Is Calvinism Theistic Fatalism?

When I was a 5-point Calvinist I was also evangelistic. I participated in mission efforts and was as active in sharing my faith with others as I am today.  In this blog and on my podcast I have regularly strived to help my non-Calvinistic brethren understand that Calvinists are not typically anti-evangelistic and that every modern day Calvinistic scholar or pastor I know of is very interested in spreading the gospel to all people. As logically inconsistent at that may appear to some, it is a verifiable fact of the matter.

This fact, however, does not negate the merit of some sound logical arguments raised against the Calvinistic belief system. There is a good reason that when believers are introduced to Calvinism their first question is typically about the necessity of evangelism. This natural reaction to the teaching of Calvinism is evidenced by the volumes of work which have been produced by Calvinistic scholars over the years to answer this objection:

“If God has unchangeably determined who will and won’t be saved, then what does it matter if I evangelize or not?”

Below is a clip from an article written by a respectable Calvinist attempting to answer this all too common objection:

Some would see the Calvinist as holding to what is sometimes called “Theistic Fatalism.” Obviously, much different than pure “fate” type fatalism, this view would acknowledge God as the cause of all things, which is certainly true, but would then lead to a false conclusion of inactivity. And this really is ultimately what separates a Theological Calvinist from a Theistic Fatalist: the conclusion we draw based on God’s sovereignty and ordination. Fatalism leads to inactivity, while Calvinism leads to the opposite…

The Calvinist’s belief in God’s sovereign power does not lead to inactivity, but rather activity on a grand scale. And part of the reason for this is that a Calvinist believes that God not only ordains the end; but also the means. Fatalism, however is largely unconcerned with the means, holding to more of a “let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” sort of philosophy. This is much different from the result of a Calvinistic philosophy of God’s ordaining work. The Calvinist teaches that while God ordains the “end” of salvation for His elect; He also ordains the “means” of their salvation through belief in the gospel. Pure, Biblical Calvinism would lead to a vibrant form of evangelism; as I think you clearly see displayed in the New Testament by the Apostles. So the “end” and the “means” are both ordained by God.    -Shane Kastler <link> (emphasis added)

It’s interesting to me that when a Calvinist seeks to defend against the charge of being a “Theistic Fatalist” he often argues “God not only ordains the end; but also the means” as if that is a point the Theistic Fatalist would in anyway deny.

That argument does not avoid the charge of Theistic Fatalism, but in fact affirms it. For what is Theistic Fatalism if not God’s determination of not only the ends but every single desire, thought and action (i.e. “means”) that bring about those ends?

What do the Calvinists think this qualification is accomplishing in their effort to distinguish themselves from the Theistic Fatalist? The belief that God unchangeably causes every meticulous detail of both the ends and their given means is at the very heart of Theistic Fatalism.

Are there Theistic Fatalists out there arguing, “God doesn’t determine the means,” while the Calvinists are going around correcting them saying, “No, no, no God does control the means too?”  Of course not.  Both systems of thought clearly affirm God’s cause of all things, including the ends and their respective means.

So, what is the author seeking to accomplish by pointing out a common belief that Calvinists share with Theistic Fatalists?

It appears to me the only real difference between a Theistic Fatalist and a Compatibilistic Calvinist is that the latter refuses to accept the practical implications of their own claims in order to remain consistent with the clear teaching of the Bible.
In both Theistic Fatalism and Calvinism, if God sovereignly decrees for me to go witness to my neighbor He will give me the effectual desire to go witness to my neighbor. If my neighbor is one of His elect and God has unchangeably elected for me to be the means by which my neighbor comes to Christ, then logically I would have to believe that God will give me the effectual desire and the opportunity to carry out His preordain plan (i.e. “God ordained the means”). If that effectual desire never comes then why couldn’t I rightly conclude it ultimately was not God’s pre-ordained plan for me to be the means through which my neighbor would come to Christ?

The only logic argument a Compatibilistic Calvinist could bring to this charge is, “That’s true but you can’t think that way!”  In other words, the Compatibilist has to ignore the truth claims of his own systematic in order to live practically. His actual beliefs are untenable and must be ignored in order to remain consistent with the Biblical mandate.

If you go back and re-read the Calvinistic explanation posted above you will notice that there is no difference in the actual claims of the Calvinist and the Theistic Fatalist. The only difference is in how the person chooses to act in response to that commonly held belief of Divine determinism. And therein lies the problem for the Calvinist, for that choice is just as unchangably determined by God as is the choice of His elect to believe.

Did you follow that? Under the Calvinistic system, God unchangeably determines those who will accept the belief that “God not only ordains the end; but also the means.” And He determines if that believer will respond with evangelistic activity or inactivity. In other words, God decides if the  believer of theistic determinism will become a hyper-Calvinist who refuses to actively participate in evangelism or a productive, obedient Calvinist like the author above.

Calvinists are known to argue, “God has ordained for His elect to be saved through the proclamation of the gospel,” But wouldn’t they likewise argue that God has ordained for the saved to proclaim the gospel when they do proclaim it and not to proclaim it when they remain disobediently inactive?  After all, the author does affirm that God causes all things that come to pass, which would include the inactivity of the saints, would it not?

Think about this.  If any particular Calvinist chooses to disobey God and not proclaim the Gospel when impressed to do so by the Holy Spirit, who is really responsible for that choice to disobey?

Has God, for some unknown reason, not granted the sufficient grace to convince the will of His messenger to proclaim the truth when told to do so? Or has that messenger disobeyed of his own libertarian free will? And what is the result of that disobedience? When an individual Calvinistic believer disobeys God’s command to evangelize, did any fewer elect individuals respond in faith than what God ordained? Of course not.  Why?  Because God ordained for that Calvinist’s disobedience with the same level of “sovereign control” as He does in ordaining for another Calvinist’s obedience.

You see, a Calvinist may argue that evangelism in general is necessary for the salvation of the elect in general, but logically your individual responsibility to evangelize any particular elect person is not necessary for the salvation of that elect person. After all if you weren’t ordained to evangelize that elect individual, someone else was, otherwise they wouldn’t be elect.

Granted, someone (but not necessarily you) has to share the gospel with the elect in order for them to be saved. If God has ordained you to be that evangelist, then He will give you the effectual desire to do so. Thus, if you refrain from doing so you could rightly conclude that you weren’t meant to be the means for that person’s salvation. You are left with the perfect excuse for your inactivity and disobedience to God’s command: “God unchangeably ordained the means, or in this case, my lack of participation in those means.”

So the next time a Calvinist argues that “God ordains the ends as well as the means” just remember this does not avoid the charge of Theistic Fatalism but actually confirms it. In fact, their system logically affirms that the believer’s inactive disobedience is as much according to God’s ordained plan as is another believer’s active obedience. So, if and when a Calvinist becomes “hyper” or “anti-evangelistic” in his behavior, he does so by God’s decree. And, so too, if a Calvinist becomes highly evangelistic in his behavior he does so equally by God’s decree (i.e. “God ordains the means”).  A consistent Calvinistic scholar cannot get around this logical fact no matter how much theological rhetoric they use to placate their opponents. The best they can do is say, “Just don’t think of of it that way,” which in essence means, “Act like what we believe isn’t true.”

And to that I say, “AMEN!”

287 thoughts on “Is Calvinism Theistic Fatalism?

  1. I can really appreciate this argument. It is indeed the most difficult issue Calvinism has to deal with. And I think it is fair to ask Calvinists to consider “the practical implications of their own claims in order to remain consistent with the clear teaching of the Bible.” If only Arminians (Traditionalists, whatever) would consider their own system’s “practical implications” than I would have more sympathy for their arguments. But I don’t see this. If one wanted to be balanced than this would have been a good place to discuss Isaiah 10 — but no, don’t give the opposition any credit. What I hear most is “we are right because they are wrong.” Unfortunately, as far as I can see, at this point in my journey, the problems with Calvinism are not solved by any of the many different forms of Arminianism!

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      1. I’ve listened to all of your podcasts (haven’t read everything on your blog). I’m a regular listener of Dr. Brown’s show as well. If you and Dr. Brown have responded to Isaiah 10 than either I don’t remember it–or perhaps I’m purposely blocking it out–or it didn’t make a very big impression on me. If the explanation is something like: if you are a bad guy that God is going to punish anyway than God is justified in over riding your free will (which is the view of at least one of your bloggers) than that is a very poor argument.

        I would really appreciate it if you could send me links to your and Dr. Brown’s critique of Isaiah 10 (and any other links that you think deal with this issue reasonably). Thank you.

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      2. I know I’ve heard Dr. Brown talk about, but I couldn’t tell you where…probably a debate with White since I listened to all those. If I come across it again I’ll let you know.

        Likewise, I can’t remember exactly where it was I discussed this Is 10, but I do remember it was in response to White… I think it was in some of the long pre debate back and forth with White on youtube… again, I’ll let you know if I come across it and we may discuss it again soon…

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      3. Thank you very much!
        Isn’t it true that the argument concerning what fatalism may lead too, is the fallacy of composition?
        Let me give an example: Catholic’s have a form of prayer to Mary. Catholics are Christian. Therefore, all who are defined as Christian pray to Mary. We can see that is fallacious. Since Calvinism evolved from Augustine’s doctrines which evolved during the Church’s greatest period of syncretism, and is heavily loaded with NeoPlatonist components and remnants of Manicheism, it contains the characteristic dualistic cosmos of those two systems along with Greek stoicism and Greek fatalism. Augustine embraced Plato’s doctrine of divine immutability, and NeoPlatonism’s “ordered cosmos” and baptized them as Christian, which was a common thing for the Church of that day to do with many pagan things. So it contains all of the prevalent Hellenistic elements of that time period. We can find Calvinist blogs honoring quotes from the Greek stoics who didn’t take their fatalism to an “eat and be merry for tomorrow we die” conclusion. Just because a few fatalists did. it is not logically sound to paint all theistic fatalists with the same brush. What we want to do is find the underlying foundational conceptions within Theistic Fatalism, not its sporadic varieties. Calvin avoided the word “Fate” but that is just a semantic evasion. He did assert that God determines every man’s LOT in life, which is identical to the Greek stoics saying that the god’s of Fate determine every man’s LOT in life. So the poor Calvinist ends up being forced to reject a “LABEL” while embracing its concept. There but for the grace of God go I.

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      4. Determinism to fatalism is a non sequitur, in particular a brand of is/ought bridging.

        Under determinism, you still actualize one of several projected and plausible prospects (make choices). You still make things happen (are efficacious). You are still broadly and most meaningfully a function of your own recursive self-molding multiplied against that which has affected you uniquely (you’re original and you yield origination). You can do better, both against your interests and against the interests of society and of God, and as such you can receive stewardship and be held accountable for what you do, and others can respond accordingly as it suits those purposes (moral responsibility is still totally meaningful).

        Fatalism — the idea that you OUGHT to squander yourself — requires alien interests. It’s true that many people mistakenly conclude fatalism from determinism. This is a Kochab’s Error — a function of world-rocking upon human loss-aversion, NOT a function of rigorous logic. Google “Kochab’s Error” for the illustration behind this figure.

        Note that I’m no Calvinist, nor am I a fan of St. Augustine’s rampant syncretism. It’s important to point out that Judaism already had a variety of views about the interaction of natural causation and propositions of contracausal free will by the 1st century.

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      5. br.d writes, “Calvin avoided the word “Fate” but that is just a semantic evasion. He did assert that God determines every man’s LOT in life, which is identical to the Greek stoics saying that the god’s of Fate determine every man’s LOT in life. So the poor Calvinist ends up being forced to reject a “LABEL” while embracing its concept. ”

        On what basis would we reasonably identify God’s sovereign control over His creation with “fate”? The idea behind fate and “fatalism” is that a person has no control over his life, especially the future. which future is under the control of an impersonal environment that cannot care about the person – the future is inevitable and bleak ending in death and the person cannot do anything about it.

        Contrast that with the environment into which God has placed people. God says that He exercises sovereign control over His creation and that He cares about His creation. God tells people that He will bless those who bless Him (through obedience) and curse those who curse Him (through disobedience). If a person disobeys God and rightfully deserves God’s judgment and curses, God says that He is willing to forgive if the person ask for forgiveness. God has told people that those who obey Him can ask for such good things as will bring joy to their lives and He will give them. God also promises eternal life to those who desire it. This is what Calvinism embraces and to say that Calvinists have embraced the concept of fatalism is ignorance of the Scriptures and of Calvinism which derives its doctrines from the Scriptures.

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    1. I’m willing to go through this. Basically the defense is, every time God uses something in punishment, such as the King of Assyria, God is just economically using two birds to kill one stone. That is both the tool and what the tool affects are worthy of punishment in this instance, so God gets it done with both. I think Calvinists take it too far in giving the impression that the King of Assyria was an innocent bystander forced to be used to do an evil work. Scripture clearly says he himself was under judgment.

      Let’s take a scenario. Say we have a bully on the playground and a littler kid who is also pulling a girl’s hair. Now the bully comes along and this bully is God’s tool of justice against this littler kid also being a bully. Does that somehow deterministically absolve any of the parties autonomous choices that are being judged? I can’t see how. God is taking some random and innocent Joe off the street and saying “You are now my tool of destruction and punishment to others!”

      regards

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      1. dizerner writes, “I think Calvinists take it too far in giving the impression that the King of Assyria was an innocent bystander forced to be used to do an evil work.”

        No Calvinist ever views the King of Assyria as an innocent bystander. The King of Assyria is a totally depraved person restrained by God such that he cannot fulfill his desires regarding the destruction of Israel until God removes those restraints.

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      2. So then how does Isaiah 10 prove determinism or even compatibilism? God used the Assyrian king’s desire to judge him and others. No overriding of the will is even necessary.

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      3. dizerner writes, ‘God used the Assyrian king’s desire to judge him and others. No overriding of the will is even necessary.”

        To which all agree.

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      4. Determinism to fatalism is a non sequitur, in particular a brand of is/ought bridging.

        I really liked your web page, very cool!
        But I think our conceptual differences perhaps stem from different definitions for the terms determinism and fate.
        Take for example the definition provided by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

        Though the word “fatalism” is commonly used to refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable, philosophers usually use the word to refer to the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. This view may be argued for in various ways: by appeal to logical laws and metaphysical necessities; by appeal to the existence and nature of God; by appeal to causal determinism. When argued for in the first way, it is commonly called “Logical fatalism” (or, in some cases, “Metaphysical fatalism”); when argued for in the second way, it is commonly called “Theological fatalism”.

        So here the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is indicating that determinism and fate are often logically associated within philosophy, and that a core conception of fatalism is stated as either a state of inevitability, or the absence of alternative possibilities. Certain persons can respond to these conceptions emotionally, as if they entailed futility, but that is just a unique emotional reaction. We can find Calvinists posting blogs claiming to be Theological Fatalists, who are proud of being so, without any ethical or rational reservations. So we do see a great degree of variance in opinion; some positive, some negative among those who self identify as Theological Determinists and Theological Fatalists within the Reformed camp.

        We should be able to understand how one could derive a sense of futility from “Metaphysical Fatalism” or “Natural Fatalism” because there is no relationship with a deity in those conceptions. However, I also note that in Augustine’s dualistic cosmos, most conceptions appear in good-evil concept-pairs. God ordains some to the light, and some to the darkness. God’s grace is efficacious for some and non-efficacious for others…etc…etc…with many things appearing in dualistic good-evil concept-pairs, Calvinists when talking about Theological Fatalism, appeal to the good side of the dualistic equation. But Calvin’s appeals to the evil side of the dualistic equation, in which Theological Fatalism appears very starkly…as follows:

        “sometimes God causes those whom he illumines only for a time, to partake of it, and then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness”

        So here we have a person whom God ordains through immutable decree to initially believe that God’s love for him is a love of benevolence. And then sometime later, God ordains through immutable decree that he be cast into hell. Whom ever Calvin envisions that believer being, one thing is for sure……his eternal FATE and eternal destiny is hell and damnation by immutable decrees which God made millennia before he was born. He may not have a sense of futility at first, but if he discovers God’s final intent for his eternal FATE, he could easily get a sense of futility. And we can certainly see that Calvin’s concept holds that his FATE is inevitable. Hence we have an example of Theological Fatalism in which this poor person is powerless to do anything other than what God has immutably decreed him do, exemplifying the common definitions for fatalism held within philosophy.

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      5. br.d. writes, “Hence we have an example of Theological Fatalism in which this poor person is powerless to do anything other than what God has immutably decreed him do, exemplifying the common definitions for fatalism held within philosophy.”

        This depends on what you mean by “powerless.” People are able to read/hear the Scriptures and understand them. There is nothing within the Scriptures that prevent any person understanding them, but we find people reacting to that which the Scriptures say in different ways. Paul writes:

        2 Corinthians 2
        14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.
        15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:
        16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.

        If a person were offered a job at $25/hour by one company and another company offered $50/hour for the same work and same working environment, the decision as to which offer to accept is easy to make. A person can also understand that the Scriptures present an offer: eternal life or eternal life. This also should be an easy decision to make, but here is where “powerless” comes into play. Why does it seem that some people are powerless to make a good decision, that of choosing eternal life. What has happened? It is this condition that gives rise to theistic fatalism which says that people are consigned to eternal hell and cannot do anything about it unless God intervenes to save them. All one need do is cry out to God to save them. “Powerless” in Theological Fatalism means that a person cannot save himself; it does not mean that a person cannot be saved. In ordinary fatalism, a person cannot save himself and cannot be saved.

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      6. Good morning Roger! Your well used argument that no-one would choose eternal death over eternal life continues to refuse to admit that it is not a choice based one understanding the meaning of the two options, but a choice of weather to trust the person making the offer and to trust the certainty of the outcome. There are many reasons presented to the free will that sound “reasonable” for not trusting in the Person and certainty of the offer of everlasting life and many that are reasonable. The free will makes the choice.

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      7. brianwagner writes, “Your well used argument that no-one would choose eternal death over eternal life continues to refuse to admit that it is not a choice based one understanding the meaning of the two options,…”

        The choice is obvious – one would choose eternal life – that is a no-brainer. The issue you then raise is why people do not accept the obvious choice. It tells us that something is off. This led the Calvinist to conclude that people were totally depraved so that they were unable to make that choice because of their depravity. But look at what people do. People “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1) In addition, “…they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” (2 Peter 3) So, people want eternal life; just on their terms.

        Regardless, the issue is fatalism. Under ordinary fatalism, a person cannot change his future and cannot appeal to anything else to change his future. The interesting thing is that when we introduce God and allow God to determine a person’s future, people also call that fatalism – such is the pride of people.

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      8. Great post, Br.D. You intuited correctly that I was referring to colloquial fatalism. The more formal, less deontic sense of fatalism would indeed be the case under determinism (although, it seems best for rhetoric to simply use the term ‘determinism’ to avert the miscommunication we just underwent).

        God has superordinate responsibility for all eschatological results. This is true under Open Theism, Molinism, Calvinism, or anything else, and it is true regardless of the view of Judgment — endless hell, annihilation, purgatorial hell, or anything else. This follows from God’s power and wisdom, such that he always has the ability to intervene and course-correct as it suits his purposes.

        What bothers many folks is that God could know those results beforehand. I suspect this is because God knowing results beforehand reminds them of the above fact, and the above fact is rather unsavory and bothersome under views of Judgment whereby many, if not most, suffer final irrevocable agony and doom.

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      9. And therein lies the rub, Stan! We must determine from Scriptures what your statement – “that God could know those results beforehand” means! 1. Known as irrevocably set to happen in time. 2. Known as either set, if He determined it to be such, or as possible, if He determined to permit it to be such. 3. Known as only possible, with a high sense of prognostication of the probable. I choose #2 as what the Scripture teaches about God’s omniscience of the future.

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    2. And where is it said in Isaiah 10 his free will was overridden? Even rhutchin the hardcore Calvinist disagrees with that… If you think that “Yet that is not what he intends” is over-riding free will…

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      1. “Hence we have an example of Theological Fatalism in which this poor person is powerless to do anything other than what God has immutably decreed him do, exemplifying the common definitions for fatalism held within philosophy.”

        Rhutchin sites:
        This depends on what you mean by “powerless.”……. All one need do is cry out to God to save them.

        Answer: Hi Rhutchin…hope your well,
        We must remember that a critical component of Calvinism is that *ALL* things come to pass by immutable (i.e., unchangeable and unalterable) decrees which occur millennia in advance of a creature’s existence. On this view, all things that will come to pass concerning a creature are immutably sealed as that creature’s FATE millennia before that creature exists.

        This assertion logically entails: (1) INEVITABILITY–as per its immutability clause. (2) POWERLESSNESS–as the creature is not given the power to alter its own FATE, sealed in advance by divine immutable decree. On this view, it is logically incoherent to appeal to the creature crying out to God, as has having any causal effect. Additionally, every function and faculty of the creature is a byproduct of that creature’s FATE, having been previously meticulously determined in advance, which additionally affirms no possibility of causal effect (i.e. powerlessness) on the creature’s part.

        In Philosophy; “Inevitability” and “powerlessness to alter one’s FATE” are sited as core concepts of Fatalism. And these two concepts are critical components of the Calvinist conception of meticulous divine providence. We can understand how it would help a Calvinist to feel better emotionally about Calvinism, by appealing to either the “condition” or the “behavior” of the creature, AS-IF either had causal efficacy. But Calvinists who put a premium on rationality over emotions, bite the bullet, and embrace the logical implications of the system. *All* things which come to pass, including salvation and damnation are unconditional, unalterable, inevitable, and the creature is utterly powerless to alter that.

        Rhutchin sites:
        In ordinary fatalism, a person cannot save himself and cannot be saved.”

        Hmmmm:
        We don’t find anywhere, official philosophical enunciations of fatalism, entailing a person cannot be saved.

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      2. br.d. writes, “On this view, it is logically incoherent to appeal to the creature crying out to God, as has having any causal effect. ”

        Why not? If the causal effect is certain and specifically linked to one crying out to God, then one should cry out to God despite one’s philosophical musings.

        Then, I wrote, “In ordinary fatalism, a person cannot save himself and cannot be saved.”

        br.d. responded, “Hmmmm:
        We don’t find anywhere, official philosophical enunciations of fatalism, entailing a person cannot be saved.”

        OK. Saved by what, and from what? Under fatalism, what is out there looking to save a person? A person just exists carried along by the forces of nature and cannot be “saved” from those forces of nature. That would require someone outside the system jumping in to disrupt the fatal sequence of events. I think you are arguing that it is possible for one person to gain some benefit not enjoyed by all others so a person can be “saved” from a life of lesser benefits even though the same fatal end is experienced by all.

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      3. For the Calvinist, God “just exists carried along by the forces of [His] nature” which, for the Calvinist, includes the inability to express any divine free will to make conditional plans that involve the free will decisions of any other creature He might make, or even His own future free will decisions! Sounds like fatalism to me!

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      4. It would better be phrased this way, “For the Calvinist, God “just exists carried along by the forces of [His] nature” which, for the Calvinist, includes the ability to express His divine free will such that conditional plans that involve the free will decisions of any other creature He might make are unnecessary, or even His own future free will decisions!”

        “Sounds like fatalism to me!” – Only the non-Calvinist would consider God’s absolute control over all things to be fatalistic. The Calvinist considers it pure joy.

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  2. Fatalism is defined as the, “doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them,” and theistic fatalism substitutes a personal loving God for an impersonal, indifferent fate.

    So, what is the objection to God being in control of all things? Will not God do what is right? Is not God trustworthy and who better to entrust with our lives? If God is not in control, then who/what is, and does that make people better off or worse off? Theistic fatalism is the best system conceivable – Given who God is – and any other system would create a worse life for everyone.

    What is gained if God were not in control of all things and determining all things? What advantage, of whatever design, accrues under any system other than theistic fatalism?

    What do those who oppose theistic fatalism propose as an alternative – presumably a “better” alternative?

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    1. There you go again, Roger, asking for an alternative, knowing you have been given (often) one from me that is better than your theistic fatalism, because it honors the clarity and authority of God’s Word more. There’s one sufficient reason! 🙂 And it also honors more certain characteristics of God, like His free-will, His humility, His hope, His grief, His mercy.

      Did you read the alternative that you asked me for… again… yesterday, that I sent this morning! It’s in the “Do you Agree with…” post. The time says 4:14pm this afternoon, but it was this morning. You never responded, which was unusual for you! 🙂 You must not have seen it, I’m guessing.

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    2. rhutchin: Theistic fatalism is the best system conceivable – Given who God is – and any other system would create a worse life for everyone What is gained if God were not in control of all things and determining all things? What advantage, of whatever design, accrues under any system other than theistic fatalism?

      I actually think this is a better question than you are being given credit for by those who disagree with you. Of course you know hanging around them, their immediate answer would be “genuine love and real responsibility is only available under an autonomous response system,” but all genuine love and real responsibility do from our perspective as humans is create the possibility of tragedy. Is Libertarian Free Will like me throwing a black widow spider into my child’s room and saying “I hope you come out okay!” I’ll be honest with you rhutchin and admit something that maybe a lot of Arminians wouldn’t admit; I’d often rather be a puppet/robot/zombie that didn’t have to shoulder the real responsibility of doing my part or handling the effects of autonomous rebellion. Why can’t God just force everyone to do the exact right thing always? For me, it would be awesome. For me, that safety and security would be far better than some mystical autonomous love response to God. I do want to put God above my own feelings however. If God felt it right or necessary to allow real and full rejection and rebellion against him because he valued genuine love and real responsibility, I have to subdue my own preferences and value what God values, even when it’s hard to understand why. This may still make God look bad to me, but it does preserve his intentions for good for his creation.

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      1. dizerner writes, “I’ll be honest with you rhutchin and admit something that maybe a lot of Arminians wouldn’t admit; I’d often rather be a puppet/robot/zombie that didn’t have to shoulder the real responsibility of doing my part or handling the effects of autonomous rebellion.”

        What does this have to do with anything? I could not figure out what you you were trying to argue.

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      2. I’m saying there are real emotional reasons to be predisposed to determinism. We should always re-examine our own sincerity and intellectual about our motivations.

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    3. “Is not God trustworthy and who better to entrust with our lives?”

      Who is the referent of “our” here? I assume you mean “the unconditionally elect.” Is God not trustworthy? Not if you happen to be one of the billions whom God has (arbitrarily) foreordained to eternal condemnation — no.

      “If God is not in control, then who/what is, and does that make people better off or worse off?”

      This depends upon your definition of “control.” Calvinists conflate “sovereignty” with “exhaustive control,” meaning “meticulously manipulates,” which is a tragic error. God can still be the ultimate Governor of the universe without having exhaustively decreed to the manipulating of every minutiae of our existence, and that from eternity past nonetheless.

      “Theistic fatalism is the best system conceivable – Given who God is – and any other system would create a worse life for everyone.”

      Spoken from the alleged position of one of God’s unconditionally elect! How “worse” of a life can you get than a God who has foreordained the eternal condemnation — bringing to fruition both the cause as well as the means — of billions of people in hell as we write in this comments section? “A worse life for everyone”? Really?

