does not cause, not is God the source, of the persons wants and desires. Those wants and desires some from the heart – “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”

      God, as sovereign, controls these wants and desires, restraining or enabling them to manifest themselves and the ability of the person to carry them out. Originally conceived means only that God did not restrain such things and that His control over them is absolute.

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  19. Rhutchin, my issue is you render God’s sovereignty morally and logically unintelligible. When Christ commanded us to pray, “Father… deliver us from evil” he never had in mind that we would pray that God deliver us from the very evil he determined us to commit. Your theology of God’s sovereignty cannot stand because it is a house divided against itself. Jesus warned us against such warped thinking.

    You ask, “How do you get from: ‘it is God…who decides the evil fantasies we desire to do’
    to, ‘this makes God’s holy nature the origin of conception for all evil–that opposes his holy nature.’

    Their is an alternative conclusion:
    ‘this makes God the one who restrains the evil that enters a person’s thoughts.’”

    Are you serious Rhutchin?? It is called deductive reasoning. You have already conceded two major premises:

    1) God unconditionally conceives, decides and determines in eternity past what people desire to do before the world began.

    2) Men can only desire to do what God originally conceived, decided and determined they will desire to do.

    3) Therefore God’s will is the origin of conception for what people desire to do later in life.

    You can call it a strawman argument but you are fooling anyone… except yourself. To rebut the conclusion you have to demonstrate why one of the premises (both of which you have already conceded) is false.

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    1. Rhutchin writes, “God, as sovereign, controls these wants and desires, restraining or enabling them to manifest themselves and the ability of the person to carry them out. Originally conceived means only that God did not restrain such things and that His control over them is absolute.”

      Sorry–that makes no sense…again. Why do you keep forgetting that you have already conceded that God UNCONDITIONALLY determined what we do??? That means in the Calvinist view (logically understood) God does not consult any knowledge about what we want to do before he determines what we WILL do!

      The argument and conclusion I presented stands. Feel free do try again.

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      1. stridermtb writes, “Sorry–that makes no sense…again. Why do you keep forgetting that you have already conceded that God UNCONDITIONALLY determined what we do??? That means in the Calvinist view (logically understood) God does not consult any knowledge about what we want to do before he determines what we WILL do! ”

        You offer your opinion on this. Can you offer an argument that shows otherwise??

        Can you show that God has NOT unconditionally determined all events – can you void Ephesians 1:11 where it says, “God works all things after the counsel of his own will”? Can you offer an argument to show that “God does NOT work all things after the counsel of his own will”?

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  20. Lastly allow me to help you out with one more matter of confusion. You are certainly not a consistent-thinking (Calvinist) determinist when you say, “Before God created the world, He was free to deliberate about what that world would be like and what He would restrain or enable.” That is a statement of Molinism not Calvinism. Molinism focus its attention on a philosophical viewpoint concerning God’s middle knowledge and how numerous counterfactuals of human freedom relate with his purposes and acts of power. It is on that basis Molinists say God deliberated over an infinite number of possible worlds, and then determined to actualize one of them.

    In order to be logically consistent a Calvinist would need to say, “Before God created the world, He was free to deliberate about what he would determine the world to be like and what he would determine for men to desire to do in every situation he determines for them to be placed in.”

    Here are two articles for you to enjoy:

    1) http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/middle2.html

    2) http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

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    1. I have read Craig before. In the first citation, Craig writes–

      “By a free decision, God decrees to actualize one of those worlds known to Him through His middle knowledge. According to Molina, this decision is the result of a complete and unlimited deliberation by means of which God considers and weighs every possible circumstance and its ramifications and decides to settle on the particular world He desires. Hence, logically prior, if not chronologically prior, to God’s creation of the world is the divine deliberation concerning which world to actualize.”

      Molinism considers God’s deliberations within Himself before He created our world. Out of the many options available, God makes His choice and that is the world He creates. Within that world, all has been determined – it is a world accurately described by Calvinism.

      If you are into Molinism, why do you argue against Calvinism??

