5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

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After reading countless articles on soteriology for my doctoral studies and listening to every online debate over Calvinism that I can get my hands on in preparation for my upcoming debate, I have come to this very firm conviction:

It is impossible to rightly represent a view with which you disagree to the satisfaction of every opponent.

misrepresentation

Now, to be fair, this happens both ways. I have witnessed well intending Calvinists attempt to fairly restate their opponents view only to be met with ridicule as well (though it does seem to be more rare from my biased vantage point).  Being a former Calvinist (I know, I know,  IMPOSSIBLE!) and having many close friends and family members who affirm the doctrines of TULIP, this issue has really bothered me. I want to be fair to my Calvinistic friends and I know many of them want to be fair to me and my views.  So, why does that seem to be so difficult?

I’ve come up with 5 reasons why I believe the dreaded ACCUSATION OF MISREPRESENTATION will never cease as long as this discussion continues:

1) NOT EVERYONE IS CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH:

There are some Calvinists who simply disagree with Edwin Palmer’s quote above, as they should.  There are moderate Calvinists, high Calvinists, ultra Calvinists and hyper Calvinists (the last of which most Calvinists would disavow completely). There are some who affirm God’s provisional atonement for all people and God’s sincere desire for every individual to repent and believe; but others who do not.  There are some who affirm God’s genuine love for every individual, while others only describe his feelings toward the non-elect as wrath-filled hatred.

Those familiar with the lapsarian controversy, which has to do with the logical order of God’s eternal decrees of salvation, realize the complexities of rightly defining the various perspectives of Calvinism.  This disagreement is ultimately centered around the “achilles heel” of the Calvinistic worldview: DIVINE CULPABILITY. How does God escape being held responsible for the origin and ultimate cause of all moral evil?  Some Calvinists attempt to explain the logical order of the divine decree in such a way as to minimize His guilt for the fall and the origin of evil, while “higher” forms of Calvinism (typically called “Supralapsarianism”) simply embrace the troubling concept of double predestination and refer to “lesser” views of Calvinism as being “inconsistent.”

One scholar accurately observed:

Calvinists are seriously divided among themselves and always have been. There is Supralapsarianism vs. Sublapsarianism vs. Infralapsarianism. ‘The Supralapsarians hold that God decreed the fall of Adam; the Sublapsarians, that he permitted it’ (McClintock & Strong). The Calvinists at the Synod of Dort were divided on many issues, including lapsarianism. The Swiss Calvinists who wrote the Helvetic Consensus Formula in 1675 were in conflict with the French Calvinists of the School of Saumur. There are Strict Calvinists and Moderate Calvinists, Hyper and non-Hyper (differing especially on reprobation and the extent of the atonement and whether God loves all men), 5 pointers, 4 pointers, 3 pointers, 2 pointers. In America Calvinists were divided into Old School and the New School. As we have seen, the Calvinists of England were divided in the 19th century.

Whenever, therefore, one tries to state TULIP theology and then refute it, there are Calvinists who will argue with you that you are misrepresenting Calvinism. It is not so much that you are misrepresenting Calvinism, though. You might be quoting directly from various Calvinists or even from Calvin himself. The problem is that you are misrepresenting THEIR Calvinism! There are Calvin Calvinists and Thomas Fuller Calvinists and Arthur W. Pink Calvinists and Presbyterian Calvinists and Baptist Calvinists and many other sorts of Calvinists. Many Calvinists have never read Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion for themselves. They are merely following someone who follows someone who allegedly follows Calvin (who, by his own admission, followed Augustine). (LINK)

Again, to be fair, not all non-Calvinists agree on every point of doctrine either. One of my greatest frustrations in these discussions is overcoming the common belief that every non-Calvinist is a classical foresight faith Arminian, or that we just deny the doctrines of election and predestination all together.

I had a pastor on social media write me a message the other day which in part read, “You just don’t like the doctrine of predestination because you would rather worship your idol of free will.” He has no idea that I dislike the term “free will” and absolutely LOVE the doctrine of predestination.  And I really cannot blame him given that the last non-Calvinist he engaged may have loved the term free will, denied any concept of predestination, and quoted John 3:16 over and over in anger (BTW, immaturity like that only served to galvanize me in my Calvinism when I was younger).

The point is that we are not all cut from the same cloth.  Everyone does not have both feet firmly planted in one monolithic camp with a single statement of faith and spokesperson.  If we desire to have profitable dialogue we must seek to understand the individual we are engaging rightly.  We must avoid labeling them and dismissing them while assuming we fully understand their views simply because we have read a book from someone who appears to be from the same camp.

2) DEFINING THE TERMS: 

This issue is closely related to the first. Many people even in the same camp use different terms that often carry different connotations and implications.  For instance, when I say “responsible” I actually think it means that someone is “able to respond” (silly me). Yet, when some use the word “responsible” they simply hear “justly punishable even if one is unable to respond.”

This issue especially comes to light when the discussion of God’s eternal decree surfaces.  Does God author sin? Did He create the desire to do evil? Does He ordain it or decree it, or both? Does He permissively decree it or actively decree it? Does God passively allow moral evil by “bare permission” and “simple foreknowledge” or does He actively plan it by “meticulous determinism?”  Which verb is appropriate when talking about our perfectly Holy and Righteous Creator and the origin of moral evil?

It is easy to see how such conversations can become confounding very quickly. One brother says, “God has decreed sin,” while meaning “God permissively allows contra-causally free moral creatures to choose to sin autonomously from God’s divine Holy will.”  All the while, another brother, using the exact phrase, may mean, “God intended the morally evil choices by planning and meticulously determining the very desires and circumstances of mankind so that they would certainly choose as He ordained for His Holy purposes.” Neither brother desires to impugn God’s Holiness or His Sovereignty yet no doubt neither will escape the accusation of failing in their attempt.

This is one reason we need to be patient with each other and seek to understand the meaning of our opponent’s terms in a discussion.  Also, we have to realize that our terms may carry an unintended connotation in the mind of our audience.  We need to define our terms clearly and openly ask questions in order to really understand each other before engaging further in dialogue.

3) CORRECT BUT NOT PALATABLE: 

Imagine the reaction if a sitting President made one of the two following comments:

  • “Authorities subdued the suspect, and through interrogation, thwarted the plot of the terrorist organization.”

Versus:

  • “Jack ran down the black 18 year old teenager as he left the high school parking lot, slammed him to the ground, broke his knee caps with a bat, put a gun in his mouth and threatened to pull the trigger until he gave up information leading to a line of three other suspects who had similar painful experiences.  Finally, Jack extracted the plot of the terrorists, which could have been found out a number of other ways.”

Both statements may be completely true but the latter contains the kind of details that many of us rather not hear about. Now consider these two theological statements:

  • “To display His abundant providential power, God has sovereignly brought all things to pass in accordance with His Holy plan.”
  • “To show off how powerful He is, God meticulously determined all the heinous desires and subsequent evil actions of every creature who has ever lived in such a way that they could not have done otherwise, including the rapes of children, the holocaust, slavery, torture, and every single evil thought, deed or inclination because that was what He planned and ultimately desired to come to pass.”

One of the statements may be much more palatable and easier to affirm, but both are stating the same basic meaning.  Applied theology means just that.  It is when our theological rhetoric is taken out of the class room and applied in the real world.  Some people cannot stomach it, while others revel in its destain as a badge of honor, almost as if the more offensive their views are to others the more likely they are to be correct.

Recently, in one of my interactions with Dr. James White, we were discussing the implication of compatibilism with regard to the claims of homosexuals who believe they are born with same sex desire and cannot choose to do otherwise (see HERE).

In my attempt to make a case for why compatibilistic theories only validate the homosexual’s belief, I copied and pasted the views of a compatibilistic scholar who described how God providentially brings to pass the “voluntary” choices of man through “meticulous determinism.”  I simply plugged the choices of those with same sex desires in where the compatibilistic scholar spoke generically of all human choices. I copied the description virtually verbatim with the intentional effort of avoiding the all too common “accusation of misrepresentation.” Dr. White, apparently not recognizing the article’s reference, spent an entire hour critiquing me for misrepresenting compatibilism, even titling his broadcast, “Leighton Flowers Reduces Compatibilism to a Shadow of Itself.”

What I believe Dr. White was reacting to was the true implications of his systematic as it related practically to a real world moral evil. I challenge anyone to offer a specific rebuttal of any statement made in my original article that is not consistent within the compatiblistic framework as presented by their own scholar. Dr. White was not reacting to the accuracy of what was written as much as he was to the reality of the implications when applied specifically to homosexual desires and choices. In short, he rejected what was written not because it was inaccurate (after all it was his own scholar’s description), he rejected it because it wasn’t said in a palatable manner.  It wasn’t “politically correct” enough.

Face it, it is easier to say and swallow the phrase, “God providentially brings all things to pass to manifest His glory,” than, “God meticulously determines the homosexuals desires and acts of sodomy to show off His power.”

By the way, I’m very much aware of the difficulty of some teachings we all may affirm, such as the concept of hell.  As long as the scriptures afford the critique we must be willing to live within that tension.  If someone restates our belief in an less desirable way (i.e. “So you believe God is going to burn people for eternity because some dude thousands of years ago ate a piece of fruit?”) we should unpack their concern and answer it biblically, not deny the truth in order to avoid the tension.

4) RATIONALIZATIONS AND LOGICAL IMPLICATIONS:

“The doctrine of Total Depravity – when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.” –CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 29

Was CS Lewis attempting to directly accuse all Calvinists of worshipping the devil? I seriously doubt it. It is more likely that he was attempting to draw out the logical implications of the Calvinistic claims regarding their teachings on total inability. John Wesley makes a similar claim in a sermon about double predestination in which he teaches Calvinism makes God out to be worse than the devil, because the devil would not deceptively pretend to want all to be saved (link). Yet, we know that Wesley was close friends with Calvinistic brothers (like Whitfield) and won the respect of many great Calvinistic believers (see note at the end of this article). How can Calvinists get along with someone who implies their doctrine leads to devil worship? I think those who have studied these issues at length better understand how this is possible.

Dr. Roger Olson is someone I’ve very much grown to admire over the years. He has adopted the best approach I have heard in dealing with the tension of this particular issue. In a recorded discussion with his friend Michael Horton over these difficult issues (HERE), he carefully explains how he realizes Calvinists do not view God as “monstrous,” but that he would have to if he were to adopt the claims of Calvinism. In other words, Olson acknowledges that Calvinists do not believe God is morally evil or “devil-like” in any way shape or form, but explains why he would have to draw that awful conclusion if he were to adopt Calvinism and remain consistent with its claims.

This issue has also come up with regard to the need for evangelism if Calvinism is true.  I am not aware of any mainstream Calvinistic pastors or scholars who downplay the biblical call to actively participate in evangelism and missions. Even when I was a Calvinist I served as an evangelist and do not recall ever feeling that such work was unnecessary due to my doctrinal views.  However, the logical implication that God will certainly save all his elect regardless of our level of involvement could be taken to seed and lead some to believe that adopting such a view would harm evangelistic fervor (maybe for some it would as it has historically at times).  The fact is that good mainstream Calvinists actively stand against this logical implication and continually remind those who affirm their doctrines not to take these views to that unbiblical conclusion.

This likewise goes both ways.  For instance, some may feel our affirmation of omniscience would lead to similar fatalistic views as that held to by deterministic believers. We deny that divine omniscience undermines man’s responsibility (contra-causal choice) in any way, but the logical implications of a set future based on God’s foreknowledge of all things prior to creation lead some to rationalize that our view has no real distinction from that affirmed by compatibilistic determinists.  Some have adopted Open Theism in order to deal with this logical implication, while the rest of us are fine living with the tension of the infinite mystery afforded by the scriptures on this issue.  Every system has its mysteries, whether some are willing to acknowledge it or not:

“How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.” – John Calvin

I’m aware of how the “you too fallacy” is often employed in these discussions in order to avoid the system’s tension, which I address the the last part of THIS ARTICLE.

5) NEFARIOUS MOTIVATIONS: 

When you disagree with someone about something so intimate and personal as the biblical teaching of grace and salvation it is easy to allow yourself to start believing there must be something seriously wrong with them.

How can they not understand this teaching!?

What is wrong with them?  

Don’t they believe what the Bible says?!

Are they just stupid or do they like ignoring the scripture!?

They must be evil!

Is it possible that two well meaning, God fearing, bible believing, followers of Christ honestly disagree about the meaning of a passage?  I’d challenge anyone to find me two scholars who agree on every single text or point of doctrine in the scriptures. I seriously doubt it can be done, yet can the two not find enough common ground on which to unite?

We are different.  We each have unique perspectives, emotions, personalities and experiences that affect how we understand a passage.  Does that mean we should adopt full blown ecumenicalism and just pretend everyone is right who is sincere?  I do not believe that is a good balance either.  Iron is made to sharpen iron and that happens through clashing of ideas, thoughts and opinions in healthy, edifying ways.  We do not have to assume our opponent is a devil in order to confront their perspective effectively.  In fact, it is typically much more effective when you engage one as a friend, not a foe, in matters such as biblical doctrine.

Let us learn a lesson from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, as we close this article:

You know, brethren, that there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer, I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But, my dear friends, far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none within her walls but Calvinistic Christians, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him, that while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself, I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitfield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ into their hearts, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist out of heaven.

– C. H. Spurgeon, The Man With the Measuring Line

For more on the need for UNITY please read THIS ARTICLE.

214 thoughts on “5 Reasons for the Accusation of Misrepresentation when Debating Calvinism

    1. Great to have you here. Why not take one of those holes you see being poked into Calvinism and add something substantive and make those holes into chasms to big to overcome. The libertarian free will issue needs a lot of work. Try that. Otherwise, pick one that interests you.

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  1. Les,

    //I think you and other non Calvinists just have to explain away the obvious teaching in Habakkuk and Acts 4 because passages like those seriously undermine your view of God//

    I responded to both of those texts. I said the following to Matt:

    “Did God intend for people to sin? No. But He did intend that there would be a sacrifice for the salvation of mankind. He sent the Son into the world, knowing that, once Satan realized who He was, he would instigate the crucifixion. It served God’s purpose, so He let it happen. He even helped it happen by hardening Israel, which He could justly do in reaction to centuries of their willful rebellion. But if the Israelites had excepted Jesus as Messiah, the Romans would have killed Him as a rival to Caesar. Or if the Romans had also accepted Him, then maybe God would have commanded the Israelites to sacrifice the Son same way He commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. He doesn’t need sin and evil. But He allows it, works with it, even redeems it if, it accomplishes His ultimate purpose to do so.”

    Then, Matt said:

    “…all your examples of what God could have done not only were obviously not the perfect way for God to do things, all the Christological typology in the story of Joseph would have been lost. He wouldn’t have been seized by His own people. He wouldn’t have been betrayed for silver. He wouldn’t have been turned over to foreigners. He wouldn’t have been condemned for his righteousness. He wouldn’t have been raised up and been set at the right hand of the king, and he wouldn’t have been given all authority and power over the kingdom. You see how God was working this all out very meticulously?”

    Then, I said:

    “Meh…the typology was prophetic. If men were gonna make different decisions, then the prophesies would have been different.”

    I also answered you on Habakkuk:

    “Also, “I am raising up the Chaldeans,” raising up means giving them power, strength. Just like He “raised up” Pharaoh with power and dominion. The text doesn’t say He predestined the Chaldeans’ brutal actions. They were enemies of Israel, and as punishment for Judah’s sins, God gave the Chaldeans strength to defeat them.”

    Then I challenged you with Zechariah 1:15. I said:

    “But, as we see, sometimes when God uses one nation to punish another, the latter nation can go too far, actually going beyond God’s intentions, as God says clearly here: Zechariah 1:15 ‘But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was ONLY A LITTLE angry, they FURTHERED the disaster.’”

    And you had no answer for Zechariah 1:15, which “seriously undermines your view of God,” right Les? 🙂

    //But I’m really done now. I had decided that your irrational responses, name calling (dishonest, liar) and emotionalism, were in my view, making conversing too difficult. No offense sister but I think that again//

    First, I never once called anyone a “liar.” I labeled one or two false statements plainly as lies and said certain debate tactics were intellectually dishonest. I don’t think I said any of that to you, though. What I said to you was that Calvinism is a lie from the devil (which I honestly believe is true and will never apologize for). I also told you the WCF statement you showed me was self-contradictory nonsense. Then I explained exactly why I think its contradictory and nonsensical. You made no reply.

    Second, I think it’s pretty hypocritical of you to falsely accuse me of “name-calling” when YOU just called me “irrational” and “emotional.” You’re guilty of doing the exact same thing you accuse me of.

    Perhaps it’s YOUR “irrationality” and “emotionalism” that has you leaving this conversation now that your “proof texts” have been answered? Perhaps that’s the real reason you’re “done” without even trying to answer Zechariah 1:15?

    No offense, brother.

    Bye 😉

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    1. Amyra,

      I’m sorry. I should have acknowledged your attempt to answer. As I said, I’m done…except one last comment on this:

      “Perhaps that’s the real reason you’re “done” without even trying to answer Zechariah 1:15?”

      To borrow a phrase from the Duke in Big Jake, “Not hardly.”

      God bless.

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  2. Hutch

    //OK. You are stressed because you really cannot explain LFW. As non-Calvinists are prone to do, you respond in an emotional rant. To further discussion, let’s set out a Calvinist view of LFW and maybe you can explain why you reject that view and what you believe instead//

    Sweetie, I already know the definition. I’m objecting to your presumptuousness. I didn’t have to prove my knowledge to you, so get over yourself, okay? Thanks, lol 😛

    //The Calvinist concludes that a person having LFW will always choose eternal life because that is the rational choice. If a person makes an irrational choice in choosing eternal death, then that person does not exhibit LFW…As a non-Calvinist, you oppose this position and do so vehemently. Can you explain why you do this?//

    First of all, freedom has nothing to do with making “rational” choices. It’s simply the freedom to make choices. Rational or irrational. Second, you never did prove to me how I misused the term. Third, I think it’s pretty cute how you think you can define terms as YOU want to define them and then require other people to accept and operate based on your idiosyncratic definitions, lolol.

    For the record, I see libertarian free will very simply this way: Our choices, though they may be influenced by various things (e.g. character, desires, circumstances), are determined solely by our will. Our choices aren’t determined by character, desires, or circumstances; we have the freedom to make choices despite our desires and circumstances.

    In my conversation with Matt, I said there is an element of mystery there, because no one knows exactly everything about how our will operates, just like no one knows everything about how God’s will operates.

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    1. Amyra Batya writes, “For the record, I see libertarian free will very simply this way: Our choices, though they may be influenced by various things (e.g. character, desires, circumstances), are determined solely by our will. Our choices aren’t determined by character, desires, or circumstances; we have the freedom to make choices despite our desires and circumstances.”

      That basically says nothing. How would one even determine that what you say is true? It’s only an opinion.

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  3. Hutch,

    //The Bible tells us that God is omniscient and omnipotent – God knows everything and God has the power to do anything He wants and nobody can prevent Him doing so. In Ephesians 1, Paul tells us that God works “all things” after the counsel of His will. By “all things” is understood that God can meticulously determine anything even to the point of mind control//

    The BIBLE doesn’t say that, Hutch, lol. YOU understand all to mean meticulous control and predetermination. And THEN you admitted you believe the human heart (i.e. the mind) has the capacity to devise it’s OWN evil. So which is it? Is God in control of the mind or are we in control of our minds?

    //In Colossians, Paul tells us that all things were created through Christ and for Christ and that Christ sustains all things. So, if Christ does not sustain the universe, the universe would devolve into chaos and be destroyed. If Christ does not sustain the life of a person, that person dies. Such is the dependence of creation on God/Christ//

    That has nothing to do with whether or not God chooses to control our wills. Try again.

    //As God must sustain His creation for anything to continue to exist, He must be intimately involved with His creation in an ongoing basis and regarding every single fact of His creation. To what degree? In Job, we read that Satan cannot touch Job because God protects Job. It is only after God removes that protection that Satan can do any harm to Job. However, we see that God allows Satan to affect those things external to Job and not Job’s mind. Thus we see that Job never loses his rationality and therefore, his knowledge of God – so, Job never rejects God. When God removed His protection over Job, He knew exactly what Satan would do and allowed Satan to do only what God had determined//

    Again, this has nothing to do with whether or not God chooses to control man’s will, lol. Give it another try.

    //In the garden, Satan cannot enter to tempt Adam and Eve unless God decrees it. God so decreed and Satan entered into the garden//

    Umm…where does the Bible say God DECREED ANY of this? Please show me that verse. Also, nothing that happened in the garden proves God controls our wills.

    //God can control the things we think about//

    Great! Then you admit you believe it’s God who puts evil thoughts and desires in peoples minds? Thanks, that’s really all I wanted to know. You could’ve just said that from the start and saved us both a lot of time, lol 😉

    //If God is not “absolutely” sovereign, then it cannot be true that God works “all” things after the counsel of His will – something must prevent God doing so at least in one instance//

    I already answered this. You’re ignoring the context of Eph 1. It’s not about mind control. It’s about God working all things out in such a way that He accomplishes His purpose to bring salvation to the world.

    P.S. I noticed you never did answer Jesus’ prayer. He told us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven.” Why would we need to pray God’s WILL BE DONE ON EARTH if it’s already being done, Hutch?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “you admitted you believe the human heart (i.e. the mind) has the capacity to devise it’s OWN evil. So which is it? Is God in control of the mind or are we in control of our minds?”

      Of course, the ability of the mind to devise its own evil does not mean that God is not in control of the mind. It means that God does not have to help the mind devise evil. That God can control the evil devised by wicked, sinful minds does not mean that He does must intervene to prohibit what the mind devises. Certainly you don’t mean to suggest that God is not omniscient and does not know a person’s thoughts or that God is not omnipotent and cannot affect change to a person’s thoughts. Do you? This should be a non-issue; why are you belaboring it?

      Amyra Batya writes, “//[rhutchin writes] God can control the things we think about//

      Great! Then you admit you believe it’s God who puts evil thoughts and desires in peoples minds? Thanks, that’s really all I wanted to know. You could’ve just said that from the start and saved us both a lot of time, lol ;-)”

      That God can control a person’s thoughts does not require that God put evil thoughts into a person’s mind. It means that God can restrain a person’s thoughts such that the person does not devise the evil he could if unrestrained. This is, of course, one of the things Christians pray for – that God would restrain the evil they are prone to dwell upon. Again, this should be a non-issue.

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    2. Amyra Batya writes, “//If God is not “absolutely” sovereign, then it cannot be true that God works “all” things after the counsel of His will – something must prevent God doing so at least in one instance//

      I already answered this. You’re ignoring the context of Eph 1. It’s not about mind control. It’s about God working all things out in such a way that He accomplishes His purpose to bring salvation to the world.”

      You are correct to say that Ephesians 1 is about God saving whom He wills. However, in support of that argument Paul states, and applies, an universal truth – God works all things after the counsel of His will. Is there anything you can think of that is not known to God and which an omnipotent God could not affect in whatever way He wanted? Unless you know of something not under God’s power, “all” things encompasses “all” things. This would be true despite Paul’s application of this truth to the issue of salvation.

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      1. Again, Hutch, it’s only your choice to insist that verse is talking about controlling people’s wills. The Bible gives no reason to support such a belief.

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    3. Amyra Batya writes, “P.S. I noticed you never did answer Jesus’ prayer. He told us to pray: “Thy will be done on earth, even as it is in heaven.” Why would we need to pray God’s WILL BE DONE ON EARTH if it’s already being done, Hutch?”

      Jesus responds to the request of the disciples to “teach us to pray.” Jesus’ teaching on prayer reflects the environment in which the disciples live. God has expressed His will for people in commanding all people to repent and believe the gospel – yet God has given people the freedom not to obey Him. Jesus commanded those who follow Him to love one another, yet not all believers do this – God even gives believers the ability to disobey Him. The point of the prayer is that Jesus is expressing God’s will for people to believe Him and freely obey the things He has commanded. The petition of the prayer is for God to intervene in the lives of people and reveal Himself to people to such an extent that all obey Him perfectly. It is a request that God save people and fulfill that which Paul said in Philippians – God is at work in believers to accomplish His will.

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      1. On the one hand, Hutch, you insist that God must be meticulously controlling everything to the last molecule, including people’s thoughts. On the other hand you claim God has given people the freedom to disobey Him. On the other hand you believe He has a (secret?) decree and intention that most people will disobey Him. On the other hand you claim He (genuinely?) wants all to obey Him. These are such a flagrant contradictions I can’t believe anyone would affirm them, but I know you’ll say God has a double mind (i.e. two contradictory wills).

        If that’s what you believe, so be it. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

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      2. Amyra Batya writes, “On the one hand, Hutch, you insist that God must be meticulously controlling everything to the last molecule, including people’s thoughts. On the other hand you claim God has given people the freedom to disobey Him. On the other hand you believe He has a (secret?) decree and intention that most people will disobey Him. On the other hand you claim He (genuinely?) wants all to obey Him. These are such a flagrant contradictions I can’t believe anyone would affirm them, but I know you’ll say God has a double mind (i.e. two contradictory wills).”

        The problem is not that we disagree. The problem is that you create strawmen with which to disagree which strawmen have nothing to do with my arguments.

        Let me rephrase the positions stated above for the sake of accuracy.

        1. God meticulously controls everything to the last molecule, including people’s thoughts. God exerts control by various means – sustaining His creation, by directly intervening in His creation to affect certain outcomes (e.g., impregnating Mary), by the preaching of the gospel, by restraining people from sin.
        2. God has given people the freedom to disobey Him within the boundaries of His restraint and knows beforehand how they will exercise that freedom (i.e., Joseph’s brothers were restrained from killing Joseph but could sell him into slavery which God intended).
        3. The Scriptures state that people will disobey God; This is God’s will but people are free to obey Him.
        4. God commands that all people obey Him; This expresses God’s will for people but they are free to do otherwise.

        I leave it to you to explain the contradictions you see.

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  4. Hutch

    //That basically says nothing. How would one even determine that what you say is true? It’s only an opinion//

    Just because it’s not your definition doesn’t mean it “says nothing,” lol. And I told you there was a mystery to it. Just like you have to appeal to mystery if someone asks you to explain God’s will (i.e. why He chose to create, why He chose to elect YOU over someone else).

    Besides, I define libertarian free will the same way Prof. Flowers defines it, and he defines it the same way the Traditionalist Baptists define it:

    “Traditionalists typically hold to some form of libertarian free will. According to this model, man has, as a special gift from God, the ability to transcend cause and effect and actually make real decisions. These decisions may be influenced by outside factors, but not to the point of coercion. Libertarian free will is consistent with the language of Article 8 in the phrase “actual free will (the ability to choose between two options).”

    Hunter, B (2013). “Commentary on Article 8: The free will of man.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry, 10(1), 19-28.

    Like

    1. Amyra Batya writes, “//[rhutchin writes] That basically says nothing. How would one even determine that what you say is true? It’s only an opinion//

      Just because it’s not your definition doesn’t mean it “says nothing,” lol. And I told you there was a mystery to it. Just like you have to appeal to mystery if someone asks you to explain God’s will (i.e. why He chose to create, why He chose to elect YOU over someone else).”

      The appeal to mystery can be used a s a cop out as is done here. You only express your belief as what you want libertarian free will to be. To define what you mean by your belief takes more effort. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Thus, ‘free” will requires truth to be free. The person with libertarian free will must be dealing with truth in order to choose freely. Yet, you don’t even mention this. Why not?

      Amyra Batya writes, “Besides, I define libertarian free will the same way Prof. Flowers defines it, and he defines it the same way the Traditionalist Baptists define it:

      ‘Traditionalists typically hold to some form of libertarian free will. According to this model, man has, as a special gift from God, the ability to transcend cause and effect and actually make real decisions. These decisions may be influenced by outside factors, but not to the point of coercion. Libertarian free will is consistent with the language of Article 8 in the phrase “actual free will (the ability to choose between two options).’”

      Yeah, that’s about as helpful as your misguided attempt to describe what you think it means. “…make real decisions…”?? All decisions are “real” even if not free. “…influence by outside factors but not to the point of coercion”? The issue is not even coercion. The issue is whether outside factors determine the choices a person makes. Why do you think they obfuscate – maybe because they, like you, don’t know how to define it. Defining “actual free will” as “the ability to choose between two options” says nothing – even compatibilist free will says the same thing. What this tells you is that the non-Calvinist has not found a way to define “libertarian free will” sufficient to avoid the problem Calvinists have cited – a person with libertarian free will always chooses salvation else the decision was not free.

      Like

      1. Complain all you want, Hutch. I mentioned the mysteries you have to appeal to, didn’t I? I guess it’s not a “cop out” when Calvinists have to appeal to mystery, right? You just don’t like the definition because you can’t debunk it is all. It doesn’t fit within your deterministic paradigm.

        Like

      2. Amyra Batya writes, “…there is an element of mystery there, because no one knows exactly everything about how our will operates…You just don’t like the definition [of libertarian free will] because you can’t debunk it is all. It doesn’t fit within your deterministic paradigm.

        I don’t like the definition you have for libertarian free will because it is superficial and says nothing. Yet, the Scriptures have much to say about man’s will and freedom to choose. There is Jesus telling us that truth makes us free. Paul tells us that people are slaves to sin. Paul says that people who are lost have been blinded by Satan while Jesus tells the Jews that they don’t believe Him because they are not one of His sheep. There is much that we read concerning the unsaved – described as the wicked or foolish in Proverbs – so there is less mystery than you might want to believe about the freedom of people to choose, especially with regard to salvation (the only issue where it matters).

        I think the Calvinist makes a valid point – the person with libertarian free will always accepts salvation else he has no libertarian free will. I also defined the Calvinist definition of libertarian free will with four points. If you could respond to all this, you would have done so. Instead, you are deflecting making basically snide remarks that are useless to discussion and betray your inability to deal with the issue.

        Like

  5. All,

    I ran across a good quote today which seems apropos for discussing our differences. I know the quote spoke to me and how I sometimes interact. Hopefully it will be a blessing to all of us.

    “One does not often persuade a man to do right by proving to him that he is wrong; but if . . . by his own truer impulses and nobler reason, you may convict him of wrong without injuring his self-respect and arousing his antagonism, you not only convict, but persuade.” – James Mason Hoppin, The Office and Work of the Christian Ministry, 1869

    Blessings.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. [Note- I am posting this here as I could not reply directly to Les Prouty’s comments earlier in the thread.]

    Les you say:

    “I think I would disagree with this, “so that they both had to sin.” Having been created perfect (innocent and sinless), they did not have to sin. But in fact they did sin, willfully. They were able not to sin, even if the required law keeping involved only one prohibition.”

    Les this contradicts what you have said in other places.

    You denied and mocked LFW in another thread quoting someone as saying it is **“psychologically perverse”**. In that same thread you mocked LFW in other ways as well. I bring this up to show that by your own words you do not hold to libertarian free will.

    Brian very clearly presented the fact that calvinists as determinists, cannot claim that Adam and Eve had free will, that they could have chosen either option, as libertarians maintain (as Brian correctly put it “they both had to sin”).

    Determinists like yourself Les believe in compatibilism (you have stated this many times that you are a compatibilist): compatibilism presupposes that ***all*** events, all choices are determined (that means if compatibilism was in place in the garden as you believe): then they HAD NO CHOICE. They HAD TO SIN.

    In any choice if the choice is determined (as would be true if compatibilism were true) then the person **has to make the choice** that they make. They cannot choose otherwise it is impossible for them to choose otherwise.

    If all is determined as your compatibilism maintains, then they did not HAVE a choice. They MADE a choice, which God determined they would make, but they never HAD a choice.

    As John Martin Fischer shared with me at one time: if exhaustive determinism is true, then people may MAKE choices but they NEVER HAVE CHOICES.

    So first Les you deny that they had to make the choice they made (“they did not have to sin”: which is a direct denial of your own compatibilism): then you state “in fact they did sin, willfully.” That last phrase sounds a lot like a libertarian talking but you are not a libertarian: you are a self-professed compatibilist. So in order for you to evade the problem (that if their choice was determined then God caused them to sin, God caused the fall, they did not sin freely but had to sin as their choice was necessitated/determined/predestined and so God is the author of the fall as he is the author of all sin ***if all is determined***) you talk like a libertarian.

    You run into precisely the famous problem that Jonathan Edwards ran into and never solved: namely, if you advocate compatibilism (that all things are determined by God) as Edwards did (and as you do), then your view breaks down and collapses when discussing the fall. Because you want to talk about the fall as if they chose freely, as if they really ***had*** a choice, but your view does not allow for that (your view does not allow for anyone to **HAVE** a choice only for someone to **MAKE** a choice. So you end up talking like a libertarian (as do most calvinists thought they are compatibilists) when talking about the fall, though your own view/compatibilism precludes them from having HAD a choice. And if your and Edwards view of compatibilism is true and true when Adam and Eve fell then you cannot escape the charge that this view makes God the author of sin/the fall (and if he determines all choices then all sins are determined by God and he is the author of all sin).