      With God at the helm of our existence, allowing a measure of free will in everyday matters — and even freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ — now that is the best system conceivable. God is still deemed sovereign, sovereignly saving the one who will by grace trust in Christ (1 Cor. 1:21), in no sense being rendered immoral or unethical due to a foreordaining of eternal condemnation of unsuspecting billions of people, but maintaining His integrity in inspiring such passages as Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11; John 3:16, 17; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; and 2 Pet. 3:9. That is the best life for everyone.

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      1. quote: With God at the helm of our existence, allowing a measure of free will in everyday matters — and even freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ — now that is the best system conceivable.

        The best system conceivable seems a bit too strong for me. I can admit that God has reasons I don’t know about, but how could you possibly call this fallen system the “best system conceivable”? I can’t really get that at all. And saying “That is the best life for everyone” is something I just can’t even possibly see as logically or emotionally true. If nothing else, it certainly doesn’t seem Christ had the “best life conceivable” when he took the sins of the world upon himself. I just can’t find myself in any conceivable sense whatsoever thinking this order of things could even begin to come close to anything described in that way. Even the Bible seems to deny that with its frank admission of injustice in this physical world and struggling with the problem of evil. I appreciate the strong desire to make a point that one even starts to overplay one’s hand a bit (I’ve done it myself) but when I think about how it will sound someone who disagrees with me for what they see as good and strong reasons, I can’t help but think they would find it very unconvincing. For me it’s just a matter of “equal weights and equal scales” to admit the blemishes and problems of my own system. regards

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      2. DIZERNER,

        First, forgive this somewhat lengthy response. Second, I think you’re addressing an issue that I am not responding to with regard to Rhutchin. Rhutchin and I are disagreeing about God’s interaction(s) with people within a fallen context. You are taking the narrative beyond this present reality and forcing another-worldly framework altogether.

        But even within your own perspective, and given the fact that God cannot — is incapable of — creating other Gods (creatures who cannot falter or sin), what, then, do you expect, that is, from God’s point of view? Do you expect Him to expunge all evil imaginable? Some evil? Which evil? Who gets to decide? Will this include your evil, my evil, mom’s evil, the preacher’s evil, the six-year-old’s evil, the Taliban’s evil? If you do not think that God controls all mortals, in the strictest sense possible, including what we think and say and do (as I am hoping and assuming), then what do you expect from God, exactly?

        If you expect God to eradicate all evil in this fallen and evil world, a fallen and evil world brought about by fallen and evil people (i.e., nad not by God’s foreordained decree and means of bringing such about), then how, exactly, would you have God go about this task? Allow me, please, to quote from a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: “If a horrific evil is horrific because of how it compares to another evil [which is subjective or relative to each person], then logically this will mean that all evil should be prevented. Consider the following argument. Suppose we represent the evil in the world by X and the varying degrees of evil by X+1, X+2, X+3 and so forth, where the higher the number associated with X, the worse the evil. X+3 is a worse evil than X+1.

        “For arguments sake, let’s also assume that X+5 is the worse evil imaginable to man. Man requests that God prevent X+5. The request is for God to prevent the evil before it happens (this in itself poses a problem [not merely regarding the notion of free will, and God being ultra-deterministic, but also that we would then have no concept of X+5]). This means it will never have been a part of the human experience. Assuming God prevents X+5, the worst evil in the human experience will be X+4. However, when the same logical procedure is applied to X+4 as was to X+5, the worst evil in the human experience is now X+3. Taken to its logical conclusion, the request would not stop until God has prevented all evil.” Bruce A. Little, A Creation-Order Theodicy: God and Gratuitous Evil (Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 2005), 163-64.

        Furthermore, Dr. Little argues: “It appears that in order for there to be a stable created environment in which God and creation interact in a purposeful way, only two possibilities exists [really only one]. Either God determines everything, thus assuring the order of creation based on divine predetermination, or God provides for the suitable function of creation by establishing certain moral (internal) and physical (external) ordering consonant with man’s power of moral choice. Determining all things necessarily eliminates man being made in God’s image (God is not a determined being.)” (162)

        Hence we are left with only one viable option for a biblical theodicy, having dismissed the other options of a greater-good theodicy, Molinism, and Open Theism, and that theodicy is creation-order, to which many Traditionalist Southern Baptists and Reformed Arminians adhere. To rob us of freedom, hampered as it is by sin, is to deprive us of our humanity and the imago dei. Since we exist in a fallen state, then we will exhibit fallenness, sometimes to greater evil. When Christ returns, and establishes the world as it should be — including the eradicating of our fallenness — then we will exist in an environment where the so-called problem of evil will no more be a problem. What some people are demanding is for that existence to be our reality in this fallen state. But that is insanity. Fallenness (our present reality) and Perfectness (our future reality) cannot co-exist as one and the same reality.

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      3. William I truly appreciate your reply and the thought it stimulates. I hope you don’t mind my logically aggressive style of argumentation.

        Let me break down some arguments you’re making.

        First one argument you make is evil is relative therefore degrees become irrelevant. So if the greatest evil in this world were stubbing your toe instead of having your most loved one tortured in front of you, then stubbing your toe would conceptually be as bad as the Nanking massacre. This is a strange line of logic for me, and I realize that having “fuzzy lines” between boundaries does present what seems like logical paradoxes. For example, in any purchase the difference between what one is willing to pay for something and not willing to pay for something always comes down to one cent (or one smallest monetary unit). Yet most people wouldn’t think or realize that because we are not trained to think in strictly logical terms. However, fuzzy boundaries still don’t give us to the right to make the argument that there are no boundaries at all; it is simply the fact that sometimes boundaries are too small or theoretical for us to discern where they are.

        quote: what do you expect from God, exactly?

        Well leaving aside the fallacy that I don’t have to know how God would do something to want or expect him to do it (after all I’m not God so can’t I expect things from God beyond what I see possible?), I do think the degree of evil and injustice in the world matters. I am not at all persuaded by the relativistic “no degree matters” argument.

        quote: the request would not stop until God has prevented all evil

        I strongly and greatly disagree with this logical conclusion. To posit a better world we do not need to make this argument. There are many, many scenarios we could conceive of (and that’s just with the mind we have in this one). How about this scenario: No one ever suffers for another person’s misdeeds or evil choices, but all people only suffer for their own evil choices. A world in which it is only possible to harm one’s self by one’s own evil choices. Can you refute that is a better conceivable world than this one and a better life for all people? (I’d like to see anyone try with strictly logic.)

        quote: Determining all things necessarily eliminates man being made in God’s image

        I agree with this, but this fact alone does not explain the existence of the degree of evil we see.

        quote: Hence we are left with only one viable option for a biblical theodicy

        Huh-uh, no, not even close. This is a ridiculously over-confident assertion from no good evidence.

        quote: What some people are demanding is for that existence to be our reality in this fallen state. But that is insanity.

        Nobody’s demanding anything we are making logical arguments. This is merely a statement attempting emotive manipulation. And what logical or Biblical proof do you have that fallenness was even necessary? If Adam and Eve truly had free will, we could all have “Perfectness” right now in the Paradise they lost.

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      4. DIZERNER,

        “First one argument you make is evil is relative therefore degrees become irrelevant.”

        Not irrelevant, no, only subjective (within reason). The debate here does not necessarily regard the relevancy or irrelevancy of the degrees of evil. Certainly, stubbing one’s toe is in no sense tantamount to the evils of the Nazis, for example. But which is the worse of these two evils: 1) a drunk driver collides with another car, killing the driver inside, while he survives; or 2) a woman aborts her own infant merely for the sake of convenience? Different people with differing perspectives will answer variously.

        But the real point is not about which evil is worse than another but why God “allows,” if you will, for any evil to manifest whatsoever. That is Dr. Little’s point: I don’t believe that you engaged it but, rather, dismissed it.

        “quote: the request would not stop until God has prevented all evil. I strongly and greatly disagree with this logical conclusion. There are many, many scenarios we could conceive of (and that’s just with the mind we have in this one). How about this scenario: No one ever suffers for another person’s misdeeds or evil choices, but all people only suffer for their own evil choices.”

        But that would indicate a world in which no one could potentially enact evil toward another human being. If one could only enact evil toward him- or herself, then that would require an entirely other ethos, an entirely different metaphysic — one that is seemingly impossible. In other words, I think that many of us trust God to the effect that, had a better scenario been possible, then He would have produced that world rather than this world. I am not a Molinist, so I do not subscribe to possible worlds, or the like. The point above regarding a “worse life imaginable” was within the context of God meticulously decreeing every event that should happen in our lifetimes, and that includes decreed reprobation. No one was positing a “best life now” motif.

        “I agree with this [that freedom relates to our being image-bearers], but this fact alone does not explain the existence of the degree of evil we see.”

        It isn’t meant to — only to suggest that, within our fallen context, and one that was not decreed by God in the strictest sense, the reason evil is granted a presence in this world by God is because He allows us the freedom to express that evil. By doing so, He is keeping intact the freedom which He grants us as human beings.

        “quote: Hence we are left with only one viable option for a biblical theodicy. Huh-uh, no, not even close. This is a ridiculously over-confident assertion from no good evidence.”

        That is a mere statement, one might even posit a “ridiculously over-confident assertion,” without any real support. Care to elaborate? I am not referring to possible theodicies but only those with which we are granted in this reality.

        “quote: What some people are demanding is for that existence to be our reality in this fallen state. But that is insanity. Nobody’s demanding anything we are making logical arguments. This is merely a statement attempting emotive manipulation.”

        Emotive manipulation? Okay . . . . Yet another statement without any support. Why is this emotive manipulation? This is mere logic: we cannot have two opposing realities co-existing at the same time. How any logical person can deny this is itself insanity. (cf. 2 Cor. 6:15) A fallen and sinless existence cannot co-exist at the same time in reality. How is that emotive manipulation?

        “And what logical or Biblical proof do you have that fallenness was even necessary? If Adam and Eve truly had free will, we could all have “Perfectness” right now in the Paradise they lost.

        Nowhere did I argue that fallenness was necessary. I even wrote the opposite — that sin and evil were not necessary in the plan or will of God, and that includes our fallenness. Adam and Evil did have free will and they freely chose to disobey God. Hence our fallenness. If God thought that you would have done a better job than Adam, then He certainly would have seen to it to create you rather than Adam first, if we believe that God is good, holy, and righteous.

        Though related, perhaps secondarily, this problem of evil narrative is not the real point of Leighton’s topic.

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      5. I think you make some more logical errors but I’ll ignore them for now. I want to focus on this:

        quote: If God thought that you would have done a better job than Adam, then He certainly would have seen to it to create you rather than Adam first, if we believe that God is good, holy, and righteous.

        I’m really shocked you would make such an audacious claim; that you think Adam’s free choice was first of all, “a job,” and second of all that you think God would put me in Adam’s place simply because I would choose differently than Adam. Of course I would choose differently than Adam what he did is the most illogical and evil thing I can imagine, he had it all and threw it away for a lie. We don’t backtrack our sinful nature and our fallen world into a scenario that had neither. Why do you think you have better judgment than God that you think God should logically put a person in the garden of Eden that would choose differently than Adam? This is actually illustrative of my entire point about evil and the sub-par condition of this fallen world. You are illustrating my point that this fallen world is not “the best life for everyone” and “the best system conceivable.” Once we have the entrance of evil those two things completely go out the window.

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      6. William birch writes, “God can still be the ultimate Governor of the universe without having exhaustively decreed to the manipulating of every minutiae of our existence, and that from eternity past nonetheless.”

        That’s your claim. Maybe you might try to frame an argument proving it to be true. You would be the first to do it.

        Then, ‘With God at the helm of our existence, allowing a measure of free will in everyday matters — and even freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ — now that is the best system conceivable.”

        By “freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ,” do you mean that God gives every person an equal opportunity or that God discriminates in some fashion among people so that some are better positioned to accept salvation than others?

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      7. DIZERNER,

        You claim to be Arminian and yet you do not think and write as an Arminian — very perplexing.

        “I’m really shocked you would make such an audacious claim; that you think Adam’s free choice was first of all, “a job,” and second of all that you think God would put me in Adam’s place simply because I would choose differently than Adam. Of course I would choose differently than Adam.”

        You think you would choose differently because of hindsight? That is never an option for anyone. I post that you would not have chosen differently. If you think you would, then demonstrate how, putting yourself in his original context. Next, explain why God wouldn’t have chosen to create you first, rather than Adam, and avoid all this mess entirely.

        “Why do you think you have better judgment than God that you think God should logically put a person in the garden of Eden that would choose differently than Adam?”

        Because the notion of God’s character is the primary issue of Arminian or a “non-Calvinistic” tradition.

        “This is actually illustrative of my entire point about evil and the sub-par condition of this fallen world. You are illustrating my point that this fallen world is not ‘the best life for everyone’ and ‘the best system conceivable.’ Once we have the entrance of evil those two things completely go out the window.

        I think you are misunderstanding me completely. The “best life for everyone” and the “best system conceivable” apply solely to an already-fallen world, not to some best-imagined world, as I wrote above.

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      8. Rhutchin,

        “William birch writes, ‘God can still be the ultimate Governor of the universe without having exhaustively decreed to the manipulating of every minutiae of our existence, and that from eternity past nonetheless.’ That’s your claim. Maybe you might try to frame an argument proving it to be true. You would be the first to do it.”

        Did you once use Scripture in the defense of your philosophical theodicy? I have an entire blog full of such evidence. Have at it.

        “Then, ‘With God at the helm of our existence, allowing a measure of free will in everyday matters — and even freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ — now that is the best system conceivable.’ By ‘freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ,’ do you mean that God gives every person an equal opportunity or that God discriminates in some fashion among people so that some are better positioned to accept salvation than others?”

        In Reformed Arminian theology, i.e., that according to Arminius and the early Remonstrants, all those who hear the Gospel are the recipients of such an inward work of the Holy Spirit. Although, we do confess, that the Holy Spirit works in manifold ways, even to the leading up to the actual moment of being confronted with Gospel claims. The Holy Spirit is the Great Evangelist and He knows how to perform His work among mortals. There is no discrimination in God as to who hears the Gospel — causing one to hear it and another not to hear it, as in John Piper’s consistent Calvinism.

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      9. William Birch writes, “Did you once use Scripture in the defense of your philosophical theodicy? I have an entire blog full of such evidence. Have at it.”

        Great; so how about the citations so I can read your work.

        I had asked, “By ‘freeing the will of depraved sinners by the Holy Spirit toward a grace-induced faith response in Christ,’ do you mean that God gives every person an equal opportunity or that God discriminates in some fashion among people so that some are better positioned to accept salvation than others?”

        You responded, “In Reformed Arminian theology, i.e., that according to Arminius and the early Remonstrants, all those who hear the Gospel are the recipients of such an inward work of the Holy Spirit. Although, we do confess, that the Holy Spirit works in manifold ways, even to the leading up to the actual moment of being confronted with Gospel claims. The Holy Spirit is the Great Evangelist and He knows how to perform His work among mortals. There is no discrimination in God as to who hears the Gospel — causing one to hear it and another not to hear it,…”

        You know that you deflected, don’t you. The issue I raised was not, “…discrimination in God as to who hears the Gospel …” My question concerned the equal perception by those who hear the gospel. Does God work only through the preaching of the gospel (sounds like the Pelagian position) or does God employ other means (such as using His Holy Spirit to convict of sin) and if God uses such means, does He make all people equally able to accept the gospel?

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      10. quote: I think you are misunderstanding me completely. The “best life for everyone” and the “best system conceivable” apply solely to an already-fallen world, not to some best-imagined world, as I wrote above.

        Okay. Were this the case than I am mistake—you are a positing a best case scenario given certain parameters. That makes a lot more sense. Perhaps you could flesh out that idea.

        quote: You think you would choose differently because of hindsight? … I post that you would not have chosen differently. If you think you would, then demonstrate how, putting yourself in his original context.

        No not because of hindsight, but because Adam’s actions were irrational and treacherous, and I have chosen not to make irrational and treacherous decisions. Now we can postulate the deceptive power Satan might have possessed, but if you give me a scenario where my will has power, I WILL choose not to disobey. Why would I throw Paradise away for death? I demonstrate how by postulating every man has his own will and is in control of it. Thus my will is mine and I am in control of it. If that is true—I can make a choice. That is my choice.

        quote: Next, explain why God wouldn’t have chosen to create you first, rather than Adam, and avoid all this mess entirely.

        God gives every man his own will and God does not control it. Thus God could not logically control the outcome of Adam’s choice, point one; and point two Adam’s will cannot logically be my will. Now if you say, why doesn’t God use foreknowledge to put a man that would choose right there, then to me *you* are the one sounding like a Calvinist not me. Whatever will Adam had, Adam got to decide it. If God influences it through control, then it’s not Adam’s will anymore. If God puts me in Adam’s stead, then it’s not Adam’s will any more. If God simply doesn’t create people whom he knows will reject him, or puts a person in the garden that God knows will obey him, it does seem like it may be a logical possibility but I do wonder if God somehow putting a person in a situation only because he knows they will do such and such is in some subtle way controlling the outcome by his decision instead of the creatures. That’s just a hypothetical thought I have trouble working out logically. If you ask me why didn’t God, I think it is the *single* hardest problem in all of theology indeed in all of Biblical reality. Even Satan’s fall is far easier to reconcile logically.

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      11. Rhutchin,

        “Great; so how about the citations so I can read your work.”

        Click on my name, which is linked, and you will be directed to my site. Have fun.

        “You know that you deflected, don’t you.”

        No, I didn’t deflect on iota, but answered your question. Can you read?

        “The issue I raised was not, ‘…discrimination in God as to who hears the Gospel …’ My question concerned the equal perception by those who hear the gospel. Does God work only through the preaching of the gospel (sounds like the Pelagian position)’ …”

        That is a Reformed position, which you should already know, since Calvinists constantly frame the issue of the Holy Spirit using the Gospel to the regenerating of God’s alleged unconditionally elect. If that is Pelagian then you Calvinists are Pelagians.

        “‘… or does God employ other means (such as using His Holy Spirit to convict of sin) and if God uses such means, does He make all people equally able to accept the gospel?'”

        I repeat, in the response you call a deflection, “according to Arminius and the early Remonstrants, all those who hear the Gospel are the recipients of such an inward work of the Holy Spirit [i.e., they all equally perceive, to use your word, the meaning of the Gospel]. Although, we do confess, that the Holy Spirit works in manifold ways, even to the leading up to the actual moment of being confronted with Gospel claims. The Holy Spirit is the Great Evangelist and He knows how to perform His work among mortals. There is no discrimination in God as to who hears the Gospel — causing one to hear it [or even perceive it], and another not to hear it.”

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      12. “… if God uses such means, does He make all people equally able to accept the gospel?”

        Yes, all who hear the Gospel in Reformed Arminian theology, are “equally able [better, enabled] to accept the gospel.”

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    4. rhutchin sites:
      What do those who oppose theistic fatalism propose as an alternative – presumably a “better” alternative?

      This is an excellent and insightful question rhutchin. William Lane Craig draws a distinction between what he calls a “weekly actualized” vs. a “strongly actualized” state of affairs. Lets say an elderly Christian couple are friends with a Christian man, in a bible study, and a Christian woman, in their church. The two individuals don’t know each other but both are asking God for a life partner. The elderly couple could “ordain” the two be married through an “immutable decree”, which would exemplify a “strongly actualized” affair. In this case, the couple’s marriage would be FATED, and they would function as mere “instruments” in carrying it out.

      Alternatively, the elderly couple could have a picnic and invite a few married Christian couples, along with the two single people. And at that event, make sure the couple had sufficient time to be alone, letting each determine their interest in their compatibility– which would be a “weekly actualized” state of affairs.

      Another conception in this is the “love potion”, or “spell” or “hex” which are conceptions common in witch-craft. In which case it is common to say the person under the spell found the other person “irresistible”–which would also be considered a “strongly actualized” state of affair because one person’s availability for an “alternative possibility” is removed and that person is “powerless” to have any causal efficacy in that state of affairs. This conception is found in the Zeus-Europa myth in which the god desires the human, but the human is “depraved” which means she has no desire for god or the things of god. So god makes himself “irresistible” to have her.

      Dr. Craig asserts that it is not logically or biblically necessary to insist that God always brings states of affairs in accordance to His will by strongly actualizing them. But it is quite logical, and can be affirmed in a large portion of scripture that God brings about states of affairs by weekly actualizing them. This is not to say that God doesn’t occasionally bring about affairs by strongly actualizing them. He can and most certainly does when ever he wants too. But when a person is reduced to an “instrument” in a given event, it is difficult to assert, that God, whose causal efficacy is unlimited in that event; is non-culpable, while man;whose casual efficacy is causally irrelevant, is fully culpable. That assertion would not only represent a false-balance which God abhors, but its logic is highly questionable.

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      1. Mike Ranieri writes, “Molinists are just Calvinists in denial! :)”

        Molinism deals with events that occur before the creation of the world. It has God considering all the possible worlds that He could create and then finally choosing that one unique world that He wants to create. When God creates that one, unique world at Genesis 1, it is necessarily a Calvinist world – everything that is to happen has been determined and God has merely set in motion those events that He had already conceived in His mind as He earlier considered all the possible worlds He could create.

        It amazes me why William Lane Craig who seems to be a strong supported of Molinism is also so antagonistic toward Calvinism.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. br.d. writes, ‘Dr. Craig asserts that it is not logically or biblically necessary to insist that God always brings states of affairs in accordance to His will by strongly actualizing them. But it is quite logical, and can be affirmed in a large portion of scripture that God brings about states of affairs by weekly actualizing them. This is not to say that God doesn’t occasionally bring about affairs by strongly actualizing them. He can and most certainly does when ever he wants too. But when a person is reduced to an “instrument” in a given event, it is difficult to assert, that God, whose causal efficacy is unlimited in that event; is non-culpable, while man;whose casual efficacy is causally irrelevant, is fully culpable. That assertion would not only represent a false-balance which God abhors, but its logic is highly questionable.”

        All this is nice but now we have to sort out those events that are “weakly actualized” from those “strongly actualized.”

        We can say that the sin that people commit is “weakly actualized” as God does not tempt people to sin but only restricts the sin that they are allowed to commit (e.g., Joseph’s brothers were not allowed to kill Joseph but were allowed to sell him). As the greater part of the lives of the lost are spent in service to Satan and therefore in sin, we can conclude that the events of the lives of the lost are weakly actualized. However, no sinful person wakes up in the morning outside God’s decree that he should. The universe does not hold together except by God’s decree that it should. Should God withdraw His hand, a person would die and the universe would become chaos. So, we see God strongly actualizing the lives of the unsaved even as He weakly actualizes the sin they commit.

        What about those who come to salvation? Here, because of God’s considerable involvement in enabling a person to come to salvation, we can conclude that God strongly actualizes this outcome – or, at least, much more strongly than in those who do not come to salvation.

        When you write, “But when a person is reduced to an “instrument” in a given event,…,” what do you mean by the term, “instrument”? Technically, everything is an “instrument” of God to do with as He pleases, and God is always manipulating all His instruments pretty much all the time.

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    5. RHUTCHIN asks:
      Under fatalism, what is out there looking to save a person? A person just exists carried along by the forces of nature and cannot be “saved” from those forces of nature.

      Hi RHUTCHIN, hope all is well with you.
      Sorry, I didn’t see your post here. First, I hope you don’t mind if I pay you a compliment. As an observer of Calvinism for many years, I’ve come to the place where I put 90% of my focus on Calvinist language techniques. I’ve come to understand that 99% of Calvinism is “how they say it”. And Calvinism definitely has developed its own unique language techniques. I want to commend you for the degree of honesty I find in your language rhutchin. It speaks of a soul whose commitment to Christ overrides his commitment to a social-group or an obsessive investment in a tradition. It has been my observation that as Calvinists climb up the power ladder within their society, their language becomes proportionately filled with semantic ambiguities and highly subtle misleading rhetorical techniques. This is because the good-evil dualism that is inherent in the system forces them to become experts at asserting both [A] and [NOT-A] at the same time, and also using the technique of speaking “implicaturers” as described by H. P. Grice. These techniques have evolved within the society with such a degree of expertise that the average Christian is simply not looking for them, and therefore gets unwittingly spun around in circles by them. Most Christians are prepared to find those language techniques within the marketing of products, and cunning politicians, but they are not at all prepared to to see them used by professing Christians, and so they get baited by semantic carats which keep them running around in circles, under the delusion that the conversation is moving forward. And I find your language wonderfully free of those subtitles. So, I appreciate that and attribute it to your personal commitment to the Lord!.

      As to your question: “Under fatalism, what is out there looking to save a person? A person just exists carried along by the forces of nature and cannot be “saved” from those forces of nature.”

      We have already established that philosophy officially recognizes “natural” Fatalism, and “Theistic” Fatalism, and the differences between those two systems. “natural” Fatalism does not have a sentient deity being associated with it (like the “force” in star wars). Alternatively, the Greek word “Theos” is rendered “God” in English. So “Theistic” Fatalism and “Natural” Fatalism are two completely different conceptions, not to be conflated with each other . Generally speaking, academia recognizes that “Theistic” Fatalism has appeared in a few religious traditions. The Greek Stoics had their form., The Islamic religion has its form. And Christianity, its form, in the doctrines of Augustinian, later embraced by Calvin.

      Calvinist Paul Helm expresses it in an article titled Calvin and the Stoics: “It is clear that Calvin, though ostensibly taking a via media between fortune and chance on the one hand, and Stoic necessity/fatalism on the other is, like his mentor Augustine, in virtue of his commitment to divine sovereignty, inclined more to the side of FATALISM than to the side of fortune and chance, or to some view of providence which has to find place for the ‘contingency which depends on human will’. The sense of fortuitousness is purely epistemic, since NECESSITY is the basic metaphysical component in his account of providence.”

      Its quite natural then, that we would observe Calvinists on various web blogs happy to be recognized as “Theistic” Fatalists, as they see that as a natural part of the religious tradition they have embraced. But I its also understandable that some Calvinists would not be happy with that aspect of the tradition and not want to connect with it. We’re all different personalities with our unique likes and dislikes.

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      1. br.d. writes, ““Theistic” Fatalism has appeared in a few religious traditions. The Greek Stoics had their form., The Islamic religion has its form. And Christianity, its form, in the doctrines of Augustinian, later embraced by Calvin.’

        I think the term “theistic fatalism” is an oxymoron.

        Then “…Calvin,… inclined more to the side of FATALISM…” with your earlier statement, “So “Theistic” Fatalism and “Natural” Fatalism are two completely different conceptions,…”

        Probably, but still needs to be fleshed out.

        Then, “Its quite natural then, that we would observe Calvinists on various web blogs happy to be recognized as “Theistic” Fatalists,..”

        I wonder how they would define the term, “theistic fatalist”? In a system in which God exercises sovereign control over all that happens, an unsaved person might say that he personally is a fatalist while the saved person would not but I am not sure that either could describe the system by the term, “Theistic fatalism.”

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  3. Another great post, Leighton, if not the most fundamental issue tied to Calvinism. I would make one suggestion, that the few present tense “decides” (1x) and “determines” (2x) be changed to past tense, “decided” and “determined”. In their theology, it has all been settled, down to the smallest detail and we are just playing out the pre-recorded tape. They inconsistently use the present tense for those verbs and then slyly profess that they only mean “from man’s time perspective” when they are confronted for using those terms in the present tense.