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      1. Rhutchin, if you think the final conclusion of Molinism (and William Lane Craig) concerning God’s sovereign relationship with human freedom is the the same “world accurately described by Calvinism” then it only goes to show me that in your mind Calvinism is an amalgamation of many contradictory ideas that you simply fail to grasp as being so. I have already tried to show you how you keep adopting an Arminian posture of God’s divine permission to defend the Calvinist position of God’s unconditional determination.

        But to specifically answer your question Molinism DOES NOT say God unconditionally conceived and determined before the world began what men will desire to do. God’s determination on which world to actualize exists in a context in which every possible world he could have actualized is a product of genuine, human freedom wherein choices and events are grounded first and foremost in the will of humans not God’s. That is to say our desires and choices to act are undetermined by God. Calvinism says the opposite.

        Now please… if you are thinking of writing back and saying you still don’t see the difference…please do some more reading. Shalom.

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      2. stridermtb writes, “God’s determination on which world to actualize exists in a context in which every possible world he could have actualized…”

        That is fine. However, in Molinism, all of this takes place in the mind of God BEFORE He creates the world. Then, God selects that ONE world that He wants to actualize; He creates that one unique world – Genesis 1 begins with God’s implementation of that decision.. God necessarily knows all that will happen in this world – because Molinism says that God knew everything about this world before He created it, as He did every other world He could have actualized. By creating this world, God set in motion everything that would happen in this world – everything is necessarily determined.

        Molinism and Calvinism are compatible – Molinism describing God’s deliberations before He creates the world; Calvinism describing the unique world God created.

        Can you argue against this understanding of Molinism??

        stridermtb writes,”… is a product of genuine, human freedom wherein choices and events are grounded first and foremost in the will of humans not God’s. That is to say our desires and choices to act are undetermined by God. Calvinism says the opposite. ”

        This is the great claim coming from those who have run to Molinism for an argument against Calvinism. However, this is offered as an assumption. No one has yet proven this to be the case.

        The problem with using Molinism is the same with non-Calvinist systems – the sovereignty of God. Until a way is found to take away God’s sovereignty, all choices and events must be grounded in God’s will. To ground anything in man’s will requires that man be autonomous and independent of God – that man be sovereign over his affairs and not God.

        So, can you show that the differences between all the possible worlds that God considered before creation can be attributed to man’s will and not God’s will? If you are able to do this, you will be the first to do so and will become a national hero among non-Calvinists. Until then, you, with others, can only assume this to be the case and only because that is what you want to believe.

        Molinism is not a friend to the non-Calvinist.

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  21. Ephesians 1:11 – “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,” This verse is used by Calvinists as their strongest verse to try to prove that God has predetermined all human choices before creation. There is no other verse, and this one is not even close to proving that harmful doctrine. (Some also try to squeeze the same meaning out of Acts 15:18, and I could discuss that next in the same light as trying to prove too much).

    In Ephesians 1:11 Paul is just encouraging believers, like he did the Romans in 8:28-30, by assuring them that God’s good plans from them will not be foiled but that He is “working” (present continuous action) everything “according to the counsel of His will.” It is this last phrase that especially has to be made to mean by Calvinists that everything is predetermined if the Calvinist is going to be correct. But what if God is working out everything with divine freedom of choice for Himself, because in His sovereignty He decided, by the counsel of His will before creation, not to pre-determine everything? Could that be possible? Is He sovereign enough to do it that way, and does that way square with the normal reading of biblical revelation.

    The phrase “the counsel of His will” means nothing more than “the plan of His desire”. God has not planned for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2Pet. 3:9) He desires all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1Tim 2:4). That is why He is working all things to accomplish those things. And if a man does not repent, come to a knowledge of the truth, and get saved, it is not because God wasn’t working sufficiently to bring that about, but because God was not working coercively and permitted him to freely reject. Man perishes because of man’s rejection, not God’s pre-determination.

    This squares with the revelation of Scripture, as evidenced by its universal commands, statements in the subjunctive, and direct declarations that God still freely is making decisions (cf. Jer. 18:1-11, 1Cor. 12:11), as well as other conditional statements that indicate the future is only partially pre-determined (cf. Matt 26:53, 2Pet 3:12). Calvinism and it definitions of pre-determinism squares with the philosophy of Augustine, who got it from the Greek Stoics.