    If they really chose freely (in the libertarian sense where they HAD a real choice), if their choice was not determined: then your compatibilism is false.

    If instead they did not choose freely (in the libertarian sense where they HAD a real choice), if their choice was determined, then your compatibilism is true. But if your compatibilism is true, then they had no choice, they had to sin/fall and God is the author of sin.

    So which is it Les?

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    1. Robert,

      First, I do not consider my previous comments about LFW as mocking.

      Second, I do not think there is any such thing as LFW. It’s purely philosophical. The bible talks about the will as free from sin. Adam and Eve pre fall were free from sin, but corruptible. “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.” WCF

      Or as one Reformed writer (don’t know who but is at monergism.com, an excellent resource I might add) says,

      “By confession we believe that God created human beings “with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.” (WSF IV.2) This is to say that man was created in such a way where he was not yet sealed in righteousness as he will be in glory, but created with a an inclination toward good. Why evil temptation was able to overcome that inclination, the Scripture does not reveal, so any dogmatic response would be speculative.”

      So I don’t run into any problems here at all brother.

      Blessings brother.

      Like

      1. Les writes, “I do not think there is any such thing as LFW. It’s purely philosophical.”

        Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” So, technically, libertarian free will requires complete knowledge of truth. Thus, only God has actual libertarian free will. Because people must deal with outright lies and misinformation, no one could ever approach libertarian free will.

        However, the real issue here is salvation. Calvinists claim that people are dead in their sins – having no libertarian free will – and enslaved to sin and this ensures their rejection of the gospel. It is only after God regenerates the person removing their slavery to sin and providing them a libertarian freedom through knowledge of the truth of Christ that the person now chooses salvation. A person with “libertarian” free will (as conceived by the non-Calvinist) must always choose salvation – else they are not free. The problem for the non-Calvinist is to give all people enough freedom to choose salvation but ensure that some do not. It has proven a difficult task to accomplish and they are not there yet.

        Like

      2. I took the time to lay out a logical argument which Les Prouty completely ignored.

        In another thread Les had mocked LFW by citing someone who described it as “psychologically perverse.” How does Les deal with this:

        “First, I do not consider my previous comments about LFW as mocking.”

        Oh, of course not, yet if I had said of the calvinist that they were “psychologically perverse” in some belief, I don’t think the calvinists would say that I was not mocking their belief!

        Next, Les simply dismisses LFW with no proof, just his own authority:

        “Second, I do not think there is any such thing as LFW. It’s purely philosophical.”

        Next he simply quotes the Westminster Confession, a document that is calvinistic and rejected by non-Calvinists in its claims:

        “The bible talks about the will as free from sin. Adam and Eve pre fall were free from sin, but corruptible. “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.” WCF”

        Next he quotes yet another calvinist source:

        “Or as one Reformed writer (don’t know who but is at monergism.com, an excellent resource I might add) says,
        “By confession we believe that God created human beings “with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.” (WSF IV.2) This is to say that man was created in such a way where he was not yet sealed in righteousness as he will be in glory, but created with a an inclination toward good. Why evil temptation was able to overcome that inclination, the Scripture does not reveal, so any dogmatic response would be speculative.””

        So what is his response to my logical argument?

        He completely ignores it.

        He then cites two calvinistic sources (as if that is supposed to convince non-Calvinists of the truth of Les’ view) and concludes:

        “So I don’t run into any problems here at all brother.”

        So he completely ignores the argument, cites sources that hold to calvinism, and concludes “I don’t run into any problems here at all”.

        This is why I have said in the past that the two worst examples of calvinist internet “trolls” that I have ever encountered and witnessed are Les Prouty and rhutchin. As I have said to others and will repeat again, you have to really be careful in your interactions with these two. They will go around and around in circles with you, twisting things that you say and ignoring arguments against their calvinism. You may waste a lot of time with them (are you listening Amyra?) so you really need to be careful with these two.

        In this case I chose to interact with Les’ words as he provided such a perfect example of the problems that compatibilists like him have with the fall of Adam and Eve. The famous calvinist Jonathan Edwards could not handle this problem nor can modern proponents of calvinism/compatibilism (e.g. Les Prouty). I think is obvious by his complete failure to interact with the argument and evasion of the argument and simply resorting to quoting calvinistic sources. That Prouty shows that he like Edwards also has an insoluble problem. I will let others be the judge as to whether or not he dealt with my argument at all.

        Like

      3. Robert forst,

        Yes you took the time to lay out your argument for something I don’t think exists. In your other posts on LFW you fail to make your philosophical argument here too. You cannot demonstrate LFW from scripture because it doesn’t exist.

        Are you surprised that I would quote the WCF and other Reformed thinkers? I hope not.

        And look Robert. If you think I’m just a troll and not worth “wasting time” on, then just refrain from replying.

        Have a blessed day brother.

        Like

      4. Rhutchin,

        “Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” So, technically, libertarian free will requires complete knowledge of truth. Thus, only God has actual libertarian free will. Because people must deal with outright lies and misinformation, no one could ever approach libertarian free will.

        However, the real issue here is salvation.”

        I don’t disagree. Salvation is what I’m talking about. Obviously God doesn’t need saving. I am talking about man. I said in fact, “The bible talks about the will as free from sin. Adam and Eve pre fall were free from sin, but corruptible.”

        “However, the real issue here is salvation. Calvinists claim that people are dead in their sins – having no libertarian free will – and enslaved to sin and this ensures their rejection of the gospel. It is only after God regenerates the person removing their slavery to sin and providing them a libertarian freedom through knowledge of the truth of Christ that the person now chooses salvation. A person with “libertarian” free will (as conceived by the non-Calvinist) must always choose salvation – else they are not free. The problem for the non-Calvinist is to give all people enough freedom to choose salvation but ensure that some do not. It has proven a difficult task to accomplish and they are not there yet.”

        I agree.

        Like

      5. Les writes, “I said in fact, ‘The bible talks about the will as free from sin. Adam and Eve pre fall were free from sin, but corruptible.’”

        I agree.

        Adam/Eve were free from sin but not free from the deception of Satan and not free not to to sin (they were free to sin). Whatever freedom of will Adam/Eve enjoyed was compromised by the deception employed by Satan. Only truth can overcome deception and God choose not to intervene in the garden to set the record straight (God had ordained that Adam/Eve succumb to the deception of Satan and sin), but for us, He has set the record straight through the Scriptures and we must now study those Scriptures diligently in order to overcome the ongoing deceptions of Satan.

        Like

      6. Hi Roger, If Jesus promised those listening – “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free”, how can you say “technically, libertarian free will requires complete knowledge of the truth”? Was Jesus making a promise that would never be fulfilled?

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      7. brianwagner writes, “If Jesus promised those listening – “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free”, how can you say “technically, libertarian free will requires complete knowledge of the truth”? Was Jesus making a promise that would never be fulfilled?”

        I think that libertarian free will requires complete knowledge of truth so that only God has libertarian free will. The rest of us suffer from having to deal with lies and misinformation plus a lack of full knowledge of the truth. These are certainly influences on the decisions we make – but are lies and misinformation coupled with lack of truth determinants of some decisions we make (i.e., the reason we make bad decisions)? I think, Yes. Are all of our decisions bad decisions, No.

        What about those who reject the gospel – that was a bad decision – so do lies and misinformation play into those bad decisions, Yes. As influences on that decision or as the determinant of that decision? Certainly an influence, but any influence not counteracted (and any lie not counteracted by truth) becomes a determinant, so probably the determinant, also.

        Jesus was making a promise that could be fulfilled – studying the Scriptures will reveal truth to a person and set them free from the lies of Satan. Can a person become perfectly free? I don’y think so as Paul says that we see through a glass darkly. But more free than we are if we do not study the Scriptures.

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      8. Roger, Why must I “accomplish the task” of showing God “give[s] all people enough freedom to choose salvation but ensure[s] that some do not”? I don’t believe God has to “ensure that some do not” choose salvation, especially since He did not ever plan for any to perish (2Pet 3:9). God does sometimes harden those who have had “enough freedom to choose salvation” but they then hardened themselves when they heard His voice calling them to salvation (Heb. :7-8). I guess you could say from that point on God has ensured that they never again choose salvation.

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      9. brianwagner asks, “Why must I “accomplish the task” of showing God “give[s] all people enough freedom to choose salvation but ensure[s] that some do not”? I don’t believe God has to “ensure that some do not” choose salvation,…”

        OK. So does God have to enable people to accept salvation – either generally enable through the preaching of the gospel or by quickening them because they are dead in sin, or are you taking the position that people are born with an inherent ability to accept/reject salvation?

        Let’s say that your position is that no one is enabled to accept/reject the gospel unless, and until, they hear the gospel preached (faith comes by hearing…a person is justified by faith…by grace a person is saved through faith…). What then? Shouldn’t all who hear the gospel be saved? If the preaching of the gospel compels one person to accept salvation, why not all. After all, each person has a free will; each person has the same information; the decision is a no-brainer; all have enough freedom to choose salvation; so every person should reach the same conclusion. What could explain why some accept salvation while some reject it? Somehow, you have to keep everyone from accepting the gospel – which means to me that you have to have God ensuring that some do not choose salvation – who else is going to do it? Thus, you say, “God does sometimes harden those who have had “enough freedom to choose salvation”…” So, it seems to me that even you have God stepping in to ensure that some finally and completely reject the gospel. So, I am confused by your question and assertion that you don’t believe God has to “ensure that some do not” choose salvation,…” when you seem to say that God actually does this.

        Like

      10. Good Morning Roger – Thank you for further illumination on how you think about these things.

        You said – “Certainly an influence, but any influence not counteracted (and any lie not counteracted by truth) becomes a determinant, so probably the determinant, also.” This sounds almost like you are saying that you and I are never responsible for disobeying the truth since the lies that were given from an outside source is the determinant, though your word “probably” indicates that you are not totally sure. But if you and I understand the truth, but also choose to believe the lie that offers to you and me the opportunity to resist the truth, are you and I not able to resist the lie and choose to believe the truth?

        I don’t believe people are born with the ability to start seeking salvation or even understanding their guilt feelings, but I do believe they are people who are born with the gracious inherent ability to accept/reject God’s initiatives that will lead them to salvation.

        You asked – “Shouldn’t all who hear the gospel be saved?” The preaching of the gospel does not “compel” a person to accept salvation, no more than the truth that God teaches you and I through these discussions compels us to accept those truths. I know you choose to think that if “all have enough freedom to choose salvation… every person should reach the same conclusion.” I also know that you do not accept my explanation that the same freedom you and I now profess to hear God’s truth and still reject it, is the same freedom used to either accept or reject salvation. You are still free to reject this truth and I guess you believe I am still free to accept what you think is truth or you wouldn’t talk with me! 🙂

        You expressed being “confused” when I explained why God does not “have to” ensure that people reject the gospel, though He “can and does” ensure that some people reject, who have already rejected the gospel after being enabled to accept it. I am not sure if I can explain it any better. It is true that God ultimately is the one who confirms those who believe in everlasting righteousness and confirms those who reject (after being enabled to believe) in everlasting damnation. I just reject that this was all a predetermined – “have to” before creation.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. brianwagner writes, “You said – “Certainly an influence, but any influence not counteracted (and any lie not counteracted by truth) becomes a determinant, so probably the determinant, also.” This sounds almost like you are saying that you and I are never responsible for disobeying the truth since the lies that were given from an outside source is the determinant, though your word “probably” indicates that you are not totally sure.”

        By “probably,” I meant that it is difficult to distinguish between an influence and a determinant. I think that the strongest influence becomes the determinant but others do not.

        People are always responsible for the decisions they make and people generally understand that some of what they know is true and some is false and it is their chore to determine which is which in making decisions. Thus, Paul says of the Bereans, that they were noble because they searched the Scriptures to discern if Paul was telling them the truth. Paul’s point: we should emulate the Bereans. If we don’t we are more prone to making bad decisions to which we are accountable fully to God.

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  7. Robert,

    Yes, I was listening, lol. And I’m so over this conversation. When you realize folks are completely comfortable living with inconsistency — they can actually sit there with a straight face and say God controls everything including our thoughts and then turn right round and say God gives us the freedom to disobey — there’s really nothing more to say after that.

    Later, bro.

    😉

    Like

  8. Robert,

    Please forgive me for not seeing the previous comment you posted that was directed toward me. I guess I just passed over it because you had Mike at the top. I saw your other comment later, and it’s cool. No big deal. There are so many comments on here now that I haven’t taken the time required to read all of them. I’ll try to address that one now. I’ll answer in the order that you listed what you see as problems.

    1) The Bible presents a sovereign God who makes all things for their purpose and works all things after the council of His will. Compatibilism could be proven logically without ever cracking the Bible, but it was the authority of scripture that first led me to embrace Reformed soteriology. Most of what I have presented here is based on logic, but logic and scripture are not at odds with each other or even two independent fields of study. The foundational epistemological truths that must be assumed as true for all reasoning, knowledge, and to even function in any area of life (laws of logic) must be accepted in all fields of study. They are the foundational tools we use to reason in anyway at all including how we reason about scripture. If we cannot take these laws as true at all times then we might as well shut our Bibles as well as quit doing anything at all.

    If the Law of Causation is not always true, how do we know that the words written by the inspired Biblical writers conveys a meaning at all? How do we know that Jesus’ words “no one comes to the Father but by Me” weren’t actually intended to convey the meaning that no one comes to the Father but by Satan? If specific causes don’t bring about specific effects, like a specific arrangement of letters and words conveying a specific understanding to people who read them, then how could we possibly know anything written in the Bible or anywhere else? Another example would be Amyra claiming that there is no difference between how I believe God determines all things by doing only perfectly good actions and believing that God directly acts to put an evil desire in someone’s heart that wasn’t there before. I stated it in the form of two contradictory propositions and she denied there was any difference. If there is no difference between contradictory propositions (breaking the Law of Non-contradiction) then the gospel command “believe and repent and you will be saved” is no different than saying don’t believe or repent and you will be saved. While these are extreme examples, we can’t pick and choose where we will affirm and deny the laws of logic. Anywhere we deny them we are being inconsistent with the rest of our lives and reasoning, and we are by definition being illogical. We are going to be wrong in any conclusions we draw also.

    2) I haven’t left out anything about there being independent wills in the world in addition to God. I already addressed the idea using the Law of Causation. I’ll try to address it more clearly here because it wasn’t understood the first time.

    Any type of change whatsoever is an effect and every effect requires a preceding cause. Decisions (change in knowledge and intention) and actions (change involving movement) are effects that require preceding causes. Ultimately all effects can be traced back through causal sequences (long lines of causes that are also effects of their preceding causes) to the First Cause which is God. A decision is arrived at by considering all the information presented to us through our senses about our circumstances and filtered through any natural predispositions we may have to determine which course of action is most desirable to us. We do this through our thought process. So as I have pointed out to Amyra, the idea that there is something called Libertarian Free Will (LFW) that produces a decision (effect) other than what the specific set of causes (perceived circumstances, natural predisposition) would produce violates the Law of Causation. If it operates independently of our thought process, that is saying that LFW is the production of an uncaused effect that is sometimes not at all what we really desire to do most and outside of our control. If it somehow plays into our thought process making us able to desire most multiple different options, Then that is claiming that it destroys the link between cause and effect. The atheist who claims, “I can’t see, hear, or sense God in any way. Many brilliant scientists from many fields of study have concluded that there is no reason to believe in any such Being, and I hate the idea of living to serve and please anyone other than myself. So, I refuse to serve and follow the God of the Bible.” could also say, “I can’t see, hear, or sense God in any way. Many brilliant scientists from many fields of study have concluded that there is no reason to believe in any such Being, and I hate the idea of living to serve and please anyone other than myself. So, I want to serve and follow the God of the Bible more than anything”. This is the absurdity of claiming that the same set of causes can produce different effects.

    I see that you also claim that God’s knowledge does not cause things to occur. I have explained this previously, but I will do it again. God’s knowledge that He will act and knowledge of how He will act necessarily cause His action. He didn’t surprise Himself by just spontaneously commanding the world into existence without knowing what He was going to do and intending to do it. His knowledge brought about the first action (change), which was the first effect, and sequences of causes/effects played out from there as well as from all His other actions. His eternal knowledge was of Himself, what He would do, and all of the results of what He would do.

    3) You seem to acknowledge that God always acts perfectly, but add that we do not. I agree with this in the sense that we do morally evil acts that violate the laws that God has given us. That doesn’t mean that we act in a way that doesn’t work toward the achievement of God’s perfect purposes. I addressed the fall already. Our self-centered proclivity to sin from birth is a result of the fall. God intended the fall. He made man “very good” and gave him good instructions. He made man mutably good though. While God is immutably good because He is omniscient and can never be presented with any new information or false information that He doesn’t know is false causing Him to change His mind, man is not omniscient. Adam and Eve were able to be presented with new information and false information that went against the good instructions that God gave them. For this reason they were able to change. Why did God create a tree that gave fruit that was pleasing to the eye and tell them not to eat from it? He knew they would do it when presented with false information from Satan, yet none of His actions were evil. Part of God’s knowledge is what purposes He should achieve and what actions will best achieve those purposes. Since there are causal links between God’s actions and everything that happens within His creation, everything that happens in creation including the fall and every evil desire and action that follow as a result of the fall are effects that can be causally traced back to His good actions. All the resulting effects that play out through causal sequences were known to Him before He acted and the fact that He acted with this knowledge shows that He intended to bring about every one of those effects. Since God’s perfect knowledge and character require that He act perfectly in achieving the perfect purposes that He has known eternally, isn’t it necessary that all the known effects of His actions work toward the achievement of those purposes?

    Couldn’t Jesus’ words in the model prayer be a request that God’s perfect purposes continue to be achieved on earth as in heaven and/or the imperative will of God (His moral instructions) be followed on earth as in heaven (which you correctly see as something that will be done in total after the final consummation of all things)? This in no way implies that God’s decretive will of what will happen to best achieve all of His purposes is not done on earth.

    4) I haven’t invented a philosophy about good-evil (evil that works toward the perfect accomplishment of God’s purposes) and evil-evil (evil that does not). I simply pointed out that there are two theoretical possibilities for evil. This is a true dichotomy. Evil either works toward accomplishing God’s perfect purposes or it doesn’t. There wouldn’t be any examples of these two different types of evil in scripture because, as I have said, only one type exists in reality. Scripture talks about evil that is intended to bring about good, which is the only type of evil I believe exists.

    You point to Amyra saying that God didn’t intend the evil but the sparing of Joseph’s family from starvation. He obviously intended both among many other things a couple of which I pointed out in responding to her. I will respond more to her most recent comment if time allows. I already pointed out that in the verse God and the brothers both intend the same thing and that thing is the evil they did, the difference being that God intended it for good. I also pointed out what was being explained in that verse from the immediate context (their evil, sin, transgression). Grammatically and contextually her interpretation is baseless and can’t be seen as anything other than eisegesis.

    5) My view that God only allows evil to play out in the causal sequences that resulted from His own good actions if it is necessary in accomplishing His good purposes in the best possible way doesn’t break down at all in real life. You can think of whatever evil scenarios you like, the fact is that those instances of evil either were necessary in achieving God’s good purposes in the perfect way or they were unnecessary and didn’t need to happen at all.

    You and Amyra have both totally ignored the questions about your own views. In you view, God knew of the act beforehand, had the power to prevent it, and allowed it to happen although it didn’t need to happen for the accomplishment of anything. The answer to the grieving mother who’s child was raped and murdered about God giving people LFW is saying nothing more than that God didn’t prevent her child from being raped and murdered because in that particular circumstance, He valued the preservation of the LFW of the pedophile more than the life of her child. You may not like my answer that God was, and still is, in absolute control. That we may not understand how this worked for good right now, but that God is ultimately working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rm.8:28). But your answer that requires God to have given man the ability to break laws of logic and that the preservation of that ability is higher on God’s list of priorities than the lives of Children is a real problem. Can you point to any clear statements of LFW or its place at the top of God’s list of priorities in scripture? We both believe that people are presented with making decisions and are held accountable for what they do. That is clear in scripture, but the insistence that LFW is the only just way for God to hold people accountable is nothing more than speculation from creatures who possess minute amounts of knowledge against the omniscient God who created people for His own purposes. Scripture clearly states that God does all His will and brings the plans of people to nothing. That sure doesn’t sound like the preservation of LFW is high on God’s list of priorities at all. I believe that evil is only allowed when it serves God’s purposes in the best possible way.

    In your most recent comment you said that allowing or preventing evil only made sense if your view is correct. That’s simply not true. I not only believe that God acted at the beginning, but that He acts all the time within His creation changing the natural course of how things would play out if the causal sequences were left to play out with no intervention. He intervenes to fine tune things to accomplish their purposes in the best way as well as prevent any evil that is not necessary in accomplishing His purposes. If He didn’t intervene in the causal sequences things would happen that didn’t perfectly work toward accomplishing His purposes in the best way, but He put those sequences in motion knowing when and where He would intervene preventing and fine tuning.

    6) The arguments that I’ve presented are not at all circular. That would require that I assume the truth of my conclusion and then argue from that to prove my conclusion. It seems more like you’re accusing me of begging the question by presenting assertions in my arguments that I have not established and are not agreed upon. I have not presented anything in my arguments that I have not also established through rational argument though. I haven’t made any bare assertions about anything that we do not agree on. I have explained every one.

    I also saw your comment about O.J. and knowing what was happening without causing it. I have never seen anyone other than you use the term “logical relationship” in that way. It is usually used (I believe incorrectly) to establish and explain a relationship between categories of God’s eternal knowledge. There was definitely a causal relationship between the actions of O.J. and his driver and your knowledge of those actions. If you had been out walking in the woods with no T.V. or radio knowledge of what was happening on the highways of L.A. wouldn’t have just appeared in your mind. Your knowledge was caused by what was happening and the causal sequence involving television cameras, reporters, transmission towers, electricity, your T.V. and other things by which that information came to you. Causes precede their effects and the actions of O.J. and his driver preceded your knowledge of their actions. Even an eyewitness’ knowledge would have been preceded by the actions although it would have been by the imperceptible time it takes for light to travel the distance they were watching from as they took in the information through their sense of sight. It is very true that your knowledge didn’t cause their actions, but there was definitely a causal relationship where their actions caused your knowledge. As I have explained, with God His knowledge of what He will do and intention to do it precede and cause His actions which in turn put sequences of causes and effects in motion. The things that happen within those sequences can be causally traced to Him and His knowledge of what would happen as a result of His actions.

    I have gone on much longer than I intended and have a lot of things to do this week that really don’t allow me time to devote to continuing these discussions in any depth. I think I have stated my arguments enough times and in enough ways to make them clear, so after a comment to Amyra (hopefully shorter than this one) I think I will be done with the discussion for now. If you would like to get the last word, that’s fine. I wish you all the best and have enjoyed the discussion. God bless you brother.

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    1. Matt,

      I am going to deal with some your points, but not all as I don’t have the time to deal with each point.

      “1) The Bible presents a sovereign God who makes all things for their purpose and works all things after the council of His will.”

      That is merely an affirmation of calvinism, (cf. with WC “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”)
      .
      “Compatibilism could be proven logically without ever cracking the Bible”

      Not true at all, among contemporary Christian philosophers, the majority hold to LFW and they are quite aware of “proving things logically” (people like Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, J. P. Moreland, and open theists such as William Hasker and Greg Boyd, etc. hold to LFW and reject compatibilism). Actually classic compatibilism what Matt holds has some major problems that are well known, that is why John Martin Fischer a major philosopher in the area of free will and compatibilism, devised “semi-compatibilism in order to reject classic compatibilism and continue to hold to a version of compatibilism. But Matt seems unaware of the literature on any of this, which I am not going to bring up here. Matt can research that himself.

      “Most of what I have presented here is based on logic, but logic and scripture are not at odds with each other or even two independent fields of study.”

      The logic is not the problem, logic is very helpful and God expects us to be rational. Matt has brought up circular arguments which have been a misuse of logic, as we shall see shortly.

      “If the Law of Causation is not always true, how do we know that the words written by the inspired Biblical writers conveys a meaning at all?”

      Regarding the “Law of causation”, Matt you mix up the concept that: (1) everything has a cause (which is true) with the concept that (2) everything results from causal chains (i.e. determinism) which is not true. You ASSUME determinism and then present your arguments having already assumed the truth of determinism (this is a blatant example of begging the question as determinism is what is under dispute, to just assume it to be true, is not fair or accurate).

      Regarding the proving of determinism, determinism has never been proved, though many assume it. Alvin Plantinga believes the “proofs” for determinism are extremely weak: apparently you have never read Plantinga on this and perhaps you should. If what you call the “Law of causation” is simply your way of referring to determinism, then you are ASSUMING THE VERY THING THAT IS ISSUE (i.e. the truth of determinism). And just assuming it without proving it is JUST A BLATANT EXAMPLE OF BEGGING THE QUESTION. (caps for emphasis not anger).

      “2) I haven’t left out anything about there being independent wills in the world in addition to God. I already addressed the idea using the Law of Causation. I’ll try to address it more clearly here because it wasn’t understood the first time.”

      Actually you repeatedly speak about what God does, as if no other wills are choosing to do things: so Yes you leave out the other wills in the world.

      “Any type of change whatsoever is an effect and every effect requires a preceding cause. Decisions (change in knowledge and intention) and actions (change involving movement) are effects that require preceding causes. Ultimately all effects can be traced back through causal sequences (long lines of causes that are also effects of their preceding causes) to the First Cause which is God.”

      Oops there it is! The statement of determinism:

      “all effects can be traced back through causal sequences (long lines of causes that are also effects of their preceding causes) to the First Cause which is God.”

      You assume THIS but never have proved it, not even close. You are telling us that YOU believe in a domino world where God set up the dominoes and pushed over the first one. But most Christians (including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants) don’t accept determinism nor this domino world conception of causation.

      We accept that events have causes, but we do not accept these “long lines of causes” that you speak of. You have no proof for this, it is just assumed, which again leads you to engage in gross begging the question.

      “So as I have pointed out to Amyra, the idea that there is something called Libertarian Free Will (LFW) that produces a decision (effect) other than what the specific set of causes (perceived circumstances, natural predisposition) would produce violates the Law of Causation.”

      No it violates determinism, not the concept that everything has a cause because the agent is the cause and is acting for reasons in light of what is important to him (just like the way God chose to create the world, he did not have to do it, there were no long causal chains before his choice that determined his choices, there were no antecedent causes that determined his choice, rather, he as a personal agent acted freely and made the choice for reasons in light of what is important to him, God is in fact the best example of LFW that you will find).

      “I see that you also claim that God’s knowledge does not cause things to occur. I have explained this previously, but I will do it again.”

      No need to present your question begging argument again. God’s knowledge does not cause our choices or our thoughts or . . . God’s knowledge is of course involved in His own actions, but no one is denying that.

      “God’s knowledge that He will act and knowledge of how He will act necessarily cause His action. He didn’t surprise Himself by just spontaneously commanding the world into existence without knowing what He was going to do and intending to do it.”

      No need to present that God’s knowledge is involved in His own actions, again we all agree with that.

      “3) You seem to acknowledge that God always acts perfectly, but add that we do not. I agree with this in the sense that we do morally evil acts that violate the laws that God has given us. That doesn’t mean that we act in a way that doesn’t work toward the achievement of God’s perfect purposes.”

      Again you are just repeating a bankrupt argument yet again so I will not address it.

      “All the resulting effects that play out through causal sequences were known to Him before He acted and the fact that He acted with this knowledge shows that He intended to bring about every one of those effects.”

      Here you assume determinism to be true and add God’s knowledge to make your “argument”. But your argument is based upon the premise that determinism is true (something you have repeatedly assumed but never proved, never even came close to proving).

      “Couldn’t Jesus’ words in the model prayer be a request that God’s perfect purposes continue to be achieved on earth as in heaven and/or the imperative will of God (His moral instructions) be followed on earth as in heaven (which you correctly see as something that will be done in total after the final consummation of all things)? This in no way implies that God’s decretive will of what will happen to best achieve all of His purposes is not done on earth.”

      Wow, that is a bizarre, strained and mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ words: the text does not say that Jesus says that we ought to request “that God’s perfect purposes continue to be achieved on earth as in heaven”. Nowhere in the text does it say anything about “God’s perfect purposes”. Jesus’ statements indicate instead that Jesus was saying that God’s will **is** perfectly done in heaven, but that God’s will is not always being done on earth. That is why we ought to pray that it is done on earth as it is in heaven. What this shows is how desperate Matt is to hold to his view: instead of interpreting the biblical text as it was intended he reinterprets it so it just happens to state his philosophy. But the text says none of the things that Matt believers and Christians have taken it in its normal and intended meaning so there is no reason to change that interpretation so that we can hold to Matt’s false theology.

      “4) I haven’t invented a philosophy about good-evil (evil that works toward the perfect accomplishment of God’s purposes) and evil-evil (evil that does not). I simply pointed out that there are two theoretical possibilities for evil. This is a true dichotomy. Evil either works toward accomplishing God’s perfect purposes or it doesn’t. There wouldn’t be any examples of these two different types of evil in scripture because, as I have said, only one type exists in reality. Scripture talks about evil that is intended to bring about good, which is the only type of evil I believe exists.”

      Actually you have as your distinction between good-evil and evil-evil is never stated or presented anywhere in scripture. You invented this distinction and then read it into scripture. You say yet again that you believe it “is the only type of evil I believe exists.” But that is just your belief, it is not stated by scripture. Did God reveal to you that every evil is something he purposed and that he will bring an ultimate good out of it? No.

      “5) My view that God only allows evil to play out in the causal sequences that resulted from His own good actions if it is necessary in accomplishing His good purposes in the best possible way doesn’t break down at all in real life.”

      There it is again, Matt ASSUMING determinism ((“in the causal sequences that resulted”. And again, non-Calvinists are under no obligation biblical or philosophical to hold to this determinism.

      “You can think of whatever evil scenarios you like, the fact is that those instances of evil either were necessary in achieving God’s good purposes in the perfect way or they were unnecessary and didn’t need to happen at all.”

      That is just stating your philosophy: it has no persuasive force at all for those who reject determinism.

      “You and Amyra have both totally ignored the questions about your own views. In you view, God knew of the act beforehand, had the power to prevent it, and allowed it to happen although it didn’t need to happen for the accomplishment of anything.”

      Not quite I believe that God designed the kind of world that he wanted to exist, a world that would allow for some things to be possible that he wants (including genuine persons not puppets/robots, including genuine free will/not completely predetermined puppets, including human persons who can freely choose to worship God and love God and love other human persons, etc.): all things that would not and could not exist in a completely predetermined world. God had a design plan and that design includes people that sometimes experience LFW. Those same persons if they have LFW can choose both to do good or choose to do evil (that even includes believers as we still sin though we have been born again/regenerated, we can still choose to give into temptation, and that brings up another question if all evil is purposed as Matt claims then why does God predestine all the sins committed by believers? Especially if He is Holy and desires for us to be Holy, that makes no sense at all). If God prevents every action that may result in sin we would not have LFW nor would this be the orderly world that it is (instead it would be a whimsical world where the moment you tried to utter a negative word the sounds waves would be displaced preventing those negative words from reaching the ears of others; or when someone tried to hit someone else with a bat the bat would instantaneously change into a blade of grass, etc. etc. we don’t live in such a whimsical world, instead we live in a real world where people have real choices and that includes choosing evil and sin).

      “The answer to the grieving mother who’s child was raped and murdered about God giving people LFW is saying nothing more than that God didn’t prevent her child from being raped and murdered because in that particular circumstance, He valued the preservation of the LFW of the pedophile more than the life of her child.”

      Actually when an evil occurs, we don’t’ always know the mind of God on that particular evil (scripture does not tell us that) so we may conceive of reasons why God would allow it (I gave one that he wants an orderly world rather than a whimsical world, but there are others, sometimes he may even allow something for a greater good that he can accomplish through it). I have always thought that the so-called power of evil is usually caused when someone (usually an atheist, but also a calvinist when they want to argue for their belief that God predestines all evil, that it does not result from abuse of LFW) tries to put us in the position of: Ok this obvious evil has occurred why did God allow this? The problem is that we would have to be God to know the mind of God as to why this was allowed. And none of us in the positon to do this. Rather than trying to speculate why this particular evil is occurring I believe the Christian way is to provide comfort to victims and “overcome evil with good” as we are told to do. We are never told to speak for God on why an evil has occurred or to try to know his mind on a particular evil.

      “But your answer that requires God to have given man the ability to break laws of logic and that the preservation of that ability is higher on God’s list of priorities than the lives of Children is a real problem.”