    But the most obvious logical problem they have, besides the fatalism of the present and their denying of Scripture’s clear testimony to a partially conditional future, is their unavoidable locking of God’s eternal past to the necessity of creating only this one human history scenario. It almost smacks of panentheism, that is, tying God eternally to His creation.

    But if they admit to only one freewill divine determination, like to create or not create, changing something that was only a possibility into something that became an eventuality in His mind, then their dogmatic footing that all must be predetermined and known eternally as completed in His mind becomes undone!

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    1. Brainwagner:
      ” They inconsistently use the present tense for those verbs and then slyly profess that they only mean “from man’s time perspective” when they are confronted for using those terms in the present tense. ”

      Great catch!!
      I totally missed present tense / past tense equivocations in Reformed language, Any other golden nuggets you may wish to share concerning semantic tricks you’ve identified will be of great interest. I’m collecting a library of them as a fun project. William James, (1842) called compatibilism: “a bag of verbal tricks deployed as a way to avoid the real intellectual problems of free will”, and “the entire compatiblist enterprise is a quagmire of evasion”. And the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724), held to a similar view, calling it “a retched subterfuge”. Since Calvinism’s foundation is Universal Divine Causal Determinism and free will defined in a compatibilistic sense, I think Jame’s and Kant’s observations of semantic idiosyncrasies are illuminating to us.

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      1. Good morning br.d. Yes, since the Calvinist believes in an immutable omniscience and an immutable will for God then everything is eternally “set” and should be presented in their argument as always “completed” from God’s perspective. It is curious why they use the present tense to describe God determining, contrary to what they profess. It is either a Freudian admission of what the Spirit bears witness within them, or it is a concession to use biblical terminology, which they argue is mostly anthropomorphic, or as I would judge to be “divinely deceptive”, if God says He is determining when really it all had already been immutably determined.

        You asked for another example! Besides they fallacious use of the present tense, in my view, even the use of the word “determine” as in “predeteremined” is faulty. For there is a basic understanding of sequential thinking and sequential reality in the idea of determination. Something is not yet determined, then thought out, then determined.

        The Calvinist does not believe in such a process taking place within the infinite understanding of God’s mind. Everything is “set”. Nothing actually gets determined from being previously undeteremined. When pressed on this, they would have to fall back on anthropomorphism again, even for the use of the word “determined”, in my view.

        This even fits for “ordained” and “decreed” in the same sense that is logically implies a moment when there was a before being “ordained” and “decreed” and then a moment after. The Calvinist’s fatalism will not work if there is an eternally sequential reality for God, like the Scripture indicates clearly — “from everlasting to everlasting” , “who was and is and is to come”.

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      2. brianwagner writes, ” It is curious why they use the present tense to describe God determining, contrary to what they profess. ”

        Oh, Brian!!! To the Calvinist, God knows everything past, present, and future, Thus, it does not matter what tense is used. There is also the distinction between God’s decision and God’s implementation of that decision. God decided to send Christ to the cross before He created the world. He implemented that decision in the course of time by having Satan enter Judas, etc. to bring this about. So, the prophets do not speak of God deciding (there are exceptions in context to drive home a point) as much as God doing.

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      3. Oh, Roger!!! 🙂

        2 Chr. 6:5-6 (NKJV) ‘Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there, nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’ [Of course, everyone knows God had chosen Jerusalem and David before the foundation of the world, but He thought it important to deceptively say the opposite].

        Jer 18:11 (NKJV) 11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ” [Of course, everyone knows God was NOT really devising a plan, for it all had been already planned before creation, but He wanted to deceptively sound like He was free to still make decisions for some reason.]

        1Cor 12:11 (NKJV) 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. [Of course, everyone knows the Holy Spirit is not free to make decisions any more, in fact, was never able to really make decisions because His will is locked in by His immutable omniscience, and there is only a theoretical freedom of will/power that He has, but will/can never use. But God wanted to deceptively tell us that the Holy Spirit does still make determinations though He easily could have used the past tense in this verse to tell us how it really is all predetermined.]

        All my comments in brackets are facetious, and all the verses are clearly true and without anthropomorphism!

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      4. brianwagner cites some of his most favorite verses.

        First, 2 Chr. 6:5-6 (NKJV) ‘Since the day that I brought My people out of the land of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house…nor did I choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. Yet I have chosen Jerusalem…and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’ [(W/ snide remark)Of course, everyone knows God had chosen Jerusalem and David before the foundation of the world, but He thought it important to deceptively say the opposite].

        – We can distinguish the decision making process from that chosen from that process. Brian needs to determine what to do on his sabbatical. He thinks long and hard before announcing, This is what I have chosen to do. There need be no limit on the time he mad ea decision and his announcement of that decision.

        With God, that which God has “chosen” expresses His “will.” We can define God’s will as that He requires of people. Thus, God had required no city in which to build His temple, but now God tells Israel that He now requires such a temple and the city in which it is to be built. God may have determined His will in eternity past, but only announced it in the course of time after He created the world.

        I think you need to make God’s action of choosing synonymous with His decision making process – thus God does everything at one instant – He decides and announces His decision in an instant. However, there are times when God clearly makes decisions way before announcing those decisions – e.g., all the prophecies concerning Christ. It is not necessary that God have decided what He will do only at the instant He moves the prophet to announce that decision.

        In the end, I think you are unduly restricting the term, “chosen” (without which, you could not say interesting things about it).

        Second, Jer 18:11 (NKJV) 11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah…saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” ’ ” [Of course, everyone knows God was NOT really devising a plan, for it all had been already planned before creation, but He wanted to deceptively sound like He was free to still make decisions for some reason.]

        – That God is fashioning a disaster need mean only that He is orchestrating events to bring it about. It says nothing about when God decided to fashion that disaster.

        The more interesting term is “devising” a plan. Does this require us to understand that God has just then initiated the formulation of that plan from scratch in His mind? I don’t think so. All that the statement need mean is that God is now orchestrating events to bring about that which God had already decided. I did not understand Keil $ Delitzsch, but I think they support my position. The Hebrew word traanslayed as “devise” seems to be broad enough to accommodate both you and me but not require either.

        Third, 1Cor 12:11 (NKJV) 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

        – The distribution of gifts implies nothing about the time frame in which the decisions were made. That the Spirit “works all these things” can mean that the Spirit is now bringing this about. Again, we might suppose that the Spirit thought about the action He would take and the thinking – the decision making process – easily precedes the Spirit working, or implementing, His decisions.

        In the end, I think Brian is being more restrictive than context requires in order to get the outcome he wants – which apparently was to make facetious comments.

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      5. Br.D,

        Compatibilism is a semantic response to determinism that revises the “volitional dictionary,” especially terms like choice, responsibility, and possibility.

        There’s a compatibilist taxonomic proposal for every color of the rainbow. Many compatibilists offer bad taxonomies. But it IS semantic. It bites the bullet on, “These were folk terms that needed more refined definitions anyway.” Some people see this as evasion, others (like myself) see it as genuine philosophical progress (philosophy under quietude is concerned primarily with solving bugs in ‘language games’).

        I like to use the analogy of the “Sacred Water.” Imagine it is commonly understood that there are four “Sacred Elements”: Earth, Fire, Wind, Water.

        Eventually it is discovered that these are not elemental; water is, in fact, a combination of two elements (elements of which there are dozens and dozens).

        At this juncture, there’s a semantic decision to make. The Radicals say that we should call “water” fictitious, since water’s definition entails being a “Sacred Element.” They say we should use a different term entirely for large collections of H2O molecules.

        Meanwhile, the Conservatives say that we still do all the “important things” — drink water, bathe in water, swim in water, etc. — about H2O. As such, we should revise our dictionary such that “water” points to H2O, and retire the “Sacred Element” portion as the fictitious part.

        There’s also the Syncretists, who admit that this stuff is largely H2O, but also wish to maintain its being a “Sacred Element.” One of the arguments they make is that if it were only H2O and not a “Sacred Element,” then we’d be forced to Radicalism and abandon the talk of “water” entirely, which feels absurd.

        The Radicals and Conservatives accuse the Syncretists of cognitive dissonance and incoherence. The Conservatives and Syncretists accuse the Radicals of radical reduction and nonfunctionalism.

        And where do Radicals and Syncretists ally? They both accuse the Conservatives of “wretched semantic subterfuge” and “word-jugglery.”

        I see this story having parallels with the debate about the metaphysics of volition.

        (Aside: Have you read Critique of Practical Reason? I very much doubt you’d accept Kant’s reasoning on free will.)

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      6. stanrock writes, “Compatibilism is a semantic response to determinism that revises the “volitional dictionary,” especially terms like choice, responsibility, and possibility.”

        Ignoring any response to determinism, the only difference I see with compatibilism is that it makes human choice subordinate to a sinful nature. Thus, it changes the environment in which choices are made – pre-Adam sin to post-Adam sin. Possibilities and choices are still the same and the argument seems to be whether a person should be held responsible for doing what he wants to do when he could not avoid doing what he wants to do and would not have wanted to avoid it anyway.

        The link to determinism is that compatibilism has the sin nature ruling a person and determining his actions. So, I don’t see the issue between compatibilism and determinism.

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      7. Compatibilism is a more specific kind of determinism; there’s deterministic compatibilism and deterministic incompatibilism.

        Compatibilism indeed holds — INSISTS — that a person cannot make decisions for the better until and unless that person undergoes change for the better. Further, it maintains that holding stuff responsible, especially according to stewardship and zones of proximal development, is one of the best ways to help folks undergo change for the better. Compatibilism rightly asserts and defends and best articulates what it means to make a choice (to actualize one of several considered prospects), to hold morally responsible, and to do otherwise (“I can do today otherwise than I did yesterday”).

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    2. Mike Ranieri sites:
      Molinists are just Calvinists in denial! 🙂

      An astute observation, and I think there might be merit in it myself, although I haven’t completely thought out all the ramifications.
      Certainly, we see a preponderance of Calvinists who enunciate Molina’s conceptions for divine providence, in order to reduce the specter of divine culpability to sin or evil. And most don’t seem to be at all aware they are enunciating Molinist distinctions. On the other hand there are Calvinists who embrace them knowingly. So….yes, Mike…you hit it right on the bulls-eye…..there is a VERY close association! :-]

      Liked by 1 person

    3. rhutchin asks:
      “what do you mean by the term, “instrument”? Technically, everything is an “instrument” of God to do with as He pleases, and God is always manipulating all His instruments pretty much all the time.”

      Dr. Craig’s understanding of “weekly” vs “strongly” actualization may be a little different than you are thinking. Craig’s observation concerning Calvinism is that it asserts that God never “weekly” actualizes anything, and refuses to allow the idea that God does, because it would compromise Calvin’s notion of absolute sovereignty. For God to “weekly” actualize a human state of affairs, would be to allow that human the choice of alternate possibilities. One analogy is of a mouse in the house. The wife sees the droppings on the kitchen floor. The husband buys a trap and cheese. They set the trap in the kitchen. The next morning they find the mouse dead in the trap. They did not “ordain”, or meticulously “cause” or “make” the mouse kill itself. They “allowed” or “permitted” the mouse to act the way it did. Craig believes there is no reason to assume God can’t do the same with people, while *strict* Calvinism forbids that notion. Some Calvinists have even gone so far as to assert that God Himself doesn’t have alternate possibilities, and that He can *only* actualize states of affairs “strongly”. But those Calvinists might be sighted as the “hyper” kind who are essentially “Hard” determinists.

      Calvinism is dedicated to the proposition that God conceives, determinatively causes and meticulously renders certain, all events, which occur in time. For Calvin, this proposition functions as the underlying substratum and foundation of understanding of every aspect of God’s relationship to creation, and Calvin accepts it without question. The concept has its origins in Augustine’s mixture of Catholicism with NeoPlatonism, and is strongly based upon Plato’s doctrine of Full-DDI (doctrine of divine immutability). Generally, the term “Instrument” is differentiated from “Agency”, in that an “Agent” functions as the “sole cause” of an action, where the “instrument” functions as a “means” to that action. When a man desires to move a rock and can’t, he asks another man for help, and together the two men move the rock. But the second man is not technically speaking, an “Instrument”, because he has the same degree of “Agency” as the first man. However, if the man uses a steel bar to move the rock, the man functions as an “Agent” while the steel bar functions as an “Instrument”.

      In English law, under the “Mens Rea” and “Actus Reus” requirements, a gun cannot be considered an “Agent” of the crime, but is an “Instrument” of the crime. And the court strictly forbids terms like: “permitted” to commit the crime, to be conflated with “caused” to commit the crime. If a person commits a crime under hypnosis, or under compulsion, the prosecution must first establish the person committed the crime functioning as a “free agent” and not as an “instrument”.

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      1. br.d. writes, “Calvinism is dedicated to the proposition that God conceives, determinatively causes and meticulously renders certain, all events, which occur in time.”

        It is more accurate to say “determinatively controls” rather than “causes.” God is sovereign and nothing happens unless He decrees it to happen. That may involve God in causing an event (the flood of Noah, the conception of Christ); restraining the evil that people seek to do (e.g., Joseph’s were not allowed to kill Joseph, Balaam could not curse Israel, Peter would not be killed by Herod); or doing nothing to hinder men from freely carrying out their evil (e.g., the deaths of Christ and Stephan). God always has the final say in what happens.

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  4. I know I often critique your articles on a very demanding (and could be seen as picky) level, but I think this one is just simply really good.

    You brought light and clarity to the framework the Calvinist really has to live under. It feels ironic to me, that often those who disagree with Calvinism are the ones putting more effort into really understanding what it teaches. 😆

    If more newly converted Calvinists simply understood what exactly it implies, they would leave without any further persuasion. :mrgreen:

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    1. Hi Stan,
      Hope your well.
      I think you make some interesting points on perspectives concerning how semantics are perceived.
      Your post reminded me of the “Remove not the ancient landmarks” commands in scripture.

      Imagine if you will, an Israelite father passing away who bequeaths his property to 10 sons.
      And the father meticulously has his property marked out the way he wanted it divided between them.
      But the night before the official distribution, 3 sons go out in the dark and remove the landmarks, hoping to gain an advantage over another.

      I see the same strategies used in argumentation, where words and terms are given ad hoc definitions in order to alter their meanings to support an arguer’s position. For the Christian, who wants to be seen as a representative of Christ, this type of trickery is highly problematic. Many Christians tend to be very trusting in the face of such strategies, and are most often completely unaware that a semantic magician is at play. Another way of altering words in scripture is to simply teach people to ascribe a manipulated meaning to a give word in a given verse. Like for example, teaching a person to read “God desires ALL men saved” and automatically interpreting it in one’s mind as “God desires SOME men saved”. By this strategy, the teacher doesn’t have to psychically alter words in the text. He just teaches people to re-define them instantaneously in the mind while reading. This type of manipulation of perception is highlighted in Solomon Asch’s seminal work on the dynamics of conformity within groups, which I find fascinating. But as you probably quickly discerned, God desiring ALL to be saved is a Universal Positive proposition, while God desiring SOME to be saved is a Particular Positive proposition, which often entails its corollary; Particular Negative proposition. So interpreting ALL to mean SOME works to shift the interpretation of the verse to its logical contradiction without having to physically alter the text, where the text technically states a Universal Positive, but the person auto-magically interprets it as a Particular Negative..

      Oh…No I haven’t read Critique of Practical Reason.. but maybe some day when my pile of materials goes down. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. br.d. writes, “Like for example, teaching a person to read “God desires ALL men saved” and automatically interpreting it in one’s mind as “God desires SOME men saved”. By this strategy, the teacher doesn’t have to psychically alter words in the text. He just teaches people to re-define them instantaneously in the mind while reading….So interpreting ALL to mean SOME works to shift the interpretation of the verse to its logical contradiction without having to physically alter the text, where the text technically states a Universal Positive, but the person auto-magically interprets it as a Particular Negative.”

        The question here is, What does “all” mean (or what does “desire” mean?)? Does it mean all hyenas, all nations, each and every person, etc. The transformation of “all” into “some” would presume a situation where one definition of “all” means something different than another definition of “all.” There is not “magical re-interpretation” – only an attention to detail. If God desires ALL men saved but only SOME men are saved, then should not the definition of “ALL” allow for the outcome where “NOT ALL” are saved and not create a contradiction where none was intended?

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      2. The word “all” in 1Tim 2:4 has the same meaning it has in the other 4 instances in verses 1-6.

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      3. brianwagner writes, “The word “all” in 1Tim 2:4 has the same meaning it has in the other 4 instances in verses 1-6.

        Same essential word and meaning but whose range is framed by different contexts.
        1 …first of all…
        2 …for kings and all those in authority…
        4 …who wants all men to be saved…
        6 …who gave himself as a ransom for all men…

        v1 and v2 seem distinct from v4 and v6 with v4/v6 seeking to incorporate those in authority into v4/v6.

        The issue is Paul’s meaning of “all men.” Following Paul’s epiphany in Ephesians 3, we can read “all men” as “gentiles as well as Jews” which makes the statements true but does not necessarily exclude other meanings sought to accommodate one’s theological bent.

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      4. Yes, Roger… all Jews and all Gentiles, everyone, Praise the Lord! I wonder if you would agree with Calvin that God only pretends to want to save all, an even leads some of the reprobate towards salvation so He can judge them more harshly!

        He said – “…but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption …. there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith …. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their mind to this extent …. there is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.” (3.2.11, Institutes, emphasis mine)

        Calvin adds: “Yet sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it; then he justly forsakes them on account of their ungratefulness and strikes them with even greater blindness.” (Institutes of Christian Religion, 3.24.8, emphasis mine)”

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      5. brianwagner asks, “I wonder if you would agree with Calvin that God only pretends to want to save all, an even leads some of the reprobate towards salvation so He can judge them more harshly!”

        I think Calvin was addressing some perplexing problems. You and I know that a salvation decision is a no-brainer – the choice between eternal life and eternal death is not hard to make. Do we not observe people coming into the church, being active for a time, and then leaving. What’s that all about – did they take dumb pills or something. What about those who spend their whole lives in church being teachers and deacons and then they stand before Christ and say, “Lord, Lord…” and Christ respond, “I never knew you.” What happened?

        I don’t have an explanation, so Calvin sounds as good as anything else out there, but I am not going to fight you over it. I would like to see your explanation for these things. I like reading alternatives to Calvin’s analyses – I don’t think he was always right and that may be the case here.

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      6. To you, Roger, salvation is a “no brainer” because God irresistibly causes it to happen, causes the brain of those He wants to trust Him to trust Him, even though left to themselves they would never think or choose with their brains to trust Him. That’s not the salvation that Scripture talks about. “Come now let us reason together, says the Lord”. He is very much appealing to the brain of the unbeliever!

        And you keep making it about a choice between everlasting life and everlasting death. Salvation is not that selfish choice, but it is a choice of trusting a person for mercy and what is said about Him. Many do pretend to have made the choice of salvation, and for selfish reasons fake it for years, even in the end deceiving themselves into thinking that being in the right group or doing the right things are “other” ways to make it to heaven.

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      7. brianwagner writes, “salvation is a “no brainer” because God irresistibly causes it to happen,”

        Oh Brian!!! This is simple logic. Any person offered the same job at two different companies, ceteris paribus, where one pays $25 and the other $50, will choose the job paying $50. This is true in every decision of life. The decision between eternal life and eternal life is just as obvious. The logic is irresistible absent any effort by God. Add the enabling of the Holy Spirit and the outcome is not in doubt. Even if purely selfish, the decision is eternal life. When Christ says, “Come, let us reason together,” we see that one can reason, or logically conclude, that eternal life is the obvious choice.

        Then, ” Many do pretend to have made the choice of salvation, and for selfish reasons fake it for years, even in the end deceiving themselves into thinking that being in the right group or doing the right things are “other” ways to make it to heaven.”

        Pretending would be before the enablement of God, would it not? After God enables a person, what room for pretense.

        Regardless, you don’t have a explanation to offer as an alternative to Calvin. It’s hard to explain – Calvin gave us his take on it, so now it’s your turn.

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      8. Good morning Roger! You will decide not to take the job if you do not trust the employer to keep His promise or believe He is able to deliver on His promise, or if the work/benefits leading up to the resulting pay is not worth it in your view. Trusting the person is the key, not evaluating which message is logically better.

        Many pretend after being enlightened, tasting, and participating in God’s gracious drawing, because they remain unconvinced Christ is the only or better way. That is why messages with warnings like in Hebrews is so important.

        Calvin’s answer is not very respectful to God’s character as revealed in Scripture. One could easily say… it down right dishonoring to Him!

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      9. brianwagner writes, “Many pretend after being enlightened, tasting, and participating in God’s gracious drawing, because they remain unconvinced Christ is the only or better way.”

        Do they? Maybe they are the ones who say “Lord. Lord…” in Matthew 7. Maybe, the difficulty is determining what “enlightened” means.

        Then, “Calvin’s answer is not very respectful to God’s character as revealed in Scripture. One could easily say… it down right dishonoring to Him!”

        Yet, you cannot come up with a better explanation.

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      10. I hope, Roger, that the Lord will open your understanding to see how much my evaluation of appropriate Scriptures really is better than Calvin’s on this issue!

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      11. brainwagner writes, “…my evaluation of appropriate Scriptures really is better than Calvin’s on this issue!”

        Any chance you have written about this and could point us to an article?

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      12. You can just reread what I have written in our conversation here and elsewhere. My main point is that the invitations and warnings of Scripture are not deceptions by God as if they are only for some pre-selected group, when they are clearly stated in universal terms. They are clearly stated in universal terms for God is truthfully offering those invitations and warnings to all.

        If I shouted out right now a wonderful gift I am offering to you, but you didn’t know that I was, and of course could hear my offer, would you truly believe that I could say I was just in condemning you for rejecting my offer?

        God has mercy on all to lead them to His salvation provided for all! He is just to condemn those who reject His mercy, for they have heard of it from Him!

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      13. You are avoiding the issue. The issue is not that people did not know. The issue is to explain how it is that people seem to know and respond to what they hear and then at the judgment, they say “Lord, Lord,…” and Christ says to them “I never knew you.” note especially, the emphasis, “…never…” Calvin took a stab at explaining how this could come about – you are having difficulty doing so.

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      14. I am having no difficulty explaining, Roger, but as usual you are having difficulty seeing the reasonableness of my explanation. As I mentioned before, the ones in Matt 7 chose to trust in something else, other then in Jesus, for their entrance into heaven.

        But they could have trusted in Jesus. God had enabled them to make that choice, or at least the choice to seek to be brought to a fuller understanding of the mercy God offers. He paid for their salvation, and He was sincerely holding out His hands to them (not just play acting).

        But those in Matt 7 chose to trust in their good works… “Have we not…” and Jesus made the just response “Depart… I never started a relationship knowledge with you.”

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      15. brianwagner writes, “As I mentioned before, the ones in Matt 7 chose to trust in something else, other then in Jesus, for their entrance into heaven. ”

        We know that; it’s not the issue here. Now you need to explain how a person comes to be in that situation. What, if any, influences are involved to bring this about? Calvin said that God was intimately involved in this. You don’t like Calvin’s explanation and say that God is not involved. What you seem to think is that a person makes choices devoid of any influence but you don’t seem able to say that (maybe because of Jonathan Edwards arguments against this conclusion). So far, you are unable to explain how a person comes to stand before Christ and say, “Lord, Lord, …” and have Christ say, “I never knew you.”

        This is like me asking you to explain how a car works and you keep saying that a person gets in the car and turns the key (or presses a button) and it works.

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      16. I’ve always affirmed to you Roger, God’s influence, intimately, with everyone. He sovereignty allows that it not be coercive influence when it comes to the choice to sin or the choice to seek His mercy! That’s the best I can do at moment, Roger.

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    2. rhutchin sites:

      br.d. writes, “Calvinism is dedicated to the proposition that God conceives, determinatively causes and meticulously renders certain, all events, which occur in time.”

      It is more accurate to say “determinatively controls” rather than “causes.”

      Good morning RHUTCHIN,
      This is a great example of what I meant when I said: “99% of Calvinism is how they say it”. Since the underlying substratum of the Calvinist system is Universal Divine Causal Determinism, in which God solely causally initiates and meticulously controls, every event that obtains—universally, exclusively, immutably, and without any limitation. The Calvinist realizes the implications this view produces in regard to God’s role in sinful evil events. Many Calvinists are not comfortable with those implications, and that discomfort can be observed by semantic hedging (i.e., “the way we say it”). But the the primary voices of Calvinism don’t hedge on it.

      Calvinist theologian R. C. Sproul enunciates it by asserting: “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, God is not God”. And Calvinist Paul Helm asserts: “Not only is every atom and molecule, every thought and desire, kept in being by God, but every twist and turn of each of these is under the direct control of God”.

      Calvinist Robert R. McLaughlin, in his work: The Doctrine of The Divine Decree states it as: “The Omniscience of God merely programmed into the divine decrees all our thoughts, motives, decisions and actions, which include our sins and failures as well as our successes”.

      Again, the controversial components of Calvin’s system are as Paul Helm states “doctrines of NECESSITY”. And in another post you also sited “Theistic Fatalism” is an oxymoron.” Yes, you put your finger on a system of thought that is based upon a good-evil dualistic cosmos. In a good-evil dualistic system many things appear as oxymoronic. “good-evil”, “malevolent-love”, “ungodly-godliness”, .
      This characteristic of the system was sited by Augustine, and Jonathon Edwards as “the harmony of the universe is in antitheses”, and “God’s glory could not shine forth without evil”. Theodore Beza states it as: “The fall of man was both necessary and wonderful”. These are all expressions of a good-evil dualistic system,in which we have glorified-evil, which quite naturally appears oxymoronic.

      There is a story of two brothers who went to a museum, one wearing orange sun glasses, the other wearing blue sunglasses. They both looked at the same pieces, and one saw colors the other did not see. Rather than become frustrated with each other, they understood it was because of the lens they looked through. Some Calvinists are predisposed to seeing the full implications in their system without reservation, and other Calvinists are not. And where we find this most observable is in semantic hedging. Its quite understandable.

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      1. br.d. writes, “the underlying substratum of the Calvinist system is Universal Divine Causal Determinism, in which God solely causally initiates and meticulously controls, every event that obtains—universally, exclusively, immutably, and without any limitation.”

        I don’t think this is true – particularly this part, “…God solely causally initiates…every event that obtains…”

        Sproul does not say this – your citation is about control and not cause. In explaining predestination, Sproul is careful to differentiate between passive and active predestination and always emphasizes “control” as in his runaway molecule example. The McLaughlin citation refers to control, also, but I have not read anything he has published.

        I have read a little by Paul Helm, and I also see him as a control person.

        When Calvinists refer to God “causing” all things, I understand them to mean that God is the first cause and that sovereignty makes God the effective cause even though events arise through secondary causes. Sovereignty is key – it gives God right of refusal over anything that can happen naturally meaning that God can always intervene to prevent that which would naturally occur. A sovereign decree attends every event that happens – God actively decrees that natural forces play out by His decision not to intervene to redirect naturally occurring events to different outcomes.