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    1. brianwagner writes, “In Ephesians 1:11 Paul is just encouraging believers, like he did the Romans in 8:28-30, by assuring them that God’s good plans from them will not be foiled but that He is “working” (present continuous action) everything “according to the counsel of His will.” It is this last phrase that especially has to be made to mean by Calvinists that everything is predetermined if the Calvinist is going to be correct.”

      Calvinists draw a universal truth from this verse: “God works all things after the counsel of his own will.” “All things” refers to the the entirety of His creation. This verse means that God necessarily determines all things. This is because God has the final say on every thing that happens. You recognize, and agree with, this as you then say–

      brianwagner writes, “But what if God is working out everything with divine freedom of choice for Himself, because in His sovereignty He decided, by the counsel of His will before creation, not to pre-determine everything? Could that be possible? Is He sovereign enough to do it that way, and does that way square with the normal reading of biblical revelation.”

      The answer is, NO. God is, by nature, sovereign – He is omnipotent, He is omniscient, He is omnipresent, He acts with perfect wisdom.

      God cannot NOT be sovereign; or omnipotent; or omniscient; or omnipresent; or unwise. This is the foundation of the Calvinist system; so long as God is defined by these attributes, the Calvinist system is justified. The Open Theists concede this to the Calvinists. The open theist solution to the Calvinist problem (i.e., the free will problem) is to take away God’s omniscience of future events. In doing this, the Open Theists created a new god. To get to any conclusion other than the Calvinist conclusion, it is necessary to take something away from God and create a god.

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  22. Praise God that He has revealed Himself clearly in the Bible without the need of harmful Calvinist definitions of who He is based on Greek philosophy! The future does not exist yet, but God knows it fully to the fullest extent of His divine plan with all the pre-determinations and all the possibilities for the free interaction that He sovereignly desires.

    God, please open the eyes of those corrupted by Greek philosophy to limit your Sovereignty, Omniscience, Mercy and Freedom! It is harming our love for You, for our brothers, and for all the lost. Please, dear Lord!

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  23. Rhutchin, I am not a Molinist. I only brought it up to help you see your habitual inconsistency and how your attempts to explain God’s sovereign relationship with human acts of decision confusingly fluctuate back and forth between Arminianism, Molinism and Calvinism.

    Moreover your apparent belief that you know more about the final conclusions of Molinist logic than William Lane Craig… and your insistence that Molinism, with it’s emphasis on God’s middle knowledge of counterfactuals of undetermined acts of human freedom, is compatible with the meticulous, unconditional pre-determinism of Calvinism over every thought, desire and choice of men… once again demonstrates that I dialoging with someone that doesn’t even know what they don’t know. The arrogance has become too think with you.

    I do appreciate your attempts to elucidate your beliefs. May you continue to search and seek and I wish you well. God bless.

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    1. stridermtb writes, “…your insistence that Molinism, with it’s emphasis on God’s middle knowledge of counterfactuals of undetermined acts of human freedom, is compatible with the meticulous, unconditional pre-determinism of Calvinism over every thought, desire and choice of men… once again demonstrates that I dialoging with someone that doesn’t even know what they don’t know.”

      Or perhaps, you don’t know. You don’t object to my characterization of Molinism as a description of God’s deliberation of that which He would create and that this all occurred BEFORE God created the world. You also do not object to my characterization of Calvinism as a description of the world AFTER God creates the world.

      So, what prevents the two from being compatible. Nothing that you identify. Unless you mean that the assumption of “counterfactuals of undetermined acts of human freedom” means something. However, neither Craig nor any person appealing to Molinism has shown this assumption to be valid. It may be that the true assumption is that of ‘counterfactuals of determined acts of human freedom.” We just don’t know at this time.

      So, what is the inconsistency in my position. You claim such an inconsistency, but continue to be unable to explain it.