      Actually my answer is not that God values the freewill of the pedophile over the free will of the child, that is YOU putting words in my mouth. I gave my answer that we can speculate about it but we really don’t’ know (though various answers have a bit of the truth to tell). We do know that we are to comfort the victims and overcome evil with good. But it get’s a bit contradictory to tell us God predestined that evil and at the same time wants us to overcome the evil he predestined with good. That is why your answer Matt is insulting, non-biblical and maligns the character of God from the perspective of non-Calvinists who reject your theology of evil

      “Can you point to any clear statements of LFW or its place at the top of God’s list of priorities in scripture?”

      Actually No I cannot point to scriptures that say it is at the top of God’s list of priorities (that is again you putting words in my mouth): I can provide plenty of scriptures that show that we sometimes have and make our own choices (which is what LFW amounts to, undetermined choices, situations where we really could choose either option). I won’t do it here or with you because you will merely reinterpret scripture so that it is forced to fit your determinism.

      “We both believe that people are presented with making decisions and are held accountable for what they do. That is clear in scripture,”

      Oh really, every decision if genuine means that we had a decision and could choose either option. But if all is determined as Matt believes we may make choices we just never ever have a choice between different options. We go through the motion of making choices, the choices that were predetermined for us to make, we just never have decisions where we could choose either option.

      “In your most recent comment you said that allowing or preventing evil only made sense if your view is correct. That’s simply not true.”

      Matt begs the question on his good-evil versus good-good argument concerning evil as well. Note he says:

      “He intervenes to fine tune things to accomplish their purposes in the best way as well as prevent any evil that is not necessary in accomplishing His purposes.”

      Matt believes that all evil is necessary in accomplishing God’s purposes: that is his premise; here he simply assumes it yet again as he presents his view.

      “If He didn’t intervene in the causal sequences things would happen that didn’t perfectly work toward accomplishing His purposes in the best way, but He put those sequences in motion knowing when and where He would intervene preventing and fine tuning.”

      Another premise of Matt’s that is assumed and never proved is the premise that God is always accomplishing His purposes in the best way with every evil that occurs: notice again in his presentation of his “argument” he is yet again assuming one of this premise, another premise that was never proved.

      “6) The arguments that I’ve presented are not at all circular. That would require that I assume the truth of my conclusion and then argue from that to prove my conclusion.”

      And that is exactly what Matt keeps doing over and over when he assumes determinism to be true. This occurs when he talks about the so-called “rule of causation”: every time he brings this up he also mentions determinism without ever establishing it or proving it. THAT is begging the question and Matt has done it over and over in his posts. I leave it to others to judge if they have seen his repeated begging the question.

      Regarding the logical/causal relation distinction Matt is just unaware of it, he begins with:

      “I also saw your comment about O.J. and knowing what was happening without causing it. I have never seen anyone other than you use the term “logical relationship” in that way.”

      That is because you are ignorant of contemporary philosophical discussions of this distinction (it’s there clearly and explicitly in the literature, literature Matt is completely ignorant of). The logical/causal relation is actually a very handy concept one you are aware of it. Just because matt is completely ignorant of it and so rejects it out of pure ignorance, does not mean it is not a valid distinction or that no one else has been taking about it.

      “I think I have stated my arguments enough times and in enough ways to make them clear, so after a comment to Amyra (hopefully shorter than this one) I think I will be done with the discussion for now.”

      Yes Matt has stated his “arguments” “enough times and in enough ways to make them clear”, revealing to those who are witnessing this discussion that his arguments are extremely weak and often involve the begging the question fallacy. Again as I have said now repeatedly, if we allow someone to ASSUME the very issues that are in dispute in a way that makes their position correct, then of course they have a strong argument. And this argument may be “strong” for others who want to believe the same things that Matt believes (e.g. exhaustive determinism, that God purposes every evil and intends, preplans and ensures them all): but it will not persuade others. In order for others to be persuaded if they are thinking rationally they want the available evidence and arguments that are not begging the questions, not assuming the very things that are in dispute.

      “If you would like to get the last word, that’s fine.”

      I hope so, Matt writes pretty long posts and it would take forever to deal with every point that he makes! 🙂

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      1. Robert writes, “‘[Matt writes]1) The Bible presents a sovereign God who makes all things for their purpose and works all things after the council of His will.’

        That is merely an affirmation of calvinism, (cf. with WC “He ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”)”

        It is also an affirmation of Ephesians 1 where Paul tells us say God works all things after the council of His will.

        I don’t see the point you sought to make. Can you tell us your point?
        .

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      2. Robert,

        I don’t want to jump back into the conversation, but may I suggest in a spirit of brotherly charity that you have misunderstood the Law of Causation? It is not “everything has a cause”. There are different ways of stating it, and some have been very sloppy. It can be stated as an analytic propositions “causes are whatever brings about an effect” and “effects are whatever is caused”. The simplest way of saying it accurately is “every effect is brought about by a preceding cause”. An effect is defined as any type of change, so any thing that brings about any change is a cause and any change has a preceding cause. I haven’t read everyone you mentioned but Plantinga and Craig use the Law of Causation (although usually sloppily worded) to argue for the existence of God. The entire Cosmological Argument is based on it because the universe or anything in it can be causally traced back to a First Cause. In fact if you go back to the original argument from Aristotle it was called the argument of the first cause. Aquinas stated it as the argument from effectual causes. I would suggest reading someone other than Craig on this argument as he is pretty sloppy with it in my opinion.

        I also thing you have misunderstood Plantinga and Craig’s use of the term “logical relationship”. They use it to try to establish and explain categories of God’s knowledge (free knowledge and middle knowledge). The vast majority of Calvinists use the term in this way too when dealing with the question of lapsarianism. Maybe you have read someone else who has used the term differently. I don’t know. I’m positive that people like Plantinga would tell you that there was a causal relationship between the actions of O.J. and his driver and your knowledge just like I explained. Ironically this term is used because they want to establish a relationship between two things (categories of God’s knowledge) that are eternal and one can’t be preceded by the other. Since a causal relationship is impossible, they simply replace the word “causal” with the word “logical” and claim “problem solved”.

        I’m not trying to put you down or anything. I’m just suggesting that maybe you’ve misunderstood these things. I’d love to respond to all you wrote, but really don’t have time to devote to continuing the discussion. God bless.

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      3. RHuthcin,

        That is directly from Pr.16:4 (depending on which translation you’re reading) and as you recognized Ep.1:11. I thought it was so obvious that I didn’t need to put the references. I’m glad to see that he thinks that scripture gives “an affirmation of Calvinism” though. Haha!

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  9. Amyra,

    Here we go again. You say, “I really don’t care how you THINK God’s creative process works, how you THINK His knowledge works, etc.” It’s nice to know that after presenting all these reasoned arguments that you have not been able to respond to that you really don’t care. You continue in your usual fashion with a list of bare assertions: “You don’t know any of that, it’s nothing but vain reasonings. And the law of causation doesn’t prove Calvinism.” I guess that was meant to refute everything I have said. I’m sorry if I’m not convinced.

    As for the man who “likes to bugger sheep”, The man is free to bugger sheep if that’s what he wants to do and God doesn’t prevent him from doing it. The desires got into his heart because he is fallen and depraved, and since he is a unique individual who’s fallen state manifests itself in a unique way, he desires to bugger sheep. Who intended for man to fall? Who created a tree that produced fruit that was pleasing to the eye and told Adam not to eat from it? Who made Adam very good but with limited knowledge so that he could take in new information and false information and act in a way that would change his and his progeny’s goodness into fallen sinfulness? Who put Adam in the garden where he and his wife would encounter Satan in the form of a serpent (another creation of God that was created good, yet mutably good)? Who knew that all of His good actions would create the circumstances in which Adam would take in new and false information causally resulting in Adam processing this information in a way where eating the fruit was most desirable to him? The answer to all these questions is God.

    You ask, “How do these acts of buggery glorify God and further His plans?” Well in addition to demonstrating the depravity of man and God’s perfect judgment of that depravity I don’t know. I’m not omniscient and don’t know all the little details of God’s huge overarching plan or of this hypothetical sheep buggerer’s life. Maybe when you get to heaven you can ask God to explain all the minute details of each case of sheep buggering. I can’t tell you all the reasons for every act of evil that ever happens. I can only logically and scripturally deduce that they happen according to God’s perfect plan and affirm that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” and that God “works all things according to the council of His will”.

    I’ll address the rest of your comment using the corresponding numbers you used to number your points:

    1) 2Thes.2 talks about the people who are perishing doing two things. The first is that they refuse to love the truth and the second is to believe a lie. The second is caused by God “sending them strong delusion that they should believe the lie”. In my previous comment I specifically said, “I’m not interested in hearing why you think God is justified in doing this. My point is that the God who cannot sin or lie is causing people to believe a lie being presented through secondary agents.” The point of the entire paragraph was that you should quit insisting that I call God the author of evil or the author of lies because He uses the evil or lying means of secondary agents to accomplish His good purposes.

    Your response was: “On God sending strong delusion: hardening peoples hearts (i.e. strengthening their resolve) to stand strong in what they’ve already purposed in their hearts to believe is NOT the same thing as being the author and originator of lies. So that point fails.” No Amyra, That point goes unaddressed like so many of my other points.

    2) You say, “God using an evil spirit to entice a ruler is no different that Him using other types of evil. The spirit was a liar and God used him because it suited His purposes to do so. That’s not the same thing as being the author and originator of lies.” God sent the spirit. The verse says the Lord “has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours”. You have done nothing but agree with me here. God sent a lying spirit to lie to king Ahab to accomplish his good purposes. The spirit said what he would do and God sent him to do it. I agree. God causing someone to be lied to through a secondary agent does not make him the author of lies. You add, “So that point fails”. No Amyra, that point stands and it even sounds like you co-signed it.

    3) About Joseph you dismiss the meaning and construction of what Moses wrote under divine inspiration. Trying to sound like you’re choosing to stand on scripture as opposed to “dictionaries” you say, “(dictionaries don’t interpret scripture. Scripture interprets scripture), and there’s no BIBLICAL reason why anyone must assume God intended the sinful acts of Josephs brothers. Wow! I agree. Scripture interprets scripture and scripture says that what was intended was evil. I guess there is no other Biblical reason why anyone must assume God intended the sinful acts of Joseph’s brothers other than the Bible clearly says it. As I pointed out in my previous comment, both grammatically and contextually your interpretation has no support. Why in the world would I consider it anything other than eisegesis?

    4) You say, “I’m still waiting for a BIBLICAL reason why I should even care to answer the question, Matt. You’ve given me philosophical reasons why you think I SHOULD have a problem with the idea of “purposeless evil.” Where is your BIBLICAL reason?”

    1Pet.3:15 says to always be “prepared to make defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”. Google the problem of evil and free will and see how much you find of atheist using the existence of evil to argue against the existence of God. I add free will to the search so you can find the examples of them making fun of what is an extremely superficial and unsatisfying answer. You can pass that off to people who believe in God and are willing to accept any answer that at first glance sounds like it may answer the question, but if you take it outside the church to people who are going to evaluate it critically it will be torn apart and you aren’t doing anyone a favor. Anyway, once again you didn’t respond to what I wrote. You just made an excuse for not answering a question when an honest answer would totally destroy the view you have presented.

    5) Continuing on with Joseph I pointed to other purposes that were brought about by his brother’s evil actions. We can never know all the purposes achieved involving their sinful actions this side of death, but we can know what scripture tells us. I pointed to the narrative in Ps. 105 mentioning in parenthesis about v.25 “so much for the protests that God wouldn’t do that” because it said “He turned their [the Egyptians] hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with his servants”. I don’t know if you think I was just totally contradicting everything I had said before about God never directly working evil in people’s hearts but still causing things through secondary means or what. I reminded you of the point I was making in the very next sentence, “The point is that God’s purposes go far beyond just saving people from starvation at that time”. I mentioned verse 25 because it gave an example of what I had been saying in other places. I wasn’t saying that He directly planted evil in their hearts. It says that “He turned their hearts”. I agree that He did this through means and God’s actions are all good. The Egyptians were fallen, selfish, and covetous as a result of the fall (which I have explained was intended and determined by God through good actions). God was able to turn their hearts and cause them to hate and deal craftily with the Israelites by manipulating their circumstance. Their hatred and bad treatment of the Israelites (effects) was the result of God’s blessing His people who were foreigners who God had also causally brought into the Egyptians’ land. All of God’s actions were good (it’s hard to say blessing people by causing them to be fruitful and strong is wrong), but through them He caused the Egyptians’ evil.

    Remember in verses like this I’m not saying that the Egyptians didn’t choose to hate and mistreat the Israelites because they did. As a compatibilist I believe that both they chose and God eternally chose. They brought about their evil directly and immediately and God brought it about indirectly through His good actions for the perfect achievement of His good purposes. Here the psalmist is obviously emphasizing the sovereignty of God in all of this as many of the Biblical authors do. There was no “Calvy eisegesis” here, only a misunderstanding on your part.

    6) I provided a pretty detailed list of Chistological typology in the story of Joseph and you provided no meaningful response. You simply dismissed it with “Meh…the typology was prophetic. If men were gonna make different decisions, then the prophesies would have been different”. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Are you saying that if Judas would have sinned differently, then Judah would have sinned differently? Are you saying that if Pilate would have sinned differently, then Potipher would have sinned differently and so on without God meticulously orchestrating and determining any of their sin? The typology in Joseph’s story makes a pretty powerful statement and all you have to offer in response is “Meh”!?!

    I’m sure you will go on to other comments sections of various soteriological blogs and add me to the number of “dishonest” Calvinists who you tell everyone you have refuted and who just couldn’t face the logical implications of their beliefs, but really your “refutations” consist of things like, “meh”, “I don’t accept that!”, and “You don’t know that!” and when it comes to logical implications you deny logic and dismiss it as “philosophy and vain reasoning”.

    7) Scripture teaches that God is omniscient, and the logical consequence of that is that He always acts perfectly in accomplishing His perfect purposes. I have explained this before several times. You have never answered it and here again you simply dismiss it.

    I don’t need to pull out my dictionary to go to the Greek. I’m quite capable of pulling out my NA28 and reading it for myself, and if I have a question I can consult a lexicon or one of my books on Greek syntax and exegesis. Dismissing what the inspired authors wrote down in the original language while offering no response to what I wrote is the equivalent of covering your ears and closing your eyes when someone presents you with something.

    Apparently God has not intended for you to embrace the truth of His sovereignty up until this point, but in the future… who knows. I know when Luke wrote these words he and the Holy Spirit had a specific meaning in mind. The study of hermeneutics is all about extracting that meaning from the text and understanding the different uses of the voices of Greek verbs helps in doing that.

    8) About the grieving mother. You did exactly what I would expect you to do. You threw something out there about free will and then diverted to other stuff without answering any of the questions that were asked. Instead of me rewriting it all again, please see where I address this in my comment to Robert directly above this one.

    I would tell her that I don’t know all the details of why this happened, but I know that God was and is always in complete control. This wasn’t purposeless and we have the consolation of knowing that God is in complete control and that ultimately He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. Then if her child was pretty young or had professed faith in Christ I would go on to tell her that I believed her child was happier than we could imagine in the presence of God.

    Your statement, “I would tell her that God NEVER wanted or intended such an evil thing to happen to her child.” doesn’t sound very honest to me. If He knew about it ahead of time and had the power to stop it then He would either intend to prevent it or not intend to prevent it. If I could easily prevent something and have no intention of preventing it, that sounds a lot like intending for it to happen to me. Also, as I have pointed out in other comments, He may not have wanted it to happen but in your view it boils down to He just wanted to preserve the pedophiles free will more.

    9) You totally ignored what I said here and I really don’t want to keep repeating myself any more.

    10) Here too you don’t address what I wrote but repeat the same old assertions about man’s will not being free (the way you think it should be free) and his choices not being meaningful (by your illogical definition that he must be able to produce opposite effects from the exact same set of causes).

    11) I am going to copy and save the quote you gave here, because it is my new best example of the wildest case of runaway eisegesis I have ever seen. First, anyone with even a Strong’s Concordance can find that the word translated as disaster, evil, judgment, etc. does not mean “to feed”. Second, what was originally written by the inspired author in Hebrew is dismissed. The Septuagint, which is the Greek text that the inspired authors of the New Testament quoted from, is dismissed. This guy finds a terrible Chaldian “translation” and then says we should read that meaning into the English we read and then conclude from this verse, “He does not make the wicked or ungodly man; but when man has made himself such, even then God bears with him. But if he repent not, when the measure of his iniquity is filled up, he shall fall under the wrath of God his Maker”.

    About Rm.9:22 you say, “He’s not saying He created people for hell. Go back and read Jeremiah 18, where He elaborates about the potter and the clay. It’s not about creating people for hell. It’s about reworking his plan based on the choices people make (Jer 18:7-12). Just like Romans 9 isn’t about choosing people for heaven or hell. It’s about God making His plan of salvation work IN SPITE of Israel’s willful disobedience.”

    Once again, you are in blind irrational denial here. Why do people always run to Jer.18 for the potter and clay analogy? Do you really think this is the passage Paul was referencing in Romans 9? Isaiah uses three different potter and clay analogies. Two of them involve the thing formed talking back to the potter to show how ridiculous that is. The one in Is.29:16 has the thing formed telling the potter that he didn’t make it, so I don’t think that is the one being referenced in Rm.9, but Is.45:9 has the thing formed complaining about how it was made, “Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to Him who forms it, “what are you making?” or “your work has no handles”?” Romans 9:20 says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “why have you made me like this?” Does the clay in Jer.18 say anything at all? No.

    Potter and clay analogies are used 4 different times in the Old Testament for different purposes. It is obvious which one is being referenced by Paul. The passage in Jer. 18 has a totally different emphasis than what Paul is talking about in Rm.9. As a compatibilist, I believe that both God decides what people do and the people decide what they do. In Jer.18 the emphasis is on the accountability of the people for what they do. God already knows what they’re going to do because He determined what they would do, but to put the emphasis on their accountability He tells them “If you do this… then I will do this… but if you do this… I will do this…” He has already decided, but they have not decided what they will do and have no idea what is already in the mind of God as they are faced with their decision. The only thing that will stop them from obeying God’s commands is their own love of themselves and their sins over God. I know I believe that the fact they are fallen and have sinful desires is causally traced back to God, but as I have said many times with no meaningful response in return, If God didn’t ensure the things necessary for the perfect accomplishment of all His purposes He would be wrong. If nothing else His warnings are for the benefit of (and actually do benefit) His elect remnant that He has reserved for Himself.

    Romans 9 is not about God making His plan of salvation work in spite of Israel’s willful disobedience. It is surely about salvation. In ch.8 Paul has just finished talking about the salvation of the people in the church at Rome. They have been predestined to be conformed to the image of His son so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (adoption as children theme) Rm.8:29. No one can bring a charge against them. They are God’s elect (chosen). God gave up His own son for them all (v.32) and Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for them (v.34). Absolutely nothing can ever separate them from the love of Christ (vs.34-39).

    As Romans 9 begins Paul anticipates the question: “What about the Jews? Weren’t they God’s elect (chosen) people too? Why have the majority of them now been separated from the love of God in Christ?” Paul is broken hearted about his kinsmen according to the flesh (vs.1-3). They had a special place and had experienced many special things including the giving of the covenantal promises (v.4) But in answer to the anticipated questions about Israel He says that the word of God (promises) had not failed because not all those who descended from Israel are of Israel (v.6) All of Abrahams descendants were not the children of promise. He uses the illustration of Abraham only having one son (Isaac) who was the child of promise (v.7) (although Abraham had 8 different sons). He then says the children of the flesh are not the children of God, but the children of promise are the offspring (v.8). Notice that it doesn’t say anything about not being chosen for the noble purpose of taking part in accomplishing God’s plan of salvation. It says the children of the flesh are not children of God. Notice also that the children of the promise are counted as offspring (adoption theme from 8:29). In vs. 10-13 the illustration of Jacob and Esau is used to show God’s sovereignty in choosing who He pleases. Jacob was favored over Esau from before birth based on nothing either of them did. Against all traditional wisdom and custom, God decreed that the younger would have the birthright and be blessed above the older. Notice that I don’t think this is about one being damned. This furthers the idea that God is perfectly sovereign in rejecting the children according to the flesh and adopting others to be heirs of promise. Verses 14-15 say that there is no injustice in choosing to have mercy on who He wants to have mercy on.

    Verse 16 is a clear statement that it (being a child of promise) has nothing to do with a person’s will or effort, but that it is up to God who shows mercy. Verse 17 introduces the contrast to being a child of promise and uses Pharaoh as an example. He was raised up to be destroyed as a manifestation of God’s power and glory. Verse 18 says that both sides of the coin mercy and hardening are totally up to God. Verse 19 anticipates the objection that if being a child of promise or not is all up to God, why does he hold people accountable? Does that sound familiar? Then Paul pulls out the Potter and clay analogy from Is. 45:9 to rebuke and remind anyone who would make this objection who they are objecting to. Does this objection really even make any sense if it’s saying “why did you not use me for the noble purpose of bringing about your plan of salvation” or “why did you harden me to cry out crucify Him”. Both ideas are foreign to the context and have to be pieced together and imported from all over the place to try to override the true context. Besides it’s speculative to say that any of the Jews from Jerusalem who wanted to get Jesus killed were in this congregation now. The idea that the Jews involved in that were the same ones from outside of Jerusalem who had welcomed Him a few days before or were more than the Jews from Jerusalem who had been wanting to kill him for a long time is doubtful.

    Verse 22 is about as explicit as it gets. Because God wants to show His wrath and make His power known, He endures patiently the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. This is where you say, “He’s not saying He created people for hell”. What does destruction mean? ἀπώλειαν clearly is translated easily and accurately by destruction. The lexicon I have says for its use in this verse: actively, a destroying, utter destruction: as of vessels. If you saw all the other places it’s used you should have no question about what it’s talking about. Jesus said the wide gate and wide road lead to ἀπώλειαν. Paul speaking of people who he called enemies of Christ said their end is ἀπώλειαν. And the list goes on. Also the participle κατηρτισμένα translated “prepared” is in the perfect tense giving the sense of something that has already happened with continuing results. It seems to say that they have already been prepared for their end and the consequences are still hanging over them. I’ve heard attempts made to say this perfect participle should be understood in the middle voice, but every possible grammatical and contextual piece of evidence is against that. I’ve been going on and on with this much too long now anyway.

    I think I’m done. I have a lot to do this week and just don’t have the time to devote to debating soteriology online. I really think our conversation isn’t going anywhere anyway. I think you’re dead wrong about all of this. In fact, I’m extremely convinced of it, but thank God this isn’t essential to salvation. I’m glad you’re my sister in Christ and pray God blesses your life greatly.

    Like

    1. Matt,

      //I guess that was meant to refute everything I have said. I’m sorry if I’m not convinced//

      Of course you’re not convinced, dear. Because you’re wise in your own eyes. Anyone with the hubris to think he can explain the inner workings of God’s knowledge and how His mind operates in eternity will probably never be corrected by anyone but God Himself. May it please the Lord. And trying to invoke the law of causation doesn’t work. Human will transcends causation. Our choices are influenced, but not determined, by circumstances, desires, nature, etc. There’s a mystery there, of course. Just like there’s a mystery to how God’s will works. No Calvinist can explain how God’s will operates, just like no Biblical Christian can explain exactly how human will operates.

      //…the man is free to bugger sheep if that’s what he wants to do and God doesn’t prevent him from doing it//

      There you go again, talkin’ like one of us libertarian free-Willy’s, lol. A while back you rebuked me for wrongfully saying you used the term “allow” (and you were right, by the way, you hadn’t used that term). But if God “doesn’t prevent” the man from buggering the sheep, isn’t that the EXACT same thing as saying God “allowed” him to bugger the sheep? Why not simply say it was God who caused the man to commit the act? Because it makes God sound evil?

      //Who intended for man to fall? …The answer to all these questions is God//

      I asked you a very simple question. If God is the one in meticulous and exhaustive control of the man’s mind, then how could the man conjure up his own thought to do evil? Who decided that the man should bugger that sheep? It’s not an essay question. You could answer it, quite literally, with one word 🙂

      //Well in addition to demonstrating the depravity of man and God’s perfect judgment of that depravity I don’t know//

      So…it glorifies God to create buggery, render it IMPOSSIBLE for a man not to practice it, and then punish man for practicing it, yeah? Gotchya 😉

      //In my previous comment I specifically said, “I’m not interested in hearing why you think God is justified in doing this…”//

      Yes, I know. You’re not interested in hearing why you’re totally misapplying this text, but I felt it was my duty to inform you anyway.

      //…My point is that the God who cannot sin or lie is causing people to believe a lie being presented through secondary agents”//

      And my point is God sending “strong delusion” is no different than strengthening (or hardening) a person’s resolve to believe and act in ways they’ve already purposed in their hearts to believe and act. Just like God hardened Pharaoh and Israel in their willful and persistent rebellion. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with God intending, approving of, or authoring, the sin of lying. But, if Calvinism is true, and neither man nor demons have free will, then it’s God Himself who is the father of lies, the author of confusion, and the author of evil and sin. Because all these evils originated from the heart and mind of God, not the hearts and minds of His creatures.

      //God sent the spirit. The verse says the Lord “has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours”//

      But read the actual event as it occurred in heaven. God asked “who will ENTICE Ahab”? The evil spirit volunteered. God asked “how”? The evil spirit said: “I will lie.” God replied: “You are to ENTICE him and prevail.” He’s clearly approving of (and intending) the ENDS (i.e. that Ahab will be enticed) but, NOT the means (i.e. that the spirit should lie). Now, if Calvinism is true, then it’s God who decided and rendered certain that spirit would have no choice but to be a liar. In fact, if Calvinism’s true, then it’s God who invented lying. Thus, He’s the father of lies, not Satan. So, yes, your point DOES fail, and miserably so.

      //Scripture interprets scripture and scripture says that what was intended was evil//

      Umm… Yeah, they INTENDED to get rid of Joseph for their own evil, selfish reasons, but God INTENDED that Joseph end up in Egypt for good and gracious reasons. There’s no Biblical reason to assume God intended or needed the guys to commit sin. To read that into the text as you’re doing is nothing but eisegesis.

      //1 Pet.3:15 says to always be “prepared to make defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you”//

      Yes, we should always be prepared to defend our belief in God and His gospel, of course. I typically use the argument from morality to answer the problem of evil and haven’t lost an argument with an atheist yet, lol 🙂 But that has nothing to do with what we’re discussing.

      The atheist’s beef is the mere EXISTENCE of evil as PROOF that God doesn’t exist. He doesn’t really care whether or not evil has a purpose in God’s plan. I’ve never had a problem telling an atheist that God neither intended nor caused evil. That evil arose from the hearts of free-willed demons and men, and that God will ultimately bring justice. As I said, there’s no BIBLICAL reason I should accept your baseless assertion that every instance of sheep-buggering was intended and rendered certain to occur by God. That’s why you couldn’t provide me with what I asked for — a verse that actually says this!

      Incidentally, I find it interesting how blind you seem to be to the fact that one can refute the problem of evil WITHOUT affirming determinism, lol. William Lane Craig, John Lennox, and many others do it ALL THE TIME, and I’ve yet to see them get “torn apart,” as you claim.

      //The Egyptians were fallen, selfish, and covetous as a result of the fall (which I have explained was intended and determined by God through good actions)… All of God’s actions were good (it’s hard to say blessing people by causing them to be fruitful and strong is wrong), but through them He caused the Egyptians’ evil//

      (1) The Bible never says the fall was intended or determined by God, and (2) He didn’t intend or cause the Egyptians’ hatred. He intended and caused Israel’s blessing, and the Egyptians reacted to that blessing with hatred.

      This is a perfect example of a Calvinist perverting the Biblical text. You’re taking the POETIC use of the phrase “turned their hearts to hatred” (in an ancient HEBREW SONG, no less) and trying to turn it into a soteriological “proof text.” Your commitment to Calvinism’s got you totally disregarding the psalmist’s intentions and the way he’s using language.

      Of course, God knew the Egyptians would react to His blessing with hatred. That was their choice. They could have chosen to react differently, but this was the choice they made. So, God used that choice to His advantage (He redeems many evil choices people make and works them out for good). He knew the Egyptians would never willingly free the Israelites; He’d have to compel them, which meant there would eventually have to be a showdown between Him and Pharaoh. He blessed the Israelites, allowed the Egyptians to become jealous and hateful, and when the Israelites were ripe for rescue, God was right on time.

      It shows God’s genius and His ability to get His purposes accomplished IN SPITE of man’s free choices. It doesn’t prove compatibilist determinism. Doesn’t prove the Egyptians couldn’t have chosen to react differently. Doesn’t prove God intended or caused evil.

      //I provided a pretty detailed list of Chistological typology in the story of Joseph and you provided no meaningful response. You simply dismissed it with “Meh…the typology was prophetic. If men were gonna make different decisions, then the prophesies would have been different”. What exactly is that supposed to mean?//

      It means God prophecies what men will do and what He will do. That doesn’t mean men couldn’t have done otherwise. And, if they were going to do otherwise, then God simply would have made different counter moves and prophesied accordingly. Now, you may not think man could have chosen differently, but Jesus said Tyre and Sidon WOULD have chosen differently if they’d seen the miracles that were done in Chorazin and Bethsaida. He even bases their eternal punishment on it, saying the two latter cities will be punished more severely… apparently JESUS thinks people COULD have made different choices than the ones they make.

      //…but really your “refutations” consist of things like, “meh”, “I don’t accept that!”, and “You don’t know that!” and when it comes to logical implications you deny logic and dismiss it as “philosophy and vain reasoning”/

      Let’s let others be the judge of whether or not I’m actually answering you now, shall we? Let’s also let others be the judge of (1) whether or not anyone has to accept and operate based on your Calvy presuppositions, (2) whether or not you (or anyone else) could possibly know how God’s knowledge and creative process work, and (3) whether or not the law of causality really proves that the logical mind “must” accept Calvinism. No need to tell people what to think. Let them decide for themselves, ok? 🙂

      //Scripture teaches that God is omniscient, and the logical consequence of that is that He always acts perfectly in accomplishing His perfect purposes//

      And if it’s His “purpose” and good pleasure to create beings with libertarian free will (so that He can have GENUINE loving relationships with us, instead will-less props that He uses to love and worship Himself), then your whole argument falls apart.

      //Apparently God has not intended for you to embrace the truth of His sovereignty up until this point//

      Hmmm…I wonder why… Hey, maybe He just likes you better, Matt, lolol 😛

      //I would tell her that I don’t know all the details of why this happened, but I know that God was and is always in complete control. This wasn’t purposeless and we have the consolation of knowing that God is in complete control and that ultimately He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. Then if her child was pretty young or had professed faith in Christ I would go on to tell her that I believed her child was happier than we could imagine in the presence of God//

      I noticed you never mentioned to this grieving mother that this tragedy was God’s INTENTION. Or did you just conveniently forget that part? I also noticed you ADDED the part about the child “professing faith.” But, there’s still a possibility the child isn’t “elect” and is therefore burning in hell, isn’t there, Matt? Why didn’t you mention that?

      //f He knew about it ahead of time and had the power to stop it then He would either intend to prevent it or not intend to prevent it. If I could easily prevent something and have no intention of preventing it, that sounds a lot like intending for it to happen to me//

      Foreknowing what man would choose isn’t the same thing as choosing for him. And, like I’ve said before, failing to prevent a crime isn’t the same as committing a crime. Nor is failing to prevent a crime the same as intending the crime to occur. The legal system knows the difference. Even children know the difference (you probably know the difference too, when you’re not arguing your systematic). You’re pretending you don’t see the difference because it doesn’t suit you, in this context, to see it.

      //Also, as I have pointed out in other comments, He may not have wanted it to happen but in your view it boils down to He just wanted to preserve the pedophiles free will more//

      Somehow I just can’t imagine the grieving mother saying that to me, lol.

      I say: “God never intended or wanted such an evil thing to happen to your daughter. Evil happens because God wants genuine relationships with His creatures (rather than sock-puppets that He uses to adore Himself) so He gave man free will. Unfortunately, some men use that gift for evil. But, because God never wanted this, He GENUINELY shares your grief and outrage over the injustice. And, rest assured, He WILL bring justice for your daughter. In the meantime, she is safe and comforted in Jesus’ arms in heaven. And, if you keep your faith in Christ, you will be reunited with her some d–”

      Suddenly, I’m interrupted by her screaming: “So basically you’re telling me God cares more about preserving that monster’s freedom than He does about preserving my daughter’s life!!!!”

      LOL!

      Now, if that’s her response when I say God NEVER intended this evil, God only knows how she’ll react when YOU tell her God not only INTENDED it, but took active steps to ENSURE it would happen… If I were you I’d put away any sharp objects before breaking that news to her 😉

      //I am going to copy and save the quote you gave here, because it is my new best example of the wildest case of runaway eisegesis I have ever seen//

      Bottom line is the text doesn’t support compatibilist determinism. You read it in. Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made [pä·al’] everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

      The Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon (Strong’s Lexicon Website, H6466) says the word [pä·al’] is used poetically in Hebrew and has many definitions: “to make,” “to fabricate,” “to create,” “to prepare,” “to attempt,” “to undertake”… We also see it translated in different ways depending on context: “to do” or “to work” (as in a man “working” iniquity). Clearly there are multiple ways this text can be understood. It isn’t necessary to take such a flying leap to the conclusion this verse means God created people for the purpose of damning them; I doubt the ancient Israelites understood it that way. And, besides, it’s a PROVERB, for Pete sake! Solomon never intended Calvinist to hijack that verse and twist it into a soteriological “proof text.”