        Then, “…in another post you also sited “Theistic Fatalism” is an oxymoron.” Yes, you put your finger on a system of thought that is based upon a good-evil dualistic cosmos.”

        I am not sure where the term, “Theistic Fatalism,” originated but I suspect it was not a Calvinist who did so. The “fatalism” charge is commonly leveled against Calvinism by people who basically hate the Calvinist system and being unable to mount a Scriptural argument against Calvinism, they resort to other tactics accusing Calvinism of this or that monstrosity. Many Calvinists tend to go with the flow as challenging false notions expends a lot of energy that is unproductive in redirecting such arguments back to the Scriptures. At least, that is my impression.

        Finally, “Some Calvinists are predisposed to seeing the full implications in their system without reservation, and other Calvinists are not. And where we find this most observable is in semantic hedging. Its quite understandable.”

        If people argue from the Scriptures, Calvinism prevails. The fault lies not with the Calvinists but with those who find themselves unable to argue against the Calvinists. The biggest problem for people is that Calvinism essentially argues against universal salvation. People who agree with the Calvinists that all will not be saved, then tie themselves in knots trying to avoid Calvinist hermeneutics. Their are a few who understand this and have retreated into Open Theism to differentiate themselves from Calvinism. Most just appropriate the universal arguments to support a non-universal system.

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      2. Roger, If people argue from the Scriptures, Calvinism does not prevail, but fails… for Calvinism must resort to labeling many Scriptures as anthropomorphic and analogic in meaning, when clear descriptions of God’s nature stand in clear opposition to their philosophic ones.

        They must choose rare grammatical and etymological meanings for words, which when normally read provide clear understanding of God’s gracious acts to make salvation available to all who bear His image, but not irresistibly. No, when the clear light of Scripture shines upon Calvinism, it fails, and that is why Calvinism eventually hides behind scholarship that it declares as orthodox and their twisting of Scripture, and not before the tenor of Scripture itself.

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      3. Brian, I understand that you disagree with the philosophic ideas of Calvinism but arguing against anthropomorphic and analogical meanings in scripture is irresponsible. Do you really want to argue for the literal meaning of every scriptural verse? I doubt this. I guess it’s very simple: Calvinist anthropomorphic meanings are wrong but non-Calvinist anthropomorphic meanings are right.

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      4. Hi Mike, I am sorry if I gave the impression that I do not believe there are no verses in Scripture that use anthropomorphism, analogical meaning, or an occasional rare grammatical or etymological meaning for a word. My point was that the Scripture context and its tenor should dictate these choices, not the presuppositional definitions borrowed from philosophy or from theological inferences.

        Anthropomorphism is found in poetry in Scripture, but should not be expected in historical narrative. God’s revelation of His nature in the same terms as man’s nature, which was made in His image, should be taken as univocal in most respects, though also understanding that there would be aspects beyond comprehension (though not contradictory).

        If normal grammar or etymological meaning does not fit in a certain passage, especially because a contradiction would result in that context or with the tenor of Scripture, then, of course, a less normal but reasonable meaning should be chosen. But theological or philosophical assumptions that require a less than normal meaning or even a unique meaning should not be the default choice!

        The ESV translated απο in Rev 13:8 as “before”…. Why? The KJV translated τασσω “ordain” in Acts 13:48… Why? These are just two obvious instances where Calvinists twisted the normal meaning of words in Scripture to promote its theology. I could show you more if you would like.

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      5. Brian, thanks for the clarity but I think you are assuming too much. You seem to be placing all the bias on Calvinists. If God in scripture says something never entered his mind or he changed his mind but scripture also says God is all knowing than we are faced with a dilemma. Unless you reject inerrancy the way you solve this dilemma is through theological and philosophical assumptions.

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      6. Mike, I confess that I am a presuppositionalist for some basic truths, including the inerrancy of Scripture supported by the testimony of Jesus concerning it. And I concede that Calvinists are not the only offenders of twisting Scripture to support theological positions. I even concede that I believe Calvinists have done so with a consequentialistic ethic that their alterations of meaning bring more glory to God and a proper understanding to readers of Scripture.

        Your Scriptural examples of seemingly contradictory verses about God’s omniscience provide a good start for those interested in solving this dilemma, but there is no need to reject the assumption of inerrancy, nor are other theological and philosophical assumptions needed to solve this except perhaps one!

        If the clarity of Scripture or normal contextual, grammatical study of Scripture can not produce a reasonable solution to a seeming dilemma, then waiting for divine revelation in the future to give the resolution is the only alternative.

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      7. Good answer. Van Til would be proud. And while we wait for divine revelation we may just have to hold some seemingly opposites in tension. After all, to our human reasoning, all the omni’s of God are paradoxical.

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      8. 🙂 I hit send, Mike, before adding some expositional thoughts that I have on the specific passages you referred to.

        1. The word “know” in English has a broad range of meanings, so “knows all” needs careful exegetical attention. For example. Jesus is said to “know all” during His incarnation (16:30, 21:17) even though He admitted not knowing the future day of His return (Mk 13:32). Even believers are said to “know all” (1Jn 2:20).

        2. Verses that seem to support a future that is only partly determined in God’s mind, also need to be looked at with careful exegesis. But underneath is a normal reading of Scripture as presenting reality as linear and sequential, from everlasting to everlasting (Ps 90:2). Is it really that difficult believe that God has infinite understanding that experiences changes each time something fully understood but known as future becomes then known as now past, once it has taken place?

        If such sequential changes are possible in the mind of God, it is not hard to read Scripture normally as indicating God has left some things undetermined for the future, and that He understands all those possibilities fully, and knows them as they truly are… only possibilities until He determines or permits them to become certain. His knowledge changes but is not diminished at that point.

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      9. More good stuff, Brian! A couple of thoughts: You correctly point out the broad meanings of “know” and “knows all.” But when Calvinists point out the many contextual meanings of “all” non-Calvinists reply with: “all means all and that’s all that it means.” And, I really do appreciate what you have said and understand that not everything can be explained fully and easily in a blog post. And I find it fascinating discussing these kind of issues. But are these not speculative philosophical issues that go beyond scripture? Haven’t some of these issues that seem obvious and simple to you come through much study and contemplation?

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      10. Good observations Mike, and I appreciate your kind words. The universal use of the word “all” should be the default unless the context, or an obviously facile thought demands a distributed use. “I can do all things through Christ”… even murder?… of course not. “None seek after God”… not even after they are enlightened… of course not.

        One might argue obvious dishonor to the character of God as the reason behind their use of less than normal grammatical choices. And everyone is free to choose the interpretation that they believe brings God the most honor. But, hopefully if they admit that their view is not clearly taught propositionally in Scripture, but that it was discovered through much personal study, they will be patient as others do their own search, and they will never raise such findings that have no objectively perspicacious support in Scripture to the level of sound doctrine or gospel.

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      11. brianwagner writes, “He understands all those possibilities fully, and knows them as they truly are… only possibilities until He determines or permits them to become certain. His knowledge changes but is not diminished at that point.”

        I was confused by this part, “…permits them to become certain.”

        I don’t think you can allow God to permit possibilities to become certainties. If you grant God power to permit possibilities to become certain, you grant Him power to determine everything. I think you mean that God permits a person to choose among possibilities, X, Y, X etc (or just A or ~A), If you mean that God permits specific possibilities to become certain, then you buy into the Calvinist system.

        Under your system, God knows all possibilities but He does not know all certainties (just those He has determined (enacted), but even what God determines is subordinate to what people choose to do) nor does He permit the possibilities He wants – God is subject to man’s choices. You must have God permitting a person to choose among possibilities and then learning the outcome (the certainty) only when the choice is made. Then you allow God to determine certain events based playing off those decisions.

        For example, in your system, God knows that Adam can eat the fruit or not eat. God permits Adam to choose not knowing what Adam will do. Once Adam eats the fruit, God can take action to expel him from the garden (the action God had determined to take should Adam eat the fruit but then determines (brings about) once Adam eats the fruit).

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      12. brian wagner refers to Revelation 13:8–

        7 …[The Beast] was given ruling authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation,
        8 and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed.”

        This refers to a book that belonged to Christ presumably at the time of His death. However, the people over whom the Beast rules are those who live at the end of time – a forty-two month period. Their names are not written in that book apparently explaining why they worship the Beast – “…all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life…”. Why does God appear to confuse people by referring to the “foundation of the world” if the verse really means that their names were not written in the book during the forty-two month period? Maybe the verse just says that Christ was slain before the foundation of the world as the KJV has it. If Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, then He effectively had the Book of Life at that time and it was complete even then – thus John is able to identify those who would worship the future Beast.

        Then Brian writes, “The KJV translated τασσω “ordain” in Acts 13:48… Why? These are just two obvious instances where Calvinists twisted the normal meaning of words in Scripture to promote its theology.”

        Doesn’t the issue here question whether the verb, τασσω, is to be taken as passive or middle voice? If so, then your conclusion is a little over the top.

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      13. Roger, I am surprised you do not understand my point and agree with the clear examples I gave of Calvinist twisting of meaning. The Greek preposition απο never means “before”! The Greek word τασσω is a generic word, not a theological or ecclesiastical one like “ordain” definitely is.

        God chose “from the foundation”, not “before the foundation” for Rev 13:8. The verse just states that the names of those following the beast were never added at anytime to the Book of Life from the creation till the day they received the Beast’s mark. If any inference is to be made, it is that names have been added since the dawn of creation. Compare the iterative use of the perfect tense “shed” and “from the foundation of the world” in Luke 11:50.

        The middle voice argument in Acts 13:48 is a good one, since all the verbal ideas in the verse are performed by the Gentiles. But I was just making the point that the etymology of τασσω does not bear the theological meaning of “ordain” on its own, but that must be given to it for some reason not clearly found in the context.

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      14. brianwagner writes, “The Greek preposition απο never means “before”! The Greek word τασσω is a generic word,…God chose “from the foundation”, not “before the foundation” for Rev 13:8. The verse just states that the names of those following the beast were never added at anytime to the Book of Life from the creation till the day they received the Beast’s mark. If any inference is to be made, it is that names have been added since the dawn of creation. Compare the iterative use of the perfect tense “shed” and “from the foundation of the world” in Luke 11:50.”

        The term, “from the foundation of the world,” appears at the end of the passage so the issue for the translator is where to apply it. The immediate preceding text speaks of Christ being slain and we can understand this to be from the foundation of the world. This understanding prevailed for a long time, but more recently, the argument has been made that it modifies “written.” so that it is the names written in the scroll απο the foundation of the world. This is being translated as “from” or “since” as if to say that the names are added continuously (possible, not necessarily) through time as people are saved. Why are we to care? The focus is on those people living during the 42-month period as being described in Revelation. Their names would not have been written in the book – as you claim – so why do we care about those whose names were written in the book between the foundation of the world and the 42-month period? The answer – we don’t care. Attaching the phrase, “from the foundation of the world,” to “written” makes no sense – it does make sense in describing Christ being slain. Appeal is made to Rev 17:8 where the same phrase is found immediately following reference to the scroll – the conclusion is that the two verses must be saying the same thing (a good example of eisegesis). There is no reason that 13:8 should be read the same as 17:8; one refers to Christ being slain from the foundation and the other to names being written from the foundation. The problem is that we understand how it is that Christ was “slain from the foundation” and we should then understand the scroll having been written from the foundation in the same way that Christ was slain. I sense a conspiracy to fracture the Scriptures and it is not the Calvinists who are doing it.

        Your reference to Luke 11:15 is interesting. There, “having been shed,” is a participle as is “having been slain” in Rev 13:8 and in each case “from the foundation” immediately follows the participle. Yet, people want to attach “from the foundation” to an entirely different verb in 13:8 in terms of grammatical form (consistent with 17:8). However, 13:8 has “written in” where 17:8 has “written on.” I’d like to see a more intensive discussion of this issue.

        Then, “The Greek word τασσω is a generic word, not a theological or ecclesiastical one like “ordain” definitely is….The middle voice argument in Acts 13:48 is a good one, since all the verbal ideas in the verse are performed by the Gentiles. But I was just making the point that the etymology of τασσω does not bear the theological meaning of “ordain” on its own, but that must be given to it for some reason not clearly found in the context.”

        Which means that such reason can exist. Your slam against the Calvinists is not warranted.

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      15. We can delve into Rev 13:8 more, if you like, Roger, but for some reason you are ignoring my main point. The translation “before” is wrong in Rev 13:8, not just bad… but wrong.

        And the translation “ordained” is for a bad reason, so my “slam” is warranted, for there is no good reason for bringing a theological translation to a word that the readers would not have heard when reading that word. Can you think of a good reason?

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      16. brianwagner writes, “The translation “before” is wrong in Rev 13:8, not just bad… but wrong.”

        I’ll agree that the translation is wrong. My response was that “from the foundation” modifies “slain” and not “written. Nonetheless, even translations such as “from” and “since” do not necessarily get you the conclusion you want as απο can denote a separation of time, Christ having been slain at the beginning – from the foundation. απο does not have to convey an action occurring throughout the course of time. The real question is what “from the foundation” should modify.

        Then, “And the translation “ordained” is for a bad reason, so my “slam” is warranted, for there is no good reason for bringing a theological translation to a word that the readers would not have heard when reading that word. Can you think of a good reason?”

        I don’t see “ordain” as a bad or even wrong, translation of τασσω. If the verb is passive, then God would be implied as the one producing the action and “ordain” would be a good translation. Elsewhere, the word (or variants) are translated as “appointed” and “determined,” and I don’t see them conveying a sense much different than “ordain.”

        The real issue is whether we should take the verb to be in the middle voice. It is true that the Gentiles heard, were glad, honored the word, and believed. Their actions were in reaction to what they heard. So, why did they believe? If we take the middle voice, then we have people preparing themselves for eternal life (presumably in the prior week) and thus they could believe when Paul spoke. The question here is how a person “prepares themselves for eternal life” without also believing. It does not appear that you mean that they have faith because faith would essentially already constitute believing. Absent faith, we would have to say that the middle voice conveys the idea of people working in some manner to prepare themselves for eternal life. Are you heading in that direction?

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      17. Well you are almost there concerning the point I was making… You agreed Roger that the translation “before” was wrong in Rev 13:8. But even if you take the antecedent as “slain” for the prepositional phrase, Calvinistic thinking chose “before” so that the verse would infer some kind of divine predetermination of Christ’s death before creation.

        I think the parallel passage in 17:8 and the obvious contradiction “slain from the foundation of the world” would be to Heb 9:25 are two reasons to tie “from the foundation of the world” in 13:8 with “names written”. That would make “slain” as part of the title of the Book of Life. It is the Book of Life of the Lamb slain. See Rev. 5:6.

        And the Luke passage 11:50 was just used by me to show how the perfect tense can have an iterative meaning in conjunction with phrase “from the foundation of the world.” If you want an example besides Rev 13:8 and 17:8 where the perfect tense of “written” has an iterative meaning, I believe 1Cor 4:6 is a good one. That verse points back to the “things that have been written” as Scripture at various times before Paul writes to the Corinthians.

        I am sure that you believe that there are other books in heaven that are still being added to today. I believe the Book of Life is also being added to each time someone gets saved.

        The implied subject of the participle that the Calvinists chose to translate “ordain” is not given in the verse, Acts 13:48. In fact God is not mentioned in this passage as an actor in this story at all, but only the Jews, Paul and Barnabas, and the Gentiles, except perhaps in the last words of verse 52. So the implied subject of this participle should naturally be one of these actors, not God.

        The Greek word τασσω, is a generic word, much like our English word “arrange” which would fit nicely as a literal translation. The Calvinists chose “ordain” because they wanted the reader to think that this was what God clearly had written and what was meant, implying a precreation divine decision of who should get everlasting life. They twisted the original meaning for their own theological purpose.

        But the context more clearly shows a contrast with the Jews rejecting openly “for themselves” everlasting life (vs. 45-46) and the Gentiles openly arranging themselves (probably going forward to publicly profess their faith) for everlasting life. This is a legitimate, grammatically, contextually fitting meaning, without using theology to translate a word that does not bear the theological nuance given to it. Luke was writing what he saw. He was not revealing what was divinely happening, that no one could see.

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      18. brianwagner writes, “…even if you take the antecedent as “slain” for the prepositional phrase, Calvinistic thinking chose “before” so that the verse would infer some kind of divine predetermination of Christ’s death before creation.”

        I don’t think that is an issue. Even translating it as “from” or “since,” the idea is that Christ was slain at the time God created the world – even if not before per the translation – so that God created the world having planned and decreed that Christ would be killed in the course of time.

        Then, “I think the parallel passage in 17:8 and the obvious contradiction “slain from the foundation of the world” would be to Heb 9:25 are two reasons to tie “from the foundation of the world” in 13:8 with “names written”. That would make “slain” as part of the title of the Book of Life. It is the Book of Life of the Lamb slain. See Rev. 5:6.”

        Hebrews 9 tells us, “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” (v23) Thus, the sacrifice of the priest foretold the sacrifice to be made by Christ. Hebrews emphasizes that God had a plan; that plan included the sacrifice of Christ; and the whole arrangement of the tabernacle was to point to God’s plan – “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain…This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper…But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”

        Then, “And the Luke passage 11:50 was just used by me to show how the perfect tense can have an iterative meaning in conjunction with phrase ‘from the foundation of the world.’”

        My point was that the construction of Luke 11:50 mirrors the grammatical construction of Rev 13:8 – “shed from the foundation” and “slain from the foundation.”

        Then, “If you want an example besides Rev 13:8 and 17:8 where the perfect tense of “written” has an iterative meaning, I believe 1Cor 4:6 is a good one. That verse points back to the “things that have been written” as Scripture at various times before Paul writes to the Corinthians.”

        The grammatical construction of 13:8 and 17:8 is different. One verses refers to Christ being slain before the foundation and the other to the book being written before the foundation. I don’t see that 1 Cor 4:6 contributes anything to the analysis of Revelation.

        Then, “I am sure that you believe that there are other books in heaven that are still being added to today.”

        Nothing new to God is being added.

        Then, “The implied subject of the participle that the Calvinists chose to translate “ordain” is not given in the verse, Acts 13:48.”

        That is why you say that it is “implied.” As God is the only possible subject, you have to appeal to the middle voice to escape the obvious meaning of the passive.

        Then, “The Greek word τασσω, is a generic word, much like our English word “arrange” which would fit nicely as a literal translation. The Calvinists chose “ordain” because they wanted the reader to think that this was what God clearly had written and what was meant, implying a precreation divine decision of who should get everlasting life. They twisted the original meaning for their own theological purpose.”

        The meaning is not twisted when the passive voice is taken. Your claim of twisting presupposes that the middle voice is correct.

        Then, “But the context more clearly shows a contrast with the Jews rejecting openly “for themselves” everlasting life (vs. 45-46) and the Gentiles openly arranging themselves (probably going forward to publicly profess their faith) for everlasting life. This is a legitimate, grammatically, contextually fitting meaning, without using theology to translate a word that does not bear the theological nuance given to it. Luke was writing what he saw. He was not revealing what was divinely happening, that no one could see.”

        Even assuming your understanding to be correct – the middle voice – this just eliminates this verse from the arguments employed by the Calvinists. All the verse then says is that some people responded to Paul’s preaching from the previous sabbath and some did not. Unresolved is an explanation to explain that difference – how some came to arrange themselves and some did not. If the passive voice is correct, the the Calvinist understanding and translation does not twist the text – God ordaining and God arranging say the same thing.

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      19. brianwagner writes, “…for Calvinism must resort to labeling many Scriptures as anthropomorphic and analogic in meaning, when clear descriptions of God’s nature stand in clear opposition to their philosophic ones. ”

        Like I said, to oppose Calvinism logically requires that one retreat into Open Theism type theologies. If one accepts that God is omniscient with regard to the future, people who oppose Calvinism will pretend that God does not know the future and then use Universalist arguments as they lack any sound arguments of their own. If you had not retreated into Open Theism, you could not really argue against Calvinism from the Scriptures – this because Calvinism is basically an argument against Universalism and you agree with Calvinism on it’s major premise.

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      20. No retreat, Roger! Just a stand on the authority of Scripture based on its perspicuity about necessary doctrine… a stand that Calvinism does not have!

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  5. (1) Determinism says that every effect is a strict function of causes.

    (2) From this you can either say that (a) God is meticulously micromanaging all effects, or you can say that (b) he has a “let the flywheel spin” interest whereby all manner of things — things that are trivial, or even evil — can emerge through the chaos of secondary causation.

    (b) From ‘b’, you can say that (i) we ought to seek God and act with propriety because we are dynamic creatures and want to excel, or that (ii) we ought resign ourselves to rigidity or laziness.

    Both ‘i’ and ‘ii’ are is/ought leaps and formal non sequiturs.

    Only ‘ii’ is fatalism.

    Hope this helps.

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    1. I should say that the ‘i or ii’ fork can be taken from both ‘a’ and ‘b’, though ‘a’ is so stifling, with no sense of emergent compatibilistic ownership, that it’s hard to deny fatalism (though it is still a formal non sequitur — is/ought is tricky and trips-up many intelligent philosophers and theologians).

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      1. Hi Stan, You seem happy with your philosophical, psychological, rhetorical dance when you are describing your obvious belief in theistic fatalism. Roger just owns up to it!

        You admit that identifying “ought” in your system takes a “leap”. Is that because you believe it is impossible for divine free-will, that is also shared by those created in God’s image, to exist? Don’t you think the inspired, infallible, inerrant Scripture clearly describes it?

        I am guessing you may have difficulty with trusting that the Scripture is inspired, infallible, inerrant, and perspicuous for necessary theology. Is that the case? And I am having trouble seeing how ii. would be fatalism in your view, but i. would not be, since both are subject to your same “non-sequitur” leap. Throwing in phrases like “dynamic creatures and want to excel” and “emergent compatibilistic ownership” doesn’t adequately make your “leap” possible, in my view.

        I think a sound argument can be made that “want” and “ownership” don’t exist without free-will. Personality does not emerge (evolve) from impersonality! It is much more reasonable to trust the Scripture’s clear testimony about a reality that is partly determined and partly open, because of a God with free-will and with infinite understanding, but who is not locked into one immutable created order.

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      2. Brian, I’ll respond to this post, but I found fault with the following:

        (1) Calling my post a “rhetorical dance.”

        (2) Claiming that I have an “obvious belief in theistic fatalism” when I don’t.

        (3) Claiming that I have “difficulty” trusting the authority of Scripture.

        These are derisive and unacceptable. If any subsequent reply of yours contains further garbage like this, our conversation will end at that reply. (Theological conversations are fruitless when one or more participants is willing to pull such nonsense.)

        You said, “You admit that identifying ‘ought’ in your system takes a ‘leap.’ Is that because…”

        It is because of the classic is/ought problem, where “ought”s are non sequiturs from pure “is”s without value referents. Actions like “resignation/fatalism” are not compulsory from the truth of determinism (if it is true). Under “determinism is true,” determinism is the “is,” and “resignation/fatalism” is an “ought” that doesn’t pop out “automatically.”

        Now, many people FEEL that it “pops out for free.” Many people are saying such things in this thread. We could call this “following informally” — determinism “feels” wholly limiting and so people very often “feel resigned” in response, due to our human quirk of loss-aversion. This is a Kochab’s Error (Google it) — a reactionary non sequitur.

        You said, “And I am having trouble seeing how ii. would be fatalism in your view, but i. would not be, since both are subject to your same ‘non-sequitur’ leap.”

        Both refer to values, so both entail their own is/ought leaps. But under ‘i’, I am not practicing resignation, and instead am practicing conviction and dynamic goal-seeking. When you face the world with conviction and dynamic goal-seeking, you are not being fatalistic.

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      3. Hi Stan – I am sorry that such light banter as “rhetorical dance” disturbs your willingness to discuss. I will try to remember to avoid it in conversations we have in the future. As for your “obvious belief in theistic fatalism”, you confirmed as much to Roger, who affirms that such is his belief and you said your view was “similar” as his but just differed in “how best to describe it.”

        And as for “Claiming that [you] have ‘difficulty’ trusting the authority of Scripture”… I never made such a claim. I was seeking clarification based on inferences I was making from what you said.

        I said – “I am guessing you may have difficulty with trusting that the Scripture is inspired, infallible, inerrant, and perspicuous for necessary theology. Is that the case?” I was looking for clarification about what you believe about these things. I didn’t use the word “authority”, but you are right to include it. The key words are “for necessary theology.”

        Let me know if necessary theology must come from philosophy with equal or greater authority then from clear texts from the inerrant Scriptures. Knowing what you believe about the inerrancy and authority of Scripture for clarifying important theological concepts will help me greatly in knowing how to proceed in our conversations.

        Thank you for responding to my other observations. Do you think you may be equivocating on your use of the term “fatalistic”. If everything is already determined, then life is fatalistic. It is what it is, and there is not a real “ought” to leap to. Is there a real “ought” or just a perceived one that is not really real? What do you mean by “leap” and what authority do you have for such a “leap” being reasonable?

        Whether there is a fatalistic feeling, in your view, that I “ought” to have or “ought” not to have, or whether my “ought” feelings “ought” to lead to “practicing conviction and dynamic goal-seeking” really is of little consequence in a fully pre-determined world. Those “ought” feelings, in my view, are what they are, as they were determined to be. They cannot be, “ought” not be, 🙂 any different just because one talks about them in an equivocable way, inconsistent with their presuppositions. Thanks.

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      4. Brian, you said,

        “Do you think you may be equivocating on your use of the term ‘fatalistic’. If everything is already determined, then life is fatalistic.”

        Frankly — and forgive me if this sounds rude, it’s not meant that way — the equivocation at play is between determinism and fatalism. They are not equivocal. Treating them equivocally is the error.

        Fatalism is an umbrella term for the feeling of inefficacy and/or resignation some feel in response to the the antecedent of there being a single series of events from past to future, linked together in a strictly causal way, at least when we’re talking about decisionmaking (adequate determinism, or determinism for short).

        Let’s assume determinism, as defined.

        George and Horace are both determinists.

        George is also a fatalist; he feels inefficacy and resignation in response to determinism. He says, “Things shall happen as they shall; thus, I ought do nothing,” says George.

        Horace is not a fatalist; he feels very efficacious and convicted. He says, “Things shall happen as they shall; thus, I ought act such that those things are that which accord to my interests.”

        Both of those “thus”s were non sequiturs, because ‘oughts’ don’t pop out of ‘is’s for free. We are not, at this time, lauding or condemning George nor Horace. Rather, we are merely proving, by this thought experiment, that fatalism is not equivocal with determinism. Though both George and Horace are making “leaping thus”s, it is nonetheless the case that one of them is fatalistic and the other is not, even though they’re both genuine determinists.

        In brief, determinism is an assertion about how things work. Fatalism is a “plan of (in)action.” A plan of this kind is not a corollary of determinism. Thus to treat them equivocally is an error.

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      5. LOL… Stan, I think ironically that we are using two different definitions of equivocate, though I think you are using it incorrectly, but I am open to correction on that. I am saying you were using the term “fatalism” according to two of its meanings at different times. That what equivocation is.