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      1. rhutchin you have my world view. Well the closest to it anyway. Props to you for bringing very valid arguments to the discussion.

        Soteriologically im calvinist in the sense that i hold to tulip. But when it comes to determinism i view it from a type of molonism. Denying in this view Libertarian free will but also denying hard determinism. I espouse a soft determinism.

        Adam and eve had perfect Libertarian free will but once they fell they enslaved themselves and their posterity to sin. From this mass of fallen men who do have a will God saves some graciously. As to sin, God permits but never causes sin. Sins origin for humans begins in Eden and really the liability lays at the feet of Adam. So before creation God forsaw all the possible universes and actuated this one knowing how adam and eve would act of their own accord. He also is abel to craft and guide history by adding or removing factors or by intervening at times. Eg. Who is born to what family at what location at what period and their personality.

        Foreknowledge to me removes any libertarian sense of freedom humanity could have, unless you are an open thiest. What God foresees tomorrow will inevitably come to pass. Even in eternity past God foresaw me responding to this message and in this universe it couldn’t be otherwise. Why? Because in this universe i would always have wanted to add to this discussion.

        Now you say i cant hold tulip and believe in moloinism? Dont call it molinism then. Half this discussion is side tracked by ‘you dont know what you should believe as a calvinist or a molinist’. Drop it. We’re all biblocists and dont follow men. Labels are useful for shorthand communication but in discussions like this droping labels and explaining principles is much more fruitful.

        I think its biblical to hold to calvinisms tulip and my aforementioned view of molinism is how i view the world. It removes any blame for God in the causation of sin and allows him to still guide it. In my head this makes the most possible sense. To me this is compatiblism. Most calvinists to my understanding are not hard determinists (though everyone here seems to intentionality mischaracterise them as such). To me thats the error of hyper calvinism. If most calvinists are then i guess im not a calvinist (but i hold on to tulip). Ive never understood calvinism to be a blind adherence to every word of John Calvin – rather a Soteriological position.

        I believe God actually universally loves everyone and on one level genuinely desires to save all but in his wisdom has decided that the execution of justice on many people for sin is a higher good and is done for his glory(Romans 9). Sin is not a disease to be pitied. The will of a man is active in its sin…willing, reveling in it. It deserves punishment rven if its our nature. Even if we didn’t directly cause our nature.

        Do some secular reading on compatiblism. There are good arguments for it.

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  24. it’s going to be a field day for Dr. White if this is the level of argumentation that Mr. Flowers is going to bring to the table.

    “What Calvinists fail to acknowledge is that in our system evil is a consequence of autonomous human freedom (something they presume cannot exist). And, in fact, we do believe that God does have a purpose in giving man the ability to make autonomously free choices. So, it is only in presuming that God did not purpose to create autonomous creatures that one is left with the dilemma of either (1) God purposing evil or (2) purposeless evil. I believe a clear distinction must be made in the idea of God actively purposing evil and His actively using evil for His good purposes. The former impugns his Holiness while the latter highlights His redemptive sovereignty and ultimate glory as the perfect, sinless Creator.

    So, in short, the Calvinist has assumed our premise cannot be true (question begging) and concluded that God is either (1) purposing all evil or (2) the existence of evil has no purpose (false dichotomy). Thus, their argument, once again, rests on a fallacy. Calvinists should be asking what we believe God’s purpose is in creating autonomously free creatures, not merely presuming He hasn’t, or couldn’t even if He so desired. (And in turn we should be asking Calvinists what they believe God’s purpose is in creating non-autonomous creatures that He Himself determines to do evil.)”

    that’s fine, just admit that you don’t believe God is omniscient. God doesn’t know what these autonomous free will agents are going to do and is thus reacting to these actions that he did know of but had to learn about. there is no fallacy on our part Mr. flowers, we reason from logical necessity.