      //Why do people always run to Jer.18 for the potter and clay analogy? Do you really think this is the passage Paul was referencing in Romans 9?//

      Umm…I think Paul expects his readers to understand EVERYTHING the Bible has to say about the Potter/Clay analogy. I don’t thinke he expected them to pretend Jeremiah 18 doesn’t exist. Besides, Isaiah 29:16 and 45:9 change nothing. Read the context of Isaiah 29:13-16. God talks about how the Israelites “removed their hearts” from Him, which is why He’s going to punish them. Read the whole chapter of Isaiah 45. He talks about His majesty, and then He goes into how He will punish Israel (v14) and He ends with a plea for everyone to come to Him and be saved (v22).

      So, basically, it’s the same thing as Jeremiah 18. God NEVER ONCE mentions creating people for the purpose of damning them. That’s NOT what the potter/clay analogy is about.

      //God already knows what they’re going to do because He determined what they would do…//

      FALSE. The Bible doesn’t say God determined people’s actions.

      //…but to put the emphasis on their accountability He tells them “If you do this… then I will do this… but if you do this… I will do this…” He has already decided, but they have not decided what they will do and have no idea what is already in the mind of God as they are faced with their decision//

      You’re genuinely oblivious to how ridiculous this sounds, aren’tchya, Matt? The bottom line is there can be no true choice or moral responsibility if God is the one making the decisions about what we’ll do (such that we could not have chosen any differently). Doesn’t matter whether or not we know what He’s predetermined. Now, you as a Calvinist will insist man is to blame for his sin. But you must suspend all rationality in order to do so, and I think that will be obvious to anyone looking at Calvinism objectively.

      //If God didn’t ensure the things necessary for the perfect accomplishment of all His purposes He would be wrong//

      There’s no Bible verse that says this, Matt. Nor is there any Bible verse that implies God must meticulously control and predetermine all our actions in order to accomplish His purposes. That’s your PHILOSOPHY; not scripture. You seem to have lost perspective on the difference.

      //In ch.8 Paul has just finished talking about the salvation of the people in the church at Rome. They have been predestined to be conformed to the image of His son so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers (adoption as children theme) Rm.8:29//

      Right. He’s not saying LOST people are destined to be SAVED. He’s saying SAVED people are destined for the “adoption to sonship,” which Paul defines as “the redepmption of our bodies.” We are awaiting that destiny right now as we speak.

      //No one can bring a charge against them. They are God’s elect (chosen). God gave up His own son for them all (v.32) and Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for them (v.34). Absolutely nothing can ever separate them from the love of Christ (vs.34-39)//

      Jesus is the Father’s Beloved. He is the Chosen One, and we are counted as chosen because we are IN HIM. The Father knew Jesus intimately before the foundation of the world, and He knows us, intimately, through Christ, as we come INTO HIM. Before the foundation of the world, God decided that all who would choose to get IN CHRIST would ultimately be conformed to His holy and blameless image. Yes, He intercedes for us and no one can stop Him from loving us (that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to reject Him).

      //Paul is broken hearted about his kinsmen according to the flesh (vs.1-3)//

      But the God who inspires Paul hates them and created them for hell, right? LOL!

      The hypothetical objector at Romans 9 is a Jew who has been hardened by God in his rebellion. He’s asking God the disingenuous question: “If You were able to use us, even in our rebellion, to accomplish Your plan of salvation, then why should You condemn us for our rebellion?”

      Paul reminds us of the Potter/Clay verses, which clearly show God punishing Israel for her wickedness and reworking His plan based on people’s choices. Even at 2 Timothy 2:21 Paul says people can BECOME vessels for honor if they cleanse themselves (i.e. repent). The Potter/Clay analogy in scripture has absolutely NOTHING to do with creating people for the purpose of saving or damning them. It’s simply about God reworking things to get HIS purpose accomplished IN SPITE of man’s disobedience.

      //I think I’m done. I have a lot to do this week and just don’t have the time to devote to debating soteriology online. I really think our conversation isn’t going anywhere anyway. I think you’re dead wrong about all of this. In fact, I’m extremely convinced of it, but thank God this isn’t essential to salvation. I’m glad you’re my sister in Christ and pray God blesses your life greatly//

      I know you think I’m dead wrong. And there’s no question in my mind that YOU are dead wrong. But, I agree with you that it’s a good thing (for your sake) that Calvinism, though false, isn’t damnable. I ask God to bless and keep you, through Christ. And may He continue to put the truth before your eyes, if it pleases Him to do so for your benefit.

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      1. Amyra Batya writes, “But if God “doesn’t prevent” the man from buggering the sheep, isn’t that the EXACT same thing as saying God “allowed” him to bugger the sheep? Why not simply say it was God who caused the man to commit the act? Because it makes God sound evil?”

        The terms, “prevent” and “allow” are weaker than Calvinists attribute to God. God works in the lives of people by extending grace to them or withholding grace from them. God is always in control of people and never not in control. To use an imperfect analogy, it is like a person walking a dog on a leash. The dog strains to exert his will and pulls on the leash to get his way. The owner does nothing to excite the desires of the dog; he only restrains the dog in the exercise of its will so that the dog can go no further than the leash allows. While the dog is focused on things nearby, the owner is aware of things down the road (like other dogs) and directs the dog to a path that accomplishes the owner’s purpose. In a similar way, God does not cause a person to desire evil; God only restrains the person in the amount of evil that he does. However, God knows the evil a person will do with the freedom God grants and God limits the person’s freedom to do evil to that which accomplishes God’s purposes.

        I think this explains how Calvinists view God’s control over people, and this does not require that God “cause” people to desire evil, only that he restrain the exercise of the evil of the person’s heart. In Isaiah 42 or so, there is the example of God’s use of the Assyrians to judge Israel. Same basic scenario as a dog on the leash.

        If this doesn’t work for you, tell us why you think it inadequate and what you see in Calvinism that makes God the cause of evil.

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      2. Amyra Batya writes, “Before the foundation of the world, God decided that all who would choose to get IN CHRIST would ultimately be conformed to His holy and blameless image.”

        You are making an important distinction when you say, “…God decided that all who would choose to get IN CHRIST…” The question is whether God could make this decision about these people before they chose to get in Christ. If God could not decide about the specific people until after they choose to get in Christ, it is the case that God must first learn who these people are before He can decide anything about them. That position denies that God is omniscient. The Calvinist, in order to preserve omniscience, has God deciding who would be conformed to Christ before they actually choose to get in Christ. That means that it is God who chooses whom to conform to Christ and these people end up being the only ones who choose to be in Christ.

        Your complain against Calvinism is that it maintains that God is omniscient while your position is that God is not omniscient. It’s a straightforward disagreement.

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      3. Amyra Batya writes, “The bottom line is there can be no true choice or moral responsibility if God is the one making the decisions about what we’ll do (such that we could not have chosen any differently).”

        God does not make decisions about what people want to do. He restrains people to do those things that they want to do which fit God’s purposes. The Jews set out to kill Jesus early in His ministry. God restrained them until the time He had appointed for Christ to die. God did not put the idea of killing Jesus into the minds of the Jews. That desire originated in their depraved minds. Had God not wanted Jesus to be crucified, no matter how much the Jews desired to kill Jesus, it would not have happened.

        People make choices about what they want to do, but God determines whether they will carry out their desires. In the end, people do that which they choose to do and are morally responsible for their actions. To use an analogy, the police can set up a sting operation with police officers posing as prostitutes. Men approach the police officers seeking to fulfill their sexual desires. The police officers then arrest them. God sent Jesus to proclaim the gospel. The Jews then took Jesus and killed Him – that was their choice and they are morally responsible for their actions. Consequently, God judges them.

        The real bottom line is that people make choices about what they want to do – this reflects true choice and moral responsibility; God makes decisions about what people will do.

        Jesus said that a person who thinks evil of another and does not carry out that evil is just as guilty as the person who thinks evil of another and carries it out. That God restrains a person from actualizing the evil he desires to do is not even a factor in determining moral responsibility.

        Your statement ends up being nonsense.

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  10. Les Prouty you wrote “Robert forst,”?

    Who is that?

    Les I took the time to present an argument showing a major inconsistency in YOUR position (i.e. you claim to be a compatibilist but then talk like a person who holds to libertarian free will when you talk about the fall, a problem Jonathan Edwards could never avoid and neither can you).

    I did not present an argument for the existence of LFW.

    You completely ignored my argument and now you say:

    “Yes you took the time to lay out your argument for something I don’t think exists.”

    But my argument was not for the existence of LFW, but for the inconsistency in YOUR position
    .
    “You cannot demonstrate LFW from scripture because it doesn’t exist.”

    Actually I can, however I am not going to “cast my pearls before . . .” (Jesus used a very picturesque metaphor to warn us not to keep presenting the truth to those who have already rejected it and if you keep presenting the truth to them they will just get angry at you and not appreciate what you are sharing at all).

    “Are you surprised that I would quote the WCF and other Reformed thinkers? I hope not.”

    Not at all, in the past I worked in counter cult ministry, we saw this same method with cultists (i.e. they would ignore your argument, and then simply cite from their own authorities/sources, I think with many of them that was the way they were trained to deal with those who challenged their beliefs). Note I am not saying Les is a non-Christian cultist only that he is using the same method they used here.

    “And look Robert. If you think I’m just a troll and not worth “wasting time” on, then just refrain from replying.”

    In general it is best to avoid “trolls” and yet at times for the sake of others it may be good to interact with them to show their errors to others. It is similar to when you encounter a mean and nasty atheist skeptic, you really don’t want to interact with such a person, and get verbally abused and have your words twisted, etc. etc. but for the sake of other onlookers you do so.

    Solomon spoke of certain kinds of people that he refers to as “Fools”, “Scoffers”, etc. in the book of Proverbs. He gives instruction as to how to deal with such persons. In one instance he puts one verse that says answer the fool, right next to another that says don’t answer the fool, leave them alone (the point was that at times you engage them, other times you do not). I happen to believe that though Solomon wrote these things thousands of years ago, the kind of people that he describes are still with us today, so his instructions and observations concerning these kinds of people still have practical application for us today.

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    1. Robert, sorry for the typo. “Forst” should have been “first.”

      Robert, let’s put all the cards on the table. You and I do not get along very well in these discussions…ever. I’m sure some of that is my fault. I have been passive aggressive at times and defensive and sarcastic at times. And you have used incendiary terms in our discussions and have IMO at times been condescending and frankly mean spirited. Again, just my opinion.

      Just in this latest post you talk about my tactics likening them to cults. I know you stated that you are not calling me a “non-Christian cultist.” Still. And then you said, “Actually I can, however I am not going to “cast my pearls before . . .” Not sure why you didn’t type the entire verse though. And further you said, “Solomon spoke of certain kinds of people that he refers to as “Fools”, “Scoffers”, etc. in the book of Proverbs. He gives instruction as to how to deal with such persons.”

      I have said before that you inject poisonous language into these Christian discussions among brothers. You continue to do so.

      So, I think it’s probably best if we refrain from interacting.

      God bless you brother.

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    2. Robert writes, ““[Les writes] You cannot demonstrate LFW from scripture because it doesn’t exist.”

      Actually I can, however I am not going to “cast my pearls before . . .” (Jesus used a very picturesque metaphor to warn us not to keep presenting the truth to those who have already rejected it and if you keep presenting the truth to them they will just get angry at you and not appreciate what you are sharing at all).”

      This is a teaching area. If you can explain something, you should as common courtesy.

      If you were to explain LFW from the Scriptures, you would be the first to do so and would receive honor as a Bible scholar. Go for it.

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  11. Matt,

    “I don’t want to jump back into the conversation, but may I suggest in a spirit of brotherly charity that you have misunderstood the Law of Causation?”

    You say that you don’t want to jump back into the conversation, but you can’t help yourself. You believe that you just had to **correct** me on something. But as we shall see shortly you don’t know what you are talking about and have confused things yet again.

    “I haven’t read everyone you mentioned but Plantinga and Craig use the Law of Causation (although usually sloppily worded) to argue for the existence of God. The entire Cosmological Argument is based on it because the universe or anything in it can be causally traced back to a First Cause. In fact if you go back to the original argument from Aristotle it was called the argument of the first cause. Aquinas stated it as the argument from effectual causes. I would suggest reading someone other than Craig on this argument as he is pretty sloppy with it in my opinion.”

    I mentioned Plantinga and Craig as Christian philosophers who ****reject determinism****:

    Now you are changing the subject to what Plantinga and Craig say about the Cosmological Argument.

    Instead of wandering off to something else you should have dealt with Plantinga and Craig ***on determinism*** (this you completely ignored and are ignoring now).

    “I also think you have misunderstood Plantinga and Craig’s use of the term “logical relationship”. They use it to try to establish and explain categories of God’s knowledge (free knowledge and middle knowledge).”

    I didn’t bring up Plantinga and Craig in my reference to philosophers discussing the ***logical/causal distinction*** again I brought them up ON THE ISSUE OF DETERMINISM.

    Now you talk about them discussing “the term logical relationship” when they are talking about “categories of God’s knowledge” (actually they are talking about the Molinistic conception and the place of “logical priority” in that system of thinking) But again I was not talking about Molinism, nor was I talking about “logical priority” nor was I talking about Plantinga and Craig’s views on Molinism:
    I was talking about their views on determinism.

    So your comments are off the subject I was discussing and confused.

    “The vast majority of Calvinists use the term in this way too when dealing with the question of lapsarianism.”

    And I don’t care about calvinist discussions of lapsarianism and I wasn’t talking about that either!

    I brought up Plantinga and Craig as they reject your determinism.

    Now you go down the rabbit hole and bring in their views on Molinism, Calvinists’ views on lapsarianism, totally off the subject.

    This indicates yet again that you are not aware of the logical/causal distinction discussed by philosophers Rather than try to change the subject to something else that has nothing to do with why I brought up Plantinga and Craig: instead of trying to talk about a subject (i.e. the logical/causal distinction) that you don’t know about. You should have done research on it first, then talked about it. Search “truth making” on the web when you decide to research this subject properly.

    “Maybe you have read someone else who has used the term differently. I don’t know.”

    Yes you don’t know, that is why rather than talking about it as if you know about it (when you don’t) you should research it first.

    “I’m positive that people like Plantinga would tell you that there was a causal relationship between the actions of O.J. and his driver and your knowledge just like I explained. Ironically this term is used because they want to establish a relationship between two things (categories of God’s knowledge) that are eternal and one can’t be preceded by the other.”

    Plantinga and Craig were not talking about the OJ example, they were talking about Molinism and its categories and logical priority. Once again you are confusing two very different things.

    “I’m not trying to put you down or anything. I’m just suggesting that maybe you’ve misunderstood these things.”

    You are suggesting that “maybe you’ve misunderstood these things.” No, it is YOU who have completely mixed up different subjects. I brought up Plantinga and Craig on the issue of ***determinism*** which they reject.

    You now respond trying to tie in the logical/causal distinction (which is not why I brought up Plantinga and Craig) with Plantinga and Craig’s comments on Molinism (which are not concerned with the logical/casual distinction), so you are completely mixing things up: showing that you have “misunderstood these things” and then you try to say that I am the one that has misunderstood these things. This is comical and you are utterly confused on these things. Matt go research truth makers and then come back and “correct” me! 🙂

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    1. Robert,

      //No it violates determinism, not the concept that everything has a cause because the agent is the cause and is acting for reasons in light of what is important to him (just like the way God chose to create the world, he did not have to do it, there were no long causal chains before his choice that determined his choices, there were no antecedent causes that determined his choice, rather, he as a personal agent acted freely and made the choice for reasons in light of what is important to him, God is in fact the best example of LFW that you will find)//

      Excellent point. And great job refuting the misuse of causality. It’s funny you mentioned W.L. Craig in another comment. I was also thinking of him as an example of someone who argues for God as the “uncaused first cause,” in addition to refuting atheists who raise the “problem of evil,” without EVER affirming determinism.

      Also, you have a sharp eye for for noticing when someone is creating a red herring or begging the question. It’s clearly a mistake to assume the law of causality requires rational people to accept a deterministic worldview; this point has been assumed and asserted all over this page with zero proof, either logical or biblical.

      //Wow, that is a bizarre, strained and mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ words: the text does not say that Jesus says that we ought to request “that God’s perfect purposes continue to be achieved on earth as in heaven”. Nowhere in the text does it say anything about “God’s perfect purposes”. Jesus’ statements indicate instead that Jesus was saying that God’s will **is** perfectly done in heaven, but that God’s will is not always being done on earth. That is why we ought to pray that it is done on earth as it is in heaven. What this shows is how desperate Matt is to hold to his view: instead of interpreting the biblical text as it was intended he reinterprets it so it just happens to state his philosophy. But the text says none of the things that Matt believers and Christians have taken it in its normal and intended meaning so there is no reason to change that interpretation so that we can hold to Matt’s false theology//

      Another excellent point. God’s will is obviously not always done on earth. Nor does He choose to control everything that happens on the earth; we know the Bible never says such a thing. I’ve been told that a man might commit bestiality because God “doesn’t prevent it,” which is the same thing as saying God “allowed” the act. Yet if God predetermined the limits of a man’s actions before that man was created, it makes absolutely no sense at all to speak of God “restraining” or “not preventing” the man’s actions after he’s been created.

      To use my computer analogy, that’s like programming a computer with ONLY DOS and then later having to “prevent” or “restrain” it from spontaneously booting up to Windows. That would never be necessary since the computer was predetermined to use DOS and DOS alone. It has no ability to conjure up Windows under it’s own power. Reminds me of what Prof. Flower was saying about Matt 23:12. If Calvinism is true, then Matthew 23:12 would have to mean: “Who ever He predetermines to exalt himself, God will re-determine to be humbled; and whoever He predetermines to be humble, God will re-determine to be exalted.” This is nonsensical on it’s face.

      In other words, to prevent certain evil acts from occurring, a determinst god would only need to limit HIS OWN predeterminations. Now, I know Matt believes in a domino-world for which there’s ZERO scriptural support. And I think he chooses to believe that because his conscience persuades him to try and put distance between God’s determinations and man’s sinful acts. But, I still say that, if man has no libertarian free will, and God “can’t be sovereign” unless He’s in meticulous and exhaustive control over everything (including our thoughts and atoms, as many Calvinists claim), then it’s absurd to speak of man originating his own evil desires or having the ability to make real choices (i.e. genuinely able to do one thing or the other because his decisions are not determined).

      As we saw in his response to Jesus’ model prayer, and as we’ve seen all over these strings, Calvinists reject sound doctrine by creating convoluted rationalizations, making unbiblical assertions (e.g. God determines all things, sovereignty means “meticulous control”), creating false problems out of non-issues (e.g. the supposed “problem” of purposeless evil), fallacious and vain reasonings (e.g. red herrings, question-begging, logical inconsistencies), etc., etc., ad nauseum. Why do they put themselves (and Biblical Christians) through all that? Simply because, for whatever personal reasons they may have, they abhor the simple truth that God loves ALL people and has given us the ability to GENUINELY love Him back.

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      1. Amyra Batya writes, “God’s will is obviously not always done on earth.”

        That is because some of that which God wills reflects a synergistic relationship with His creation. God expressed His will for the way in which people were to behave through the Ten Commandments. Those commandments express clearly God’s will for people. At the same time, it was God’s will that people be free to choose to obey those commandments. Heaven is a place where God’s will is always done because God is more intimately involved in what happens. In the new heavens and new earth of our future, we can expect God’s will to be done perfectly – that is because God will be intimately involved with us. That is not true of today’s world – people lack that intimate relationship with God in that God has willed to give us freedom to choose whether to obey Him even though He has not given us freedom to do whatever disobedience we might want. We recognize that heaven and the future new world operate differently that today’s world.

        Amyra Batya writes, “Nor does He choose to control everything that happens on the earth; we know the Bible never says such a thing.”

        If are you are going to maintain this, position, then you need to do so in the context of Proverbs 16:4 and Ephesians 1:11 that tells us that God works “all’ things after the counsel of His will – even the wicked for the day of disaster. The Bible actually does say that which you contend it does not. You an explanation for your position and how your position preserves the context of these verses. Have you developed that explanation?

        Amyra Batya writes, “I’ve been told that a man might commit bestiality because God “doesn’t prevent it,” which is the same thing as saying God “allowed” the act. Yet if God predetermined the limits of a man’s actions before that man was created, it makes absolutely no sense at all to speak of God “restraining” or “not preventing” the man’s actions after he’s been created.”

        The Calvinist will use stronger language and say that God ordained it. God does not simply prevent or allow something; He reasons that such is necessary and makes a conscious decision that people should freely do such things. Then God is present during those acts and observes every detain of such acts. Where terms like “prevent” and “allow” are used, even by Calvinists (for lack of words better suited to explanation), one should understand that God is never a “passive” participant in His creation but always actively engaged with His creation.

        Amyra Batya writes, “To use my computer analogy, that’s like programming a computer with ONLY DOS and then later having to “prevent” or “restrain” it from spontaneously booting up to Windows.”

        No, it is like programming a computer to do multiple tasks and then restricting it to a subset of those tasks. An analogy may be made that people are like a computer program that can do many things. It is not the program that is then restrained; it is the set of tasks that the program can do that is restrained. So, people’s hearts are not restrained and they can imagine all kinds of evil that they would do; God restrains people from doing everything their hearts conspire to do.

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      2. Hello again Amyra,

        “Excellent point. And great job refuting the misuse of causality. It’s funny you mentioned W.L. Craig in another comment. I was also thinking of him as an example of someone who argues for God as the “uncaused first cause,” in addition to refuting atheists who raise the “problem of evil,” without EVER affirming determinism.”

        Thanks for the positive comments. I am not sure if you noticed but when I brought up Christian philosophers like Alvin Plantinga, etc. who reject Matt’s determinism/compatibilism in favor of libertarian free will: I also made the point (and it is both true and embarrassing for calvinist/compatibilists) that the majority of Christian philosophers today hold to LFW and reject compatibilism. Now you can say people like Plantinga et all are mistaken, but they are very smart people and know the arguments and see LFW as preferable. Contrast this with someone like Les Prouty who presents LFW as impossible, nonexistent, and as a position held by those who are “psychologically perverse.” I might (and do) say a compatibilist is mistaken, but I would never say their view is “psychologically perverse.”

        “Also, you have a sharp eye for for noticing when someone is creating a red herring or begging the question. It’s clearly a mistake to assume the law of causality requires rational people to accept a deterministic worldview; this point has been assumed and asserted all over this page with zero proof, either logical or biblical.”

        Thanks for the compliment. In High School I had this ability to quickly spot errors in thinking and those attempting to con others: so some bestowed on me the nickname “razor” because I could quickly cut through the garbage and spot these things.

        We have seen two excellent examples of folks who are repeatedly begging the question and committing other logical fallacies and unfair debating methods in Matt Mayo and William Leonhart. Either of these twos posts could be good examples to dissect in a logic class (for example in a logic class for seminarians).

        “Another excellent point. God’s will is obviously not always done on earth. Nor does He choose to control everything that happens on the earth; we know the Bible never says such a thing. I’ve been told that a man might commit bestiality because God “doesn’t prevent it,” which is the same thing as saying God “allowed” the act. Yet if God predetermined the limits of a man’s actions before that man was created, it makes absolutely no sense at all to speak of God “restraining” or “not preventing” the man’s actions after he’s been created.”

        Yes Matt presented one of the more bizarre and strained interpretations of that bible verse that I have seen. Jesus’ point was simple, pray for God’s will here, because it sure isn’t happening like it is in Heaven. You bring up the example of bestiality. I work with inmates who have committed every imaginable crime against animals, people, property, anything and everything you can imagine and things you would find unimaginable. One prison that I deal with has hundreds of convicted pedophiles. If the exhaustive determinism of Calvinists like Matt is correct, then God intended, preplanned, controlled them and ensured that every one of them committed these criminal acts as God had planned. If that were true I would have real problems believing that God is holy, moral or what He presents in His Word. Thankfully Matt and his ilk are wrong, God did not preplan and determine all these sins and evils: these people chose to do them and so they are accountable for these actions and currently serving time for them.

        “To use my computer analogy, that’s like programming a computer with ONLY DOS and then later having to “prevent” or “restrain” it from spontaneously booting up to Windows. That would never be necessary since the computer was predetermined to use DOS and DOS alone. It has no ability to conjure up Windows under it’s own power. Reminds me of what Prof. Flower was saying about Matt 23:12. If Calvinism is true, then Matthew 23:12 would have to mean: “Who ever He predetermines to exalt himself, God will re-determine to be humbled; and whoever He predetermines to be humble, God will re-determine to be exalted.” This is nonsensical on it’s face.”

        Well see if Leighton is correct and he is: then you could say this about all kinds of things, in fact if all is predestined as the exhaustive determinism believer then this is true about EVERYTHING. God tells believers to avoid sin, but he predestines our every sin. God tells us he hates divorce, but he predestines every divorce. God says certain things and lifestyles are sinful (e.g. homosexuality): but God predestined their desires, their actions, their choices, so they can rightfully claim that “God made me this way, I had no choice. God tells us He is a God of truth, and yet he predestines every false teacher to be a false teacher and predestines every false teaching. God says he wants peace and unity in churches, but he predestines all division and every divisive person. God says he wants his people to know the truth, but then he predestines only calvinists to get it right and predestines all of the rest of us to get it wrong, and we cannot help ourselves, we have to believe what is false (as one calvinist likes to put it: Arminians are a foil created by God to show calvinists the truth and show them what error looks like). It just goes on and on and on. If He predestines all of these things then he is not a person of high morality nor is he the person who presents himself in the Bible.

        “In other words, to prevent certain evil acts from occurring, a determinst god would only need to limit HIS OWN predeterminations. Now, I know Matt believes in a domino-world for which there’s ZERO scriptural support. And I think he chooses to believe that because his conscience persuades him to try and put distance between God’s determinations and man’s sinful acts. But, I still say that, if man has no libertarian free will, and God “can’t be sovereign” unless He’s in meticulous and exhaustive control over everything (including our thoughts and atoms, as many Calvinists claim), then it’s absurd to speak of man originating his own evil desires or having the ability to make real choices (i.e. genuinely able to do one thing or the other because his decisions are not determined).”

        Correct, if calvinism is true then God is the originator of sin and he preplans it all and ensures that it all occurs just as planned (what has commonly stated as: this makes God the author of sin). Sad that bible believing Christians believe this stuff and not only believe it but try to convert other Christians to their false theology and try to promote and defend these false ideas.

        “As we saw in his response to Jesus’ model prayer, and as we’ve seen all over these strings, Calvinists reject sound doctrine by creating convoluted rationalizations, making unbiblical assertions (e.g. God determines all things, sovereignty means “meticulous control”), creating false problems out of non-issues (e.g. the supposed “problem” of purposeless evil), fallacious and vain reasonings (e.g. red herrings, question-begging, logical inconsistencies), etc., etc., ad nauseum. Why do they put themselves (and Biblical Christians) through all that? Simply because, for whatever personal reasons they may have, they abhor the simple truth that God loves ALL people and has given us the ability to GENUINELY love Him back.”

        In my opinion I don’t think it is because they abhor the simple truth that God loves ALL people (some actually assert this though it completely contradicts their view of unconditional election and reprobation). I think there are other reasons including: the feeling of intellectual pride of having such a supposedly “logical” and airtight system of thought; being taught it by others and then holding onto to it to fit into a group; Making mistakes of interpretation that lead to the conclusion of exhaustive determinism; because some famous and very intelligent believers have held it (e.g. Jonathan Edwards); following popular Bible teachers (e.g. Piper) who promote it and talk about it in their books and their conferences; etc. etc. etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Umm…teaching moment, folks, LOL! DOS is an operating system. It does multiple tasks. But notice how the point was completely missed. Why would God predetermine folks to do more than what He will eventually allow them to do? Obviously, the Calvinist god (much like the Islamic god, who, apparently orchestrated the virgin birth and all Jesus’ miracles for NO appreciable reason) says and does things in vain. Also, we’ve been over Proverbs 16:4 and Ephesians 1 on this string several times. No need for further comment on that. And I’ll leave it up to others to decide which arguments make sense, and which are contradictory (i.e. acknowledging “synergism” in one comment, then meticulous and exhaustive control, even of our thoughts, in another).

    Dear Hutch,

    I haven’t said this to you yet, but I don’t intend to answer you anymore. Robert’s right; talking to you is a complete waste of time. You only keep repeating the same long-refuted, nonsensical arguments and seem to have no capacity to process people’s answers. Maybe you think the same about me, and that’s fine. Anyway, yammer on all you want. I’m not coming back to this article.

    God bless! 🙂

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    1. Amyra batya writes, “Why would God predetermine folks to do more than what He will eventually allow them to do?”

      I still do not see the issue here. That God determines all things is not the same as saying that God causes all things. Yet, you seem to force Calvinism to define it this way as a strawman that you can attack.

      God create man with the capacity for thinking and imagination. When the person’s mind was corrupted as a consequence of Adam’s sin, that ability to think and imagine was directly to evil things which, when carried out led to the situation in Genesis 6. That God should now have to restrain people from doing the evil things they desire is not a problem for me to understand.

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    2. Amyra Batya writes, “we’ve been over Proverbs 16:4 and Ephesians 1 on this string several times. No need for further comment on that. ”

      You made some sweeping generalizations about Proverbs 16:4 and never really got into the verse. The only substantive comment you made was, “Clearly there are multiple ways this text can be understood.” Beyond that, you said nothing substantive other than express your opinions indicating that you don’t like what the verse says.

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  13. Pastor Flowers writes, “…“higher” forms of Calvinism (typically called “Supralapsarianism”) simply embrace the troubling concept of double predestination and refer to “lesser” views of Calvinism as being ‘inconsistent.'”

    I would call this an innocent form of misrepresentation, as a lot of people say it, and the more the non-Calvinist says it, the more they all seem to believe it.

    As RC Sproul might explain, a distinction needs to be made between active predestination and passive predestination. Active predestination requires that God physically intervene to change the person’s thinking a la Saul on the road to Damascus (although usually not as dramatic). Passive predestination is when God does not physically intervene to save a person (often described as God passing over a person) leaving the person to fend for himself.

    I don’t know why this is especially troubling. In effect, any person is lost eternally because God decided not to actively intervene to save them from making a bad decision.

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  14. Robert,

    It sounds like the attempt at correction in my last comment hurt your feelings. That wasn’t my intention. I was very busy this week and unable to hover over a keyboard all week arguing with people on line. It seems like some people here have more time to devote to this than I do, but I will attempt to address what you have written.

    My point in mentioning Plantinga and Craig was because you brought them up as authorities in the field of philosophy who deny Compatibilism. I figured since you seem to have at least some respect for what they say, I would point out that they would totally disagree with both your misstatement of the Law of Causation and your use of the term logical relationship. They use the term to establish and explain a relationship between categories of God’s knowledge as opposed to a causal relationship, as well as the terms “logically prior” and “logical moments” as opposed to temporally prior and temporal moments. These are not terms restricted to Molinism though. Many Christians commonly use these terms for the same purposes without any reference to middle knowledge. This is the most common way this term is used in theological discussions. If your condescending chastisements for me to research “truth makers” are in reference to the theories on truth makers and truth bearers, then you have obviously misunderstood those theories also. Those theories deal with whether or not there is a corresponding reality that validates a proposition making it true. To use your O.J. illustration, these theories don’t deny or even deal with the causal relationship that I pointed out. They are not concerned with how the true propositions in your mind got there (through the causal sequence that I pointed out). They are concerned with the question of whether those propositions are validated as true by virtue of the events happening in L.A. The relationship between any truth bearer (true proposition) and its truth maker can be called a logical relationship without any concern about how you causally came to know that truth bearer. This is not the way in which the term “logical relationship” would be automatically understood in any philosophical discussion though and especially not in a theological discussion. There can be said to be a logical relationship between any two propositions containing like terms, but that would be a different use of the term than the two already mentioned and would in no way negate there also being a causal relationship if one applied.

    You seem to simply gloss over the fact that you misstated the Law of Causation. It is not that “everything has a cause”. If this were true, then God would have to have a cause and the entire Cosmological Argument that both Reformed and non-Reformed Christians use would be a huge failure. The Law is that every effect must have a preceding cause and any type of change is an effect. I gave a very brief summary of the Cosmological argument which you dismissed as an assumption of determinism. You also dismissed the Law of Causation as an assumption of determinism making it obvious that you misunderstand both the law and the Cosmological argument that is based on it.