        Actually I was not clear. Looking back over what you said, you seem to be trying to only use one of the meanings (a secondary one) as being the only meaning, and you are denying the primary one is being valid.

        Fatalism – 1. a doctrine that events are fixed in advance so that human beings are powerless to change them; 2. also : a belief in or attitude determined by this doctrine – http://beta.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fatalism

        You said – “though ‘a’ [divine micromanaging all effects] is so stifling, with no sense of emergent compatibilistic ownership, that it’s hard to deny fatalism (though it is still a formal non sequitur…” I had assumed you were using that term according to its primary meaning, but now I wonder if you meant this use only as your limited meaning (the secondary one).

        You said – “…determinism and fatalism. They are not equivocal. Treating them equivocally is the error.” I think you meant they are not equal in meaning. But they are according to Webster’s above.

        You said – “Only ‘ii’ is fatalism” That is not true, since it is a denial of the primary definition for “fatalism” to establish only the second as legitimate.

        You did not answer my questions posed to understand your worldview. Are some answers for those coming?

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      6. The layperson’s definition you saw in the dictionary has an imprecision.

        Here are two statements:

        (1) “Future events are fixed in advance so that human beings cannot affect future events.”

        (2) “Future events are fixed in advance and human beings (and waterfalls, and meteoroids, and dogs, and angels, and whatever other things in creation) affect them to those fixtures.”

        What Webster’s listed as the primary definition sounds like #1, which would indeed be fatalism — a claim BEYOND determinism of “inefficacy.”

        But the definition given, depending on how one interprets, COULD be thought to include #2 as well. This would be in error, since #2 is not fatalistic. #2 upholds the efficacy of interim interactive objects as the efficacious means by which the fixed future unfolds. Since #2 upholds this, no “resignation” follows — under #2, for example, eager missions work is perfectly consonant with determinism.

        Per your other question, I’m here to discuss determinism vs. fatalism only, and not my personal Biblical worldview, so I’d prefer not to be sidetracked. I don’t find it important for this specific topic (even though you ostensibly do).

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      7. Stan, Perhaps I am a little slow, but I still think you are still rhetorically moving around the issue of determinism means everything is already set immutably. Was my decision set immutably that I should write this post to expose the logical weaknesses in your position. 🙂 When you said – “efficacy of interim interactive objects as the efficacious means by which the fixed future unfolds” you are once again falling back on perception language, in my view, that hints at non-determinism but can be defended by you as not meaning such.

        You never directly answered my questions – “Is there a real “ought” or just a perceived one that is not really real? What do you mean by “leap” and what authority do you have for such a “leap” being reasonable?” Can you make an attempt?

        You see, I get the feeling that your plan is to remain opaque in defending complete determinism so that it somehow gives a psychological rational for being the most reasonable explanation of reality. The fact that you do not want to expose how the authority of Scripture fits into your planned presentation of reality only confirms that opaque aspect of your planned defense of determinism. But its only a feeling, I have, at this point.

        You also seem to be rejecting a well accepted definition of fatalism. Is your authority for defining that term higher than Webster? Of course, we are talking about Theistic fatalism, so determination is actually only discussed to give the impression that God is able actually to make determinations, choices, between one thing from another. But no such choice is possible for God to make in Theistic fatalism, for all of reality just exists “determined” eternally, which means that no part of it ever moved from being undetermined to being determined. What’s “determined” will not change, or be changed, by me or you, though we “feel” we are making changes to reality from our perspective. Wouldn’t you agree?

        So we are all supposed to be professing Theistic Fatalists (or Determinists, if you’d rather) but pragmatic Open Theists (or Semi-Determinists, if you’d rather)! I prefer having my profession match my pragmatism! 🙂

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      8. Brian,

        You said, “You are once again falling back on perception language, in my view, that hints at non-determinism but can be defended by you as not meaning such.”

        Did you mean “Non-fatalism” here? Both #1 and #2 above are under determinism. Only #1 is fatalistic.

        You said, “Is there a real ‘ought’ or just a perceived one that is not really real?”

        I have no clue what “really real ‘ought'” means, to be frank. Qualifiers like “really real” are typically red flags for idiosyncratic stipulations.

        You said, “What do you mean by ‘leap’ and what authority do you have for such a ‘leap’ being reasonable?”

        I explained earlier what I meant by ‘leap’: “It is because of the classic is/ought problem, where ‘ought’s are non sequiturs from pure ‘is’s without value referents.” I am going out of my way to avoid committing to any such leap. Remember my remarks earlier: “We are not, at this time, lauding or condemning George nor Horace. Rather, we are merely proving, by this thought experiment, that fatalism is not equivocal with determinism. ”

        You said, “But its only a feeling, I have, at this point.”

        Please keep those feelings to yourself. Your musing about my motives contributes nothing to the conversation and is a distraction.

        You said, “You also seem to be rejecting a well accepted definition of fatalism. Is your authority for defining that term higher than Webster?”

        I explained to you why Webster’s primary definition was philosophically imprecise. Consider looking into, say, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

        You said, “What’s ‘determined’ will not change, or be changed, by me or you, though we ‘feel’ we are making changes to reality from our perspective. Wouldn’t you agree?”

        I make changes to reality all the time. When I click “Submit post,” I am making the following change: Where there once a lack of reply, there is now a reply.

        Changing “what’s determined” is a different matter entirely, and makes no coherent sense. In order to have a meaningful phrase “changing what’s determined,” you must have a “what’s determined.” But if this thing can be changed, then it isn’t “what’s determined” at all. As such, the phrase “changing what’s determined” entails a contradiction.

        It was determistic that you and I have this conversation. Every word of our conversation proceeded as strict functions of who we were while writing those posts, and our states at those times were strict functions of that which came before. Neither of us have changed “the fact of those things being deterministic.”

        But both of us changed the state of the thread. Both of us contributed to it. My actions changed neural activity in your brain, and your actions changed neural activity in my brain. These are all quite real.

        This is why, even under determinism, actions taken are efficacious. Real changes can be made. You and I proved that when we changed the Internet today by adding to it. And since actions taken are efficacious, fatalism — resignment from a feeling of inefficacy — is not a foregone conclusion.

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      9. Hi Stan! Thank you for providing your answers to my specific questions.

        The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy rejects your colloquial meaning of fatalism and offers three understandings. It believes the last one is outdated, but will not state why! Very interesting! However, it is clear that from their definition of fatalism that it means “that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do.”

        Here is there definition – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fatalism/
        Though the word “fatalism” is commonly used to refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some future event or events which are thought to be inevitable, philosophers usually use the word to refer to the view that we are powerless to do anything other than what we actually do. This view may be argued for in various ways: by appeal to logical laws and metaphysical necessities; by appeal to the existence and nature of God; by appeal to causal determinism. When argued for in the first way, it is commonly called “Logical fatalism” (or, in some cases, “Metaphysical fatalism”); when argued for in the second way, it is commonly called “Theological fatalism”. When argued for in the third way it is not now commonly referred to as “fatalism” at all, and such arguments will not be discussed here.

        I think you have clearly affirmed that definition in your dialog with me, even if you do not like the identity of that word for your view. And it appears you do not like to say everything is determined, though saying everything is done in a “deterministic” way is the same thing but with just a rhetorical twist, in my thinking.

        You think I am using “idiosyncratic stipulations”; perhaps that’s true in my attempt to understand what you are trying to say by yours. But I think you clearly affirmed there is no “ought” in your system, and you affirmed that you are “going out of [your] way to avoid committing to any such leap” to an “ought.” But you can forgive me when I think language like – “practicing conviction and dynamic goal-seeking” speaks to wanting to be seen as having a real “ought” in your life.

        And since I believe Scripture revelation is true and presents many clear “oughts” for our reality, I am going to make this my final comment for this conversation, unless you have a question for me. I wish you all the best, Stan, and for further enlightenment to come your way from the authority of God’s Word! Merry Christmas!

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    2. stanrock writes, “(1) Determinism says that every effect is a strict function of causes.

      (2) From this you can either say that (a) God is meticulously micromanaging all effects, or you can say that (b) he has a “let the flywheel spin” interest whereby all manner of things — things that are trivial, or even evil — can emerge through the chaos of secondary causation.”

      (1a) Theological Determinism says that every effect is under God’s control and is a strict function of primary (God induced) or secondary (naturally induced) causes.

      (2a) From this you can say that (a) God is meticulously micromanaging all effects according to His will, AND you can say that (b) he sometimes has a “let the flywheel spin” interest whereby all manner of things — things that are trivial, or even evil — can emerge through the chaos of secondary causation – but such effects are under God’s control and express His will.

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      1. Rhutchin, yeah, I think here we’d just have a semantic impasse about what “meticulous micromanagement” means.

        It’s true that every secondary-cause mosquito bite conforms to the superordinate will of God (since he could have prevent/stopped it, and deliberately chose not to).

        But my definition of “meticulous micromanagement” is only those mosquito bites that (1) are primary miracles, or (2) are secondary causation with hidden teleological prospects. If there is a 3rd kind of mosquito bite — secondary causation proceeding from God’s setups and God’s permissive interest but WITHOUT teleological prospect — I would posit that this 3rd kind is both according to the superordinate will of God while NOT being his meticulous micromanagement (though, again, he deliberately permitted it).

        We’ve talked about this before; you and I had similar theology here, but disagreed (in past discussions) on how best to talk about it.

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      2. rhutchin sites:
        Sproul does not say this – your citation is about control and not cause.

        Hi Rhutchin, hope your well today.
        I understand that you personally don’t see the Calvinist distinction of divine providence in terms of causation, where God “causes” events to obtain, but rather in terms of control. And if that is your view, and you embrace it, then far be if from me to insist you change your mind. I’m just your brother in all this.

        But if your view were really the consistent view across the spectrum of Calvinists, then there would be no real ongoing controversy. The very reason there is controversy is because, (perhaps unlike yourself), Calvinists do enunciate meticulous control in “causal” terms enough for the observer to recognize, that “causation” is a core part of the system. This is why over many years, William Lane Craig sites the underlying conception of Calvinism as Universal Divine Casual Determinism. If Dr. Craig is mistaken, then he has invested a multitude of time and energy in discussions with philosophically minded representatives of Calvinism, in which both he and they were operating under a false assumption of the concepts they were discussing. You’ll have to forgive me, but I would wonder why that many highly intelligent persons would carry on an ongoing dialog, based upon an initial false assumption that none of them were able to recognize.

        I understand that Calvinists get hit with disparagements and I can understand how one would become gun-shy after a while and think the reason for the controversies are simply because the non-calvinist Christian simply hates the Calvinist…or something similar to that. But that is certainly not the case for myself, and I don’t see it as a serious consideration in the vast majority of dialogs. I remember a story about a young brother who was a dedicated disciple of the “manifest sons of god” movement for many years . As it turned out, that movement dwindled in the late 80s and most of its advocates returned back into mainstream Christianity, at around the time the internet was becoming very popular. What I found very interesting in that story was that once he read some online articles by scholars on the doctrines inherent within that movement, he was totally shocked. He had sat under hundreds of hours of “manifest sons of god” teachings and never connected with them. I wonder if his experience is not all that uncommon.

        I envision a line, which I call the “continuum of determinism”. At the extreme left end of the line is the “indeterminist” position. At the extreme right hand end of the line is the “HARD” determinist position. And somewhere in a spectrum between the two positions we have “SOFT” determinism which includes “compatiblism”. The “HARD” determinist is typically called “HYPER” within the Calvinist fold. But for me what distinguishes Calvinism from mainstream Christianity is a general trend on the continuum of determinism that mainstream Christianity is not comfortable with, because of the implications that come with it, in regard to God’s role in evil events. I note that the vast majority of debates occur over the conception of God’s role in evil events. Since the preponderance of differences of opinion center on conceptions of determinism and God’s role in evil, and since those differences have existed perennially, that is evidence enough for me that my understanding of Calvinism is correct. But I do respect your sincerity, and I respect that you sincerely don’t see Calvinism that way.

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    3. rhutchin sites:
      The question here is, What does “all” mean?

      Hi Rhutchin, hope your well.
      Gordon Fee asks that question a little differently. He asks “What did the original author of the text mean?”. Fee notes that many theologies are based upon deriving a meaning from a text, which under scrutiny, would resolve to a meaning that the original author, in all probability couldn’t have been trying to make, or that the original audience of the text couldn’t have understood.

      This brings to light the power of extra-biblical beliefs which function as a lens through which data is interpreted. Take for example, the Galileo affair, where theologians asserted that the scriptures clearly teach a Geocentric Aristotelian solar system. Galileo discovered with his telescope, the movement of planets could be more accurately understood by the model Copernican expounded, where the earth and planets orbit the sun. This dispute could have been life threatening for Galileo, as he dared to question the process of exegesis used by the theologians. Galileo did not believe that X (a Geocentric system) was true. How then could the bible teach something that is false? While the theologians did believe X was true, and found verses and exegetical arguments to insist upon it. But Galileo recognized philosophical forces were driving the interpretation, which the theologians chose to deny. Thus, the theologian puts the cart before the horse, asserting the bible is the source of the doctrine, when in fact an extra-biblical belief controls his interpretation. Another way of saying this is that the concept of the sun orbiting the earth functioned as *cannon* for the theologians, because they accepted it as sacred and thereby held it as having the same authority as scripture.

      If a person is taught to accept X as sacred….for example, the doctrine of Universal Divine Causal Determinism; then that concept functions as *cannon* for that person. And that cannon will work as a lens through which all scripture is read, just as it did for the Catholic theologians who saw a Geocentric system in scripture, and couldn’t imagine any possible alternative, because to do so would compromise the sacred concept. And through its influence, it is quite understandable that someone would read the word “ALL” and interpret it as “SOME” without questioning if that was the meaning the original author of the text meant to write, because the reader is taught to interpret all scripture through the lens of Universal Divine Causal Determinism. And all alternative possible understandings are inconceivable.

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      1. Good morning br.d. You’re making great points. The only caveat to your last post in my mind is this.

        Theologians unfortunately make dogma both out of Biblical inferences and also scientific inferences. Dogma should only come from clear Biblical statements and scientifically tested and proven laws.

        If the Scriptures had clearly said that the sun orbits around the earth, Copernicus would have been wrong. The interpretations of theorized scientific observation must be made to conform to clear Scripture statements, just like inferences from Scripture must be made to confirm to objective testing of science.

        The Scriptures must also be seen as recording narration that uses scientifically imprecise phenomenal language to which lay people are accustomed. And Science must be exposed for making dogmatic statements out of theoretical models based on presuppositions that cannot be tested and proven.

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      2. Good morning Brianwagner,
        Thanks, and greetings!
        Yes, I agree. And I appreciate your statement about making dogma out of biblical inferences. It might be fair to say the scripture, as a genre of literature, was never intended as a text-book on…..say “biology” or some school of philosophy. And I can appreciate your watchfulness over attempts to push the scripture into representing a precision of scientific thought or dogma, God never intended it to represent. Perhaps this goes to the subject of scripture being co-opted to affirm unfalsifiable doctrines?

        And your last statement “theoretical models based on presuppositions that cannot be tested and proven.” reminded me of a humorous story of the French scientist Rene Blondlot who created a school and taught young men to see N-rays. I believe it was Einstein who requested that Blondlot teach him how to see the N-rays, because no other scientist could verify them in a laboratory. Blondlot instructed Einstein on the steps he used to verify scientifically that N-rays existed, with about 30 of Blondlot’s students all in agreement. Then Einstein asked if he could go through the steps himself with Blondlot and his disciples watching. He did, except, where there was a tool or glass that the Ray was supposed to shine through, Einstein replaced with a block of wood or other metal object. And at one point didn’t have the light source turned on. And yet Blondlot and his disciples all earnestly declared they saw the N-rays….because their brains had at that point been conditioned to see them, even when they weren’t really there. :-]

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      3. br.d. writes, “{Fee] asks “What did the original author of the text mean?”.”

        God is the original author of the text, the human writer was carried along by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we seek to harmonize any one text of Scripture with all other texts.

        Then, “Take for example, the Galileo affair, where theologians asserted that the scriptures clearly teach a Geocentric Aristotelian solar system.”

        I think this is wrong. It was the scientific establishment influenced by Aristotelian philosophy that had much to lose and opposed Galileo. The church was largely sympathetic to Galileo (after all, it was funding Galileo) – the Jesuits, in particular, sided with Galileo.

        You avoid the question asked, “What does ‘all’ mean?”

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  6. Good Lord’s day gentlemen. Posts like this one just make me smile. Leighton acknowledges that most Calvinists are evangelistic, now and throughout history. How could one not acknowledge such. It’s true. But then the old logic comes in and essentially says “Well that can’t be.” It makes no sense in the Calvinistic theology that say.

    Meanwhile, Calvinists just keep on preaching Christ and calling people everywhere to repent and believe. Just as we have throughout history, with the most notable evangelists in history being Calvinists.

    So y’all just keep on telling us we’re inconsistent and illogical. We’ll just smile, and keep telling people about Jesus and seeing people get saved. Oh, and here is our Reformed Sr. Pastor preaching just this morning a sermon “Redemption in Christ Jesus” from Romans 3:21-26. Note the invitation given too. http://twinoakschurch.org/sermons/

    🙂

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    1. Les! When you said – “most notable evangelists” do you mean Graham, Palau, Bright, Moody, Wesley? Are you claiming they were Calvinists?

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    2. No I was thinking more of men like Calvin (well noted for missions), John Eliot, David Brainerd, Edwards, Whitfield, Samuel Davies, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Spurgeon, Henry Martyn, David Livingstone, Francis Schaeffer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jim Kennedy, John MacArthur, John Piper…Is that enough?

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    3. Brian, you folks constantly telling us we can’t have our theology and 1. have assurance, 2. be evangelistic, 3. tell people God loves them and on and on is kinda like…

      Well I’m watching Cam Newton shred the Falcons defense to the tune of 246 yards and 3 TDs in the first half. There are still some critics who say he is not a good QB. He can’t win in the NFL due to this or that reason. Ok he says. They say this can’t be. But I just keep winning and doing what they say I can’t do.

      Kinda like that.

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      1. Hi Les, I give you permission to call me out if I say Calvinists don’t have “notable” examples of those with assurance of salvation, who are evangelistic, and who teach God loves everyone. But I will continue to call you out when you say “the most notable”. Ok? We should let God determine “the most notable”, I think.

        But I will keep thinking that believing Calvinism makes it impossible for a person to keep in the back of their minds that everyone to whom they present the gospel is equally given the opportunity to repent and believe the gospel, an opportunity from His gracious love presented to everyone. Having that in the back of my mind helps me love all I witness to with great hope and with a motivation of love for all, not just obedience to my Lord.

        And believing that the future is partly open and not completely determined, causes me to pray with more fervency, because I believe God can choose freely to move from allowing/causing one good thing to allowing/causing another good thing in answer to my prayer.

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      2. 🙂

        And, as both Robert (a non Calvinist) and I (a Calvinists) and orthodox Christians throughout history can attest, we don’t need a less than all knowing God to believe tha God can and indeed does answer our prayers.

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      3. Yes, Les, God is all knowing… knowing perfectly all He has determined and knowing perfecting all He hasn’t determined within the compass of His free-will and infinite understanding! Merry Christmas!

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      4. Of course you can “have your theology” and still have assurance and be evangelistic, but that doesn’t mean your actions logically derive from your theology. If I go to a homeless shelter and feed the poor every weekend, and when someone asks me “Why do you do this?” and I answer “When the tidal forces of the moon are just so, I’m compelled to be altruistic,” I’m being a little crazy in my theory about why I do something, but I’m still doing the right thing. Or say all my life I avoid poisonous spiders but when asked why I say “because if you get too close they turn into ponies and I hate ponies.” Again my actions end up being correct, but my beliefs for why I do them are not so logical.

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    4. Yo Les. You said “But then the old logic comes in and essentially says “Well that can’t be.”

      I really think you completely missed the entire point of this whole article, because that’s not it. Calvinists can act *inconsistently* with what they believe, and that’s what we Arminians thank God for. 😛 The point of the article is not what Calvinists actually *do* it’s what they would do if they were logically consistent with their beliefs. Thank God for Calvinists throughout the ages that simply obeyed Biblical admonitions instead of focusing on the logical outworking of determinism! If they want to then “tack on” determinism to their obedience to Biblical truth, we simply say “how you act is more important than why you think you act.” I would hope even a Calvinist would admit in a particularly lucid moment that you don’t need to believe determinism to do what Scripture tells us to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Discerner, no I get the point. It’s an old argument and a tired argument. One wonders why what Calvinists believe occupies so much of non Cals’ time and energy? After all, it’s acknowledged that our actions are biblical even if from a wrong basis according to non Cals. Ok. So what? You all say we start with an incorrect theology but lo and behold according to you and this article we act contrary to it.

        But I get it I think. I just don’t get so exercised about non Cals inconsistencies. For instance. Non Cals say the atonement actually atoned for or put away or removed all the sins of all people for all time, even unbelief. Logically that is universalism. But the non Cal says no. And he believes he has a biblical basis to deny he is a universalist. And I acknowledge most non Cal evangelicals are not universalists. I am also thankful the non Cal doesn’t act according to his view of the atonement. He evangelizes. Thank God for that. If he acted consistent with his view that Jesus paid for all sins of all time, he wouldn’t evangelize. But thankfully he lives inconsistent with his atonement view.

        I absolutely one does not need to believe in any form of determinism to do what scripture says to do. Many, many non Cal brothers do it every day.

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      2. I appreciate your thoughtful answer, however it evokes a strong feeling response for me.

        quote: Discerner, no I get the point. It’s an old argument and a tired argument. One wonders why what Calvinists believe occupies so much of non Cals’ time and energy?

        Really??!! But the argument I “worship and exalt the free will of man” is not an old tired argument?! The argument that choice means “I can boast for all eternity in my salvation” is not an old tired argument?! The argument that believing in real response ability means I am stealing God’s glory is not an old tired argument?! That argument that God giving us autonomy means we are “man centered” is not an old tired argument?! Brother! Equal scales and equal measures. Our defending these outrageous slanderous and illogical claims is what is “old and tired’?!

        quote: For instance. Non Cals say the atonement actually atoned for or put away or removed all the sins of all people for all time, even unbelief.

        No. This isn’t right. Unbelief is more than sin, it’s a state of being, it’s a spiritual condition. If faith is a condition of being forgiven, it doesn’t make “unbelief” the only unforgivable sin (which some are weirdly trying to deduce these days). Unbelief is a forgivable sin, if you change and have belief.

        quote: If he acted consistent with his view that Jesus paid for all sins of all time, he wouldn’t evangelize. But thankfully he lives inconsistent with his atonement view.

        Alright, so you claim. But I’ll never understand why I hear Calvinists make this completely illogical argument that the atonement is not conditional, when even they believe the elect were under the wrath of God. They completely doublespeak when they want to accuse us of “making men savable” in our theology, when they don’t apply their logic of the atonement having no conditions across the board of their own theology. If the atonement really meant it was a done work with no conditions, there could be no point in time the elect could *ever* be under the wrath of God. That’s just being consistent with your own logic; if you insist the atonement means “all sins are paid past tense forever once for all unconditionally” the elect *cannot* ever be under wrath, period.

        quote: one does not need to believe in any form of determinism to do what scripture says to do

        Then why spend so much effort teaching and defending determinism?!

        regards.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Les,

        You left out a particularly significant caveat with regard to the atonement in “non-Calvinistic” theology: the condition; “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood [a universal atonement according to John 1:29; 3:14, 15, 16, 17; 1 John 2:2], to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Rom. 3:25 ESV, emphasis added) The atonement was made for all, yes, but the function of that atonement is not applied apart from faith — which, ironically, is contrary to the Calvinistic notion of regeneration preceding faith, in which a person is regenerated and, thus, saved by the atonement applied to a person logically prior to his being “given” faith. Just sayin’.

        As a matter of fact, when Calvinists are charged as being inconsistent hyper-Calvinists concerning the atonement and its relation to justification — i.e., that people are eternally justified and eternally atoned for (in the hyper-Calvinist scheme) — you all rightly deny such by appealing to the conditional nature of both the atonement and justification being applied in time. Please afford us the same with regard to the atonement and its particular and not universal application by grace through faith in Christ.

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      4. Discerner,

        Calm down. I get that you get tired of some of the arguments Cals make. But peaking to your last comment, I nor most Cals I know don’t spend a whole lot of time defending our views except to counter the illogical and incessant attacks and misrepresentations of our views. But not a lot of time. Profs and pastors I know just teach and preach and shepherd mostly. This site exists to counter Cal views. SBC Today exists largely for the same reason. Yes unbelief is a state of being. It is also a sin. See Romans 14.

        And I did not say unbelief is an unforgivable sin. Read again brother. On the atonement, what actually happened on the cross. What of propitiation? What was accomplished? Actual to potential?

        Anyway after a quick reply to William, I’m retiring for the evening. You have a blessed evening.

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      5. William, of course Rom. 3:23. Yes received by faith. Those for whom Christ did not propitiate then father will not have faith. Their sins were not atoned for.

        And I do afford you the same regard. As I said above, we do not think you all are actually universalists. We believe that you live contrary to your theology…same as you all apparently all think we do as well.

        Have a great evening.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I appreciate your kind tone in referencing my article above. Obviously I think you misunderstood or at least misrepresented what my article said. By isolating one paragraph from my article out of the context of everything else I said you prop up a “Calvinistic straw man” to tear down. You conclude the following: “If you go back and re-read the Calvinistic explanation posted above you will notice that there is no difference in the actual claims of the Calvinist and the Theistic Fatalist.” If you had read my entire article it defends the exact opposite proposition that you make. The difference between a Calvinist and and a Fatalist is that a Fatalist would care nothing about evangelism since all is “pre-determined.” Theologically speaking they are “Hyper-Calvinists.” A Calvinist believes that God’s ordained means for saving the elect involve activity on the part of the believer through gospel proclamation. And as my article went on to say; the Apostles, as well as church history, bear this out. Calvinists and Fatalists do agree on some things. Just as Calvinists and Arminians do agree on some things. But there are many differences as well.

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    1. Shane, I did read your entire article and it was well written.

      You said that I misrepresented your article when I claimed there is no difference in the actual claims of the Calvinist and the Theistic Fatalist, but that’s not all I said. I argued that there is no difference in the belief that God ordains the ends as well as the means…in other words both would affirm God is in meticulous deterministic control over the ends and the means. But the only difference (which I DID acknowledge) is how one chooses to apply that common belief. Hyperists choose not to care about evangelism and good Cals (like you) choose to care about evangelism but you both have the SAME view of theistic determinism (which is what you pointed to as if it was a distinction).

      So, why do some theistic determinists choose to be pro-evangelistic and others choose to be hyper anti-evangelistic if not because that is exactly what God determined for them to choose, Shane?

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      1. Pastor Flowers writes, “So, why do some theistic determinists choose to be pro-evangelistic and others choose to by hyper anti-evangelistic if not because that is exactly what God determined for them to choose,…”

        That God is at work in His people seems to be acknowledged by all – A pastor or evangelist speaks of God calling him into the ministry (of course, some, under sin’s deception, make such claims when God has never called them). People in general speak of praying for God’s leading in a decision. Believers all seem to believe that God is active in their lives and if not determining fully what they do (as Calvinists say), at least helping to determine what they do (as non-Cals say). All believers are somewhat deterministic in their thinking.