    ““God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

    Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it–it is worth paying.””

    now who’s begging the question? you’ve assumed autonomous free will for creatures despite the fact that this is logically untenable if God is to be omniscient. also, Lewis asserts that love without free will is a love not worth having. this is his own opinion, it is not fact. Do we argue that God cannot change the heart and mind( eze 11:19-20, jer 31:33)? God is not able to change a person’s will to cause that person to love him sincerely? Does Mr. lewis argue that this type of love is worthless? again, God is not forcing the will or even compelling the will. He’s changing it! there’s a huge difference in forcing someone against their will and changing it all together. there are people who were once addicted to porn who absolutely detest porn and would never have anything to do with it. are they forcing themselves to not watch against their will or has their will changed?

    also, an omniscient God doesn’t take risks as risk involves unknown probabilities.

    “But what is the answer for the Calvinist? Since God is obviously fine with determining mankind to think, believe and act as He determines, then why not just create them as He wishes them to be from the beginning? Why determine suffering, rape, molestations, and the like in order to produce in creatures what clearly He is more than willing to determine in them apart from such means anyway? To claim there is a purpose in a given act of evil, one must establish what purpose that given evil act accomplished that could not have been accomplished equally as well through non-evil means. The concept of “purposeful means” is a problem for the Calvinist.”

    more romans 9:13-23. the pot yelling at the potter. backseat driving. God has told us why he did these things. if you don’t like the answer, that’s not anyone else’s problem but yours..from a temporal standpoint, these negative things are brought on by sin and for judgement upon sin.

    “For instance, in Romans 11:14 Paul anticipates that envy might provoke his fellow countryman so that they may be saved. What specific purpose does provoking a man to envy accomplish that is not effectually accomplished by the inward work of regeneration supposed by the Calvinistic system? What actual purpose do signs and wonders fulfill that is not likewise accomplished by the effectual calling? Calvinists claim to affirm the need of means but deny the purpose behind what makes such means necessary in accomplishing their biblically stated purpose. After all, a man unconditionally elected and effectually regenerated, regardless of whether of not he sees a sign or is provoked by envy, will certainly be saved. So too, a world with or without suffering, rape, molestations and other such “heinous means” would produce the same determined product if God so determined it.”

    so now we wan’t to dictate the way in which God chose to glorify Himself? yet again, more romans 9:14-23. you’re doing exactly what verse 20 says you have no right to do.

    “Why condemn most of humanity to eternal torment in order to show those he determined to believe how great He is…as if He couldn’t have determined believers to fully realize that without the rapes, suffering and torment?”

    because God is the creator of all things and thus He owns all things and can do as he pleases with what belongs solely to Him and if anyone is going to give Him counsel on what he should do it certainly won’t be His creatures.

    “Plus, does anyone really believe such deterministic teaching makes God appear more merciful or glorious to those of us he has saved? Even Calvin called reprobation a dreadful decree and most Calvinists speak of how difficult it is to accept these doctrines. In fact, many remain “closet Calvinists” and use fake names on twitter so as not to reveal their true beliefs due to the difficulty they impose. If God’s purpose is to reveal to us something glorious about Himself, then why do so many of his own followers find such doctrines so incredibly terrible instead? Why have doctrines that are meant to glorify God been splitting his bride in two for most of Christian history?

    Maybe God just determined His church to be split over this issue? Why do you suppose that is? Could it be that your false views about God are the autonomous cause of such strife in our churches? I know that is a difficult thing to ponder, but mustn’t we all willingly and objectively consider that possibility? After all, think about it. Either we are correct and Calvinism is causing unwanted strife in the church by their own autonomous choosing, OR God has determined for the non-Calvinists to cause these battles.”

    appeals to authority are invalid. calvin’s opinionated feelings on the matter are irrelevant. God is extremely merciful because he is under no olbigation to show mercy to anyone especially when we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. people think it an amazing thing that God hated esau when the thing that is truly amazing is that God loved jacob. we all deserve to burn in hell forever and ever. the fact that God would save even one guilty sinner is beyond merciful.

    people don’t like the doctrines of grace because it rubs their humanism the wrong way. God can’t have mercy on who He will have mercy and compassion on who He will have compassion. He cannot predetermine His elect and non-elect irrespective of who we are. who is saved and who’s not has got to be up to us. it can’t be up to God.

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