    My points in bringing the Cosmological argument up were to show how the authorities you mentioned use the Law of Causation and to show how the Cosmological argument is linked to Compatibilism. The argument rests on the fact that each effect (change) can be traced to its cause, but if that cause also involves any type of change it also is an effect and requires a preceding cause. This is why my assertions of long lines of causal sequences are not “assumptions” as you say. Unless you can point to a cause that involves no change and is uncaused, the line of causal sequence must continue back. As the lines of sequences are traced back they either have a beginning or they don’t. If they don’t, then the regression of events in the sequences are infinite and without beginning, but this is absurd. The concept of the infinite (when used quantitatively) is simply the concept of the number or amount that can never be actualized in reality. When we talk about eternity (in the future) we are talking about something that can never be completed. If a computer were made to multiply astronomically huge numbers by themselves over and over again at unbelievable speeds, that computer would never ever reach a number that was not finite. The concept of an infinite regression of finite events is the concept of what can never be in reality, and the claim that the universe is the result of such infinite causal series is the claim that everything that exists is the result of the thing that can never exist in reality. So, The lines of causal sequence must have beginnings, which would be first causes which are themselves uncaused.

    There are certain logical requirements for something to be a first cause. As I’ve already mentioned, it can’t involve any type of change or it would be an effect, so it must be immutable. It can’t be inanimate physical matter because it would have to be perfectly motionless (without change in position), and inanimate matter can’t move itself to start the sequences that we now see. In addition to this all physical matter that we have any knowledge of inherently involves motion (change) on both the molecular and sub-atomic levels (although empirical observations cannot prove anything to a logical necessity). So the First Cause would have to be an immutable, most likely non-phisical and surely metaphysical Being with the power self-existence which can animate itself and bring about everything else that now exists.

    The Biblical revelation of God perfectly fits this description and explains how God fits these requirements. He is immutable in His essence (involves no change whatsoever). He is omniscient. This means He simply knows all truth perfectly and simultaneously. This also means that He doesn’t have a thought process (which is an idiosyncrasy of sentient beings with limited knowledge) because change in thought is an effect that requires a preceding cause. He is a sentient Being, which means that He possesses knowledge and is able to move Himself from non-action to action based on His knowledge and intention to act. And He possesses the power to act in a way that brings about everything that exists.

    Knowing these things, we can see that eternity past is not an infinite regression of God doing and thinking things. It is a pure state of existence in which the only Being that fits all the requirements of being an uncaused cause exists in His essential form. This state of existence (eternity past) precedes time, because time is simply a term we use to describe the duration of events in relation to other events. We have developed our system of time based on certain uniform recurring events (the orbit of the earth around the sun, the rotation of the earth on its axis, the orbit of the moon around the earth) and divided the duration of those events into equal parts (hours, minutes, seconds) to measure the duration of other events. Before there were any causal sequences of events there was no such thing as time, and this is how God existed in eternity past before and independent of the sequences we refer to using the term time.

    I hadn’t planned on going through the Cosmological argument in my comments, but since I have, I will point out the obvious connection to what we are discussing about soteriology. Unless you and your supposed libertarian will fit all the criteria necessary for being an uncaused cause (eternal self-existence, immutability, all of your actions and decisions already being known in the state of eternity past, etc.) then you and your will are effects that must be traced to preceding causes. If those causes do not fit the criteria for being an uncaused cause, then they also must be traced to their causes and so on and on until an uncaused cause is reached. We all agree that there is only one such Being, but you insist that your decisions cannot be causally traced back to Him. This is an absurd denial of logic. BTW, I can’t help it if people like Plantinga and Craig use the Law of Causation consistently in some places, but then abandon it when it comes to certain matters of soteriology that they don’t want to believe. Based on some of their other arguments, I don’t consider them to be very reliable sources of analytical thought. Your appeal to them and others is nothing more than another form of question begging through an appeal to authority. All you have proven is that other people are also inconsistent in their affirmation of libertarian freedom.

    You have already unknowingly identified the words of scripture as a “mere affirmation of determinism” and now have identified the Law of Causation and the Cosmological Argument as a “statement of determinism” all while accusing me of simply assuming these things. You can excuse yourself from attempting to offer a real response by dismissing what I have presented as “assumptions” but I would say that a foundational epistemological truth (law of logic) is hardly an assumption. It is also very telling that you take the very words of scripture (without recognizing that they are from scripture) as an affirmation of determinism. This just goes to show that you really believe that the plain meaning of scripture is saying that God determines all things. Had I used quotation marks and put references, I’m sure you would have tried to explain away the plain meaning.

    You still insist that the distinction between the two theoretical types of evil are an invention, but you didn’t catch the point I made at all. This is a true dichotomy. The concepts of evil that works toward the perfect accomplishment of God’s perfect purposes and evil that does not are logical opposites. There is no third option. We both agree that evil happens, so individual acts of evil either work toward this accomplishment or not. Any act of evil has to fall into one of these two categories. Scripture only identifies one of these two types, and the arguments I presented demonstrated logically that only one kind could exist in reality in a world created by the God who has perfect knowledge and character. Of course, you like to just dismiss laws of logic as assumptions of determinism.

    One more point, In the model prayed you totally ignored the second part of what I wrote about the prescriptive will of God being done on earth as in heaven. If you notice I said it could be one or both options. I would personally go with the prescriptive will and possibly the continued accomplishment of the decretive will. That is based on the assumption that Jesus’ prayers are effectual. With the exception of the natural display of Jesus’ true humanity in the garden when He prayed about letting the cup pass from Him (a statement which He immediately qualified in the prayer as well as elsewhere), I believe His will and desires were in perfect agreement with the will and desires of the Father. What Jesus prayed for would be done and in both cases that I mentioned His prayer would be answered either by immediate continuance or at the final consummation. Is that somehow blind twisting of scripture? If you deny the different uses of God’s will in scripture, then that is blind denial. I’m not the one in this discussion who has tried to claim words don’t mean what the lexicon says they mean or that pronouns refer to things that aren’t mentioned in the passage or that the subjects of verbs don’t do the actions, but that the direct objects do them to themselves. That would be your fellow anti-Calvinist Amyra. Lord willing, I will be responding to her also.

    I got everything done that I needed to get done this past week, but still have much more productive ways of spending my time than repeating the same things over and over again to people who offer answers making blind denials of logic and scripture while accusing me of merely assuming the things that I have presented reasoned arguments for which remain unanswered. If you can come up with anything that actually addresses what I have presented in my multiple comments and that I have not already explained before then I would be happy to respond to whatever that may be. God bless.

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  15. Amyra,

    You say, “Human will transcends causation. Our choices are influenced, but not determined, by circumstances, desires, nature, etc.” There it is! If you would have just said this from the start you could have saved us both a lot of time typing. The claim that human will transcends causation is just saying that it breaks the law and we just can’t understand it. You continue by saying, “There’s a mystery there, of course”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now to you: When your beliefs break a law of logic, it is not a mystery. It is by definition ILLOGICAL!

    I corrected you for saying that I claimed that God “passively allowed” evil to happen. I had just explained in a comment to Robert how I believe God is always working within His creation preventing and fine tuning events as they play out because He set the natural chains of causal sequences in motion also knowing where He would intervene within those sequences of events. If He did not intervene at these points then the natural course of events would play out differently than what would accomplish His purposes in the best way. I was thinking that maybe you had seen what I had written about that and would understand that I was in no way being inconsistent with anything I had previously said about all things being causally traced back to God. Besides, it’s really obvious what I’m saying if you take it in the context of everything I have said over and over again very clearly on here. I think you just want to find inconsistency so badly that you are going to jump on any little thing. You interpret my comments like you interpret scripture. 😉

    You say that I’m misapplying 2Thes.2:11 where it says, “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie”. The verse says He sent them the delusion so that they would believe the lie. If they already believed it there would be no reason for sending them strong delusion so they would believe it. I agree that He was totally justified in doing this. In fact it says that they had already not received the love of the truth, but it goes on to say that His purpose in causing them to believe a lie was for further condemnation. His intention was for them to believe a lie and He accomplished His intention through the use of secondary agency.

    This point is even more clear (if that is possible) in the verse saying the Lord, “has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours”. The scene in heaven is of God asking for a volunteer to persuade Ahab and the spirit volunteering to lie. God commands the spirit, “go out and do so”. Did God not know who would answer His question and how the spirit would accomplish the persuasion? The spirit did the lying, but God commanded the spirit to do it. God was in control of the entire thing and orchestrated it exactly how He intended. That is why Micaiah had no problem pointing to God and saying, the Lord “has put a lying spirit in the mouths of these prophets of yours”. You can say that God only intended the ends but not the means of lying to achieve those ends, but God commanded the spirit to go do what he had just said he would do which is lie. It is impossible that God did not intend for Ahab to be persuaded through the lie. An omniscient God can’t intend the ends but not the means He knows will bring about those ends, and anyone who has just been told the means that will bring about their desired ends and has said “go out and do so” cannot not intend those means to bring about their desired ends.

    In reference to Gen.50:20 you say, “they INTENDED to get rid of Joseph for their own evil, selfish reasons, but God INTENDED that Joseph end up in Egypt for good and gracious reasons. There’s no Biblical reason to assume God intended or needed the guys to commit sin. To read that into the text as you’re doing is nothing but eisegesis.” You can throw around the word eisegesis all you want, but it is obvious which one of us is guilty of it. The construction of the text requires that what was intended by God and what was intended by Joseph’s brothers is the same thing. The text clearly identifies that thing as “evil”. If you can’t look at the Hebrew, just look at the English. It says, “You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good”. What does the pronoun “it” refer back to? The only word in the verse it could be talking about is the substantive adjective “evil”. If you wanted to look further back for another possibility I already listed the only other options: “trespass, sin, and evil” in verse 17, all in reference to what Joseph’s brothers did. Now who is guilty of eisegesis?

    In regard to all the Christological typology in the story of Joseph you continue to dismiss what has been so clearly pointed out by saying, “It means God prophecies what men will do and what He will do. That doesn’t mean men couldn’t have done otherwise. And, if they were going to do otherwise, then God simply would have made different counter moves and prophesied accordingly”. The whole point is that the typology is in the sinful actions of the people involved. You can’t just say that the people could have done otherwise and God would just have adjusted His prophesies to what they did. The detailed typology looking forward to Jesus was in the sinful actions of the brothers, Judah, Potipher, etc. which is why I asked, “Are you saying that if Judas would have sinned differently, then Judah would have sinned differently? Are you saying that if Pilate would have sinned differently, then Potipher would have sinned differently and so on without God meticulously orchestrating and determining any of their sin?” You are just in blind denial here and have no answer.

    You say, “I typically use the argument from morality to answer the problem of evil and haven’t lost an argument with an atheist yet, lol 🙂 But that has nothing to do with what we’re discussing.” Actually, as I pointed out, it does because the answer of free will is extremely superficial and unsatisfying. Atheists get a good laugh out of it. If you have never lost an argument with an atheist I wonder if that is because you view your discussions with them the same way you view your discussions with Calvinists where your “victories” are in your mind only? Or could it be that you just haven’t ever run into a sharp atheist who is consistent. A nihilist would assert that they believe there is no objective standard of ethics and the word “evil” is subjective at best and meaningless at worst. They would present the “problem of evil” as a reductio ad absurdum style of argument though, saying, “You believe in evil and also believe in an all knowing all powerful God who is also good. How do you explain your belief in all these things?”

    As for Ps.105 you say, “(1) The Bible never says the fall was intended or determined by God”. No. It just says all things, and I simply assumed that the fall is a thing and would be included in the all. My main point has been that His intention and determination are logically necessary, but now that you’ve denied the Law of Causation and appealed to “mystery” to dismiss what is by definition illogical, I guess there remains no reason for you to say that any verse in the Bible has any specific meaning at all.

    You go on, “(2) He didn’t intend or cause the Egyptians’ hatred. He intended and caused Israel’s blessing, and the Egyptians reacted to that blessing with hatred.” That explains the outward means He used to exploit their fallen natures to accomplish their hatred of the Israelites. I don’t know how you can say that He didn’t intend or cause it though. The verse says, “He turned their heart to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants”. That’s about as clear of a statement as could be made. You say, “This is a perfect example of a Calvinist perverting the Biblical text”. Could you please explain how I’m the one perverting anything here and not you? The fact that this is in a psalm doesn’t mean that it doesn’t really mean what it says. This is a psalm about God’s sovereign control over the history of the Jewish people.

    You say, “And if it’s His “purpose” and good pleasure to create beings with libertarian free will (so that He can have GENUINE loving relationships with us, instead will-less props that He uses to love and worship Himself), then your whole argument falls apart”. Actually my argument has been that this is logically impossible. The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God and creatures with libertarian freedom are mutually exclusive concepts. It’s like an immovable object and an irresistible force they cannot coexist. Either the force will move the object or not. If the object moves, then it wasn’t immovable. If the object doesn’t move then the force was not irresistible.

    About the mother asking questions about her murdered child I said, “I would tell her that I don’t know all the details of why this happened, but I know that God was and is always in complete control. This wasn’t purposeless and we have the consolation of knowing that God is in complete control and that ultimately He is working all things for the good of those who love Him.” You responded, “I noticed you never mentioned to this grieving mother that this tragedy was God’s INTENTION. Or did you just conveniently forget that part?”

    What was ambiguous or hidden in the words “I know that God was and is always in complete control. This wasn’t purposeless”? If God had a purpose in the tragedy, wouldn’t that require that the tragedy was intended to accomplish that purpose?

    You continue, “I also noticed you ADDED the part about the child “professing faith.” But, there’s still a possibility the child isn’t “elect” and is therefore burning in hell, isn’t there, Matt? Why didn’t you mention that?” I would assume the profession was genuine if there was no reason for me to believe otherwise. I don’t know if you are into the easy believism stuff and just assume that anyone who walks an isle, says a prayer, and gets dunked in some water is automatically going to heaven, but there is always the possibility that some people may have made a profession for emotional or other less than pure reasons. If you think that we believe that people who have sincerely repented and exercised faith in Jesus may not be saved, then you really have very little understanding of Calvinism. If the child was 12 years old and never professed faith in Christ, I would just keep my mouth shut about where they were, and surely wouldn’t indiscriminately give the mother some lie about them being comforted in the arms of Jesus.

    Once again though, you totally ignored the questions. You just can’t face the answers so you say, “Somehow I just can’t imagine the grieving mother saying that to me, lol.” If she asked:
    “Did God know about this ahead of time?”
    Your answer, “yes”
    “Did God have the power to stop him?”
    Your answer, “yes”
    “Why didn’t God stop him from doing this to my child?”
    Your answer, “Well God didn’t want or intend for this to happen, but He gave people free will…”
    “So He could have stopped him, but He didn’t? Why not? What does free will have to do with it? Are you saying that God didn’t stop him because God didn’t want to violate that pervert’s free will? If that’s not what you’re saying then what is it and what does free will have to do with it?”
    Your answer…

    About Pv.16:4 you say, “Bottom line is the text doesn’t support compatibilist determinism. You read it in. Proverbs 16:4 “The Lord has made [pä·al’] everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

    First of all, the word you’re looking at isn’t even the same word that was being discussed in the quote you gave before, but that’s ok we can look at this one too. If you’re looking at a lexicon you should get more than the semantic range of a word. It should give you the meaning for its use in the specific verse you’re looking at based on construction and context. The core meaning is to make or do. Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon gives “make” for Pv.16:4 with the construction of pa-al + the accusative concrete in reference to God’s action. Even in the semantic range you gave all the words that make any sense at all in this verse say pretty much the same thing. The Lord has made… the wicked for the day of disaster, The Lord has fabricated… the wicked for the day of disaster, The Lord has created… the wicked for the day of disaster, The Lord has prepared… the wicked for the day of disaster. I’m not reading anything into the text. I’m just taking it for what it says plainly. You, on the other hand, are in blind denial of what it says.

    It’s funny that you think that Paul expected the people in the church at Rome to understand what his writes in light of all the potter and clay analogies in the OT. For one thing, the congregation there was largely gentile converts to Christianity so the point of the potter and clay analogy would have needed to be sufficiently understood without any background knowledge. The analogy there is clearly on what God does with the clay for His purposes. For the Jewish listeners, the only thing he could have been referencing was Is.45:9. It’s the only potter and clay analogy where the clay talks back to the potter and complains about what He has made out of the clay. The emphasis in Is.45 as well as Rm.9 is on what God does not man. I believe every word of Jer.18 because as a compatibilist I believe that man chooses and God chooses. I can even affirm that it is true that the vessels of wrath in Rm.9 prepared themselves for destruction, but Rm.9:22 is definitely making the point that God prepared them for destruction. In Is.45 God is being described as in absolute control of all things. He is subduing nations and overthrowing kings for Cyrus. He is the one who does all things: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things”. The fact that there is a prophetic command to turn to Him that is addressed to “all you ends of the earth” and the Prophetic vow that “to Me every knee shall bow” does nothing to change the emphasis of the entire chapter.

    It is obvious that Rm.9 is talking about God’s sovereignty in deciding who are His children and heirs to His promises (salvation). The vessels of wrath have been prepared for destruction. I pointed to the proof of this in the text itself. You made some wild assertions about it not being about salvation and never offered one piece of exegesis to back up your assertions. It sounds like you take one of the same positions so many people take who have to jump all around the Bible to create and import a foreign context. They have to ignore or totally change certain verses and say things like the people who “are not the children of God” are really just people who were not chosen for a noble purpose in bringing salvation to the world. No. It says they “are not the children of God”. It usually gets even worse in v.22 which is the verse I originally cited and you have not even touched. Instead you ran off to a potter and clay analogy in Jer.18 that was obviously not what was being referenced here and tried to divert the topic away from Rm.9:22.

    For Rm.8:29 you say, “He’s not saying LOST people are destined to be SAVED. He’s saying SAVED people are destined for the “adoption to sonship,” which Paul defines as “the redepmption of our bodies.” The problem with this is that the ones who are foreknown in v.29 would have to be foreknown to come to God. It doesn’t say that though. The active verb is in reference to the people not their actions. The verb προγινώσκω when God is the subject is never used of actions but always of people in the NT. As the context leading into Rm.9 it is clear that God’s choice of His children is not based on their actions (9:11&9:16), and that those who are foreknown are also the ones who are predestined, called, justified, and ultimately glorified (8:29-30).

    In reference to vs.32-33 you say, “Jesus is the Father’s Beloved. He is the Chosen One, and we are counted as chosen because we are IN HIM. The Father knew Jesus intimately before the foundation of the world, and He knows us, intimately, through Christ, as we come INTO HIM”. The elect (chosen) here is not Jesus. It is the genitive plural ἐκλεκτῶν. If it were in reference to Jesus it would be in the singular form ἐκλεκτοὺ.

    You go on saying, “He intercedes for us and no one can stop Him from loving us (that doesn’t mean we can’t choose to reject Him)”. I’m not even clear about what you’re trying to say here. Do you actually think that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for all the unbelievers or do you think that people can lose their salvation? Either way you will run into a whole lot of problems.

    You then offer no exegesis of anything until mentioning the objector more than half way through Rm.9. You say, “The hypothetical objector at Romans 9 is a Jew who has been hardened by God in his rebellion. He’s asking God the disingenuous question: “If You were able to use us, even in our rebellion, to accomplish Your plan of salvation, then why should You condemn us for our rebellion?” Where in the world do you find those words? Where in all those verses that you skipped over do you find anything about someone being used to accomplish God’s plan of salvation through rebellion? As I pointed out, there is plenty in there about people being chosen and not chosen as children of God and children (heirs) of promise. It’s also interesting that in both examples the first son is rejected and the second son is named by God to be the child of promise to draw the parallel between the first born (national Israel) and the second (the elect or vessels of mercy “whom He called, not of the Jews only but also of the Gentiles” (v.24)).

    You go on, “Paul reminds us of the Potter/Clay verses, which clearly show God punishing Israel for her wickedness and reworking His plan based on people’s choices”. As I’ve already shown the only verse this could be in reference to shows nothing like that. It shows the futility and ridiculousness of a clay vessel talking back to the potter who made it and questioning why He made it the way He did.

    You try again, “Even at 2 Timothy 2:21 Paul says people can BECOME vessels for honor if they cleanse themselves (i.e. repent). The Potter/Clay analogy in scripture has absolutely NOTHING to do with creating people for the purpose of saving or damning them. It’s simply about God reworking things to get HIS purpose accomplished IN SPITE of man’s disobedience”. 2Tim.2:21 doesn’t even mention a potter. This isn’t the same analogy and the same point is obviously not being made there and in Rm.9. The potter and clay analogy in Rm. 9 has everything to do with creation for saving and damning. I’ve already pointed it out but: κατηρτισμένα εἰς ἀπώλειαν. Prepared (perfect tense, done deal with abiding results) for destruction (not temporary hardening to accomplish God’s plan of salvation)… ἵνα (for the purpose that) He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which προητοίμασεν εἰς δόξαν. He prepared before or predestined for glory. Notice that these vessels (plural) are made totally at God’s discretion for one purpose or the other. Those who are vessels of mercy are predestined for glory. Does that not mean salvation? And is that not paralleled to those vessels prepared for destruction?

    Amyra, you have denied logic and the plain obvious meaning of scripture. Don’t you ever get tired of arguing something that is so indefensible. You have to claim that your dogmatic affirmation of libertarian freedom transcends logic (breaks a law of logic). You have to claim that pronouns refer to antecedents that aren’t even in the text. You have to claim that the Bible doesn’t mean that God did exactly what it says He did. You have to understand adjectives to be singular when they are in the plural form, and you have to import new words and concepts into texts that are not mentioned there at all. Let me just say as someone who knows what it’s like to argue from the wrong side of things against a Calvinist, It is soooooo… much easier to argue your position when you’re right. Feel free to go ahead and tell me how wrong I am and then give me a lot of assertions about “that doesn’t mean that, it means this”. Be sure to add in lots of lols (I guess that’s supposed to be laughing at me and my arguments). But when you are alone and not distracted by constantly arguing with people on line, just try to really understand my view. It may not be a good thing though. If you’re this belligerent when you have a falsehood, I can’t imagine the cage stage you would go through if you got a good grip on the truth. God bless Amyra.

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  16. Matt,

    I thought you were gone from this thread and that happily I was done with you here. I say happily because seeing someone repeatedly engage in the begging the question fallacy (repeatedly assuming the very points that are under dispute and **then** arguing for the truth of their view). Watching you do this over and over again and being completely unaware of it is frustrating to watch. What gets more exasperating however is when this is shown to you and you deny it and just keep rattling on begging the same questions over and over. Matt you said: “It sounds like the attempt at correction in my last comment hurt your feelings.” No, you didn’t “hurt my feelings”, rather it is just exasperating to see you do your question begging thing over and over and over again. You also said at the end of your latest post: “I got everything done that I needed to get done this past week, but still have much more productive ways of spending my time than repeating the same things over and over again to people who offer answers making blind denials of logic and scripture while accusing me of merely assuming the things that I have presented reasoned arguments for which remain unanswered.”

    Sorry Matt, Yes you keep repeating “the same things over and over” (repeating your question begging arguments over and over). My responses to you are not “making blind denials of logic and scripture”. It is precisely because I understand the begging the question fallacy and see you committing it over and over that I respond to you the way I do. You are a combination of a person who commits the begging the question fallacy AND when this is pointed out you are in denial about it. This sad combination results in you becoming completely immune to correction regarding your errors (and again I leave others to judge this as you will deny it which is still part of your being in denial of what you are doing).
    I am going to need to post multiple posts to respond to what you say because you bring in a lot of different points that cannot all be responded to in a short single post.

    Matt you wrote:

    “My point in mentioning Plantinga and Craig was because you brought them up as authorities in the field of philosophy who deny Compatibilism. I figured since you seem to have at least some respect for what they say, I would point out that they would totally disagree with both your misstatement of the Law of Causation and your use of the term logical relationship.”

    This is not accurate because Plantinga and Craig when they speak of the “logical relationship” are discussing Molinism not compatibilism
    .
    You say this yourself in the very next lines that you write:

    “They use the term to establish and explain a relationship between categories of God’s knowledge as opposed to a causal relationship, as well as the terms “logically prior” and “logical moments” as opposed to temporally prior and temporal moments. These are not terms restricted to Molinism though.”

    This discussion of “logically prior” and “logical moments” is in reference to Molinism not the logical/causal relations distinction discussed in the context of truth makers.

    Since you confused these two very different discussions I suggested you research the truth makers discussion in philosophy which apparently you went and did as you write:

    “If your condescending chastisements for me to research “truth makers” are in reference to the theories on truth makers and truth bearers, then you have obviously misunderstood those theories also.”

    Actually I did not misunderstand the distinction between the causal/logical relation, you did not know about this or the truth makers discussion until you read up on it.

    I have to say Matt that the arrogance that you displayed in your comments about Alvin Plantinga and William Craig are amazing, you actually think you understand these issues better than they do, which is an extremely unlikely possibility: you wrote:

    “BTW, I can’t help it if people like Plantinga and Craig use the Law of Causation consistently in some places, but then abandon it when it comes to certain matters of soteriology that they don’t want to believe. Based on some of their other arguments, I don’t consider them to be very reliable sources of analytical thought.”

    You say they are mistaken, and that’s fine, I expect you to say that as you hold the compatibilism that they reject.

    But that last comment is just sheer ignorance and arrogance:

    “I don’t consider them to be very reliable sources of analytical thought.” Hmm, Craig is just the best apologist and debater of the Christian faith today. And Plantinga is just the most well known and most influential Christian Philosopher IN THE AREA of analytic philosophy in the last 40 years. And then there is little ole Matt who thinks Plantinga is not a very reliable source of analytic thought! We should compare what Plantinga has published on this subject versus what Matt has published (it would be Plantinga A, B, C, D, etc. etc. and Matt ZERO). Matt your arrogance here is just amazing. As I trust Plantinga on analytic thought ten times more than I trust the question begging arguments of Matt I will end by quoting Plantinga at length on the weaknesses and problems with determinism/compatibilism, the view that Matt holds. Here is Plantinga on the weaknesses of determinism:

    [[IV.Theism and Persons [Alvin Plantinga}

    My third example has to do with philosophical anthropology: how should we think about human persons? What sorts of things, fundamentally, are they? What is it to be a person, what is it to be a human person, and how shall we think about personhood? How, in particular, should Christians, Christian philosophers, think about these things? The first point to note is that on the Christian scheme of things, God is the premier person, the first and chief exemplar of personhood. God, furthermore, has created man in his own image; we men and women are image bearers of God, and the properties most important for an understanding of our personhood are properties we share with him. How we think about God, then, will have an immediate and direct bearing on how we think about humankind. Of course we learn much about ourselves from other sources-from everyday observation, from introspection and self-observation, from scientific investigation and the like. But it is also perfectly proper to start from what we know as Christians. It is not the case that rationality, or proper philosophical method, or intellectual responsibility, or the new scientific morality, or whatever, require that we start from beliefs we share with everyone else-what common sense and current science teach, e.g.-and attempt to reason to or justify those beliefs we hold as Christians. In trying to give a satisfying philosophical account of some area or phenomenon, we may properly appeal, in our account or explanation, to anything else we already rationally believe- whether it be current science or Christian doctrine.

    Let me proceed again to specific examples. There is a fundamental watershed, in philosophical anthropology, between those who think of human beings as free-free in the libertarian sense-and those who espouse determinism. According to determinists, every human action is a consequence of initial conditions outside our control by way of causal laws that are also outside our control. Sometimes underlying this claim is a picture of the universe as a vast machine where, at any rate at the macroscopic level, all events, including human actions, are determined by previous events and causal laws. On this view every action I have in fact performed was such that it wasn’t within my power to refrain from performing it; and if, on a given occasion I did not perform a given action, then it wasn’t then within my power to perform it. If I now raise my arm, then, on the view in question, it wasn’t within my power just then not to raise it. Now the Christian thinker has a stake in this controversy just by virtue of being a Christian. For she will no doubt believe that God holds us human beings responsible for much of what we do-responsible, and thus properly subject to praise or blame, approval or disapproval. But how can I be responsible for my actions, if it was never within my power to perform any actions I didn’t in fact perform, and never within my power to refrain from performing any I did perform? If my actions are thus determined, then I am not rightly or justly held accountable for them; but God does nothing improper or unjust, and he holds me accountable for some of my actions; hence it is not the case that all of my actions are thus determined. The Christian has an initially strong reason to reject the claim that all of our actions are causally determined-a reason much stronger than the meager and anemic arguments the determinist can muster on the other side. Of course if there were powerful arguments on the other side, then there might be a problem here. But there aren’t; so there isn’t.

    Now the determinist may reply that freedom and causal determinism are, contrary to initial appearances, in fact compatible. He may argue that my being free with respect to an action I performed at a time t for example, doesn’t entail that it was then within my power to refrain from performing it, but only something weaker-perhaps something like if I had chosen not to perform it, I would not have performed it. Indeed, the clearheaded compatibilist will go further. He will maintain, not merely that freedom is compatible with determinism, but that freedom requires determinism. He will hold with Hume that the proposition S is free with respect to action A or S does A freely entails that S is causally determined with respect to A-that there are causal laws and antecedent conditions that together entail either that S performs A or that S does not perform A. And he will back up this claim by insisting that if S is not thus determined with respect to A, then it’s merely a matter of chance-due, perhaps, to quantum effects in S’s brain- that S does A. But if it is just a matter of chance that S does A then either S doesn’t really do A at all, or at any rate S is not responsible for doing A. If S’s doing A is just a matter of chance, then S’s doing A is something that just happens to him; but then it is not really the case that he performs A-at any rate it is not the case that he is responsible for performing A. And hence freedom, in the sense that is required for responsibility, itself requires determinism.

    But the Christian thinker will find this claim monumentally implausible. Presumably the determinist means to hold that what he says characterizes actions generally, not just those of human beings. He will hold that it is a necessary truth that if an agent isn’t caused to perform an action then it is a mere matter of chance that the agent in question performs the action in question. From a Christian perspective, however, this is wholly incredible. For God performs actions, and performs free actions; and surely it is not the case that there are causal laws and antecedent conditions outside his control that determine what he does. On the contrary: God is the author of the causal laws that do in fact obtain; indeed, perhaps the best way to think of these causal laws is as records of the ways in which God ordinarily treats the beings he has created. But of course it is not simply a matter of chance that God does what he does-creates and upholds the world, let’s say, and offers redemption and renewal to his children. So a Christian philosopher has an extremely good reason for rejecting this premise, along with the determinism and compatibilism it supports.

    What is really at stake in this discussion is the notion of agent causation: the notion of a person as an ultimate source of action. According to the friends of agent causation, some events are caused, not by other events, but by substances, objects-typically personal agents. And at least since the time of David Hume, the idea of agent causation has been languishing. It is fair to say, I think, that most contemporary philosophers who work in this area either reject agent causation outright or are at the least extremely suspicious of it. They see causation as a relation among events; they can understand how one event can cause another event, or how events of one kind can cause events of another kind. But the idea of a person, say, causing an event, seems to them unintelligible, unless it can be analyzed, somehow, in terms of event causation. It is this devotion to event causation, of course, that explains the claim that if you perform an action but are not caused to do so, then your performing that action is a matter of chance. For if I hold that all causation is ultimately event causation, then I will suppose that if you perform an action but are not caused to do so by previous events, then your performing that action isn’t caused at all and is therefore a mere matter of chance. The devotee of event causation, furthermore, will perhaps argue for his position as follows. If such agents as persons cause effects that take place in the physical world-my body’s moving in a certain way, for example-then these effects must ultimately be caused by volitions or undertakings-which, apparently, are immaterial, unphysical events. He will then claim that the idea of an immaterial event’s having causal efficacy in the physical world is puzzling or dubious or worse.

    But a Christian philosopher will find this argument unimpressive and this devotion to event causation uncongenial. As for the argument, the Christian already and independently believes that acts of volition have causal efficacy; he believes indeed, that the physical universe owes its very existence to just such volitional acts-God’s undertaking to create it. And as for the devotion to event causation, the Christian will be, initially, at any rate, strongly inclined to reject the idea that event causation is primary and agent causation to be explained in terms of it. For he believes that God does and has done many things: he has created the world; he sustains it in being; he communicates with his children. But it is extraordinarily hard to see how these truths can be analyzed in terms of causal relations among events. What events could possibly cause God’s creating the world or his undertaking to create the world? God himself institutes or establishes the causal laws that do in fact hold; how, then, can we see all the events constituted by his actions as related to causal laws to earlier events? How could it be that propositions ascribing actions to him are to be explained in terms of event causation?

    Some theistic thinkers have noted this problem and reacted by soft pedaling God’s causal activity, or by impetuously following Kant in declaring that it is of a wholly different order from that in which we engage, an order beyond our comprehension. I believe this is the wrong response. Why should a Christian philosopher join in the general obeisance to event causation? It is not as if there are cogent arguments here. The real force behind this claim is a certain philosophical way of looking at persons and the world; but this view has no initial plausibility from a Christian perspective and no compelling argument in its favor.