        What about the anti-evangelistic – those whom God has not called to the ministry. Has God determined their disobedience by not calling them. Well, of course. God leaves many people to their own desires and rather than pulling them one way or the other toward Him, He merely restrains them so that they can only go one way or the other away from Him.

        God is either actively involved in a person’s life determining them for good or God is passively uninvolved in a person’s life restraining them from greater evil than that which they desire.

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      2. Leighton, in response to your question: “So, why do some theistic determinists choose to be pro-evangelistic and others choose to be hyper anti-evangelistic if not because that is exactly what God determined for them to choose, Shane?”

        This is, in essence, the very same question Paul’s opponent raises in Romans 9 (which some have already mentioned). If God is truly as sovereign as we say, then “Why does He still find fault, for who resists His will?” Of course, whatever Paul’s answer to that question is should also be our answer to that question, since ultimately, we want to be informed by the Bible beyond anything else. Paul’s answer was not, “Yes, you are destined for Hell so don’t worry about it.” Rather, Paul’s answer was, “Who are you, O Man, to question God?” I don’t think it’s an accident that Paul uses the phrase “O Man” because in so doing he blatantly points out our status as creatures contrasted with God’s status as the Sovereign Creator. Paul never questions that God determines what comes to pass. And if Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration doesn’t question this…..Should we?

        Of course this raises many questions for us; as you have done quite well in your article. One question is this: How do we respond to the information we’re given about God’s absolute sovereignty? Paul’s response was still to evangelize and to try and “persuade” unbelievers to come to Christ. How could he do this when he knew full well that God was sovereign over all things? I think the answer lies in the fact that Paul submitted to what the Lord said, rather than arguing that God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility didn’t make sense. Logic can be a good servant, but it makes a lousy master. At the end of the day our logic will only take us so far, then we need to submit to what the Word says and simply admit that many things about God are “past finding out.” Does this mean my response to God’s sovereignty was pre-determind by God? Yes. Does it mean someone else’s rejection of this is pre-determined as well? Yes. But it might also be pre-determined that the rejector changes their view and comes to embrace a Biblical view of God’s sovereignty. And the Bible never calls me to try and figure out who God will change. The Bible simply calls me to proclaim the truth and leave the results in God’s hands.

        So why does God reveal things to us that baffle us? There are several reasons, but the simplest reasons are that it glorifies Him and it humbles us. My conclusion is that while it is good to wrestle with these questions, my final answer must be to submit to the teaching of Scripture and live my life and base my beliefs in accordance with this truth.

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      3. Shane,

        Thank you for your reply. Appealing to Paul’s rebuttal to a hardened Jew in Romans 9 has become the “escape hatch” for Calvinists on this problem, as it was for me for many years.

        But I believe this is a very bad case of eisegesis. In my commentary over Romans 9, I go through the entire text line by line to show that the interlocutor is not in reference to:

        1. A reprobate born unloved and unwanted by their Creator who has no hope of willingly responding to the gracious appeal of the gospel.

        2. Nor is it (as your application above suggests) a hyper evangelistic theistic determinist who has no hope of wanting to evangelize because God decreed it to be that way.

        No, the interlocutor is an Israelite who once was able to see, hear, understand and turn to God for healing but has now (because of his own free choices) grown calloused (Acts 28:27-28), and God has judicially hardened them (sent them a spirit of stupor, 11:7-14) in their rebellion to accomplish redemption through their disobedience.

        The exact same interlocutor in Romans 9 appeared in Chapter 3:1-10 too, and clearly that is a hardened Jew being used by God in his rebellion in order to bring about God’s redemptive plan.

        So, for Calvinists to take the example of God judicially blinding a group of already calloused Israelites in their rebellion so as to accomplish redemption for the world, including those very ones who have been hardened, as an example to prove that God meticulously determines every desire, thought, and action of all creatures is beyond the pale. It is the textbook example of eisegesis.

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      4. The problem is Shane, the Scripture does not teach that everything is predetermined! You have no clear reference for such. And all the conditional statements, universal invitations, and verses about God still making determinations after creation, make such a belief in the predetermination of all things just plain wrong and an view that distorts the perspicuity and authority of Scripture!

        The “Man” in Romans 9 was resisting God’s will as evident by Paul’s response. Paul’s rebuke was so that that hypothetical man would humble himself under God’s sovereignty, because Paul believed God’s mercy was available to him to do so (Rom 11:32)! That God’s plan includes His suffering loss, is clearly seen in the incarnation! So belief in the resisting of His will should be a no brainer! But belief in His loving provision for all to have the opportunity to receive His gift of mercy is a no brainer also!

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      5. Brian — Not only do I agree with you that man can resist God; I would even further and say that resisting God is ALL MAN EVER DOES in his natural condition. The question is whether or not God can and does OVERCOME this natural resistance in the case of some. Clearly He does in the case of the elect. Regarding Rom. 9, you did a wonderful job of changing Paul’s answer to the question for him. Paul’s response was not to tell the man he has it within him to change. He answers “Who are you to question God?”

        As for your statement: “Scripture does not teach that everything is predetermined! You have no clear reference for such.” This is simply absurd as evidenced by some of the passages I cited earlier (Eph. 1:11 for example). You may not like the idea of God’s absolute sovereignty; but you cannot rightly argue that such a belief is not taught in Scripture.

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      6. I do like the idea of God’s absolute sovereignty as it is Scripturally defined, Shane! You seem to like to make Eph 1:11 say more than it actually says about God’s present working with all things according to His plan from His desire. But what I itemized as His clear revelation of how He is presently doing that work should not be undermined by the false statement that all things were predetermined before creation!

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      7. I do receive the replies vie email and read along. When I have a few minutes, I’ll jump in.

        “In my commentary over Romans 9, I go through the entire text line by line to show that the interlocutor is not…”

        Ok, you have your commentary. Of course you are aware that Lin by line commentaries have been written over the centuries expounding exactly what Shane has put forth. Really so many commentaries on Shane’s view that the number is beyond counting.

        So there’s your commentary and there are other commentaries. Simply waving off Shane’s (and thousands of other commentaries) as “beyond the pale” is well, beyond the pale. We disagree on the interpretation. We each have scriptural reasons for our respective views. Well ok.

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    2. There’s a subtle difference going on between two claims that sound alike when you say:

      The difference between a Calvinist and and a Fatalist is that a Fatalist would care nothing about evangelism since all is “pre-determined.”

      There is argument one: Because all things are determined I should not care.
      Then there is argument two: Because all things are determined my lack of caring is unalterable.

      I would agree argument one is flawed, but two seems to stand. This is quite a puzzle to me under determinism: How can the man in Romans 9 say anything *but* “Why did you make me like this?” That’s the way he was *made.* In other words, God’s response should be “Yep, that’s my pot for destruction there saying exactly what I decreed it to.” But Paul seems to get frustrated and say “This logic doesn’t work.” The question is why doesn’t it work? I try to get right down to it with no “BS’ing” in this short commentary on Romans 9 https://dizernerblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/an-arminian-dares-to-read-through-the-text-of-romans-9/

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      1. Leighton, while Paul may be addressing a hardened Jew, it’s important to notice the example Paul uses of “determinsim.” It is of Pharaoh that Paul, quotes GOD in saying: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and compassion on whom I have compassion.” (vs. 15) And Pharaoh was not a hardened Jew, he was pagan King. Paul then goes onto say in the very next verse: “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” Those verses alone drive a nail in the coffin of your view. This passage is not an “escape hatch” for Calvinists, nor is it eisegesis. And you and I both know that Paul argues in Romans that all (both Jew and Gentile) are guilty before God and deserving of judgment. Furthermore, Romans 9 is not the only place in Scripture where God’s absolute sovereignty is taught. “He ordains all things after the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11) “For no one can stay his hand or say to Him ‘what have you done’” (Dan. 4:35) “And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48) It seems as though the absolute sovereignty of God was rarely questioned in the early church. They simply accepted it as fact. I suspect living under Roman rule gave them a much better understanding of a sovereign King than most of us have.

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      2. The “I will have mercy on who I will have mercy” quote is not in reference to Pharaoh. It was a quote taken from Exodus when the Israelites were being unfaithful but God mercied them in order to carry out his promise

        See Rm 3…God promise doesn’t depend on the faithfulness of Israel.

        Please take time to read the commentary as I don’t have time to restate it all here, but I assure you Paul is not support theistic determinism in this diatribe. The fact that you acknowledge the interlocutor is a hardened Jew virtually disavows the entire Calvinistic application of this text as proof for their soteriological position. For if its a Jew God desires to be saved (9:1-3; 10:1; 21; 11:14-23) but who grew calloused over time (not born rejected/reprobate) then the objection were raising has NOTHING to do with the objection you’re applying it to.

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      3. In veses 17-18, Paul applies the concept to Pharoah.”For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

        Maybe Paul should have consulted with you first 😉

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      4. You really need to read the commentary, not because it will convince you of anything, but because comments like this reveal you have no clue how we interpret Paul. I say that with respect, but in order to engage we need to understand each other first.

        The Exodus event with the golden calf is an Historical example of God mercying Jews when they deserved to be killed so as to accomplish his promise through them.

        In Pauls day however God is hardening, instead of mercying, the rebellious Jews to accomplish that same purpose. Pharaoh is a foreshadowing of this event, for just as God hardened rebellious Pharaoh to accomplish the first Passover, so too God hardened rebellious Israel to accomplish the real Passover. (Irony at its finest)

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      5. So unless I agree with you, then I have “no clue how to interpret Paul”? Does that just apply to me or to the numerous Bible scholars who also disagree with you? This sounds very prideful. I think we should be able to disagree more amiably than that.

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      6. Shane, you misread my comment. I said you have no clue how we interpret Paul in Rom 9 which makes it difficult to engage over our actual points of disagreement. (I.e. We talk past each other)

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      7. Shane, please let me know that you understood my comments rightly because I don’t want you leaving thinking that I said what you represented me saying above. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my greatest desires is to remain amiable in conversations with my brethren.

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  8. Shane,

    By your comments it appears that you are confusing “sovereignty” with **complete control of every action and thought”.

    You ASSUME that sovereignty means that God directly and completely controls every action and thought” of every person. But THAT is not sovereignty.

    In the Bible the sovereignty of God means that ****He can do as He pleases in any and all situations**** and that no one can stop him from doing something that he purposes or decides to do. We all believe in sovereignty when we pray (e.g. if we are praying for the healing of a seriously ill person, we will pray for that person to be healed knowing that God can do so if He chooses to do so, He can also choose not to heal that person, THAT is sovereignty, that the decision is up to Him).

    “It seems as though the absolute sovereignty of God was rarely questioned in the early church.”

    Yes, they believed that God was sovereign, not that he directly controlled every thought and action. It is interesting that even your own illustration undercuts your assumption about sovereignty and supports the biblical notion:

    “They simply accepted it as fact. I suspect living under Roman rule gave them a much better understanding of a sovereign King than most of us have.”

    Look at any King in history (including Roman Emperors), any “sovereign King” as you put it, and none of them directly controlled every action and thought of the people they were sovereign over. These Kings had power and authority, including sometimes the power of life and death over subjects. But they did not completely control their subjects. Subjects could still rebel, question the King, even assassinate the King.

    These Kings had authority over their subjects, but not total control.

    So your illustration fails to support your assumption that sovereignty means total control. It never has meant that, either in history with Kings and their subjects or in scripture with God and human persons.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Shane,

    You made a comment earlier, that also contradicts the notion that sovereignty means that God completely controls the thoughts and actions of people:

    “Not only do I agree with you that man can resist God; I would even further and say that resisting God is ALL MAN EVER DOES in his natural condition.”

    Shane if God directly and completely controls the thoughts and actions of people, then how are these people resisting God???

    You say that is ALL that they do, how are they resisting all the time if God is completely in control?

    Or put it another way, how are they resisting all the time if God **is** sovereign?

    How is their resisting all the time compatible with God being sovereign???

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    1. Their resistance of God is compatible with the sovereignty of God the same that Pharoah’s was. The Bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and it also says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. As for your earlier statement about Roman emperors not having complete control over their subjects, I would obviously agree with you. You pushed my analogy beyond the limits of what any analogy will do. All analogies we use to try and understand God will eventually break down. I simply meant that those living under Roman rule understood sovereignty better than most of us today…… As for your statement that I was confusing sovereignty with determinism; that was the reason I used the phrase “absolute” sovereignty. Eph. 1:11 says that God “ordains all things after the counsel of His will.” You say that God has the ability to do anything, but chooses not to. If this is true, then He is still determining what comes to pass. If God has the ability to change your heart, then CHOOSES not to do it; then He is determining that you stay unregenerate. The only way you can eliminate God’s absolute sovereignty is to limit His power to intervene (not just His desire to).

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      1. Your Calvinist “slip” is showing, Shane! 🙂 You said – “Eph. 1:11 says that God ‘ordains all things after the counsel of His will.’” Is that from a new Calvinist translation that I haven’t seen yet, 🙂 or just what you think that you see beneath the surface of what Paul actually said? And if you are to be consistent with your subconscious reworking of the text, you should have said “God ordained”, if you are tying to prove from this text that all things have been predetermined. But the Holy Spirit must have allowed the truth to creep out, for the verse is about what God is doing now… He is “working with” all things, and one determination for those in Christ, but no further details about His plan, like how detailed or open it might be.

        The verse only talks about one thing having been “ordained” for those who are “in Christ”… that they will receive His inheritance for sure!

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      2. “Works” all things after the counsel of His will can also be “ordains” – And you said “this verse only talks about one thing” – I think your conclusion is odd because the verse says “all things.” I do agree with you that those in Christ will receive the inheritance for sure! And why is that? And how did they come to be “in Christ”? According to vs. 4 it’s because “he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.” 😉 — It’s been nice chatting with you all. I must go for now. Blessings to you.

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      3. Verse 13-14 tell us how and when we become in Christ, Shane. Verse 4 only tell us what He has chosen for those in him to become–“holy and blameless”. In other words, he is saying those who are in him by faith (vs 1-2) have been predestined to sanctification. We get in him through faith by the word of truth (vs 13-14)

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      4. Pastor Flowers writes, “Verse 4 only tell us what He has chosen for those in him to become–“holy and blameless”. v4 also provides a timeframe for the choice that God made, “before the creation of the world.” Brian W. would say that God choose those who would eventually come to be in Christ but God, not being omniscient, could not know these people, as individuals, before the creation of the world. You, however, seem to have taken the position that God is omniscient and knew those He choose before the foundation of the world by name, rank, and serial number. Thus, God chose specific individuals – we can call these people His elect – whose destiny was to be holy and blameless (i.e., saved). These would be distinct from those who were not chosen by God to become holy and blameless – the reprobate.

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      5. Shane, maybe it will help to remember that the only ones to choose from before creation were the members of the Godhead! Paul is speaking anachronistically in Eph 1:4, and, as Leighton pointed out, was emphasizing what we have to look forward to as part of the spiritual blessings for being in Christ.

        A good illustration that might help would be like a Jewish Christian saying to another Jewish Christian in Paul’s day, “God chose us in Abraham, before Israel became a nation, that we should live before our Messiah King in the Millennium!”

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      6. Also, Shane, Look at Rom 9:17 again. Why did God harden Pharaoh? Sounds to me like God hardened and raised up Pharaoh so a more universal invitation of salvation could be sent out throughout the earth.

        And would it be possible that the hardening came after Pharaoh, perhaps as a young man, had rejected God’s mercy, which he could have received, having been enabled to by the enlightenment of God. But having rejected, he justly now could be fitted for destruction, at least temporarily, and to be sovereignly used to display God’s power and to provide opportunity for more to receive God’s drawing mercy!

        Maybe as Pharaoh sank beneath the waves of the Red Sea, God enlightened him once more and this time he freely cried out for mercy! The hardened priests used to deliver up Jesus for His work of salvation got another chance (cf. Acts 6:7).

        God be merciful to me a sinner has always been the universal sinner’s prayer of faith available to all mankind when enlightened and convicted by God!

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      7. brianwagner writes, “God be merciful to me a sinner has always been the universal sinner’s prayer of faith available to all mankind when enlightened and convicted by God!”

        Actually, it is available to all people even without the enlightenment and conviction by God. It’s just that depraved man will not avail himself of the sinner’s prayer unless God first enlightens him and then convicts him of his sin. We know that God enlightens and convicts His elect (given all the letters written to His elect) but does He do so for the reprobate? Only by presumption which does not establish anything. Much like your ruminating about Pharaoh – “Sounds to me like…would it be possible that…Maybe as Pharaoh sank…”

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      8. That to which a person cannot avail themself is not available to them. This is analytical.

        (Thankfully, Romans 11:7+11 supplies the syllogism that the unelect are not necessarily beyond recovery.)

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      9. Hi Stan, I believe Paul’s discussion of God’s use of universal revelation in Rom. 1-2, creation and conscience, makes it possible and available for all to pray that sinners prayer! Compare Elihu’s pre-Scriptures instruction on God’s drawing of mankind (Job 33:14-30).

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      10. brianwagner writes, “I believe Paul’s discussion of God’s use of universal revelation in Rom. 1-2, creation and conscience, makes it possible and available for all to pray that sinners prayer! ”

        The key term here is, “possible.” If it were indeed possible for a person to pray the sinner’s prayer (having been enlightened, convicted, endowed with faith, etc.), could such a person refuse to pray that prayer? Praying the sinner’s prayer should be a no-brainer to those enlightened, convicted, etc. Well, that has been the subject of debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists for some time.

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      11. Hi Roger, Don’t forget the four Gospels, written to unbelievers to be used by God as part of what He uses to enlighten everyone! Praise His name!

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      12. brianwagner writes, “Don’t forget the four Gospels, written to unbelievers to be used by God as part of what He uses to enlighten everyone!”

        Yep, part of enlightenment. We might also conclude that faith is conveyed by those gospels and even conviction of sin. Incredibly, all the unbelievers who hear the gospel preached do not avail themselves of the sinner’s prayer. How is that possible? The answer to that has consumed Calvinists and non-Calvinists for many years. To those who did come to believe, by whatever process, God had many letters written to encourage them to add to their faith by renewing their minds, etc.

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      13. brianwagner writes, “Freed will,”

        That should seal the deal. Any person who will has been freed from sin (plus all the rest) would certainly pray the sinner’s prayer which many do. Yet, incredibly, it is claimed that some do not. How is that possible? More reasonable to believe that they were never really convicted of sin, or freed from sin, or received faith.

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      14. But you still reject God’s will, Roger, after being given a freed will… why? And there you have your answer. I am sad you reject that logic!

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      15. brianwagner writes, “But you still reject God’s will…after being given a freed will… why?”

        Thus, the point of contention – What explains the rejection of God’s will by those whose will He has freed? Some reject the salvation God offers while some do not. Then, some of those who accept God’s salvation continue to sin whereupon the Arminian concluded that one could lose his salvation. Certainly, the full counsel of Scripture needs to be consulted to sort these things out.

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      16. You have sidestepped the question… Roger, if you can reject, or accept freely, God’s will after having your will freed up and confirmed in its freedom by regeneration (in your view), a person before regeneration can also be understandably, for the same reasons as you, also accept or reject God’s will after having been freed up through God’s enlightenment and conviction!

        You just have to freely choose to accept the logic and Scripture truth of this and reject the unScriptural teaching from Calvinism that rejects all free-will, even for God and for believers too (if you’d think about it).

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      17. brianwagner writes, “if you can reject, or accept freely, God’s will after having your will freed up and confirmed in its freedom by regeneration (in your view), a person before regeneration can also be understandably, for the same reasons as you, also accept or reject God’s will after having been freed up through God’s enlightenment and conviction!”

        Setting aside the issue of regeneration, there are two issues. Can some people who are enlightened, convicted of sin, instilled with faith, have their will freed from sin, etc. really choose to reject salvation when others equally enabled accept salvation? If yes, how is that possible? Has anyone offered an explanation (other than the Calvinists who conclude that those who reject salvation were never enabled in the first place)?

        The person who accepts salvation has certainly been regenerated (the timing of that regeneration now being irrelevant). Why do such people still sin? Paul addresses this in Romans 7 and instructs, in Romans 12, the believer to renew the mind. Regeneration has started the process; the believer now continues that process – obviously not perfectly or sinlessly.

        Then, ‘You just have to freely choose to accept the logic and Scripture truth of this and reject the unScriptural teaching from Calvinism that rejects all free-will, even for God and for believers too (if you’d think about it).”

        Free will is not the issue, is it? Do you not say that all people are enabled with a free will to accept or reject. If two people have free will and one freely accepts and the other just as freely rejects, then free will cannot explain how those different decisions were made – some other factor has come into play. What do you propose as that factor?

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      18. Once again Roger, and for the last time in this discussion, rejection for the same number of reasons you reject God’s will, though your will is even regenerated and able to accept! Prayerfully ask for enlightment to see the logic of this answer.

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      19. Brian,

        You and I may quibble about the particulars of possibility and openness/closedness of past and future, human vs. divine vantage points, the nature of God’s future knowledge and our wills, etc.

        But on this we are aligned: Paul proclaims in Acts 17 that there is a universal childhood of all mankind, and that God seeks relationship with that entire superset (not merely those of the special childhood of the elect)…. contra Calvinism.

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      20. stanrock writes, “Paul proclaims in Acts 17 that there is a universal childhood of all mankind, and that God seeks relationship with that entire superset (not merely those of the special childhood of the elect)…. contra Calvinism.”

        Or it could be that God seeks a relationship only with those He chose before the foundation of the world and this explains why some come to belief and others do not. This would be consistent with Calvinism.

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      21. Those he chose and called are the elect. Romans 11:7+11 yields a syllogism wherein the unelect aren’t necessarily beyond recovery. Calvinism must either reject this syllogism somehow or it must modify its historical assertion of God’s plan re: election/unelection.

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      22. stanrock writes, “Those he chose and called are the elect. Romans 11:7+11 yields a syllogism wherein the unelect aren’t necessarily beyond recovery. Calvinism must either reject this syllogism somehow or it must modify its historical assertion of God’s plan re: election/unelection.”

        No. Calvinism need only identify God as the cause of man’s recovery and not man himself. Your comment seems to suggest that man can be the cause of his recovery – this conclusion not necessarily so.

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      23. Rhutchin, you wrote:

        “No. Calvinism need only identify God as the cause of man’s recovery and not man himself.”

        Incorrect. Calvinism’s recognition of God as the cause of man’s recovery does not resolve its conflict with the syllogism yielded by Romans 11:7+11. In short, Calvinism says things that contradict this syllogism, so again, its options are to deny the syllogism somehow or start saying different things (or, I suppose, ignore the syllogism).

        You wrote: “Your comment seems to suggest that man can be the cause of his recovery – this conclusion not necessarily so.”

        I don’t know why you thought my comment suggested this. A man’s steps are not his own.

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      24. No Roger, it could not be that way unless you twist the meaning of what Paul said about what God ordained with the purpose that men would seek, touch and find God. Acts 17:26-27.

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      25. brianwagner writes, “it could not be that way unless you twist the meaning of what Paul said about what God ordained with the purpose that men would seek, touch and find God. Acts 17:26-27.”

        Acts 17
        26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
        27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

        Paul says, “…perhaps…” (NIV) but the sense seems to be that would it not necessarily happen. We seem to have agreed that enlightenment and conviction of sin are necessary as well as faith, etc. So, we should not read this thinking that everyone would just up and reach out to God. Don’t we agree that all do not seek God or reach out to Him? How do I twist the meaning? The conundrum here is not that God planned the circumstances for all people to reach out to Him but that only some actually do so. God arranged things so that people would freely seek Him; but God then says through the Psalms that none seek Him – so depraved is man. You cannot exegete Acts 17 apart from the rest of Scripture, to which I know you agree, but you seem to ignore so much in the Scriptures in your comment.

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      26. Do your own translation, Roger! The key is that God’s purpose is clearly established for seeking and the possibilities for really touching and finding (even though difficult with such little light) truly exists.

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      27. brianwagner writes, “The key is that God’s purpose is clearly established for seeking and the possibilities for really touching and finding (even though difficult with such little light) truly exists.”

        To that all agree. Yet, elsewhere, God tells us that none seek Him. God provided favorable conditions for anyone to reach out to Him. What happened? None sought Him. If even one person did seek God, how was that possible except through God’s grace? What other explanation do we have?

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      28. The context, Roger, in Rom 3 is a limited one, for even you agree that your “elect” start seeking. And as you recognized, it does take God’s initiative for man to be enabled to seek.

        That gracious enablement to seek is offered to all at least once, but the ability to stop seeking also remains until God gives regeneration to those who first receive His mercy while being enlightened during their grace enabled search.

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      29. brianwagner writes, “The context, Roger, in Rom 3 is a limited one, for even you agree that your “elect” start seeking. And as you recognized, it does take God’s initiative for man to be enabled to seek.”

        Right, “… it does take God’s initiative for man to be enabled to seek.” Absent God’s initiative – His choice – no one seeks Him.

        Then, “That gracious enablement to seek is offered to all at least once, but the ability to stop seeking also remains until God gives regeneration to those who first receive His mercy while being enlightened during their grace enabled search.”

        That is basically your opinion. The initial condition is that no one seeks God. That God enables some to seek Him is evident in the acceptance by those of His salvation. What about the remainder? If a person is not seeking God and never observes God, then did God enable them to seek Him? You may presume that God did, but presumption is not exegesis. From Acts 17, you might reasonable conclude that God provides opportunity for men to seek Him through the conditions described but teasing out enablement is more than the text allows.

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      30. Your opinion, Roger, or my opinion… I will let others judge who has the more exegetical, clear biblical support and which of us is making theological presumptions with no biblical support!

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    2. Robert asked, “… if God directly and completely controls the thoughts and actions of people, then how are these people resisting God??? ”

      Depraved man’s mind is naturally at enmity with God as this is the condition of his birth so man’s natural desire is to resist God. God has complete control over these desires and can choose to intervene to change those desires such that a person would desire Him or God can choose to exert no influence on the man allowing man to pursue his depraved desires to the extent that God chooses.

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      1. How can it be that people “refuse” to do God’s will, but it’s God’s will that they refuse? So God’s will is paradoxically against his own will. Can you use refuse in a sentence where the people spoken of cannot do the action they are refusing? Like “the man refused to sprout wings and fly”?

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      2. It is my will (it conforms to several interests within my interest set) that my floor employee George pay attention to the belt conveying pallets of eggs; I’ve reminded him time and time again not to get distracted talking to other floor employees, but he keeps doing it. I notice a pallet is misaligned and, if the belt is not stopped, it will hit a gate and topple off; it is my will (it conforms to other interests within my interest set) to bide my time. I notice that George isn’t paying attention, and we’re going to lose the whole pallet. It is my will (it conforms to the optimization of my total interest set) that the pallet topple off as a natural consequences lesson for George, in addition to formal reprimand. It works. George subsequently shaped up, and is now a model employee and going places. My will is satisfied.

        Notice the parentheticals. “Will” has different definitions.

        To be precise, “want/will” has 6 philosophically/theologically distinct definitions, whereby it is possible to “want/will” something in one sense, and NOT “want/will” that same thing in another sense. Apparent contradictions can be resolved through explicating distinctions where there was once sense equivocation.

        Google “stanrock evil” for a breakdown of the 6 senses of “want/will” and how this relates to the plan of God.

        Google “stanrock untangling” for more about resolving apparent contradictions by sense de-equivocation.

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      3. Yea but everything you described is “as if” George has true autonomy. Consider the following:

        It is my will that George have no will but think that he does. It is my will that George have a fundamental flaw—that does not flow from anything autonomous in George, but rather is specifically inbuilt by me. It is my will that George learn to correct this flaw by “refusing” to change his behavior, which I also willed for him to do. Then I (cleverly) don’t correct George so that George learns from his mistakes (which I gave him and also caused him to fix).

        Now what did George refuse to do? He “refused” to do my will. But he in actuality DID my will.

        And how was my “will” ever refused when I willed the whole thing? By George. Who did my will.

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      4. Or, George did get embarrassed by the lost palette of eggs, but because of his free will, he refused my will that he humble himself and become a more obedient employee, and instead, he quit the job altogether, which I knew was also a possibility, by George! ☺

        God’s will does include opportunities for true loss to be possible, even for Himself, for the purpose of accurately displaying His nature in man, created in His image! Determinism can not have a God who has a free will!

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      5. i was with you until this: Determinism can not have a God who has a free will!

        How do you reckon? I can’t follow that, it seems like determinism simply means there is one will alone.

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      6. Good morning David! By determinism I was assuming a well accepted definition of all things predetermined eternally. God certainly has the freewill and power to predetermine all things for a limited period of reality. He just has not done so for human history and future. ☺

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      7. I don’t see how determinism logically means God has no free will. God’s free will could be what determines all things.

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      8. Hi David, Determinism in its basic definition has no present or future tense events that are not already “fixed”. So you are correct that free will is involved in what God has, is, and will determine, or – “what determines all things”. But determinism is what God’s eternally locked-in will has determined for all things.

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      9. I’m confused by your definitions. I think this is a good straight-forward one to go off of from wiki:

        Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human interactions, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.

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      10. That definition, David, is somewhat confusing… but it basically says the same thing I am saying. The phrase – “no other event” means everything is “fixed” and this is true “for every event.”

        Of course the conversation invariably leads back to the first “cause” or the first “event” that encompasses the original “conditions” from which everything else becomes fixed. We label that “event” or “cause” God.

        But in determinism even God is not a free-will being that “changes” events that flow from His fixed will for all reality. We may have the perception that He is making free-will changes, but that is just a predetermined perception that does not actually truthfully conform to the reality dictated by determinism.

        If you want to get into the weeds with how philosophy defines determinism – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/determinism-causal/ 🙂

        If you want to take over the accepted definition by popularizing your/our own, then we can call it free-wheeling determinism, where everything is not yet fixed in reality, though there are already some limitations to divine and human free will imposed by already made divine determinations and by both divine and human natures.

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      11. God can have free will under a deterministic scheme, so far as I can tell—his one free will act of what all things will and must be, is the determiner. You could, I suppose, argue that that means it was not free if it could not have been otherwise, and determined means it could not have been otherwise; but whatever realm that decision is made in by God’s will, it’s not the realm any created thing could understand. Thus *creation* would be determined by God’s free will. (Obviously you know I don’t believe that, and think God does indeed change his mind, and withholds future knowledge from his *relational* self out of the sanctity of free will).

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      12. I think we are on the same page, David! Thanks!

        You said – “You could, I suppose, argue that that means it was not free if it could not have been otherwise, and determined means it could not have been otherwise;” That is what I would indeed argue that the Calvinist means when he uses the term “divine determinism”.

        The Calvinist cannot even have a moment in God’s reality where something was not determined and then after that moment it all became determined. For the Calvinist cannot have any sequence in God’s nature. So the word “determined” is really misleading, for it infers a previously undetermined state and a sequence.

        The Molinist at least believes in a sequential reality of God where God freely chooses between possible creations and “then” makes a determination for one creation that includes all the freewill divine and freewill human decisions that He wants for displaying His glory. But the result is practically the same as the Calvinist, for after that determination is made, everything in human history, even for God, is now fixed, even all of our perceptions of free-will, which in reality no longer exists!

        It really has a lot to do with how one defines the eternality of God. Is it linear and sequential as the Bible clearly indicates, or is it something else, making the Bible’s description patently false? Or must we buy into a both/and of contradictory definitions for eternality. It is both linear and non-linear. It is both sequential and non-sequential. I choose not to believe in contradictions.

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      13. Most classic and orthodox understandings of God put him outside of time; so it’s not just the Calvinist who could say God’s will has no linearly causal relationship to creation. Only an Open Theist would say God makes decisions in the same way and sense as man’s understanding. I personally believe even the will of man, being a supernatural thing in the very image of God, could be seen as casually outside of time, yet enacted within time. But in trying to understand such level of complexity I often end up confusing even myself. 😎

        I agree with you about Molinism being similar to Calvinism, in that God indirectly overrides free will by only creating free will creatures that do such and such (“freely”) in such and such a situation.

        I don’t think the Bible’s description of God “tabernacling”the beyond is “patently false” nor is it strictly linear. You cannot tabernacle a dimension of time without breaking standard physical understanding of it.

        Well, wow, It’s always wonderful to think on things “too wonderful for me,” but—not to preempt (your justly deserved objections I’m sure), this is indeed a difficult area and one I’m not sure we should be too dogmatic about except how it might apply in day-to-day life.

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      14. Agreed, David! Practical application and edification should be our fundamental motivations for our discussion of these things. And though often this exercise appears merely to be enjoined as a way to satiate a desire for significance through competition, I feel strongly that there is great benefit to be had by others in promoting the limiting of theological dogmatism to only clear biblical evidence.

        Classic and orthodox “outside of time” conjectures, though popular and foundational for other dogmas, have no clear biblical support when defined as “without sequence”. And it actually goes against the clear revelation of God concerning Himself. It’s not a matter of trying to relate God to creation-measurements of minutes or years, its a matter of the non-contradiction that either He experiences before and then after or He doesn’t. Trying to squeeze out of His title – “I am that I am” – a philosophic concept of non-sequence, that undermines everything else God reveals in Scripture about His sequential experience of reality, undermines the authority of Scripture. How can Scripture be trusted about all that it clearly says, when extrapolations made dogmatically from unclear verse overturn the tenor of Scripture!

        Having God dwelling beyond the bounds of creation and within the bounds of creation is not a contradiction, but in a sequential reality and a non-sequential reality at the same moment is a contradiction, and without clear biblical support of the later.

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      15. I’m wiling to allow (the possibility that) there might be a sufficient lack of Scriptural affirmation to affirm either way—but I would not be willing to say openness is proven, either. Thus no view should be held too tightly.

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      16. Thank you David for the concession. I would again believe that prophecies prove the future is closed as to those specific events, but it does not prove the whole future is fixed! And conditional statements, universal invitations, and verses about God still making decisions after creation prove the future is open as to those open possibilities, but is does not prove that the whole future is open.

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      17. I think you’re a bit aggressive in your argumentation for openness when the Scriptural data does not warrant that aggression.

        Consider taking the tack of encouraging people to think in possibilities about possibilities? Modesty is, after all, a virtue.

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      18. Sorry David… my confidence and exuberance often hinders my ability to encourage! Thank you for sharing your observation of that.

        I believe possibilities are not just possible, but actual, because of Scripture’s use of the word “possible” as in Jesus’ first class conditional use of it in “if it be possible, let this cup pass”.

        I am willing to change my position if given good Scriptural arguments, or even to lessen my tone in my tact, if equal opposing evidence from Scripture is presented. Are you saying that it may not be possible that there are possibilities?

        It’s kinda funny, but I find myself dialoging on another site for open theists with those who think I come across too confidently about NT predictions concerning the future as being settled divine determinations! 🙂

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      19. Nice Brian. I’m glad you don’t just follow in lock-step with a crowd. If you feel your strength of stand is in exact accord with Scriptural evidence far be it from me to dissuade you. You’ve proven the strength of your convictions here, even if I can’t find the same source for them, and that’s commendable in my eyes. To be honest I often am a bit aggressive in my debate as well, considering it a matter of integrity or standing for the truth. I’ve often had to step back and consider when my speech was “seasoned with salt,” that is grace and humility.

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      20. Very kind, David! I think of this sometimes like theological basketball… sometimes we “foul” our opponent on purpose, sometimes by accident in the heat of an unedited moment, just to keep them from “scoring” or to “score” one ourselves! I try to keep my “fouls” limited to the later, by accident, trying to score one myself, and from I can see, you do too! 🙂

        As far as other sites go… I am here on this moderate site, also on the open theism site, but was thinking of looking to “fellowship” also on a Calvinist site. Any suggestions?

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      21. brianwagner writes, “…determinism is what God’s eternally locked-in will has determined for all things.”

        Determinism results from primary (God initiated) and secondary (God-controlled) causes. Most relevant in issues with Calvinism is the sin nature of people and its distortion of free will and whether it negates any ability to choose salvation.

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      22. dizerner writes, “it seems like determinism simply means there is one will alone.”

        Determinism means that the will of man is ruled by the will of God so that the will of man is subordinate to the will of God – the will of God exercises absolute control over the will of man.

        As an analogy, consider a dog in a fenced yard. The dog wills to do many things inside and outside the yard but is constrained by the fence to exercise its will only within the confines of the fence. Man wills to do many things but is constrained by the will of God to those things within the constraints imposed by God.

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      23. Dizerner,

        To be clear, my analogy was meant only to show that it is possible for God to “will not what he wills” when we dissect “want/will” through an exercise of sense de-equivocation. It was not meant as a commentary on the nature of human will.

        You wrote, “Yea but everything you described is ‘as if’ George has true autonomy.”

        I take it by “true autonomy” you mean stochasticity and/or absolute spontaneity? (Qualifiers like “true/real/genuine” are red flags for persuasive stipulation, so we have to be careful here.) However, if that is what you mean by “true atonomy,” I must reject your assertion; nothing I described required that George have those things. All he needs is (1) interests (preferences, proclivities, perceptions), (2) efficacy in the world (he can make or break eggs), (3) dynamism over time (he can go from lazy to diligent, or what have you), (4) stewardship (I have given him a role and will hold him responsible accordingly).

        You offered a “twist” on the thought experiment where the boss is also God, and then offered a few absurda that you’re saying follow, as part of a reductio ad absurdum. This is a fine argumentative strategy, if indeed we agree these are all absurd AND that they’re all corollaries of adequately deterministic human behavior under God’s sovereignty (and not non sequiturs).

        First, you wrote, “It is my will that George have no will but think that he does.”

        Here you are subtly begging the question in equivocating “[George’s] will” with what you called “true autonomy” — which for the moment I have to assume means some combination of stochasticity and/or absolute spontaneity. I see no reason to define “will” that way; indeed, if “will” is defined that way, then it would seem “free will” contains a redundant “free,” no? Put another way, what does it mean to have a free will vs. an unfree will? Do you say that an unfree will is also no will at all? This would be a confusing taxonomy.

        Rather, as I explained before, “will” actually has at least 6 philosophically/theologically distinct definitions independent of the question of whether such a will is a strict function of a being’s nature and/or whether a being’s nature is caused/created and unique.

        Then, you wrote: “It is my will that George have a fundamental flaw — that does not flow from anything autonomous in George, but rather is specifically inbuilt by me.”

        Some misguided Christian determinists may say things like “specifically inbuilt,” but they’d be wrong to do so. The flaws in humanity are emergent from secondary causation in interactive chaos (very complex orderliness) over periods of time; under such conditions, virulent and resilient patterns take form, and as they wander from primary-cause interventions, we expect some such patterns to “not look so Godly.”

        We can turn this around to see that libertarian free will advocates must make the very same appeals: In the eschaton, we can say man shall have free will yet will be so sanctified and elevated that he shall be freely unwilling to sin. It follows, however, that he did not have this gift in Eden. So, was mankind “specifically deprived by the creator” of what he needed to resist sin willfully, or must we appeal to the emergent forms of secondary causation to explain man’s original flaws (which we know are flaws, since mankind shall be freed of them in the eschaton)? We are forced to make the appeal to emergent forms of secondary causation. This is why libertarian free will doesn’t “do anything” for any theodicean explanation; the appeal to formative emergence is always the Helm’s Deep retreat after LFW has failed on the open field.

        You wrote, “It is my will that George learn to correct this flaw by ‘refusing’ to change his behavior, which I also willed for him to do.”

        You did indeed net-will this, but the interests dominant in that decision were those in favor of letting George develop naturally. You watched his genes architect a person easily distracted and did nothing to correct it; you watched his neurotransmitters chronically overactive and did nothing to correct it; you watched his parents fail to “train him up” in instilling a work ethic and coping strategies, and did nothing to correct it. It is formally correct to say that you “willed him to be who he is,” but this net-will is more accurately a function of your permissive/suffering interest, not a meddling interest.

        You wrote, “Then I (cleverly) don’t correct George so that George learns from his mistakes (which I gave him and also caused him to fix).”

        This is the means by which you are correcting George — “creating a better George,” in the Irenaean sense.

        You wrote, “Now what did George refuse to do? He ‘refused’ to do my will. But he in actuality DID my will.”

        I now see that you did not take account of my prior post, nor follow up with the 6 senses of “will.” This is vitally important. You’re sliding into “sense equivocation” by using the same word — “w-i-l-l” — in different senses, but deliberately using them without distinct clarification in order to make a sentence seem internally contradictory. This is EXACTLY the thing that we must fight against if we want coherent theology, and you’re doing it on purpose! 🙂

        I hope we don’t continue to go in circles. If you have a few minutes, read the following so you know what I mean when I talk about “6 distinct senses of ‘will'” and “sense de-equivocation”:

        * Google ‘stanrock evil’ for a breakdown of the 6 senses of ‘want/will’ and how this relates to the plan of God.

        * Google ‘stanrock untangling’ for more about resolving apparent contradictions by sense de-equivocation.

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      24. I have a lot I could say, but I’ll just say this:

        I don’t in *any* definition of however many wills, can one ore more of them want opposite things with all other conditions being equal. This would akin to true schizophrenia (and the word true is not some “red flag” word if we can clearly show “false” versions). Thus:

        In any sense I cannot will to kill you and not to kill you under any sense of will, all other conditions being equal This is a direct paradox under any kind of logic I can think of.

        Now we do have “love/hate” relationships, usually there are different reasons for the love and different for the hate. Even God has a love/hate relationship with man. But if God were to love and hate man under the exact same conditions, we have extreme discontinuity.

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      25. dizerner writes, “How can it be that people “refuse” to do God’s will, but it’s God’s will that they refuse? ”

        There are two ways in which God expresses His will. He expresses it in the actions He takes – destroying Sodom/Gomorrah, impregnating Mary, raising Christ from the grave. He also expresses it through the laws He gives to men where His will is carried out through a synergistic relationship with men. God gives people the freedom to refuse to obey the law – where disobedience is contrary to God’s will for people but it is God’s will that people be free to disobey His laws if they so choose..

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      26. Dizerner,

        Ahhh, I think I see where the snag is.

        There’s one more resolution to note:

        “You can love/hate under the exact same conditions BUT as expressions of different interests or interest-optimizing strategies.”

        This also resolves what seems to be the “schizophrenic contradiction.”

        For example, Romans 9 says God hated Esau. But as chs. 9 through 11 express, this kind of hatred (for Esau and other implements of atimien-dishonor) was an “ancillary hatred” — an “in-time strategy” for a greater yield. He simultaneously did NOT hate Esau, in an axial sense, per Elihu who, on behalf of God, maintained that God doesn’t ultimately despise anybody. This “love/hate” is under the same circumstance — Esau, Pharaoh, the unelect, etc. — but is qualifying different interests within a manifold Godly interest set.

        For another example, God says in Ezekiel that, as surely as he lives, he doesn’t want the wicked to die. So… why did he allow the wicked to perish? The only explanation is that he was expressing an axial interest that is confounded by other interests within that manifold Godly interest set, especially long-haul, big-picture interests.

        A manifold interest set with circumstantial incommensurability is the only solution, in the abstract, to any of this — ALL theodicy must make a final appeal to it.

        The article found by Googling ‘stanrock evil’ shows this, using some helpful diagrams.

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  10. On this other conversation of God’s free will or lack thereof, it would probably be good to define “free will” in terms of what the will is supposed to be free “from.” If God has an immutable nature wherein there is no shadow of changing, and his willful expressions are two-parameter functions of that immutable nature and a dynamic creation, then it would follow that God’s will is closed, but free of any sort of meaningful external oppression. In other words, strict/closed (eternally ordained) and free (in all meaningful senses as vs. oppression/manipulation/coercion/etc.).

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    1. What free means in regard to the will is always one thing: free to do otherwise than it has done, a possibility of the contrary action.

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      1. Dizerner,

        “Do otherwise” is not a sufficiently coherent definition. It has no less than 3 philosophically distinct definitions: One of which is a contradiction, one of which is compatible with determinism, and one of which is a cosmic superpower that doesn’t match our libertarian intuitions. Google “stanrock superheroes” for an explanation of this.

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      2. EVERY word has more than one definition, that’s why we use context and intuition.

        If we say: the power to have decided otherwise than you have, the ability to have chosen differently than you did, there are some things we *don’t* mean by it, and it would get more technical, as would any word or concept at all need almost endless extended definition and clarification were we to demand that level of exactness as a hardcore skeptic. I freely admit that not only for autonomy or free will or doing otherwise, but also for determinism or compatibilism or meticulous control. And of course that is a difficulty in these discussions.

        Needless to say my definition of “do otherwise” does not fit any you gave.

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      3. Dizerner,

        You said, “Needless to say my definition of ‘do otherwise’ does not fit any you gave.”

        Then your next contribution should be an elucidation of your personal brand of ‘do otherwise’!

        Right now we’re in the “Labyrinth of ‘Otherwise'” on the free will debate spin-cycle: https://goo.gl/3OO3JZ

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      4. Interesting chart! I’d say we’re at a different place though. We’re at:

        “I have the ability “have done (X)” where X is defined as “Not have done.”

        You dismiss this with:

        “Logical contradiction; hides out in a common language bug.”

        This is the real crux for me. The logical contradiction is this:

        Given two courses of action present:

        1. at the momentum of decision only one future course of action will have been taken.
        2. given the law of identity, we cannot say that A = not A

        ergo the course of action taken must have been the only one.

        This is what drives determinists and open theists alike to insist foreknowledge equals causation.

        Now can we untangle this? I think we can, but we have to admit some things.

        1. metaphysics are things which are beyond classic physics.
        2. if something is metaphysical it does not have to obey standard laws of logic.

        Then we simple admit this: the will is metaphysical, thus it is indeed supernatural, or we could even say a super power! I don’t see how under classic logic the will could be seen *any other way.* Because here’s the thing about the will: It’s asserting two contemporary yet contradictory possibilities. It’s saying that in this instance, my choice A or not A, is simultaneous true and available. And the *only* way to accept or define that, and the way it should be (and I believe is classically defined) is, as metaphysical. (the soul and spirit are also metaphysical and do not obey classic physics).

        So what’s our real problem here. It’s saying that if we meet any logical contradiction we must insist it can never be true in any sense. I admit normally we should go by that, but the one exception is matters of revelation. And for that we turn to the pages of Scripture, where we can sufficiently demonstrate the power of choice.

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      5. Dizerner,

        Metaphysics is “about the stuff.” Metaphysical is not superphysical; metaphysical is “beyond” only because it “lives” in the abstractions of our minds. It’s the qualitative relationships that bind perception and imagination into schemas and forms and recognized patterns. Any metaphysical claim must absolutely conform to the laws of identity and noncontradiction, and derivations therefrom, or else it is gibberish.

        Now, things can LOOK like contradictions, but can have simple de-equivocating resolutions (which is great) or in-theory abstract resolutions (which may be irritating, but we can accept them). This is what Googling “stanrock untangling” shows, through several examples including the Trinity. What we DON’T say is, “Yeah, the Trinity really is a genuine contradiction,” because all genuine contradictions are false. And we shouldn’t do this with the question of choicemaking, either.

        You said, “It’s saying that in this instance, my choice A or not A, is simultaneous true and available.”

        It’s most proper — to resist begging the question — to say that at some moment, you have in your imagination a menu of mutually-exclusive prospects (which individually may represent sets of actions), some more plausible than others. You then elect one from among that imagined menu to actualize, and thereby eschew all the others (since the prospects were mutually exclusive).

        The above description should be a benign, acceptable description of choicemaking that works whether you believe in adequate determinism, or are an Open Theist, or a Molinist, or whatever.

        Since the above description is compatible with adequate determinism, a libertarian incompatibilist is burdened to tell us what details should be ADDED to that description in order to preclude adequate determinism. Usually this takes the form of something like “prospect realism.” Google “stanrock schrodinger” to see why this is excessive and weird.

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      6. ➡ Any metaphysical claim must absolutely conform to the laws of identity and noncontradiction, and derivations therefrom, or else it is gibberish.

        I don’t think you can prove this claim, though. *If* we are talking about things that *by definition* are *able* to contradict logic and be true, then *how* can we merely use logic to *disprove* them for the system of logic has unproven axioms that can only be verified through circular recursive self-refuting claims.

        So what do we have then: we have statements that say and mean *some* thing but go beyond classic logic. And indeed I think we can make a logical syllogism that all words are in the end in some way referent to metaphysical realities (that is only contextually relevant to their referents within an assumed framework necessarily unverified). This also leads to the watertight logical proofs of, for example, things like hard Solipsism.

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      7. I think the concept of God contradicts logic. Also, it may be that to perceive some truths we need a non-physical sense.

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      8. Dizerner/David,

        You have made some really odd and questionable claims in the past regarding God (e.g. God chooses his nature, rather than God having a nature and having that nature eternally).

        But your recent statement is one of the worst examples that I have ever seen you make:

        “I think the concept of God contradicts logic. Also, it may be that to perceive some truths we need a non-physical sense.”

        Let’s start with the less problematic second line here: “Also, it may be that to perceive some truths we need a non-physical sense.”

        One of the great things about language is that it allows us to develop and use abstractions, to discuss non-physical, non-concrete realities. And since language allows us to do that we can also discuss, conceive, think about, talk to others about non-physical realities such as God.

        The first line is the problem because by their very nature EVERY CONCEPT is a rational description of some kind. We use concepts to conceptualize things and persons. The concept of God does not contradict logic, nor does anything about God contradict logic (haven’t you ever noticed that everyone becomes a theologian when it comes to discussing God as everyone can and does discuss God, even the atheist has no problem with the concept of God, his/her problem is submission to God which he/she avoids at all costs).

        God is inherently rational and everything He does is rational, so neither his nature nor his actions contradict logic. And our discussion of God and His nature inescapably involves logic (e.g. we claim that “God **is** X, or “God is **not** X).

        Seems to me from reading your posts in the past that the mistake you repeatedly make is failing to distinguish (1) God and rationality versus (2) full understanding of God. Our understanding of God is limited and there are things about God that are beyond our understanding. But being beyond our understanding does not mean that God and his actions are not rational or cannot be rationally discussed.

        It also seems to me that your intent by statements such as this is to protect the transcendence of God (i.e. you don’t want God to be seen as someone that we fully understand, fully grasp, because if we did so then God would not be transcendent, but He **is** transcendent so we can never fully understand or fully grasp Him). I think that rather than making statements that God is not a logical concept or that God is beyond logic, you ought to speak of God being transcendent. That he transcends our understanding that He is above our understanding. But don’t make this point by contrasting God with logic or saying that God contradicts logic or other such claims. It seems to me that everyone here assumes that God and His ways can be rationally discussed, if we didn’t believe that then why are we having rational discussions about God and His ways???

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      9. I appreciate this discussion and the intelligent way you show me your point of view. In response :

        ➡ even the atheist has no problem with the concept of God, his/her problem is submission to God which he/she avoids at all costs

        Many atheists have a problem with the concept of God, some think the word has no real or definite meaning (incomprehensible or nonsensical). I know this for a fact.

        Also assuming that all atheist 1. really know there is a God but suppress it and 2. desire to rebel against the God they don’t believe in, is not only not arguing in good faith and character assassination, it’s simply not polite.

        ➡ God is inherently rational and everything He does is rational, so neither his nature nor his actions contradict logic.

        You’ve got to demonstrate this somehow, though. I think for the Creator to be bound by the laws of his creation is to sully his glory as much as Open Theism does by limiting his knowledge or putting him in time. Also, can you demonstrate it is logical or rational to suffer the ultimate humiliation and cost for an unworthy object? (There is two kinds of “rationality” of course, a serial killer is irrational in his agenda, but can proceed to enact it rationally.)

        ➡ And our discussion of God and His nature inescapably involves logic (e.g. we claim that “God **is** X, or “God is **not** X).

        I disagree with your conclusion; many philosophers believe words have metaphysical properties and I do too. We can say things that somehow transcend the framework (how it works might be impossible to explain).

        ➡ (i.e. you don’t want God to be seen as someone that we fully understand, fully grasp, because if we did so then God would not be transcendent, but He **is** transcendent so we can never fully understand or fully grasp Him).

        I’m not doing things because I “want” to but because I think it’s right, but assuming you speak idiomatically, I am attempting to understand God how his Word and nature reveals him as best I can understand. There is good Scriptural and logical evidence that God is above all we can understand. You need to understand that from a philosopher’s point of view, logic has no absolute truth at all: it is nothing but an unproven axiom in a contextual framework. It breaks its own laws by being unable to escape a circular proof for itself, plus many of its claimed applied to itself end up paradoxical. Logic is not a foundation for reality or truth, even if our minds feel like, as a crutch, we cannot walk without it.

        ➡ That he transcends our understanding that He is above our understanding. But don’t make this point by contrasting God with logic or saying that God contradicts logic or other such claims. It seems to me that everyone here assumes that God and His ways can be rationally discussed, if we didn’t believe that then why are we having rational discussions about God and His ways???

        Why are you assuming these discussions are even rational (chuckle). I think it’s an important point on many levels, but our foundation is revelation from a supernatural God that transcends all logic, and the world can see our “slip” showing when we try to say logic proves an invisible being become a human being to die and save us from sins, there’s just no way you can make that logical, logic is the wrong foundation for everything from a Scriptural perspective. I can’t really budge from that position and think it has pretty strong ramifications not only in how we discuss with those outside the faith (Christians often look like complete self-satisfied over-confident arrogant insensitive a-holes, instead of broken vessels that don’t know anything but Jesus somehow uses), but also in day to day life if we feel like we need to or have to explain things we simply cannot.

        God bless!

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    2. Well constructed paragraph about what you believe about God’s will, Stan! Thanks.

      I do believe defining “immutability” is the main task for properly understanding divine “free will”. It is not just freedom “from” outside causation, but freedom “to” change in certain ways consistent with characteristics of His nature that will never change.