    So on all these disputed points in philosophical anthropology the theist will have a strong initial predilection for resolving the dispute in one way rather than another. He will be inclined to reject compatibilism, to hold that event causation (if indeed there is such a thing) is to be explained in terms of agent causation, to reject the idea that if an event isn’t caused by other events then its occurrence is a matter of chance, and to reject the idea that events in the physical world can’t be caused by an agent’s undertaking to do something. And my point here is this. The Christian philosopher is within his right in holding these positions, whether or not he can convince the rest of the philosophical world and whatever the current philosophical consensus is, if there is a consensus. But isn’t such an appeal to God and his properties, in this philosophical context, a shameless appeal to a deus ex machina? Surely not. “Philosophy,” as Hegel once exclaimed in a rare fit of lucidity, “is thinking things over.” Philosophy is in large part a clarification, systematization, articulation, relating and deepening of pre-philosophical opinion. We come to philosophy with a range of opinions about the world and humankind and the place of the latter in the former; and in philosophy we think about these matters, systematically articulate our views, put together and relate our views on diverse topics, and deepen our views by finding unexpected interconnections and by discovering and answering unanticipated questions. Of course we may come to change our minds by virtue of philosophical endeavor; we may discover incompatibilities or other infelicities. But we come to philosophy with prephilosophical opinions; we can do no other. And the point is: the Christian has as much right to his prephilosophical opinions, as others have to theirs. He needn’t try first to ‘prove’ them from propositions accepted by, say, the bulk of the non-Christian philosophical community; and if they are widely rejected as naive, or pre-scientific, or primitive, or unworthy of “man come of age,” that is nothing whatever against them. Of course if there were genuine and substantial arguments against them from premises that have some legitimate claim on the Christian philosopher, then he would have a problem; he would have to make some kind of change somewhere. But in the absence of such arguments-and the absence of such arguments is evident-the Christian philosophical community, quite properly starts, in philosophy, from what it believes.

    But this means that the Christian philosophical community need not devote all of its efforts to attempting to refute opposing claims and or to arguing for its own claims, in each case from premises accepted by the bulk of the philosophical community at large. It ought to do this, indeed, but it ought to do more. For if it does only this, it will neglect a pressing philosophical task: systematizing, deepening, clarifying Christian thought on these topics. So here again: my plea is for the Christian philosopher, the Christian philosophical community, to display, first, more independence and autonomy: we needn’t take as our research projects just those projects that currently enjoy widespread popularity; we have our own questions to think about. Secondly, we must display more integrity. We must not automatically assimilate what is current or fashionable or popular by way of philosophical opinion and procedures; for much of it comports ill with Christian ways of thinking. And finally, we must display more Christian self-confidence or courage or boldness. We have a perfect right to our pre-philosophical views: why, therefore, should we be intimidated by what the rest of the philosophical world thinks plausible or implausible? (Alvin Plantinga, from ADVICE TO CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHERS)]]

    I may have other things to say in response to Matt as time permits. Or I may not because I may not want to use already limited time on this anymore.

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    1. Matt,

      You present a mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ advice to pray that God’s will be done here as it is in heaven. Your suggested interpretation is both strained and false. And we can easily understand why you interpret it mistakenly as you do. Rather than taking it as it intends, you have to defend your false calvinistic system from what it actually says/intends.

      Your false system includes a distinction between the secret/sovereign/decretive will of God (this is God’s total plan for all of history, every event being preplanned and predestined). And the revealed will/prescriptive will of God (this is what God says His will is in scripture). Note most non-Calvinists reject that God has this total plan, this secret will, this set of decrees for everything that will happen in history. I will not go into the various problems with this secret/revealed will distinction right now, I only want people to note that this is a Calvinistic distinction, a Calvinistic premise. But if this premise is rejected, then any argument based upon it collapses and is to be rejected. If you ASSUME this distinction in an argument and then make your argument you are again committing the fallacy of begging the question. And this is exactly what you do when you try to explain your interpretation of Jesus’ statement about praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is done in Heaven:

      “One more point, In the model prayed you totally ignored the second part of what I wrote about the prescriptive will of God being done on earth as in heaven. If you notice I said it could be one or both options. I would personally go with the prescriptive will and possibly the continued accomplishment of the decretive will. That is based on the assumption that Jesus’ prayers are effectual.”

      Whoa, wait a minute, no need to go any further; you say you would go with the ***prescriptive*** will and possibly the continued accomplishment of the ***decretive*** will when trying to argue for your interpretation. But that distinction is your calvinistic premise, you mention it in passing and you assume it. But the rest of us reject that premise, we reject that distinction. So you assume it and then try to use it to explain your interpretation. ONCE AGAIN YOU BEG THE QUESTION.

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      1. Robert writes of Matt, “But that distinction is your calvinistic premise, you mention it in passing and you assume it. But the rest of us reject that premise, we reject that distinction.”

        Yet, isn’t it the case that Robert argues from his own non-Calvinist premises? So, doesn’t Robert offer arguments that are inherently question begging also?

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      2. Rhutchin,

        “Yet, isn’t it the case that Robert argues from his own non-Calvinist premises? So, doesn’t Robert offer arguments that are inherently question begging also?”

        Yes! You beat me to it. Robert SEEMS to think that there is no distinction in the use of “will” in the scriptures. But isn’t that problematic?

        For instance, the non Calvinist argues that it is God’s “will” that all will be saved. Correct? But we all agree that not all end up saved. So in theological discussions about what the scriptures teach, words in scripture (God is not “willing” that any perish) and in theological studies have to be defined. What does “will” mean” What does “will” mean in the Lord’s prayer? Does the idea of “God’s will” have only one meaning?

        Maybe Robert can elaborate (in a smaller number of words than usual hopefully). 🙂

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      3. Matt,

        I want to say some things about your discussion of what you call the “the Law of Causation” and the Cosmological argument. I actually agree with much of what you say, so it may be helpful to see where the real disagreement is.

        “You seem to simply gloss over the fact that you misstated the Law of Causation. It is not that “everything has a cause”.”

        I have seen many calvinists like you try to argue from the fact that MANY events result from preceding sufficient causes (i.e. given this preceding cause X, then effect Y MUST OCCUR). Note I said MANY events involve this kind of causation. I would also point out that in Logic we talk about All, None, or Some. Matt you take the position that **ALL** events are preceded by sufficient causes. If that is the case then all events are determined and determinism is true. I do not take the position that **NO events** are preceded by sufficient causes. I take the position that SOME events are preceded by sufficient causes (e.g. a chemical reaction where if one chemical is combined with another chemical then a necessary effect results). I also believe that when we choose freely (i.e. when LFW is present) the choice is not a result of a sufficient condition, which is further a result of another sufficient condition, etc. a causal chain is present that runs through the person necessitating their choice.

        “If this were true, then God would have to have a cause and the entire Cosmological Argument that both Reformed and non-Reformed Christians use would be a huge failure.”

        Actually it is nice that you bring up God, because his choices are the exemplar, the **perfect example** of a person who makes a choice and their choice is not necessitated, it is not the result of a causal chain running through him, nor a result of a sufficient cause that necessitated the particular choice that God makes. Take God creating the world, he did not have to create the world; he freely chose to do so. His choice was not determined but involved LFW. As we can understand this kind of choosing in the case of God we can recognize when we experience it as well (our choice being made for reasons in light of what is important to us, but our choice not being determined, not being necessitated).

        “The Law is that every effect must have a preceding cause and any type of change is an effect.”

        Assuming the event involves sufficient causes.

        “I gave a very brief summary of the Cosmological argument which you dismissed as an assumption of determinism.”

        I do not dismiss the Cosmological argument; rather, I dismiss it when you merely assume your determinism without proving it. Regarding the proof of determinism by the way, no one has ever proved determinism to be true: usually they just assume it to be true as you do.

        “You also dismissed the Law of Causation as an assumption of determinism making it obvious that you misunderstand both the law and the Cosmological argument that is based on it.”

        No I understand that SOME events involved sufficient causes, but as an indeterminist I also believe that SOME events do not involve sufficient causes, namely choices where LFW is present.

        “My points in bringing the Cosmological argument up were to show how the authorities you mentioned use the Law of Causation and to show how the Cosmological argument is linked to Compatibilism. The argument rests on the fact that each effect (change) can be traced to its cause, but if that cause also involves any type of change it also is an effect and requires a preceding cause. This is why my assertions of long lines of causal sequences are not “assumptions” as you say.”

        Actually they ARE ASSUMPTIONS because you believe that ALL EVENTS have sufficient causes. You assume that but do not prove it, the fact that our freely made choices do not involve sufficient causes shows that at least some events do not result from sufficient causes.

        “Unless you can point to a cause that involves no change and is uncaused, the line of causal sequence must continue back.”

        God is an example of such a cause when he freely makes a choice that involves LFW. Likewise when we freely make a choice that involves LFW, the choice made does not result from “a line of causal sequence” but originates from the personal agent who makes a choice for reasons.

        “As the lines of sequences are traced back they either have a beginning or they don’t. If they don’t, then the regression of events in the sequences are infinite and without beginning, but this is absurd.”

        Right, all contingent beings could not have brought themselves into existence a necessary being must have brought them into existence. This necessary being is God.

        “The concept of the infinite (when used quantitatively) is simply the concept of the number or amount that can never be actualized in reality. When we talk about eternity (in the future) we are talking about something that can never be completed. If a computer were made to multiply astronomically huge numbers by themselves over and over again at unbelievable speeds, that computer would never ever reach a number that was not finite. The concept of an infinite regression of finite events is the concept of what can never be in reality, and the claim that the universe is the result of such infinite causal series is the claim that everything that exists is the result of the thing that can never exist in reality. So, The lines of causal sequence must have beginnings, which would be first causes which are themselves uncaused.”

        And again there has to be an uncaused self existent being behind it all (or as I put it to atheists either the universe is self-existent or someone else is self-existent, but you gotta stop at some self existent being, :-)).

        “There are certain logical requirements for something to be a first cause. As I’ve already mentioned, it can’t involve any type of change or it would be an effect, so it must be immutable. It can’t be inanimate physical matter because it would have to be perfectly motionless (without change in position), and inanimate matter can’t move itself to start the sequences that we now see. In addition to this all physical matter that we have any knowledge of inherently involves motion (change) on both the molecular and sub-atomic levels (although empirical observations cannot prove anything to a logical necessity). So the First Cause would have to be an immutable, most likely non-phisical and surely metaphysical Being with the power self-existence which can animate itself and bring about everything else that now exists.”

        Sounds like God to me! 🙂

        “The Biblical revelation of God perfectly fits this description and explains how God fits these requirements. He is immutable in His essence (involves no change whatsoever). He is omniscient. This means He simply knows all truth perfectly and simultaneously. This also means that He doesn’t have a thought process (which is an idiosyncrasy of sentient beings with limited knowledge) because change in thought is an effect that requires a preceding cause. He is a sentient Being, which means that He possesses knowledge and is able to move Himself from non-action to action based on His knowledge and intention to act. And He possesses the power to act in a way that brings about everything that exists.”

        OK, as Craig argues when he brings up the Kalam argument that the universe had a beginning so this necessary self-existent being must have brought the material world into existence. This is the same Craig by the way that you said you could not trust him on when it comes to analytic philosophy! 🙂

        “Knowing these things, we can see that eternity past is not an infinite regression of God doing and thinking things. It is a pure state of existence in which the only Being that fits all the requirements of being an uncaused cause exists in His essential form. This state of existence (eternity past) precedes time, because time is simply a term we use to describe the duration of events in relation to other events. We have developed our system of time based on certain uniform recurring events (the orbit of the earth around the sun, the rotation of the earth on its axis, the orbit of the moon around the earth) and divided the duration of those events into equal parts (hours, minutes, seconds) to measure the duration of other events. Before there were any causal sequences of events there was no such thing as time, and this is how God existed in eternity past before and independent of the sequences we refer to using the term time.”

        Ok so God “precedes” the existence of the material world, he existed when there was no material world.

        “I hadn’t planned on going through the Cosmological argument in my comments, but since I have, I will point out the obvious connection to what we are discussing about soteriology. Unless you and your supposed libertarian will fit all the criteria necessary for being an uncaused cause (eternal self-existence, immutability, all of your actions and decisions already being known in the state of eternity past, etc.) then you and your will are effects that must be traced to preceding causes.”

        You were going so well, until these comments. You assume that all events must have a sufficient causal explanation (i.e. they all result from a causal chain of sufficient causes). In other words YOU ASSUME DETERMINISM. But indeterminists like Plantinga and Craig and Moreland and Searle and . . . …………..: believe that some events are the result of sufficient causes and some do not. Freely made choices fit the type of event that does not result from a sufficient cause.

        As John Searle nicely puts it: “The thesis of determinism asserts that all actions are preceded by sufficient causal conditions that determine them. The thesis of free will asserts that some actions are not preceded by sufficient causal conditions. Free will so define is the negation of determinism.” (p. 47 John Searle, “Freedom & Neurobiology”) Searle is saying that those who hold to LFW believe that SOME events result from sufficient causal conditions, but not ALL (as you believe). Matt you assume that ALL events result from sufficient causal conditions and then make your arguments. But that ASSUMES yet again the very issue that is under dispute (i.e. which is true, determinism or indeterminism?). You assume it and then make your arguments for determinism and that is again BEGGING THE QUESTION. To prove your view you would need to first prove that all events are a result of causally sufficient conditions.

        “ If those causes do not fit the criteria for being an uncaused cause, then they also must be traced to their causes and so on and on until an uncaused cause is reached. We all agree that there is only one such Being, but you insist that your decisions cannot be causally traced back to Him. This is an absurd denial of logic.”

        No it is not an “absurd denial of logic” it is a denial of determinism, the belief that ****all**** events result from causally sufficient conditions. John Searle makes this distinction between the two views (determinism = ALL events result from causally sufficient conditions; indeterminism = SOME events result from causally sufficient conditions and SOME events do not result from causally sufficient conditions) and argues for indeterminism very well in his writings (in particular “RATIONALITY IN ACTION” and “Freedom & Neurobiology”).

        Now we need to distinguish the claim often made by determinists like Matt that those who believe in LFW deny that everything is caused. No, the denial is not that all events have causes or that choices are not caused. Rather the denial is that all events involve causally sufficient conditions: some do not, namely freely performed choices and actions. The personal agent makes a choice, so the personal agent is the cause, but this cause is not a causal chain going through the person necessitating the choice. But is instead a person making a choice from two or more options that are available and accessible to him/her. Just as God freely chose to create the world his choice not being necessitated by antecedent sufficient causes, but him freely choosing between two options of not creating the world or creating the world. If you don’t’ like the example of creating the world then think of God choosing to have mercy on whom he desires to have mercy (that freely made choice involves LFW and is not necessitated by sufficient causes) or numerous other choices that God has and then freely makes.

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      4. Robert writes, “Actually it is nice that you bring up God, because his choices are the exemplar, the **perfect example** of a person who makes a choice and their choice is not necessitated, it is not the result of a causal chain running through him, nor a result of a sufficient cause that necessitated the particular choice that God makes….As we can understand this kind of choosing in the case of God we can recognize when we experience it as well (our choice being made for reasons in light of what is important to us, but our choice not being determined, not being necessitated).”

        No, we cannot recognize when we experience it. God has LFW because He is omniscience and all-wise (and logically coherent in all He thinks). When it is said that people exercise LFW, we understand that people are not omniscient and do not always think in a logically coherent manner. Thus, the LFW attributed to God is a different beast than that enjoyed by people. For people, LFW carries the meaning of not being caused by forces outside the will. In Biblical arguments, this means that those who hold to LFW believe that the will acts independent of the nature (heart: one’s desires). The Calvinist says that the will expresses the desires of the heart; the non-Calvinist says that the will expresses desires not necessarily reflective of the heart. Thus, the Calvinist says that both heart and will are slave to sin (so the person cannot choose not to sin); the non-Calvinist says that the heart is slave to sin but the will is free (so the person can choose not to sin).

        However, to say that person can recognize LFW when he experiences it is quite a stretch. People are continually bombarded with varying influences (especially temptations by Satan) and no one can perceive how those influences affect his choices and especially if they are determinants of his choices. People may think that they express LFW in making choices, but they have no way of knowing. So, Robert (and others) just make it up. There is no way to tell if we are making “LFW” choices. The most we can say for sure is that we make choices.

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    2. Robert provides a long citation from Plantinga who is arguing that Christians can be philosophers despite their presupposition that God is. When Plantinga refers to “determinists,” he is referring to non-Christian philosophers who reject the notion of God and apparently argue that a person who believes in God cannot be a philosopher – Plantinga seems to be arguing against this position.

      When Matt argues for determinism and compatibilism within a christian worldview, he is arguing based on specific concepts (truths) that we learn from the Scriptures. If Matt were arguing with non-Christian philosophers, he would be laughed out of the room simply because they do not start with the Scriptures as the source of truth. Within the Christian community, it is entirely appropriate to argue from the presupposition that the Scriptures provide us truth.

      While I still do not understand what the compatibilist is doing, the basic premise is that God has decreed all things and people choose freely and these notions are compatible with each other. The non-compatibilist would argue that they are not compatible so one must be false: either God has not decreed all things or man cannot choose freely.

      I do not know why Robert quotes the above from Plantinga and what it has to do with Matt. Can Robert explain what Plantings has to do with Matt?

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  17. Robert,

    Since you have presented a somewhat different argument from what you were attempting to present previously, I feel like I should respond further.

    You should just drop the logical/causal distinction. As I pointed out, there is no reason why you should think that your logical/causal distinction would have been understood to be an appeal to the discussion of truth bearers and the connection they have to their truth makers as validating their truth. For one thing, you misunderstood the question of the relationship between events and true propositions about the events as negating the causal sequence by which you came to be aware of those true propositions and because of this misapplied the concept to this discussion. For another thing, the logical/causal distinction that would come to mind in a soteriological or even general theological discussion would be the one I mentioned which is in no way limited to being about Molinism. It is used in many other contexts but all in reference to a relationship between categories of God’s knowledge. I think I have even heard James White use the term this way when debating an open theist.

    You try to defend your misuse of the logical relationship between truth makers and their truth bearers and the fact that without the mention of truth makers/truth bearers the term “logical relationship” would never be automatically understood to be in reference to this by saying:

    “Actually I did not misunderstand the distinction between the causal/logical relation, you did not know about this or the truth makers discussion until you read up on it.”

    No Robert, I was aware of this discussion before. There was just no way of knowing that you were trying to appeal to this discussion by throwing out the term “logical relationship” (a term used in many different ways in philosophy) in a misapplication. I have never taken the time to delve into the many theories about this question very deeply because it is one of those philosophical questions that really doesn’t amount to much, and as a Christian I believe the validating connection between TMs and TBs is found and established in the eternal mind of God.

    I guess my comment about Plantinga and Craig does sound arrogant. I wish I had stated it in a little softer way. I just see flaws in their reasoning on multiple issues. Even on issues where I would agree with their conclusions, I see fallacies that render their arguments invalid. One example would be the Ontological Argument. I totally agree that God (or Necessary Being, Perfect Being, etc.) exists, and I really wish that the Ontological Argument was a logically valid way of demonstrating His existence. I want it to be a valid argument, but it isn’t. It is the most glaring example of a tautology (circular reasoning) ever to be presented in serious philosophical discussion. Both Plantinga and Craig use this argument, and I think it is because they have a tendency to hold the party line of what they want to be true. Even in the long quote you gave from Plantinga, he builds a straw man that wouldn’t apply to Christian compatibilists and then based on the straw man says that Christian thinkers should reject Compatibilism because the straw man he constructed wouldn’t allow for the existence of a metaphysical causal agent, which is what God is. I can’t even say that he defeats the straw man because it is simply dismissed as not being compatible with Christianity and the “arguments from causal laws” for the most part remain unaddressed. They are accused of being weak and unconvincing, but never demonstrated to be so. The atheistic naturalist who would better fit the description of Plantinga’s straw man would laugh at this dismissal, and any unbiased person would see it for what it is. These are only a couple of examples why I would disagree with your statement, “Plantinga is just the most well known and most influential Christian Philosopher IN THE AREA of analytic philosophy in the last 40 years.”

    In the lengthy quote you provided Plantinga tries to begin by establishing a link between human personhood and God’s personhood because man is created in the image of God.

    He says, “The first point to note is that on the Christian scheme of things, God is the premier person, the first and chief exemplar of personhood. God, furthermore, has created man in his own image; we men and women are image bearers of God, and the properties most important for an understanding of our personhood are properties we share with him. How we think about God, then, will have an immediate and direct bearing on how we think about humankind.”

    I would just point out that there are similarities between God and man, but also vast differences. Even regarding personhood, God is a tri-personal Being, which is something vastly different from humans. Plantinga will later attempt a huge illogical leap that will amount to “God can do it, so we can do it too”.

    He begins His second paragraph with, “Let me proceed again to specific examples. There is a fundamental watershed, in philosophical anthropology, between those who think of human beings as free-free in the libertarian sense-and those who espouse determinism”.

    Yes, there are Christians, non-Christians, and atheists who affirm LFW and people from the same world views who affirm different forms of determinism. By presenting a form of Compatibilism that could only be properly ascribed to an atheistic naturalist, Plantinga will set up a straw man under the broad title of “Compatibilism” that renders his reasons for rejecting Compatiblilism totally irrelevant to Christian Compatibilism.

    His second paragraph simply continues on to make the complaint that if things are determined then he doesn’t think it is fair for God to punish people for their actions. I have already addressed many times why God should both determine and judge human actions and why I believe He is just in doing so. You can disagree with me, but I don’t think that anyone would claim that their value judgements are binding on God.

    In his third paragraph Plantinga gives an example of an argument similar to the first option I presented in a much earlier comment to Amyra about how LFW could operate. Plantinga’s example here is similar to what I said about LFW possibly being something that operates independently of a person’s thought process. It is different than my example in that I would never affirm the possibility of chance due to something like quantum physics which would boil down to an uncaused effect itself. Notice that in this example he is already implying an inherent link between Compatibilism and atheistic naturalism (the belief that we are simply physical beings and not complex physical and metaphysical (spiritual) beings) with the implication that our thought processes are merely products of neurons firing in brain matter when he says, “it’s merely a matter of chance-due, perhaps, to quantum effects in S’s brain- that S does A”. He will totally miss saying anything relative to Christian Compatibilism as he continues to equate all forms of Compatibilism with the compatibilistic beliefs of natural materialists. Notice also that the other possibility that I mentioned (LFW operating within a person’s thought process) and eliminated as absurd is not addressed at all. This is sad because he will later fall into the absurdity that I pointed out.

    In his 4th paragraph he states his first flaw of reasoning when he says, “But the Christian thinker will find this claim monumentally implausible. Presumably the determinist means to hold that what he says characterizes actions generally, not just those of human beings. He will hold that it is a necessary truth that if an agent isn’t caused to perform an action then it is a mere matter of chance that the agent in question performs the action in question. From a Christian perspective, however, this is wholly incredible. For God performs actions, and performs free actions; and surely it is not the case that there are causal laws and antecedent conditions outside his control that determine what he does”.

    There is no rule of inference that can get him from the proposition “all effects require a preceding cause” to the proposition “God requires a preceding cause” because, as I already pointed out through the Cosmological Argument, God is not an effect and contains no change (effects) whatsoever in His essential state of eternal existence. Plantinga’s conclusion drawn in the last sentence of this paragraph, “So a Christian philosopher has an extremely good reason for rejecting this premise, along with the determinism and compatibilism it supports” is based on a straw man that has nothing to do with Christian Compatibilism. It is nothing more than a statement that the Christian belief in God is incompatible with naturalistic materialism, which would leave the argument given in the previous paragraph, if presented by a naturalistic materialist, unaddressed and simply dismissed.

    In his 5th paragraph, Plantinga tries to present a distinction between agent causation and event causation as two things that are opposed to each other. They are not. Effects (changes) are effects whether they are physical or metaphysical. Events involve change or else they are not events, so his distinction would only hold true in the world view of naturalistic materialism where agent causation is doubted to be anything other than the causation of matter on matter as neurons fire in the brain in response to external stimuli. Christian Compatibilists believe in both physical and metaphysical (including spiritual) entities and embrace the fact that physical and metaphysical causes produce both physical and metaphysical effects. Reformed thinkers have engaged in the mind/body question for centuries, which requires that the mind and body be distinct components within a complex being. Plantinga’s claim that agent causation is at stake in this discussion is not at all the case for any type of Compatibilism that is not based on naturalistic materialism. His comments here are totally irrelevant to Christian Compatibilism.

    In his 6th paragraph Plantinga continues with the straw man that agent and event causation are at odds with each other and Compatibilists believe that “event causation is primary and agent causation is to be explained in terms of it”. He once again makes the illogical leap based on this straw man when he asks, “What events could possibly cause God’s creating the world or his undertaking to create the world?” We don’t believe there were any events before God. We believe that the first event was God’s first action.

    I find his rejection of Kant very telling in the next paragraph. He is absolutely right to reject Kant. In his “Critique of Pure Reason” Kant built a very long and complex argument to attempt to show that both time and space were idiosyncrasies of human perception. From this he reasoned that all laws of logic (Causation, Identity, Excluded Middle, Non-contradiction) were merely useful in human understanding of what we perceive in what he called the phenominal realm (physical), but had no bearing whatsoever on reality in either the phenominal or nominal (metaphysical) realm. This rejection of Kant shows that Plantinga rightly holds that logical laws apply to both physical and metaphysical entities, but he presents an argument for LFW that violates the Law of Causation. Human decisions are events and events are effects that require a preceding cause.

    There is no tension between event causation and agent causation. Agent causation is something that happens in time in the case of human decisions. It involves changes (the change from indecision to decision to name just one) and is by definition both an event (something that happens) and an effect. The claim that because we are created in the image of God we have the same powers of causal agency as God is impossible. God is self-existent, immutable, all His knowledge and intentions are simply known (not arrived at by a process of deduction). He fits all the requirements for being an uncaused cause, but we do not. Plantinga’s pointing to God as the example of LFW and then inferring that we have LFW also as causal agents ignores all the unique qualities of God that make Him an uncaused cause.

    I would also like to add that while God is free in a way that no creature could ever hope to be, He is not free in the libertarian sense. God is not influenced by anything whatsoever outside of Himself. He simply knows all things perfectly and simultaneously in His eternal immutable state. No one and no thing existed before His knowledge to influence Him and nothing has come into existence since that He did not already know perfectly that could change His knowledge and intentions. This does not mean He has the ability to do otherwise than what He does though. As I have explained before, perfect knowledge and character produces perfect actions. There is no contingency in God’s actions because to do something less than what is known to be perfect is wrong for the Being with perfect knowledge and the power to accomplish what He intends to accomplish. God has the natural ability to do all kinds of different things, but He lacks the moral ability to do anything less than perfect. This is why God cannot sin and it is impossible for God to lie. It isn’t because he lacks to power to do these things, but because He lacks the desire to do them. This touches on the same distinction between natural and moral ability in people. We have the natural ability to do otherwise, but we lack the moral ability because we lack the desire. We think that God should be praised and glorified for his goodness and truthfulness when in reality He lacked the moral ability to do otherwise, but people like Plantinga and yourself don’t think man should get what is deserved for his actions because although he had the natural ability to do otherwise, he lacked the moral ability or desire.

    Thanks for providing the Plantinga quote though. It allows me to show why I don’t regard him as authoritative on these matters. I will address what you said about sufficient causes and the distinction between God’s decretive and prescriptive wills in a separate and much shorter post as this one is too long already. God bless.

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  18. Robert,

    There are many distinctions made between different types of causes. There are material causes, formal causes, efficient causes, final causes, and further distinctions within these distinctions. There are contributing causes, necessary causes, and sufficient causes. It seems that you are using an overly simplistic definition of sufficient causes, but you are not the first person to do this on this subject. I have simply used the terms “cause” or “set of causes” to describe the sum total of all causal factors that play into producing a specific effect for clarity and simplicity.

    A necessary cause is used in reference to a condition that must be present for a specific effect to be actualized but in and of its self does not necessitate that the effect be actualized. A sufficient cause is a condition or set of conditions that will necessarily produce the specific effect. A sufficient cause doesn’t even need to be a necessary cause to ensure the actualization of the effect. For example, if I shoot a gun at a paper target this cause (or set of causes, depending on how detailed you are in framing the example) is sufficient for bringing about the effect that there will be a hole in the target. However, shooting a gun at the target is not a necessary cause in bringing about the effect of there being a hole in the target. I could simply poke my finger through the paper and produce a hole. The point is that sufficient causes or conditions are defined by the effects that they necessarily produce. In the case of causal sequences the fact that a specific effect is produced is proof that the sum total of all causal factors was sufficient for producing the specific effect.

    I already addressed this with the example I used in a previous comment to Amyra of the atheist who explains the reasoning in his thought process leading him to refuse to love and follow God. He could say, “There are many brilliant scientists from many fields of study who have concluded that there is no reason to believe in a Being such as God. I can’t see any such Being or hear Him or perceive Him through any of my senses. It would be utter foolishness to believe in such a thing much less devote my life to pleasing and living for the glory of the idea of any such intangible Being instead of for myself. So I desire to reject the idea of being a Christian”. Yet if the sum total of causal factors is not sufficient in producing the rejection of Christianity and could produce the logical opposite (non-rejection or acceptance) the same atheist could say, “There are many brilliant scientists from many fields of study who have concluded that there is no reason to believe in a Being such as God. I can’t see any such Being or hear Him or perceive Him through any of my senses. It would be utter foolishness to believe in such a thing much less devote my life to pleasing and living for the glory of the idea of any such intangible Being instead of for myself. So I desire to love and follow God as a Christian for the rest of my life”. This destroys the connection between a specific cause and its specific effect and is absolutely absurd. The fact that a specific effect is produced is proof that the set of causal factors that went into bringing about that effect were a sufficient cause for producing that specific effect.

    You accuse me of begging the question by pointing to the different senses in which the will of God is spoken of in scripture. If you notice, I allowed that you might reject that there are any such distinctions but would only be in blind denial. I didn’t want to make an already long comment any longer unnecessarily if you did accept these distinctions, but am happy to defend my use of these distinctions since you deny that they exist.

    Eph.1:11 says that God “works all things according to the council of His will”
    Ps.115:3 says God “does all that He pleases”
    Dn.4:35 says “all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the hosts of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth”
    Job23:13 says that God “is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that He does”.
    Is.46:10 says in the words of God, “My council shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”.
    And the list of these types of verses goes on and on… Now compare that with Luke 7:30 where it says, “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him”.

    The same Greek word βουλή is used in both Lk.7:30 and Eph.1:11 one verse says that God works all things after this and the other says that people rejected this. Now either there is a distinction here between what God decrees or works all things according to and what God commands or instructs people to do, or we have a direct contradiction in scripture. Something can be X (according to the will of God) and non-X at the same time but in different senses. Something cannot be X and non-X at the same time and in the same sense. Now you may want to go to the texts I presented and the many others that I could present and try to explain away what they clearly say, but you can’t do it without being the one who is really twisting scripture to fit your preconceived theology. The distinction is not an invention or unbiblical. It is totally Biblical and necessary for understanding scripture no matter what soteriological view you hold.

    Once again I have a lot coming up in the next few days and may not respond for a while if at all. God bless you.

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    1. Hi Mayo –
      You said – “Eph.1:11 says that God “works all things according to the council of His will…. Now compare that with Luke 7:30 where it says, “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him”. The same Greek word βουλή is used in both Lk.7:30 and Eph.1:11 one verse says that God works all things after this and the other says that people rejected this. Now either there is a distinction here between what God decrees or works all things according to and what God commands or instructs people to do, or we have a direct contradiction in scripture.”

      This is a great example of the disconnect in Calvinists’ thinking about God’s plan for mankind and human history, since in the Calvinists’ assumptions it must be a plan that includes all divine and human choices as already decreed as completed before creation. But Ephesians 1:11 does not indicate that kind of divine “plan” as a necessary description of God’s βουλη. God’s plan for the lawyers and Pharisees was for them to “freely” accept John’s Baptism. In other words, His plan had conditions, options, and alternatives factored in so that He and mankind could freely interact with each other. They rejected the positive aspect of His plan for them and therefore reaped the negative aspect of His plan.

      This is how the Scripture normally reads. God is working out everything according to His plan, but His plan clearly has conditions, options, and alternatives (is open, if you will, in some areas) as confirmed by all the subjunctive, conditional and universal invitational language throughout the Scripture. To force a philosophical concept of all things predetermined is what twists the Scriptures away from this normal reading. I hope this helps.

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      1. Brian,

        Why respond to a six week old comment to Robert? He didn’t have a response though, so I am happy to interact with you although your view is different than his. He believes that God’s plan is known perfectly to Him, while you believe that God’s plan is not known. Am I correct that you take the position of Open Theism that God does not know the future but only knows possibilities in the future (with some exceptions)?

        I’ll begin with your comment referring to what I wrote about the different senses in which the will of God is spoken of in scripture. You say:

        “This is a great example of the disconnect in Calvinists’ thinking about God’s plan for mankind and human history, since in the Calvinists’ assumptions it must be a plan that includes all divine and human choices as already decreed as completed before creation.”

        In the context of the discussion on this thread I have “assumed” nothing but have explained and argued for every point I made. I have shown how the Law of Causation requires that God both knows and determines all things including human choices. Even in your view where it seems that God knows all things as soon as they happen and reasons perfectly from that knowledge, He would have been able to deduce all the future events that would necessarily play out in causal sequences from His own creative actions. He would have known how He would act in His first act of creation before performing that action and thus been able to discern through deductive reasoning everything that would happen as a result to a maximal degree of certainty (absolute certainty of anything even in the mind of God would be impossible in your view) before ever creating. Here your view of Libertarian Freedom falls on the same logical grounds as all the other people’s views who affirm LF regardless of differing beliefs on omniscience. The only way to avoid this would be deny that God reasons perfectly from the knowledge He does have, but that would open up a huge can of worms about God being mistaken and unreliable. I don’t think you would go to that extreme anyway though.

        I would also add that my position is not that God’s plan is “completed” before creation, because I don’t believe something can be completed that was never started. God simply knows everything (all true propositions) perfectly and simultaneously in His immutable state of eternity past. I haven’t read the whole discussion between you and other people about open theism, but I saw that you affirm a linear view of time, which is the only view which can be demonstrated. It is also just common sense. I don’t think most people who talk about space time as a metaphysical entity with ontological existence understand much about the B-theory of time or the many problems with it. I believe in the common sense A-theory of time which is to simply acknowledge that “time” is a word that we use to describe sequences of events. We base our measurements on uniformly repeating sequences (rotation and orbit of the earth and moon) and equal divisions of these events (years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds). So, I think we are more on the same page than the people who try to explain God’s omniscience in terms of His omnipresence in all places within space time where we only perceive things happening in succession instead of succession actually corresponding to reality. I would add that the people on the other thread who seemed to be going in that direction probably don’t realize the implications of that view being that knowledge of reality is impossible.

        You say, “But Ephesians 1:11 does not indicate that kind of divine “plan” as a necessary description of God’s βουλη.” If we ignore that this kind of divine plan is logically necessary, we would still come to the same conclusion if we just look at the plain reading of the text and the use of the word βουλή. Its most common usage is to signify a resolved or determined plan as in Eph. 1:11, Acts 2:23, and Acts 4:28. However, the semantic range of the word also includes things like “council” as in commands, instructions, or advise as is seen in Lk. 7:30 and Acts 20:27 where Paul says, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole βουλή of God”. Did Paul declare God’s whole resolved plan (or even His whole plan including “conditions, options, and alternatives”) or did he declare all of God’s commands and instructions?

        Eph. 1:11 says of God, “τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ” (the [One] the all working according to the resolved plan of the will of Him). Is God really working (an active participle) the all or is He only reacting to the all that He did not plan or even know would happen? I understand that you think God knew that individual things within the all may or may not happen, but that is much different than knowing with absolute certainty what would happen. It seems that in your view God is not working the all, but is merely working in reaction to the all to ensure that the things that He did not know would happen due to the assumed LF of people would not prevent Him from accomplishing certain end results. Is that a plain reading of the text?

        In my comment that you responded to I also mentioned a few other passages. One was Isaiah 46:10 where it says, “My council shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose”. In the LXX the word βουλή appears twice here for council and purpose. Is God saying that His resolved plan will stand and He will accomplish all of it or is He simply saying that He doesn’t really know what will happen but whatever it is, He has a good response ready? I wouldn’t think the latter is even possible here since the words immediately preceding the ones I quoted are, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done”. I think that the use of the word βουλή in these passages is pretty clear.

        In Lk. 7:30 you seem to be saying that βουλή is used in the same sense as in Eph. 1:11 or I guess any other passage. This totally ignores the varying usage of the word as can be found in any good lexicon or simply by looking at the different occurrences in scripture. You say, “God’s plan for the lawyers and Pharisees was for them to “freely” accept John’s Baptism. In other words, His plan had conditions, options, and alternatives factored in so that He and mankind could freely interact with each other. They rejected the positive aspect of His plan for them and therefore reaped the negative aspect of His plan”. I suppose that by your definition any choice would be an acceptance of one aspect of God’s βουλή and rejection of other aspects, but is that really what a reasonable and consistent hermeneutic leads us to extract from the words “the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the βουλή of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him”? We have a use of the word that is found in the New Testament (Ac. 20:27) and is acknowledged by scholars and lexical sources that fits perfectly with the context. They rejected the instruction of God to be baptized. They disobeyed the command of God to be baptized. I really don’t see how you accuse me of forcing a philosophical concept and twisting scripture away from its normal reading. Can you point me to one lexical source that lists anything about positive and negative aspects under the definition of βουλή? Can you give me one clear example of this usage in scripture? If not, then it seems that you are the one forcing a philosophical concept onto scripture and twisting it to fit your own assumptions.

        Just to understand more about your position in general , would you tell me your view on a few of things? I know that God would have to have an ever changing thought process if He is not omniscient. Do you think that He has always had changing thoughts or do you think that He started with an essential category of knowledge that He then began to reason from? If you assume LF so that there is no way of knowing the future decisions of people through deductive reasoning don’t God’s future plans depend on inductive reasoning which is nothing more than playing the odds? How would you explain all the detailed prophecies made in scripture, for example Is. 45:1 where Cyrus is named and God declares what He will do with him over a century before Cyrus ever came to power? What about the story of Joseph, not only the clear statement made in Gen. 50:20 but all the Christological typology found in the assumed libertarian choices of multiple sinful men centuries apart from eachother or the details of the scene at the cross prophesied in Ps. 22? In a previous comment to Robert (I think) I pointed to the difference in knowledge between God and Adam as the factor between being immutably good and mutably good. If God is not omniscient and His knowledge of future events is based on inductive reasoning so that He learns new things and takes in new information, why would you think that He would not change from being good or that His definition of what is or isn’t good for Himself to do would not change? Also, can you point me to any scriptures that say that God doesn’t know something or that He changes or changes His mind in a context that is directly speaking to the nature or knowledge of God instead of passing statements in narratives that can easily be seen as anthropomorphism being used as an accommodating literary devise in a context where something other than God’s knowledge or immutability is the focus of the text? BTW, What Baptist school do you teach at? I know it isn’t part of the SBC since only the six seminaries are officially part of and supported by it, but do y’all have a statement of faith? If so which one? I know the BFM2K specifically precludes your views on God’s knowledge or is at least intended to do so.

        God Bless.

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      2. Hi Mayo, I counted 16 questions in your lengthy response. I hope my replies are satisfactory.
        1. I jumped in, I hope you don’t mind, not because of Robert’s original post, but because you focused on Scriptures, which I think is so important to these discussions. Thank you.
        2. I don’t self-identify as an Open Theist because of definitions such as yours, “God does not know the future but only the possibilities in the future (with some exceptions).” My view, though not dogmatically, is that Scripture reveals that the future does not exist in reality, (it is still future in God’s experience) but it is fully known as it exists in God’s mind, as a combination of things predetermined and things possible, all fully known by God as they relate to each other.
        3. I have no problem conceding the two nuances you gave for βουλη, “resolved plan” and “commands”. You would probably agree that the commands are only a subcategory of the whole “resolved plan”. What you probably would not agree to is my suggestion that the Scriptures declare that there are free possible choices for God and man as another subcategory of His “resolved plan.” I realize I am equivocating on the word “resolved”, not meaning “completed” but “with full intention”.
        4. Reacting is many times hard work! 🙂 And I have no problem with God choosing to “react” using His full knowledge of all possible outcomes and His omnipotence to guarantee certain ends that He has promised. This is, in my opinion, the plain meaning of the text concerning our free-will, universally merciful God.
        5. Again, if “resolved plan” means that everything, including divine and human choices are predetermined, then, no, that is not what Is. 46:10 means. The fact that the more general word “purpose” was chosen by the Calvinistic translators of the KJV, even supports that such was not dogmatically in their understanding of this verse. Any resolved aspect of His plan will certainly be accomplished, and God did resolve, as Scripture indicates, to allow some things unresolved so that His free interaction with man in His image would remain throughout human history. If there was a verse that clearly said God predetermined before creation all of His and man’s future choices for ever, we would not be having this conversation, for I would be in full agreement with you. But the Scripture does not have such a verse, because God did not have such a “resolved plan” for human history. God does know what will really happen in the future with an understanding of all the possibilities fully. That is a divine understanding that our minds cannot fathom. It should not surprise us that God does not know as completed anything He has planned to be conditional and thus uncompleted, nor should it surprise us that God is free to make such plans with conditional elements in it. The Calvinist agrees that God’s omniscience did not include the creation of human history as necessary, so why must the Calvinist make necessary a human history that is “fully resolved” when Scripture does not guarantee such, but even clearly demonstrates that it is partially resolved and partially open?
        6. See 8.
        7. See 8.
        8. The answer to how βουλη can include resolved things like promises and unresolved things like commands, we agree on. I don’t think you have any problem seeing the “rejection” of the Pharisees as part of God’s resolved plan in you view. I just see it as part of God’s plan, which I believe is unresolved in the sense of including conditions as well as including divine and human freedom. Our examples would always be the same from Scripture, though I do believe God does harden the human will often with no choice but rejection, but only after a number of free rejections that His mercy had afforded.
        9. See 11.
        10. See 11.
        11. I don’t think we should limit God’s knowing to inductive or deductive reasoning, nor should be exclude those forms of knowing from His omniscience. Such an exclusion would make all of Scripture “anthropomorphic” or, as most in reformed theology would say, “analogical.” But as mentioned above in 5. we both would agree that God’s mind was not locked in to creating humanity, so we must allow at least for the possibility that His mind is still not totally locked as to how human history can and will play out. But He knows all the plays possible and all the certain ends He has promised (planned). Nothing will take Him by surprise, just like choosing to create humanity did not take Him by surprise. Since God did not “know” the possibility of creating humanity as necessary, does that make Him any less omniscient? Of course not.
        12. So I would not use induction as a description of God’s knowledge of the future, though I guess it “becomes” part of it, much like the experiential knowledge of the incarnation “became” a part of God’s knowledge, which He fully understood in His infinite wisdom as to all the possibilities but He had not ever had the experience before. But though God does change in the sense of having those new experiences, His immutability certainly extends to other aspects of His nature, like His righteousness, justice, love, and truth, as confirmed in Scripture.
        13. You ask me not to point to narratives from Scripture where God speaks, and where, I think, He could have explained His foreknowledge (or the prophet could have) of a certain event, if it truly had be predetermined. But if we do not take biblical narratives at face value with normal meaning, how do we know Jesus actually, physically, rose again, or when He says He loves us, He actually means what we understand as love, at least to some univocal extent. I don’t know if Jer 18:1-11 suffices for your requirements, but in that context God speaks of having an initial intention for a vessel, but that intention being changed “as it seemed good” (vs. 4) in reaction to the clay not responding as he had planned. Also verse 8 says the same thing – “I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.” It is not that God didn’t know of all possibilities perfectly, but His first intentional thought changed to a secondary intentional thought. He also says – “I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way…” (vs. 11). This confirms that there was not a predetermined (or a resolved plan) for Israel’s rejection and for God’s punishment of Israel from before creation. God would not say that He is devising a plan, if it already was devised!
        14. Virginia Baptist College
        15. Yes
        16. See at vbc.edu under General Information

        I hope this is a help, my brother! And I hope, like me, you are willing to be convinced by clear Scriptures, if changing your thinking is needed, or to be accepting of others to hold what are disputable matters because Scripture has not been definitive in some matters, thus making those matters not necessary for the gospel or sound doctrine.

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      3. Brian,

        I will attempt to address all that you wrote and also point out some questions that I asked that were unanswered. The definition of what you believe about God’s knowledge and the future is exactly what the leading voices of Open Theism believe. Pinnock, Boyd, Sanders, and Enyart all claim that God has perfect knowledge of everything that is fact and possibility. I think Greg Boyd even claims that God is omniscient in that He knows everything that is, but knows certain future events as possibilities because they are not yet facts that can be known. They claim that if the future is truly open then all that exist are possibilities, and God knows those possibilities perfectly. If future events are not realities, then there is no reality to be known, and God can’t know what does not exist. This is what I have in mind when speaking of Open Theism, which seems to fit your position. I would really identify any view that claims that God does not know all future events with absolute certainty and not as possibilities as some form of Open Theism.

        You claim that God “working the all” of Eph. 1:11 is really just reacting to the all instead of actually bringing the all about. I don’t see how this could possibly be seen as the plain reading. The Participle ἐνεργοῦντος (working) is transitive (taking the object τὰ πάντα) and in the active voice. This means the normal reading is that the subject of the verb (God) effects or brings about the object (the all). This is not working in reaction to something; it is bringing about the something.

        My point in quoting Isaiah 46:10 was not to show the entire content of the divine plan in that verse, but to show the different use of the word βουλή. It stands and all of it is accomplished in Is.46:10, but it is rejected and not accomplished in Lk. 7:30. I was simply demonstrating the different senses in which it is used and giving examples of those uses. I was also quoting from the ESV not the KJV. I don’t think the KJV is a very good translation compared to some of the more modern ones that are around today because of both the very limited manuscript evidence the Greek texts they used were based on, and they were not aware of certain things in the language that translators are aware of today. I don’t see any significance in the use of the word “purpose” instead of “plan”. I think the common understanding is that in this context both words could be used interchangeably. The text specifically says that this is in reference to future events and it will stand and all of it will be accomplished.

        I also want to correct a very understandable misunderstanding of my view. The vast majority of Christians, including Calvinists, do talk about God’s freedom to have not created or to have created differently as though the future was open in the state of eternity past. While I would say that there was a theoretical possibility, I don’t believe there was ever any chance of God acting differently in reality. I’ll try to explain this in two points:

        1) I believe that God is omniscient in the sense that He has never not known all true propositions perfectly and simultaneously. As I tried to explain in my previous comment, time is a word we use to describe a sequence of events (changes). Before there were any events, there was simply a pure immutable state of God’s existence. To exist in such a state and meet all the requirements of being an uncaused eternal Being, God’s essential eternal state would have to be purely immutable (involving no change whatsoever, including change in thought). A thought process (involving change in thought) is an idiosyncrasy of beings with limited knowledge who take in new information and reason from pieces of known information to new pieces of deduced information. The reason I asked if you believed that God has always been thinking or started with some essential category of knowledge from which He began to reason is because the former cannot be eternal. The concept of the infinite (in quantity) is simply a concept of the thing or number that can never be reached in reality. When we say we will live eternally in glory, we are not just talking about a really long time. We are saying that there will never ever be a point at which our eternal existence in that state will have been realized. Eternity as an infinite series of events (changes) is a thing that can never be actualized in reality. To say that God, as the creator of all else that exists and as the Being that exists as He does today (with the amount of knowledge and His current plans based on that knowledge) is the result of an infinite series of changing thoughts is to say that all of creation and God as He exists today is the result of the thing that could never be in reality.

        If God knows all things perfectly and simultaneously with His knowledge being an essential part of Him though, His essential existence before acting would be eternal. I say eternal not in the same way we speak of eternity future which would be an infinite series of events, but eternal in that He exists before there was ever a series or sequence of any kind. This is how He preexists time and created time by acting (the first change or event, the first sequence going from non-action to action). Because of this, I don’t think God deliberated about anything like creating or not or how to create. I think He simply knew what He would do… Continued…—>

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      4. 2) I believe that perfect knowledge requires perfect action. Even in your view, I don’t think you believe that God finds out a new piece of information that affects His plans, knows what the best response would be on His part, and then does something that He knows is not the best course of action. Since I believe God knows all things perfectly, and I also believe in His impassability, in that He doesn’t suffer from passing emotions or irrational desires for instant gratification like we do as beings with limited knowledge, I think He always acts in the perfect way. This goes to the same distinction that we Calvinists make about humans. There is a difference between the natural ability to do something and the moral ability to do it. God has the natural ability to not create or create differently, but He lacks the moral ability to do so. This is why I allow for the theoretical possibility but not a real possibility. In the same way scripture says it is impossible for God to lie, I don’t believe He lacks the ability to string some syllables together in an order that forms an indicative proposition that is untrue. I believe He cannot do it because He has no desire to do so because He knows it is not good (best) for Him to do so.

        Some people, especially Molinists but Calvinists also when discussing the question of lapsarianism, assume a causal relationship between different pieces or categories of God’s knowledge where parts of His knowledge are derived from or depend on other parts. They realize that eternal knowledge cannot be caused by any other piece of knowledge because the eternal cannot be preceded by anything and causation takes place in a sequence (time), so they try to salvage the assumed relationship between the categories of knowledge by describing it as a logical relationship instead of a causal relationship. They say there is a logical rather than chronological or temporal relationship. The problem is they want to keep all the aspects of a causal relationship except the sequential one. I think changing the word causal to logical solves nothing, but only attaches the label “logical” to an illogical idea. I believe that all true propositions are essential to God’s eternal essence. The only logical relationship between any pieces of God’s knowledge is the same as between any two truths (they cannot be contrary or contradictory to each other). The events that correspond to the knowledge may be causally related to each other and are causally related to the eternal knowledge of them, but there is no causal relationship or logical one other than what I mentioned between the pieces or categories of knowledge in the eternal mind of God. I hope that clarifies what I believe about God’s knowledge. I realize that it would not be known without explanation because it is not usually stated in any depth and is not the most popular view among even Calvinists… Continued…-

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  19. As far as experiential knowledge and inductive and deductive reasoning, I will try to address what you wrote about that. These are the ways through which we as creatures with limited knowledge obtain knowledge. I know parts of your conversations with others on a more resent thread talked about God gaining experiential knowledge in the incarnation and never having experiential knowledge of some things like committing sins. I think much of the problem there has to do with how we define knowledge and how the question is framed based on that definition. The general consensus among Christian thinkers is that God’s omniscience can be safely and accurately defined as knowledge of all true propositions. That would include all future events that will happen and all hypothetical future events that will not happen. All contingencies are known, but none of them are known contingently. When we speak of experiential knowledge, we are talking about knowledge that we attain through experience. If we look at knowledge as simple facts or truths then experiential knowledge is not a different kind of knowledge, it is knowledge obtained through the method of experience. We can say that God will never know what it’s like to lie experientially, but there is nothing about telling a lie (a fact or a truth about doing it) that God does not know. We can say that prior to the incarnation God never knew what it was like to get hungry or tired or to get burned by something hot, but If we consider knowledge as facts or truths (true propositions) God already knew everything there is to know more clearly and in more detail than the people who gain their knowledge of these things through experience. I don’t believe that God gains knowledge through experience, but I believe He knows about gaining knowledge through experience better than we do as people who gain knowledge through this method.

    Of course, the exception to this is seen in the incarnation where Jesus grew in knowledge and understanding. I didn’t read all the comments on the other thread, but from what I did see I was disappointed that the people arguing against you didn’t seem to even understand the orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union. In the one person of Jesus there are two natures. He is 100% God and 100% man, yet these two natures are not mixed. He is complex in respect of his natures, but the two natures remain distinct from each other. During His time on earth, part of the divine nature was veiled from the human nature. This was necessary for Jesus to fulfill His role as the second Adam. An omniscient Being cannot be tempted. An omniscient Being could not truly submit, trust, and rely on the Father in all situations without knowing all the details of the outcome. During the incarnation Jesus actually did learn through experience. He did reason both deductively and inductively, but none of that requires a change in the essence of the eternal Godhead or that the divine nature gained previously unknown knowledge through experience, induction, or deduction.

    Inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning are also methods through which we arrive at new pieces of knowledge (in the case of deduction) and evaluate what we think is likely based on probabilities which is not really knowledge (in the case of induction). If there is no eternally omniscient Being and we were to adopt a position of epistemic skepticism, then all “knowledge” of future events would be to a greater or lesser degree dependent on inductive reasoning and could only be predicted to differing degrees of less than absolute certainty. If you deny that human decisions are causally necessitated due to an assumed Libertarian Freedom, there isn’t even any way of knowing all possible outcomes and avoiding any possibility of an unforeseen event. Is this the predicament of the mighty God of the universe who declares the end from the beginning, accomplishes all His purposes, and works all things according to the determined plan of His will?

    You say, “I don’t think we should limit God’s knowing to inductive or deductive reasoning, nor should we exclude those forms of knowing from His omniscience”. I guess you would also include experience (including observation) and possibly some foundational category of essential knowledge (maybe epistemological laws and divine Self-knowledge?), but is there anything else? You explain that the reason why Inductive and deductive reasoning should not be excluded is because this “would make all of scripture “anthropomorphic””. I don’t see how that would be the case, but I do think scripture is full of anthropomorphic language. I’m a Calvinist and I think every time the verbs “choose” and “elect” show up in scripture there is a degree of anthropomorphism because the way we commonly understand the words involves a process of consideration resulting in resolving to do something that was not previously resolved. I would think that we both believe the Bible contains anthropomorphic statements unless you think God has giant body parts that like arms, hands, feet, and even a rear end to sit on. I think we just disagree on how many such statements there are. The very fact that God accommodates us by condescending to use human languages would lead me to expect these types of statements since we easily understand and remember so many things by association or as you mentioned analogically.

    The discussion of God’s knowledge and its nature can go pretty deep and scripture doesn’t seem to delve into many direct and deep discussions of doctrines that are as complex as this, even in what we consider to be essential and foundational doctrines like the trinity. However, the clear statements made throughout scripture taken as a harmonious whole and fit together logically give us sufficient information for a clear understanding. Viewing the combined testimony of all of scripture, verses that speak of God relenting as though He changed His mind or being sorry as though He regretted something don’t compel me to embrace Open Theism because they are never in the context of a discussion about the nature of God’s knowledge, and if they are taken as literal statements meant to address the nature of God’s knowledge, they run contrary to many other verses that are more didactic and require omniscience.

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    1. I don’t understand how you can deny God’s immutability when it comes to His knowledge and impassability but then affirm it when it comes to His righteousness, justice, love, and truth. As I tried to point out before, God is immutably good because He is omniscient. He can’t change His mind because He gained some previously unknown piece of information or regret doing the wrong thing because He didn’t know how things would play out afterwards. A present decision could turn out to be terrible if based on future probabilities that do not play out as expected. You may believe that God has a contingency plan to clean up the mess as best as possible based on the same level of uncertain probabilities, but the fact remains that God was unable to prevent the mess. In my view God intends every evil action ever done by secondary agents because those actions accomplish God’s purposes in the absolutely best way that could not have been accomplished had those actions not occurred. In the common non-Calvinist view God knows of but only passively allows these evil actions that He never intended to happen and had no purpose for because He values the LF of the evil person doing the actions over the lives and welfare of those affected by those evil actions. In your view these evil actions that God did not intend and had no purpose for happen because God is incompetent to prevent them. I also think your view collapses into the typical Arminian view in most cases of evil if God knows thoughts and desires as soon as they happen. In that case God’s knowledge of plans and intentions would precede the evil actions giving Him the opportunity to prevent the actions.

      You gave the example of Jer. 18:1-11 as a proof text after saying, “You ask me not to point to narratives from Scripture where God speaks, and where, I think, He could have explained His foreknowledge (or the prophet could have) of a certain event, if it truly had be predetermined. But if we do not take biblical narratives at face value with normal meaning, how do we know Jesus actually, physically, rose again, or when He says He loves us, He actually means what we understand as love, at least to some univocal extent”. I actually asked for these types of statements “in a context that is directly speaking to the nature or knowledge of God instead of passing statements in narratives that can easily be seen as anthropomorphism being used as an accommodating literary devise in a context where something other than God’s knowledge or immutability is the focus of the text”. If this were the context of Jer. 18 I would have a lot of reconsidering to do because of verses 8-11.

      As it is, the focus of Jeremiah 18 is on the actions of the Israelites. The whole point of this declaration is to emphasize that the people will be held responsible for their actions and that there is a direct relationship between what they do and what God does. If God speaks against them in judgement and they repent and follow Him, He will withhold the judgment. If God says He will bless them and they turn away from Him, He will not bless them. This is not a discourse on God’s knowledge. Verses 8-11 are exactly what I would expect to find in the context of Jer. 18. I wouldn’t expect Jeremiah to insert another lengthy chapter or two here to explain the nature of God’s knowledge in the middle of a call to repentance and discourse on God’s blessings and curses being directly related to their actions. This is not at all comparable to the bodily resurrection of Jesus or God’s love for His children. Both of these are addressed over and over again in the clearest didactic passages. Other doctrines and instructions are taught in scripture as being based on these foundational truths. We are to love as we have been loved, and we will rise as Christ has risen. If Christ is not risen then our faith is in vain and we are the most pitiable of all men. It is also hard not to see these types of texts as employing anthropomorphism when the same verb for “repent” as is used in Jer. 18, Ex. 32:14, and 1 Sam. 15:11 is found in 1 Sam. 15:29 where it says that God is not a man that he should repent (or change His mind).

      I didn’t see any explanations of the story of Joseph and the prophetic Christological typology there, the detailed prophecy of the cross in Ps. 22, or the naming of Cyrus and prophecy of him over a century before he came to power. To help me better understand your position I would like to know how you would handle these texts. I also want to ask if you think God knows the day of our deaths based on verses like Ps. 139:16 and Mt. 10:28-31. How would you interpret James 4:13-15? I’m just trying to get an idea of how you personally would approach these verses from the view that God only knows the future as possibilities.

      I started to write this comment a couple of days ago and due to the length had to finish it today. I’m sorry it has taken several days to get around to it, but I wanted to clarify what I believe about God’s knowledge which requires being somewhat long winded. I hope I have presented it clearly. I guess I will have to post this in multiple comments. God bless.

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      1. Hi Brother Mayo,

        It was a little flattering and a lot overwhelming when I saw the time and effort you took to respond. You certainly enjoy writing, and if you haven’t already, you should seek to use your writing skills beyond these postings for journals, ebooks, or other publication ministry outlets!

        Again, the reason I do not like to self-identify as an Open Theist (though I concede I am on that side of the fence) is because of defining statements like yours – “They claim that if the future is truly open then all that exist are possibilities, and God knows those possibilities perfectly.” I think it is significant that I believe the future is only partly “open” in God’s mind, since many things, events and ends, have already been predetermined by Him. This would answer clearly your last series of questions as to how I take all biblical predictions (Ps 22, Cyrus, etc.). Since God sees all possibilities, and the contingencies relating to each, perfectly, and since He is all powerful, He can certainly decide to change any of those individual possibilities into a determination, which would bring a limitation to the possibilities available to His and man’s LFW, but would not nullify the existence of the LFW. I don’t see how ενεργουντος (Eph 1:11) could not logically involve both God’s active working in causing (determining) certain outcomes as well as actively allowing mankind to cause certain outcomes, all according to His plan and desire.

        But ultimately you hit the nail on the head in your definitions of immutability and eternality and their effects on the definition of omniscience and God’s revealed descriptions of His interactions of mankind in biblical narratives. I hope you will sometime see that your definitions of immutability and eternality are brought to Scripture from philosophy, causing Scripture to be defined anthropomorphically (analogically) to fit those philosophical definitions, instead of the definitions arising from Scripture itself. You have bought into, I believe, the seemingly logical conundrum that “Eternity as an infinite series of events (changes) is a thing that can never be actualized in reality.” But Scripture defines eternity no other clear way – “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps 90:2) using terms the original readers would have known in no other way than a series of infinite ages from the past into infinite ages in the future. You have also bought into a philosophical idea of what perfect “immutability” has to be, that “God’s essential eternal state would have to be purely immutable (involving no change whatsoever, including change in thought.” But, as I think you would agree, the incarnation is not essential to God’s essential eternal state, so that definition is flawed, for the incarnation is certainly a change – “the Word became….” And no matter how superior God’s intellectual knowledge compared to what we learn from experiential knowledge, God was learning by experience something in the incarnation, or the use of the term “Son” would not make sense in Hebrews 5:8 – “And though being [the] Son, He learned….” (It is interesting how the ESV downplayed the divinity of Christ in this passage).

        God could have easily revealed the philosophical definitions that you are holding to concerning His nature. Mankind has always been able to understand those philosophical ideas. To indicate that God’s use of anthropomorphic language in Scripture was an accommodation to the ignorance of previous generations that our “smarties” have now finally recognized is not only hubris but undermines the perspicuity and associated authority of Scripture for each individual (1John 2:27).

        You said – “If you deny that human decisions are causally necessitated due to an assumed Libertarian Freedom, there isn’t even any way of knowing all possible outcomes and avoiding any possibility of an unforeseen event.” I believe the biblical definition of omniscience, which includes knowing all possible outcomes within the framework of what already is preordained as boundaries, laws, and ends, does not necessitate all human decisions to be predetermined. LFW does not mean deciding something outside of those possibilities that are fully known by God. God is always able “to prevent the mess” that results from man’s continued exercise of LFW, just like the Calvinist believes. I’m sure, that God was able to create a humanity that would never sin. He does not value LFW “over the lives and welfare of those affected by those evil actions” but instead provides sufficient mercy and grace to each one created in His image. When you suggest my view involves “evil actions that God did not intend and had no purpose” or that “God is incompetent to prevent them”, I think you are misunderstanding by view. Just like the Calvinist has God intending evil actions with a purpose, I have God intending the possibility of evil actions with a purpose. And just like the Calvinist does not think God incompetent for ordaining evil, I do not think God is incompetent for allowing and working with evil.

        Jeremiah 18:8 – God says, “I will relent of the disaster I intended.” Does His intention change or not? In 18:11 God says, “I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you.” Is God accurately representing His predetermination of all things before creation?

        Ps 139:16 is an interesting verse that has been used to support the preordination of all the days of a human’s life. The exegesis will not hold up that interpretation dogmatically, nor even lean in that direction, but is a forced possibility upon the text. The Matt 10 and James 4 texts also do not lend themselves to dogmatically point to a predetermination of all things from before creation. I hope this helps.

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      2. Brian,

        Thanks for the response. You say you believe the future is partly open and partly predetermined. I think there is some degree of disagreement among Open Theists on this point. Clark Pinnock claims that a violation of human freedom is a destruction of personhood, while John Sanders claims that God does violate human freedom and it is not a problem as long as their will is not habitually violated. It sounds like you agree with Sanders in saying that God violates human freedom in certain cases to bring about a specific outcome. Is that an accurate assessment of your view? If so, it seems that all scriptural examples of prophecy that would require both foreknowledge and determination are simply dismissed as special cases and exceptions to the rule, while the verses that make passing statements about God relenting in contexts that are not at all intended to address the nature of God’s knowledge are taken to establish the rule.

        About Eph. 1:11 you say that ἐνεργοῦντος could logically involve God “actively allowing mankind to cause certain outcomes”. What do you mean by “actively allowing”? In my own view God can allow a person to do certain things without any immediate intervention, but this allowing is active because the person’s actions can be causally traced to God’s good actions and intention in those good actions to bring about the person’s actions. If you affirm Libertarian Freedom, which denies any specific act of human volition being causally determined by God, how can the outcomes that are undetermined by God be actively allowed by Him instead of passively allowed?

        You think that I am imposing philosophy onto scripture when considering immutability and eternality, and I can see that as being somewhat true but only in a way that is right and necessary for any understanding of scripture. The word “philosophy” is used to describe a wide range of things from abstract wildly speculative theories to extreme skepticism that ignores the most basic common sense to the application of laws of logic and formal rules for reasoning in considering different questions. It is in this last sense that I believe theology and philosophy go hand in hand in perfect agreement. I don’t even really like using the term “philosophy” because if this discussion were on a more recent and active thread someone would be jumping into the conversation to quote Col. 2:8 and tell me that the use of philosophy there is in a warning against using logic in abstract reasoning. Well, I’m sure they wouldn’t put it that way but would say that I have been taken captive by philosophy while they ignore all the qualifiers that follow in the verse. I believe that the proper use of reason, which could be a very simple definition for logic, is essential to approaching scripture and seeking to know anything about God. When considering eternity past, logic both requires that someone or something exists eternally and that the Being that exists does so immutably. When considering immutability, I am only considering what is logically required for a Being to exist in eternity past.
        I believe scripture is inerrant, and I also believe that it must be interpreted logically. If scripture can be properly exegeted in a way that breaks a law of logic then it is not understandable. If this can be true anywhere in scripture, then we might as well give up on studying it and close our Bibles, because we have no way of knowing where it is and isn’t understandable. If the Law of Identity isn’t true, Jesus may not be Jesus. If non-contradiction isn’t true, then it may be equally true that those who call on the name of the Lord will and will not be saved at the same time and in the same sense. If causation isn’t true, then faith and repentance may not result in eternal life. If I come away from scripture with an understanding of a text that I see as illogical, I can’t just chalk it up to mystery or what you call a “seemingly logical conundrum”. Either I have made a mistake in my reasoning or I have made a mistake in my exegesis. We have hermeneutical rules to aid in proper exegesis and we have laws of logic and rules for different methods of reasoning to avoid error in our reasoning. Exegesis and reason must go hand in hand and be in perfect agreement or study of scripture is futile.

        You mentioned Ps. 90:2, but I see nothing there that would require “everlasting to everlasting” to be understood as a “series of infinite ages” which would be a series of things that cannot ever exist as completed or in the past in reality. If you meant an infinite series of finite ages, then it would only be one thing that cannot exist as completed or in the past. All I see is here is an affirmation that the Lord is God, He has never not been God, and will never not be God.

        If you affirm that eternity past involves an infinite series of ever changing thoughts in the mind of God, you are affirming a contradiction. If the sequence goes back infinitely, it can have no beginning, and every thought must be preceded by a thought that came before it, yet any individual thought would be included in the genus of every thought. This would mean that some individual thought would have to be thought before it was thought, or in other words it would have to be thought and not be thought at the same time and in the same sense. In case I get accused of a fallacy of composition (although the accusation could never be demonstrated), I’ll demonstrate the absurdity of this idea another way. If the series of thoughts were infinite, then every possible thought would have already been thought in every possible sequence an infinite number of times. The thought to act creatively at some specific point would have already been thought, resulting in God creating. This would have already happened an infinite number of times, resulting in an infinite number of creations and we have already been here and had this conversation an infinite number of times. Also, if the series of thoughts goes back infinitely and God’s knowledge is always growing as He takes in new information and reasons from previous pieces of information to new ones, you have the problem of running out of thoughts going backwards. If God’s knowledge increases as time moves forward, then the ever growing finite amount of knowledge that God has would decrease as we trace it backwards. I’m sure even in your view there are an astronomical number of things God knows, but astronomical numbers aren’t even a scratch on the surface of eternity. At some point the ever decreasing number of things God knows dwindles down to one, but since the series must go back infinitely, there can’t be a first piece of knowledge. How do you think without even knowing that you are having a thought? What thought preceded that one? You can’t start infinitely dividing thoughts as though God was eternally having astronomically minute fractions of thoughts.

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      3. Really I think the clearest way to point it out is to simply consider the concept of infinite quantity and how it is impossible for that quantity to be actualized in reality like I originally pointed out in my previous statement. Hermeneutically, anthropomorphism is a common literary device and its use fits perfectly into the texts that are presented to support Open Theism without any strain to force a foreign meaning onto the text or change the point being made in the passage as a whole. Your position of a God with an infinite thought process results in a totally illogical and absurd meaning being taken away from scripture.

        You appealed to the incarnation to show that my definition of immutability is flawed, but that was the whole point of why I mentioned the Hypostatic Union before. By pointing to God’s perfect immutability in eternity past I am not saying that God remains perfectly immutable always in the same sense. His essential nature is immutable and cannot be changed because He cannot take in new information, that He did not previously know, causing Him to change His mind. To exist before time (sequences of events) He must have existed in a perfectly immutable state (without any sequences or changes). He did change though, but that was not an essential change. He moved from inaction to action in His first act of creation, which created a sequence when the first change (inaction to action) occurred. This was the beginning of what we call time. By logical necessity, eternity past is a state of being that involves no change whatsoever, and by the common sense definition, time began when the eternal God first acted. Since then God has continued to act within His creation, and while His actions change, His essential attributes (including His eternal knowledge) do not. He acts in different ways at different times, but His knowledge of how He acts and intention to act in specific ways at specific times is eternal. In the quote you gave from my previous comment, when I said “God’s essential eternal state” I was talking about the state of eternity past. I was not talking about eternity past and throughout all time. As you said, “the incarnation is not essential to God’s essential eternal state”, so the incarnation is not a change to the essence of God unless you ignore what I said previously about the Hypostatic Union.

        You quoted “the Word became…” from Jn. 1:14 to show a change in God. I love the prologue to John because of the precise language he uses. The verb ἐγένετο is definitely in reference to an event (and thus a change of some sort). It is very conspicuously contrasted to the repeated use of the verb ἦν that is used to describe the pre-incarnate Word throughout the prologue. The verb ἦν is the imperfect 3rd person singular of εἰμί, which I think you would be very familiar with from Jesus’ ἐγὼ εἰμί statements. It is a verb that does not describe an action but a state of being. On the other hand, ἐγένετο is used to describe the origin of all in verse 3 (being made), John the Baptist in verse 6, and the world in verse 10. It clearly describes an event in time, but that event doesn’t involve a change to the essential nature of the eternal Word. The Hypostatic Union affirms that there is no mixture between the two natures in the one person of Jesus. If the divine nature was changed to a human nature, then the divine would no longer exist and there would be an essential change to the essence of God. If the divine nature mixed with the human nature in a way that created a new third type of nature, like yellow paint and blue paint mix together to create green paint, then the divine nature of the eternal Word would no longer exist and there would be a change to the essence of God. Either way the same eternal divine nature would no longer exist, but this is not the case as I think is evidenced in the very next verse where Jesus older cousin uses the word ἦν to describe Jesus saying, “πρῶτός μου ἦν (before me He was)” If the divine nature had been changed or mixed to produce a new nature, there would be nothing in the nature of Jesus that preexisted John the Baptist, and it is due to the apostle John’s meticulous use of the verbs in his prologue that I think my understanding has weight. Something new came to be in the incarnation (a human nature, a physical body of flesh, and a union that did not previously exist), but something remained unchanged and eternal (the divine nature of the eternal Word).

        You also mentioned Heb. 5:8 saying that, “God was learning by experience something in the incarnation, or the use of the term “Son” would not make sense”. As I mentioned before it was necessary for Jesus to be truly human to fulfill His role as the second Adam. Hebrews makes this same point over and over again in reference to Jesus role as High Priest. The fact that parts of divine knowledge were veiled from the center of consciousness that was shared with the human nature doesn’t mean that the eternal divine nature gained previously unknown pieces of information through the method of experience. I don’t think the ESV is downplaying the divinity of Christ by translating the anarthrous noun υἱός as “a Son”. Given the context and emphasis in the book of Hebrews, it seems most likely that this noun should not be taken as either definite or indefinite but as qualitative instead. Since “though being Son” is not correct English, and there really is no way of giving a concise one or two word translation that clearly specifies only the qualitative nature of the noun, “a Son” is probably the best way of giving a literal translation in proper English that is closest to the qualitative meaning. The ESV is not the only translation that does this. The majority of the major more literal translations give the same rendering with what I would think is a qualitative understanding of the noun. Heb. 5:8 is emphasizing Christ’s humanity as being necessary in fulfilling His role as High Priest. Verse 7 is emphasizing His humanity by identifying the time this happened as “in the days of His flesh”. 4:15 emphasizes His humanity and being like us so He can be a compassionate High Priest. Going back a little further, chapter 2 talks about Jesus bringing many sons to glory and having many brothers. It also talks about how Jesus suffered and like the children partook of flesh and blood. Verse 11 says, “both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one”. I think all this lends itself to understanding the text to be speaking of Jesus as a human learning through suffering but not that His divine nature was learning how to be obedient to the Father through the experience of suffering… Continued—>

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      4. I also don’t look at the use of anthropomorphic language as some condescending literary tool that was used because people of past generations were intellectually incapable of understanding certain truths. It was used to accommodate people so that a passing statement could be made without making a major diversion from the subject being discussed or to emphasize a point that was being made that had nothing to do with the nature of God’s knowledge. When I got R.C. Sproul’s book “The Invisible Hand” I wasn’t offended that Dr. Sproul thought I was incapable of understanding God’s providence and was just giving me an image of God having an invisible hand to be taken literally and held to as a dogmatic doctrine. I understood that he was using a literary devise to paint a mental image of God controlling and working within His creation.

        When I said, “If you deny that human decisions are causally necessitated due to an assumed Libertarian Freedom, there isn’t even any way of knowing all possible outcomes and avoiding any possibility of an unforeseen event”, I was speaking of knowing with absolute certainty. If human decisions are not causally necessitated then predictions of even possible future actions rely on assumptions of inductive reasoning. God would have to assume that certain truths that He has learned in the past will continue to be true in the future. I will admit that in most cases there would be an extremely high degree of probability in this type of reasoning, and you could say that God has anticipated every possibility even if no truths continue to hold true. If the basic epistemological truths (laws of logic) are not essential eternal truths with their basis in the mind of God though, knowledge of them falls short of absolute certainty with God Himself being stuck with the pragmatic assumption that they will most likely continue to be true in the future because they have always been true in the past. Without an absolute eternal basis, these truths are based on nothing more than an assumption that the future will always operate according to the same rules as the past, but if these assumed truths ever prove to not be eternally true in all cases then even knowledge of possibilities becomes impossible along with any type of knowledge whatsoever. I’m adopting an extremely skeptical view here, but at the same time these assumed truths must be absolutely true eternally and in all cases or they will definitely fail an infinite number of times because they will be eternally tested in an infinite number of cases. If God has no essential knowledge before time begins and every truth is thought at some point in time, then there is no absolute eternal basis for any truth, and God can be absolutely sure of nothing.

        I think you misunderstood the point I was making about God and evil. I believe that every evil action of man was eternally intended by God because that evil action worked toward the achievement of God’s good purposes in the best possible way. There can be no incompetence in God because He is working all things perfectly according to His plan and He never fails in bringing about all that He intends to happen. Not only does evil in general happen because He intends for it to happen, each individual evil action happens because He intends for it to happen. In your view there are two possibilities for the occurrence of evil. Either God is playing the odds right up to the last second and a person acts against those odds resulting in something evil happening that God didn’t really intend but has a backup plan for, or God knows that it is extremely likely a person will do something evil and chooses to allow it. In the first case, how could you ever claim that God intended those evil actions? In both cases what was the purpose for allowing the evil that occurred to happen at all? The preservation of LF is often given as an answer for the second question by saying something like, “well God didn’t want to make a bunch of robots” or “God blessed us with free will”. That simply elevates the preservation of LF over the lives and welfare of any victims of the evil on God’s list of priorities. This may be a purpose for evil in general, but the Bible gives clear examples of God preventing men from doing evil. What is the purpose in allowing particular acts of evil instead of preventing them, especially when others are hurt by the evil? In your view God couldn’t really be working everything to perfectly accomplish His purposes in the best possible way, because without sure knowledge of what will happen in the future, He has no way of knowing what short term events will work in conjunction with longer term events to best accomplish things like His own glory and the eternal good of those who love Him. In your view what is the purpose that evil actions serve that could not have been achieved as well or better without the evil happening?

        I don’t believe Jer. 18:8-11 is intended as a representation of the nature of God’s knowledge at all, much less as representing His predetermination of all things. Like I said before, the language there is a literary devise used so a passing comment can be made in making the points I listed in a previous comment without a lengthy diversion away from the points being made.

        I would expect you to not see Ps. 139:16, Mt. 10:28-31, and James 4:13-15 as being opposed to your view, but I was interested in how you would handle them exegetically (giving a positive exegesis instead of just denying that they are saying something against your view).

        I have been very long winded again. I just hate to not attempt to give a somewhat meaningful answer to things or skip through a comment picking and choosing what I want to respond to and ignoring the rest. I hope I have been able to express my views clearly enough that what I have written makes sense. God bless.

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      5. Hi Mayo, I really think you shouldn’t waste your good writing skills on me alone. Do you have an account on academia.edu? You should, for you could have a positive influence on many around the US and the World through your papers placed there. You can check out my site to get some idea – https://vbc.academia.edu/BrianWagner But for me, in fact, more succinct replies and questions on this site would be preferred… and especially the discussion of Scriptures.

        As far as Open Theists go, I find more in common with Gregory Boyd.

        By “actively allowed” in describing God’s working of some things (Eph 1:11), I mean God permits, with an active choice of His free will, man to make a free choice (of which God knows perfectly all the possible choices and possible outcomes within the laws, limits, and ends He has already predetermined). I choose “actively allowed” in honor of His omniscience, since “passively allowed” may infer He may have been less cognitively engaged with what was going on. The Calvinist probably would like my term for God’s predetermination of all things before creation which would have to include “actively allowing” sin to take place within those predeterminations.

        I agree with your emphasis on the need to follow rules of logic. I wish they were taught more and often in our education system. There is however a problem that I find in those who appeal to logic but use the word “inference” in a colloquial way for a premise they state as if it proves what would be called a logical inference, which is necessarily true. I tell my students to consider the numbers 1, 2, 3 as premises and to infer from these what must be the “next” number.

        I do this to show the difference between logical inferences which are always true and reasonable inferences which may not be true, though reasonable. Of course many of them say the next number is 4, but I suggest that is only if one reasons that I am talking about integers counting up, but it reasonably could be 5 based on the Fibonacci sequence, or 10 based on counting in base 4, or 0 based on integers counting down (why does next have to be on the right side). If the premises are all you have with no axiom or presupposition to apply to their relationship with each other, you can only be dogmatic about the truth of those premises.

        The Bible states God is from everlasting to everlasting. We concede the meaning of “to everlasting,” especially on the idiom used in Greek (“into the ages of the ages”) means a succession of non-ending finite ages. Is it not logical to ascribe that meaning to “from everlasting” based on the assumption of the truth of the second premise and that meaning’s use for the understanding of the first premise. You, Mayo, interject the mathematical impossibility of ever reaching the present if there is an infinite past. You also assume that an infinite past, which you have now made to have no real meaning (or some kind of divine simplicity or non-sequential unity). This sounds like making it a mystery, and you assume then it must also mean that God was immutable during that state of reality. I believe it is simpler to believe that an uncreated personal Entity can exist in successive ages from an unending past and still supernaturally reach the present with the continued ability to “change” in His experience, even His ability to take on a condition of being forever into successive ages into the future united to flesh. The fact that the Godhead interacted in love before creation proves (if God speaks univocally) the logical succession of events within the Godhead before creation.

        The prologue of John is very interesting, isn’t it? Again, we should not try to prove dogmatically from it more than is said, or at least concede that our reasonable inferences based on philosophic presuppositions are not logical necessities. I appreciate that you concede “a change of some sort” for the Godhead in the incarnation. And I concede that there are some attributes of the Godhead that never change. But we are speaking mostly about the knowledge of God and I just don’t know how one can get around the truth of God changing in relation to the incarnation and not also then changing in relation to adding to His experiential knowledge, though not of course adding to His cognitive understanding (Ps 147:5). And I think the use of ἠ̑v is interesting since it does not affirm that the Word “is” just God anymore, but reasonably infers that the Word “is” now God plus man. You appeal to a theological definition of Hypostatic Union. But I find that definition is unsatisfying in its attempt to hold to a logical contradiction – that is of one subsistence, one person, but also two never to be joined natures in any real defined way.

        Call it mystery, but it is the same difficulty we keep running into in trying to determine which gives God the most glory… unifying His transcendence with His immanence, His freedom along with His predeterminations of some things, and His use of univocal language in His Scriptures, especially in narratives, OR devaluing His immanence, freedom, and the normal reading of Scriptures to attempt to bring more honor to God by an allegiance to a reasonable philosophical understanding of Him. I am going to stick with the normal reading of Scriptures.

        Did you look up the ESV for Heb 5:8? Unless they recently changed that verse in a newer edition, I could only find them writing “a son”, not “a Son”.

        You said – “in [my] view God couldn’t really be working everything to perfectly accomplish His purposes in the best possible way, because without sure knowledge of what will happen in the future, He has no way of knowing what short term events will work in conjunction with longer term events to best accomplish things like His own glory and the eternal good of those who love Him.” Again, I do not think you fully grasp what divine knowledge of all possibilities within the limits of divinely predetermined laws, boundaries and ends interacting with man’s response-able free will really means. And you have assumed “best” can only be accomplished by a predetermined human history that includes all of God’s and man’s choices forever. That assumption, though reasonable, is not logically necessary or biblically supported without undermining (by elevating philosophy) the perspicuity of Scripture and its related authority to the individual, in my view.
        Jeremiah is a self-declaration of God of His interaction with the freedom His gives man according to His freedom to plan and to alter previous conditional plans. Matthew 10:28-31 speaks to God’s present knowledge, including His active permission to allow sparrows, hair, and disciples to die. It does not logically infer that all was predetermined before creation, though it does not logically make that impossible either. James 4:13-15 speaks to submitting our plans to the Sovereign desires of God. In fact the Aorist Subjunctive “should desire” reasonably infers a freedom in God to make future choices, plans, in agreement with His desires (cf. Eph 1:11), rather than inferring that man’s plans are subject to an already predetermined human history by God.

        Ps 139:16, is a poetic passage, which in form opens itself up to subjective interpretation that rarely can be used for dogmatic definition that is not confirmed elsewhere in more clear didactic passages. It also specifically is a verse where the antecedent of the phrase “all of them” in the second clause and the actual translation of the fourth clause is very uncertain. I think you will find it impossible to find “all of them” in biblical Hebrew pointing to an antecedent that follows that phrase. Antecedents are antecedents. (Is that the law of identity?) I know; I have looked. I know in English there is such a thing as a rare cataphoric use of a pronoun, where the antecedent follows. But I am still waiting to see a clear example of it in Hebrew. I think, like Calvin, it is more appropriate to point to “substance” (embryo) in the first clause as a collective noun and the antecedent, and “all of them” pointing to the various parts of the physical body being formed. The ESV “days that were formed” equally can point to a closed predetermined plan for a person’s life as well as to an intended plan involving openness for God and man’s free interaction. The potter was making a vessel according to His intention (predetermined, but not limited). When the vessel would not respond accordingly, He did not force it into His original intention for it, but “as seemed good” He made it into a new vessel. God has a plan for our days, an intention, but that is not a set intention without options relating to man’s and His free interaction.

        I hope this helps.

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      6. Brian,

        I will attempt to work through your latest comment in order and hopefully in a short(er) comment of my own. By saying “actively allowed” you are only saying that God has actively chosen to not be active in bringing about the all in Eph. 1:11. You may believe that God knows all the possible outcomes and has a contingency plan ready to respond to each possibility, but that is not the normal reading of the verse which says He is working or bringing about the all.

        I don’t believe I have used the term inference at all in my comments, much less used it in a colloquial sense that confuses what is reasonable with what is necessary. In the example you gave of numbers, you are simply pointing out different numeric systems that express the same mathematic principles. When studying mathematic concepts and theory in college, I was able to see quickly that the same problems can be solved and the same concepts can be expressed in many different ways because the underlying mathematic properties as they correspond to reality are constant no matter what numeric system is used. If we are considering a numeral as representing quantity in reality the difference between 4 in our base 10 system and 10 in a base 4 system is merely a semantic difference with no corresponding difference in reality. If we are considering only the numerals themselves without any corresponding quantity in reality, then this is a simple fallacy of ambiguity because the numerals are not used in the same sense. The Fibonacci Sequence could be expressed in many different numeric systems, all of which have a symbol of value corresponding to our number 4. There could also be all kinds of sequences used to make the next number in a sequence just about any number you want it to be. If you don’t frame the question as being intentionally ambiguous the distinction between what is only reasonable and what is necessary disappears.

        You seem to imply that we only have ambiguous premises to work from and say that certain arguments I have presented are based on assumptions. I guess you could say that I presuppose certain epistemological truths (laws of logic), but that is because the denial of these laws is self-defeating and requires an assumption of their truth to argue that they are not true. If these presuppositions are not true then we can know nothing and our conversation here is meaningless. Beyond this I am not simply assuming anything that is not agreed upon and will point this out in the specific examples you gave.

        You claim that since “to everlasting” is understood to be an infinite succession of finite ages that “from everlasting” should be understood as an infinite regression of finite ages. I have pointed out that since eternity future is an infinite succession it can never be completed. To apply the same understanding to eternity past is to say that the sequence that can never be completed has been completed. To say that eternity in the same sense cannot be completed and yet is completed violates the Law of Non-Contradiction. If I’m understanding you correctly, your first accusation of my assuming something is in reference to my claim of God existing in a perfectly immutable state before initiating the sequence of events or changes we know as time. This is not simply an assumption. I have presented a true dichotomy that either the sequence of changes has a beginning or it does not. I won’t explain it all again, but I have shown that it is logically necessary that the sequence has a beginning because of the multitude of absurdities that follow from the claim that the sequence has no beginning, including a violation of the Law of Non-Contradiction.

        You say that my understanding of eternity past has no real meaning. I think the mistake in this claim is seen in your choice of words. You use the term “infinite past” to describe the eternal state that I have presented. If you are intending the term infinite in a quantitative sense, then this is not my position at all. My argument is that if the sequence of changes must have a beginning then there must be a first change. Change is an effect and requires a preceding cause. That cause must be unchanging or the first change is not really the first change. So something must exist in an unchanging (immutable) state prior to the first change in the sequence we describe using the word time. You also say that I assume God’s immutability in that eternal state, but as I just pointed out, there must be a first change and for it to truly be the first there can be no change before it. I think the meaning of eternity past is both clear and logically necessary. I think we both are presenting our views as truth claims that correspond to reality, and I am not building my arguments on assumptions about ambiguous premises unless you consider the epistemological foundations that are necessary for any and all reasoning mere assumptions. You are presenting an understanding of scripture that requires “from everlasting to everlasting” to be taken as violating laws of logic and thus not being able to be understood at all. I am simply unwilling to handle scripture that way.

        You also said, “The fact that the Godhead interacted in love before creation proves (if God speaks univocally) the logical succession of events within the Godhead before creation”. Here you are the one making the assumption that the love within the Trinity involved “interaction” in some sense of changing actions. As I think I have already pointed out, this is an illogical assumption. Continued…

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      7. The reason I wrote about the prologue to John was because you quoted from verse 14 as though “the Word became flesh” meant that there was an essential change to the divine nature in its union to the human nature in Jesus. I was not claiming that there was an explicit statement there of eternal immutability, but that the very precise use of the verbs ἦν and ἐγένετο were evidence that something changed and that something remained unchanged in the incarnation. You deny the Hypostatic Union and say that it is attempting to hold to a logical contradiction, but what is the contradiction? It doesn’t say that there is one person yet two persons or that there is one nature yet two natures. It also doesn’t say that there are, as you put it, “two never to be joined natures”. There are two natures joined, without mixture, in one person. The divine nature remains unchanged and thus 100% divine. As I pointed out, if the two natures mixed to create a new nature, then both the divine and human natures would no longer be truly divine or truly human, and there would be a new hybrid nature that would not have existed before John the Baptist. Thus “πρῶτός μου ἦν (before me He was)” would not be an accurate statement for John the Baptist to make unless you want to reduce it to simply being a statement of preeminence which would require a different use of the verb ἦν than elsewhere in the prologue and would beg the question of why the present tense wasn’t used instead of the imperfect.

        You say, “I just don’t know how one can get around the truth of God changing in relation to the incarnation and not also then changing in relation to adding to His experiential knowledge, though not of course adding to His cognitive understanding (Ps 147:5)”. I previously pointed out that knowledge gained through the method of experience is not different knowledge than any other knowledge of the same truths; it is simply gained through a different method. If the divine nature already essentially knows all truths, then any knowledge gained by the human nature through the method of experience does not inform the divine nature of previously unknown truths. If there is no mixture of the two natures and truths known essentially are not different truths than truths known through experience, then all claims of an essential change in God in the incarnation fall short.

        In Heb. 5:8 I simply capitalized the S in Son out of habit because I always try to capitalize any noun or pronoun that refers to God whether it is a proper name or not out of reverence. That has nothing to do with the qualitative use of υἱός or the use of the indefinite article in the English translation that I explained in my last comment.

        When talking about the existence of evil you say that I assume that what is best can only be accomplished by predetermining human history including all decisions. I don’t see this as an assumption either. If God has purposes that He intends to accomplish, then certain means accomplish those ends better than others. If all events in history are means leading toward things like the display of God’s glory and the ultimate good of His people along with whatever other purposes He has, then the only way these purposes can be best accomplished is for all the contributing means to be the events that work together toward those purposes better than all others. If any event happens that was not better than all others, then God’s purposes are not accomplished in the best way. Unless God ensures the best means toward accomplishing His ends, He cannot ensure the best accomplishment of His ends. When considering the existence of evil, I believe that each evil action of human agents works toward the best accomplishment of God’s perfect purposes and is necessary in accomplishing God’s purposes in the best way. You, on the other hand, believe that God simply allows people to commit evil actions whether or not those actions are better than all others in working in harmony with all other events in human history to accomplish His good purposes in the best way. In your view God couldn’t even know what events would work together with all others in the best way because He doesn’t know which future events will happen, only possibilities of what will happen.

        You could speculate that more than one event could work toward the accomplishment of God’s purposes equally well, but in the case of evil and non-evil events this would be impossible. If God’s purposes can be accomplished equally well without evil, then it seems that by definition an evil event is not as good as a non-evil one and on the basis of the inherent morality of an action itself (since accomplishment of ultimate good is supposed to be equal) the event that does not involve evil is better than the one that does. It also seems that to ensure the event that does not involve evil would work better toward the accomplishment of God’s ultimate glory for not allowing any unnecessary evil within His creation.

        You said that you do not think I fully grasp your view because I claim that in your view God could not really be working everything to best accomplish His purposes in the best possible way. As I pointed out in my last comment and again in this one God could not know what current events will work together with all other events to best accomplish His purposes in your view because He doesn’t even know which future events will take place. You insist that passages that speak of God relenting, repenting, and regretting or being sorry should not be taken anthropomorphically, but that leaves you with a God who makes mistakes in what He does because He didn’t know what would actually happen latter. One example would be in Gen. 6:5-7 where it says “the LORD regretted that He had made man” (v.6) and “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land… for I am sorry that I have made them” (v.7). If this is not taken in an anthropomorphic sense it sounds like God is saying He made a mistake in creating man. If your view is correct God didn’t know that man would be so sinful but only knew that there was a possibility of such sinfulness, so He took a risk in creating man which He later recognized as a mistake. If God admits to making mistakes, how can He be working all things to accomplish His purposes in the best possible way? Not only is it impossible for the God who only knows possibilities about the future decisions of humans instead of what will actually take place in all future decisions of humans to work all things to accomplish His purposes in the best way, I don’t believe I worship a God who is eternally thinking about what He should do, making risky decisions, and then later recognizing that some of those decisions were not the best decisions. My God is bigger and better than that. He never has and never will make a mistake.
        Continued…

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      8. What is the reason for reducing God to such a sad state that He makes mistakes? I understand that you think you are doing justice to scripture, but I think I have pointed out that your handling of certain passages results in very strained understandings of others. I’m not pretending to be a mind reader or tell you the inner workings of your heart and reasoning, but to a person from outside your position it appears that God is being dramatically reduced to the point of being fallible so the supposed LF of people can be dramatically elevated.

        I would disagree with you about Jeremiah 18 being a “self-declaration of God” based on your presuppositions about man’s freedom which I have already addressed elsewhere, and what you claim as God’s freedom. I believe God is autonomous meaning that ultimately His actions are not influenced by anyone or anything outside of Himself. That is not to say that He doesn’t respond to our actions or that our actions are not the immediate causes of His reactions, but since even our actions are causally traced back to His previous actions and eternal intent for them to happen none of His actions are ultimately dependent on us or anything else outside of Himself. You may think that God is free to change His mind, but to me that amounts to nothing more than the freedom to respond to the circumstances dictated by humans. That falls way short of autonomy. You may feel that your view of God’s ability to do other than what He does in more than just a theoretical way is a higher view of God’s freedom than mine, but as I addressed in an earlier comment, that would require that God chooses to do something other than what He knows to be best. I know that in your view God couldn’t actually know what is best in all circumstances based on what will actually occur in the future, but then God’s freedom to do otherwise seems to include His freedom to make mistakes.

        I expected that you would appeal to present knowledge in Mt. 10:28-31 as I suspect you would do in many other passages. I just see that as robbing the passage of its full meaning and strength. Jesus makes two points here. One is that God should be feared because He is able to destroy both soul and body, while men only have power to kill the body. The second point is not to fear men who can kill the body because they cannot even do that if it is not according to God’s will. Jesus makes an argument from the lesser to the greater showing that even something as cheap and common as a sparrow cannot die unless God wills it, so they, being of more value than many sparrows, cannot be killed unless God wills it. If God has determined everything about their deaths this is a very powerful statement that would give them boldness in proclaiming the gospel fearlessly. If not, what more is it saying other than God will be aware of their deaths when they happen, unless perhaps it happens to be one of those special situations where God chooses to intervene supernaturally?

        Your handling of James 4:13-15 is another case of what I think is a very strained understanding of the text. I may be misunderstanding what you mean by “submitting our plans to the sovereign desires of God” though. Are you saying that James’ point here is simply that we should make our plans according to what God has revealed is desirable to Him? Maybe you are saying that James’ point is simply that we should qualify how we state our plans by adding “If the Lord wills” in the sense that we will do this unless it happens to be one of those special situations where God intervenes supernaturally to ensure we do something else. I think it is clearly saying that we will only accomplish our plans for tomorrow if God intends for us to accomplish those plans because “you do not know what tomorrow will bring” (v.14). Doesn’t that at least seem to imply that God does know what tomorrow will bring? Verse 16 goes on to say that all such claims about what we will do tomorrow are boastful, arrogant, and evil. Why is that if we usually do what we want and we aren’t subject to any divine decree?

        You said, “the Aorist Subjunctive “should desire” reasonably infers a freedom in God to make future choices, plans, in agreement with His desires”. I really don’t see how this is inferred at all. The fact that the verb θελήσῃ is in the aorist aspect doesn’t have any exegetical significance, since it is not a participle or in the indicative mood so there is no implication about tense (in the sense of time) at all. It is in the subjunctive mood because it is following Ἐὰν as the protasis in a conditional sentence. Grammatically there is no support for the use of the subjunctive here having anything to do with God making future choices or plans. It is simply referring to the unknown will of God about hypothetical events in the future. The conditional sentence here actually supports my understanding that what we will do is subject to what God wills for us to do. The two apodoses of the conditional sentence are the demonstrative pronouns τοῦτο (this) and ἐκεῖνο (that). The first is used to show proximity and the second to show remoteness or as is the case here, the priority of two activity options. So the sense here is “if the Lord wills we will do this, but if He is not willing, we will do that if He is willing”.

        I will agree that Ps. 139:16 is considered a difficult passage grammatically because it has a unique construction. I’m not able (or rather haven’t spent the time studying) to understand the Hebrew as well as I do the Greek. From my understanding, the problem here is that there is no antecedent that fits “all”. The general consensus is that it is referring to “days” following two words later. The only really major translation by committee that goes with your view is the KJV, which we both agree is not the best translation out there. “all” can’t be in reference to embryo or substance without forcing an understanding of all referring to a plurality within the singular and inserting the words “my members” or some other variant into the verse. “All the days that were formed for me” makes perfect sense in a verse where the construction is unique no matter how you handle it. Coming after verse 4 which says, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it all together” it seems that knowledge of future events is a given and one of the main attributes that are the objects of the psalmist’s praises. I’ll admit that your understanding of verse 16 is a possibility, but you’re in an extreme minority when looking to modern Hebrew translators (which proves nothing definitively but is pretty telling).

        Well, I said I that hopefully this comment would be shorter, but it doesn’t look like it is. Comment threads aren’t really the best place for meaningful discussions I suppose. I hope you had a good Independence Day. God bless.

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  20. Pastor Flowers writes, “One of my greatest frustrations in these discussions is overcoming the common belief that every non-Calvinist is a classical foresight faith Arminian,…”

    You should be frustrated. Calvinists do tend to think that anyone who opposes the Calvinist system must first reject omniscience. What does that tell us? To argue against Calvinism, one must address the issue of omniscience head-on. Have you done that?

    A great statement you made – “If someone restates our belief in an less desirable way (i.e. “So you believe God is going to burn people for eternity because some dude thousands of years ago ate a piece of fruit?”) we should unpack their concern and answer it biblically, not deny the truth in order to avoid the tension.” That is the problem we see with Calvinism. For example, the CS Lewis quote, ““The doctrine of Total Depravity – when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.” –CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg. 29” And this, “Olson acknowledges that Calvinists do not believe God is morally evil or “devil-like” in any way shape or form, but explains why he would have to draw that awful conclusion if he were to adopt Calvinism and remain consistent with its claims.” And this, “…the logical implication that God will certainly save all his elect regardless of our level of involvement …” All these statements indicate concerns about Calvinism that need to be unpacked and answered Biblically.

    Finally, this – “We each have unique perspectives, emotions, personalities and experiences that affect how we understand a passage. ”

    In other words, we each have biases that need to be expunged before we can understand each other – much less agree on what we perceive the Scriptures to be telling us. As Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers,…Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world [e.g., biases], but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    Well, not much about omniscience here. I suggest a new article to get down to the nitty gritty of this issue and thereby set the stage for discussions about Calvinism. You might entitle it, “What do we mean by omniscience?”

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