      Extrapolations from passages that point to divine immutability concerning one aspect of His nature and experience cannot be used to overturn passages that point to divine changes in other aspects of His nature and experience. “The Word was God… and the Word became flesh!” Kenosis! Propitiation! All require changes to the Divine nature and experience, freely chosen between various possibilities consistent with His immutable aspects of His nature.

      Your allusion to James 1:17 as sufficient authority to prove the immutability of God need more consideration. The phrase you are pointing to has 3 hapax legomenon, making interpretation difficult, and I believe you are extrapolating too much from what James is trying to say about God’s gift giving.

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      1. Brian,

        Brian, apologies, I did not mean to extrapolate “my side’s” view of God’s closed will in saying, “No shadow of changing,” because of course, we have dynamism in the Incarnation and any other form of will-expression that is a partial function of a dynamic world.

        So, I don’t mean to go “beyond” the senses in which you and I agree that God is unchanging, and the senses in which we agree he is active.

        Rather, what I mean to say is this:

        (1) Determinism is about all effects being strict functions of cause sets.

        (2) A corollary of determinism is a closed future set — either there is one fixed future ahead of us, or there are many fixed futures that shall each occur in parallel, but where I cannot experience more than one of them (“parallel me”s would be experiencing the others). (It is nonetheless the case that one would employ open language about the future under uncertainty, or for certain remedial strategies when communicating with uncertain entities.)

        (3) There are innumerable senses of “free will,” one for every possible set of oppressors or conceivable oppressors, real and abstract.

        (4) And finally, God can have many meaningful senses of this infinite set of free will(s) even under determinism.

        There are possible coherent theological proposals wherein all of 1-4 are true. And because this is the case, we know that a denial of the free will of God is not a cheap corollary of determinism — it is *totally* dependent on how one is defining free will, from a menu of infinite definitions (one for every possible set of oppressors or conceivable oppressors), which often begs the question (thus not “cheap”).

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      2. Stan – You said – “So, I don’t mean to go ‘beyond’ the senses in which you and I agree that God is unchanging, and the senses in which we agree he is active. Rather, what I mean to say is this…” But in my evaluation, you then immediately went ‘beyond’ the sense of God’s immutability as I described it.

        And thus Stan, we are back to discussion of things beyond, and in opposition to, what’s revealed in God’s inerrant Word. There in nothing in Scripture to indicate even the possibility of parallel “fixed” futures. And the one that this “me” is in is not “fixed” in every detail according to Scripture.

        I yield the floor to you for the final word in the dialog, if you want it.

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    3. You said,

      “*If* we are talking about things that *by definition* are *able* to contradict logic and be true, then *how* can we merely use logic to *disprove* them for the system of logic has unproven axioms that can only be verified through circular recursive self-refuting claims.”

      We can’t. All discussion about such things inherits their logical nonsense. You cannot contain the deadly rhetorical radioactivity of something that “defies logical axioms.” I frankly don’t even know what that means.

      “X is able to contradict logic and be true” is as incoherent as “and and net ffff zort.” It crashes the compiler since there’s no way to parse it. The only reason it seems meaningful at first glance is because it a collection of real words in a grammatically correct arrangement.

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      1. ➡ “and and net ffff zort.”
        ➡ The only reason it seems meaningful at first glance is because it a collection of real words in a grammatically correct arrangement.

        The problem is all language does this since it’s referents are circular and axiomatic.

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      2. This isn’t a problem with shared axioms and referents. And even if we cannot know for certain that we share them, it can still be the case that we share them decently enough (independent of whether we certainly know that we do) and profit thereby (and that seems to be the case with human civilization — as far as we’re aware).

        By contrast, “X is able to contradict logic and be true” isn’t even stable enough to cohere in one’s own mind, let alone enough stable enough to be shared decently-well among several communicators. Something that can “contradict logic” while also being “true” is not remotely meaningful.

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  11. Without reiterating all of the great theological arguments already set forth, can I be overly simplistic and offer an argument from common experience? All of us, every single one of us, experiences the phenomenon of making choices daily. This is so obvious and so universal that it cannot be refuted. Thus, the Calvinist has an uphill battle in proving that the common experience of all people everywhere is actually an illusion or a deception, and that all people are actually unwittingly obeying the will of God, even though they believe otherwise.

    And please don’t start shouting “Open Theism.” I get that it is a real theological position, but it is a common (and tired) straw man for Calvinists against non-Calvinists. Rejection of the idea that God ordains LITERALLY EVERYTHING, does not require that I believe God ordains NOTHING. Of course God is actively working in the world and especially among His own people. Of course God “declares the end from the beginning,” of course He “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” God is God and He will have His way. None of this requires the absence of human free will. The clear teaching of scripture is that the chaos and injustice that now exists in the world is because people REJECT the will of God (not because they are unwittingly submitted to it).

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    1. Jeff,

      Well stated, what you present is my own position as well:

      “Without reiterating all of the great theological arguments already set forth, can I be overly simplistic and offer an argument from common experience? All of us, every single one of us, experiences the phenomenon of making choices daily. This is so obvious and so universal that it cannot be refuted. Thus, the Calvinist has an uphill battle in proving that the common experience of all people everywhere is actually an illusion or a deception, and that all people are actually unwittingly obeying the will of God, even though they believe otherwise.”

      I often talk about our having and making choices daily as the most simple and universal proof of the existence of free will that we encounter. Only a fool (or someone with some other view they want to promote and defend) would deny this universal experience that we all experience daily. And you are correct, Calvinism cannot handle this simple reality and therefore must be false.

      “And please don’t start shouting “Open Theism.” I get that it is a real theological position, but it is a common (and tired) straw man for Calvinists against non-Calvinists.”

      I get the same thing, the minute you affirm the ordinary understanding of free will and deny that God determines everything, you often get the charge that you must then be open theist. This is false, as the ordinary understanding of free will has been around throughout church history including in early church history (while open theism occurs sporadically in church history held by the Socinians who were cultists and denied the trinity and some modern philosophical types). You are also correct that Calvinists often attack non-Calvinists with open theism (open theism is a straw man for many Calvinists to claim is the view that a non-Calvinist ought to hold if they really believe in free will; but again it is a straw man and most Christians have held both the ordinary understanding of free will and the ordinary understanding of omniscience at the same time). Just a warning for you Jeff there is a guy named Brian Wagner a strident open theist who often posts at this site. Discussing open theism is a waste of time with him as he repeatedly and constantly misrepresents the ordinary view of omniscience and he is absolutely committed to the aberrant and false theology of open theism.

      “Rejection of the idea that God ordains LITERALLY EVERYTHING, does not require that I believe God ordains NOTHING.”

      Right, the three choices are God ordains everything (the Calvinist error), God ordains nothing (the error of atheism) and the view held by most believers that God ordains some things but not everything.

      “ Of course God is actively working in the world and especially among His own people. Of course God “declares the end from the beginning,” of course He “works all things according to the counsel of his will.” God is God and He will have His way. None of this requires the absence of human free will. The clear teaching of scripture is that the chaos and injustice that now exists in the world is because people REJECT the will of God (not because they are unwittingly submitted to it).”

      I agree with you here, God is sovereign, free will exists, God knows everything (including the future) and these things are all true simultaneously. You do not need to be a Calvinist to affirm sovereignty, and if you affirm free will as ordinarily understood you do not need to be an open theism. And regarding much of the chaos in the world as you put it, it is our sinful choices not God bringing about these things that is the explanation for them. I will bet a million dollars that the resident open theism Brian Wagner will now respond.

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      1. Robert writes, ‘I often talk about our having and making choices daily as the most simple and universal proof of the existence of free will that we encounter.”

        Making choices points to the existence of a will. It says nothing about the freedom of that will. Like others, you assume that which you want to believe (this you are forced to do because you you cannot prove that the will is actually “free.”)

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    2. Jeff, you’re correctly asserting the truth of both God’s superordinate sovereignty AND the meaningful sense in which he stewards his creation to the action of creatures that he allows to be free, especially insofar as he isn’t constantly stepping-in to stop them from erring, nor is he frequently halting natural processes with redirective micromanagement.

      Three points, here, though.

      (1) From this place of theological truth, we then start to ask certain questions. Why is God interested in letting people be free in this way? Well, it must be God’s will that they act freely in this way. Uh oh. Now we see it being God’s will — in one sense — that somebody freely sin, but it being AGAINST God’s will — in another sense — that this person freely sin. The only solution is to talk about multiple layers and multiple interests of God — acknowledging, rather than dismissing, the fact of “will senses.” There isn’t any other way to address this, and pastoral care requires that we have a robust answer here (Open Theist pastors often have a “devil did it!” reply which is anemic).

      (2) In the above, I am using “free” in the sense of compatibilistic free will — regardless of the way in which we make choices, we do make choices, and choicemaking is a mundane process of actualizing one of several contemplated prospects. Compatibilistic free will can be true even if adequate determinism (“all effects that we care about are strict functions of sets of causes”) is also true.

      (3) It’s important to point out that mechanistic truth is not wholly correlated with common folk experience. Here are some basic things we experience: When we think about how to behave, we actualize from among sets of imagined future courses. We do not sense the emergence of our thoughts from where they come. Our thoughts often surprise ourselves, and we can be surprised by the behavior of others. These are all things we can agree are true.

      However, these things can lead to certain illusory conclusions FROM there: Illusory conclusions like “we can choose otherwise” (a phrase built upon a language bug), “actualities are floating out there in the future,” “my thoughts and decisions are only partly-caused; they’re also partly spontaneous.”

      Here’s another example of “true facts of perception leading to false conclusions.” When any human looks up into a starry sky, they see stars laid out on a dome-like shape that appears to be a few miles away at most. This is a true fact. However, it is wrong — as many ancients did — to then assert that the stars really are laid out on a dome. The dome perception is explainable by our perceptual limits (in this case, the limits of our binocular depth perception), and the stars are actually unimaginably far away, and are at all kinds of different distances.

      So, “we perceive a dome” is 100% true. But “it’s actually a dome” is 100% false. Similarly, “we feel spontaneous and absolutely original” and “we imagine multiple mutually exclusive futures” are both 100% true. But “we are partly uncaused” and “multiple mutually exclusive futures are all actually ‘up ahead'” are both 100% false.

      I’m not a Calvinist, but I am a Christian determinist (and Calvinists are well-known for being Christian determinists — in addition to other, more lamentable doctrines). Just as it may be an uphill battle to convince somebody that the stars are not laid out on a dome (“When they obviously are! It accords with near-universal experience!”), it can be an uphill battle to convince somebody that they are not spontaneous. Additionally, this is a “world-rocking” assertion; “world-rockers” prompt many people to go “too far,” saying things like, “Then we don’t make real choices!” and “Then we cannot be held responsible!” and “Then we’re just robots, or God’s puppets!” These are called “Kochab’s Errors.”

      It would be awesome if we could stick to the 100% true basics: God has complete superordinate sovereignty, and we have stewardships within the freedom afforded by God’s patience and his priority to suffer the quirky, winding adventures of his natural creation (and since we have stewardships, we can be held responsible). These basics are beyond “the debate” and are “the big, most important” points.

      However, questions arise. They arise from our curiosity, from our non sequitur contemplation, and our confusion. And different schools of theology have radically different ways of answering those questions, some better than others, and some — like Calvinism — with some good things to say and some horribly bad things to say.

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      1. Good Morning Stan! Maybe your view of reality is just a false perception based on general revelation (like your dome example), that is trumped by special revelation’s true perception. The universe “looks” old, general revelation says. Special revelation says not, and even gives examples of God creating things spontaneously with an appearance of age (Adam/Eve, water/wine, loaves/fish).

        And besides Scripture’s normal clear understanding of conditional statements, invitations, and verses about God making decisions (not previously planned), Moses uses the term “free-will”, Paul confirms the will has “no necessity”, and James reminds us of the instability of being “double-minded”. All this, plus God’s laws and determinations, affirms a human reality that is partly settled and partly open for the exercise of divine and human free-will. That is not perception… that is revelation.

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      2. Eisegesis like shoehorning ‘nedabah’ into “libertarian free will” is one of many reasons we don’t accept the Open Theist claim of bounteous Scriptural warrant.

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      3. Commenting on only the weakest link in a strong chain of evidence is not very sporting, Stan? 🙂 The KJV Calvinist translators of Heb. nedabah must have not have foreseen the controversy they would cause! 🙂

        You did not even deal with the bounteous Scriptural warrant I posed! Is it because you believe God chose to use only what you think is the “human perspective” to discuss the reality of His will, and of the human will, in His divine revelation?

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      4. ➡ Why is God interested in letting people be free in this way? Well, it must be God’s will that they act freely in this way. Uh oh. Now we see it being God’s will — in one sense — that somebody freely sin,

        God being interested or desiring the possibility of sin is not God being interested or desiring the actuality of sin. Why? Because an action has greater import if one could have done otherwise. It’s like trust—how can you trust someone if they don’t have the option to break your trust. The reason trust is meaningful is because when you know you can trust a person, or find him trustworthy, you know it wasn’t forced.

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      5. Dizerner,

        You wrote, “It’s like trust — how can you trust someone if they don’t have the option to break your trust.”

        You are making a stipulation that doesn’t cohere.

        (1) George trusts his equipment not to fail him.

        (2) His equipment doesn’t have the option to fail George; it makes no choices and is wholly reliable in every way.

        The falsity of #1 is not a corollary of #2. Even given #2, it remains the case that George trusts his equipment. You are making a persuasive stipulation — a “new definition of ‘trust'” architected such that “do otherwise” becomes attractive or necessary.

        You and I have already chatted about “do otherwise,” where I explained that there is no logically coherent definition of “do otherwise” that both (a) we expect to have, and (b) is incompatible with adequate determinism. The discussion then turned toward you denying the importance of logical coherence on this issue.

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      6. Brian,

        I commented on the weakest link because it was the clearest indication of how eagerness-to-conclude is stomping prudent exegesis. The rest of what you said is similarly non-cogent, but its sloppiness isn’t as clear. For example, conflating Paul’s (and my) use of hypothetical ‘necessity’ with metaphysical ‘necessity’ is a modal scope fallacy, but that’s not as easy to explain. Similarly, it is a series of non sequiturs that the use of conditional statements, invitations, God’s laws, and terms like “double-mindedness” would denote future openness. But, again, going after non sequiturs usually creates endless tangent semantic quibbles and are not as easily to explain as, “Look at how ‘nedabah’ was manhandled. This should be a red flag.”

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      7. Hi Stan, Maybe it’s your “eagerness to conclude” that you are smarter than the KJV translators were in understanding Hebrew when they chose “free-will” for נְדָבָה. Maybe you are the one “stomping prudent exegesis”, or trusting someone else as your Hebrew authority, who is doing the “stomping”.

        Certainly in most contexts this Hebrew word means “free” basically, and at least, free from the compulsion of law. But the nuance remains that each individual makes their own determination for this “free-will” offering, and could even “flip a coin” to determine what to give. Even you, Stan, allow for some randomness, I believe, in your divinely predetermined reality. Why not allow for randomness to exist for God and man in the functioning of their wills?

        And maybe there are, in this matter, some non sequiturs in your mind, because of your chosen presuppositions, which have led you to believe that Paul was using “necessity” as a hypothetical when discussing how someone is free to make up his own mind without “necessity” in his will. Those same presuppositions make you believe that conditional statements in Scripture really are only perceptions of a partly open future, that actually is not open at all, but fully predetermined. Maybe those conditionals are undetermined and not false perceptions for things that are already determined.

        I choose to believe God does not play such deceptive rhetorical games in His revelation, waiting for supposedly smarter folks, than His prophets and apostles were, to clarify reality for Him to others later in their uninspired musings outside of Scripture.

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      8. Brian,

        I’m having a hard time parsing your post for assertions, since there are so many “maybes” from which proper inference is anybody’s guess.

        On “smarter than the KJV translators”: Whether a translation uses “freewill” or “voluntary” here is a coinflip. “Freewill” as a nickname for “voluntary” does not refer to libertarian free will — it means free-from-coercion will. Your second paragraph essentially conceded this (and so you should stop using it as an “open future proof,” Brian).

        You wrote, “Why not allow for randomness to exist for God and man in the functioning of their wills?”

        If God’s actions are partly random, then he is more oppressed than if his actions are strict (closed) functions of who he is. Similarly, if my actions are partly random, then I am more oppressed than if my actions are strict (closed) functions of who I am. The force of random anomaly is a “not who I am” intrusion.

        You wrote, “I choose to believe God does not play such deceptive rhetorical games in His revelation, waiting for supposedly smarter folks, than His prophets and apostles were, to clarify reality for Him to others later in their uninspired musings outside of Scripture.”

        There were many controversies in first few centuries of the church. How ought we talk about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What is the nature of Christ and his will? What happens to the unrighteous at judgment? What is the right way to talk about the freedom of man and the sovereignty of God?

        Well-meaning, remarkably intelligent people inherited and passed-on all sorts of commentary on these issues, and on several of them, they even arrived at formal consensus.

        However, nobody was an Open Theist. We have records of all sorts of controversies, but nobody entertained the idea that God lacked knowledge of a closed future (or that there was ‘no such closed knowledge for God to ascertain’). There were determinists and LFW-fans and everyone in-between, but evidence tells us that nobody had your views. They were not present among early Christians. They’re a later novelty, from what we all can tell.

        The reason I say this is because an Open Theist implying that I “think I’m ‘smarter’ than those who came before” is really only amusing to me, and not provocative, as it was clearly intended to be.

        As you’ve strayed into the territory of intended provocation, we’ve again hit the end of another of our entertaining back-and-forths. You can have the last word this time, if you’d like it.

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      9. Stan – Maybe with more discussion we will be able to more easily parse our assertions!

        You said – “Whether a translation uses “freewill” or “voluntary” here is a coinflip. “Freewill” as a nickname for “voluntary” does not refer to libertarian free will — it means free-from-coercion will.” I believe I was asserting what you just said. And just because a context limits what the coercion the will is free from, the normal theological inference from the word “means free-from-coercion will.” Predetermination is primal coercion in your view, whereas this word intimates differently. I wasn’t using it as “open future proof” but as evidence in support of a partly open-future presupposition.

        You said – “If God’s actions are partly random, then he is more oppressed than if his actions are strict ‘(closed) functions of who he is…. The force of random anomaly is a ‘not who I am’ intrusion.” You have revealed you presuppositions. There is not proof being partly random is “more oppressed” than determined by nature, because it is an assumption that randomness can not be a part of nature to some degree. But I believe randomness is an insufficient definition for “free-will” though most likely a part of it.

        You said – “Well-meaning, remarkably intelligent people inherited and passed-on all sorts of commentary on these issues, and on several of them, they even arrived at formal consensus. However, nobody was an Open Theist…. evidence tells us that nobody had your views.” Appeal to incomplete, non-omniscient authority will only get you so far. And appealing to those who held to the false gospel of the ecumenical councils from the 4th to 8th centuries is unwise. If they got that wrong… why would you trust their findings in other less important matters?

        And you must have missed my reference from Calcidius of the 4th who held an openness view of God’s omniscience concerning the future. You can find the quote I gave from him on the “Comments from MacArthur” post on this site. Just because some views were not popularized or preserved by Roman Catholicism is little proof that they didn’t exist or were even well known.

        It’s not like you, Stan, to lean on two logical fallacies, like you did in your appeal to authority and appeal to silence!

        Like

      10. While Stan holds some false and idiosyncratic views of his own (He uses his own vocabulary to espouse some errors) he does get it right about Brian Wagner’s open theism when he writes:

        “However, nobody was an Open Theist. We have records of all sorts of controversies, but nobody entertained the idea that God lacked knowledge of a closed future (or that there was ‘no such closed knowledge for God to ascertain’). There were determinists and LFW-fans and everyone in-between, but evidence tells us that nobody had your views. They were not present among early Christians. They’re a later novelty, from what we all can tell.”

        And this is exactly what you will find in the first centuries of the church, nobody espousing this error. As Stan correctly notes it is a “later novelty, from what we all can tell.”

        Stan is also correct that some held determinism in the early centuries though most held to what we now call Libertarian free will.

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      11. You’re equivocating personal trust with mechanical trust. Do you really see people as no different than machines?

        It certainly is not a “new” definition of trust to say trusting gravity is not the same thing as trusting your best friend.

        By the way, you do this a lot: equivocate one definition of a word for a different definition of the same word.

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      12. Dizerner,

        The taxonomy of “personal trust vs. mechanical trust” was invented by you just now.

        Let’s talk persons. I trust my wife with our daughter, and that she would never deliberately hurt her, precisely because it is impossible for her to choose otherwise. If it were at all possible for her to choose to deliberately hurt her, I would not trust her. My trust is a function of the degree to which it is implausible for her to choose harm. 0% plausibility — impossibility — of such evil decisions warrants and validates complete, 100% trust.

        You wrote, “By the way, you do this a lot: equivocate one definition of a word for a different definition of the same word.”

        It stands to reason that I will very often infract against semantic idiosyncrasies you may have.

        Like

      13. Stan,

        You may trust your wife and that is a very good thing, but your comments here are both naïve and inaccurate:

        “Let’s talk persons. I trust my wife with our daughter, and that she would never deliberately hurt her, precisely because it is impossible for her to choose otherwise. If it were at all possible for her to choose to deliberately hurt her, I would not trust her. My trust is a function of the degree to which it is implausible for her to choose harm. 0% plausibility — impossibility — of such evil decisions warrants and validates complete, 100% trust.”

        Stan I work with inmates who have committed every imaginable crime (including killing or abusing their spouses and children) so your claim that it is **impossible** that your wife ever deliberately hurt your daughter and that it has 0% plausibility is naïve and just false in light of other real life cases where ***he or she*** was a moral and decent law abiding citizen supposedly ***incapable*** of committing ***an*** hurtful acts of their spouses or children. But then something went wrong, it may have been drug abuse, extreme stress, a chemical imbalance in their brains, etc. etc. And then these same supposedly harmless folks did in fact commit harmful acts against their spouse or children. Having seen real life examples of others who completely trusted their spouses and believed it impossible or 0% plausibility, until . . . I know your statement is both naïve and false (you could also talk to some detectives and judges and lawyers and family members of victims for further confirmation of this sad reality).

        It is better and more accurate for you to say: “that knowing my wife’s character I believe it is highly unlikely that my wife would ever harm our child”: but impossible, or 0% possibility, you just cannot say that, if genuine choice is present. Now having said these things I believe that you wife will in fact never harm your daughter. And it is great that you have a spouse that you trust so well, that is a great blessing at a time when many/most do not have such trust in their spouses.

        Your comments also show a mistaken understanding of the capacity of doing otherwise. Doing otherwise does not mean that the person must do the other action for the choice to be real, it means simply that they can, that there is a possibility that they can do this other action. When talking about having and making choices we should not speak of this or that choice as being ***necessary or impossible*** but rather this or that ***is possible**, this or that is more or less likely to occur.

        When speaking of genuine choice we are not talking about necessity and impossibility but about contingency.

        Like

      14. Do you really…. think… I’m the first person to ever “invent” the idea that people are different than machines?

        Like

      15. Dizerner/David writes:

        “By the way, you do this a lot: equivocate one definition of a word for a different definition of the same word.”

        This is one of the reasons it is difficult to discuss things with Stan, he has invented his own terminology for some of the terms being discussed.

        So while you may mean one thing by a term he means something very different by the same term.

        It is not that he is equivocating using different meanings for the same word, rather, it is him using a different meaning than you are using by the same term. When this occurs it makes rational discussion almost impossible and minimally frustrating and very confusing. In a debate if two different people are operating by two different meanings for the same terms it makes the debate useless and an exercise in futility.

        Like

      16. Robert,

        Please don’t intrude upon conversations with “he always does this” sniping, especially when it really is the case that Dizerner was making persuasive stipulations (first, that “choosing otherwise is needed for ‘true trust,'” and then the “personal trust vs. mechanical trust” novel taxonomy).

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      17. Stan you said:

        “Please don’t intrude upon conversations with “he always does this” sniping, especially when it really is the case that Dizerner was making persuasive stipulations (first, that “choosing otherwise is needed for ‘true trust,’” and then the “personal trust vs. mechanical trust” novel taxonomy).”

        As long as I have seen you posting you repeatedly and constantly engage in using your own unique vocabulary and your own unique definitions and meanings of words.

        In fact something you often do is you will say things like: “blah blah blah, check my website here for further explanation of this term”. THAT is exactly what you do. You make an assertion using your own unique terminology then tell us to go to your website to further examine your terminology and your own meanings for things.

        At first I thought your language was interesting, but then I checked out some of your articles and have seen you post since and it is no longer amusing at all. Your unique use of terms and meanings creates confusion and useless discussion.

        To use one very recent example you wrote:

        “It stands to reason that I will very often infract against semantic idiosyncrasies you may have.”

        Stands to whose reason?

        The answer is your own.

        And what does “I will very often infract against” mean?

        Who, besides YOU talks that way?

        And you speak of dizerner’s “semantic idiosyncrasies you may have.”

        This is a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black as what you accuse dizerner of doing is PRECISELY what you do all the time. You constantly engage in “semantic idiosyncrasies”. And it is these very “semantic idiosyncrasies” that makes discussion with you very difficult and often confusing.

        Like

      18. you say: The discussion then turned toward you denying the importance of logical coherence on this issue.

        I didn’t deny the importance, I denied the possibility. Please be accurate.

        Like

      19. Robert,

        You are going off the rails on this subthread. You are not addressing the substance of what Dizerner and I were discussing, where it is plain to see that he employed persuasive stipulation. Please stop going after my reputation unless it is germane to the specific subject at hand (it is not right now).

        Like

      20. Stan you wrote:

        “You are not addressing the substance of what Dizerner and I were discussing, where it is plain to see that he employed persuasive stipulation.”

        Now hold it right there, even in this assertion we have yet another phrase used and invented by you that is ambiguous and can mean anything that you want it to mean: you claim that “he employed persuasive stipulation”. And what is THAT exactly? Everybody here is trying to persuade others of their views, so everyone is trying to persuade. I get that. But what exactly is “persuasive stipulation”? If it means asserting a particular term has a particular meaning in a way that supports or advances your view, you do that yourself, so how is dizerner somehow more guilty of “persuasive stipulation”?

        “Please stop going after my reputation unless it is germane to the specific subject at hand (it is not right now).”

        I haven’t “gone after” your reputation. A person’s reputation is what others say about them (e.g. “your reputation precedes you”). I really don’t care about your reputation (in a negative or positive way) and really don’t know what others whom you directly interact with say about you. So I am not in the place to discuss what your reputation is. You seem like a nice guy that loves his wife and daughter, but I really don’t know what others who interact with you more directly think of you (e.g. co-workers, family, friends, and acquaintances) nor is that important or even being discussed here.

        What I have “gone after” is your idiosyncratic use of language on this blog and especially the very terms that are being discussed/debated. It appears that by inventing and using your own terminology you make the discussion of certain issues much more convoluted (cf. check what I say about X at my website . . .) and less clear (so people are speaking past each other as they are using the same terms but with very different meanings).

        Like

      21. Dizerner,

        I wrote, “The discussion then turned toward you denying the importance of logical coherence on this issue.”

        Then you replied, “I didn’t deny the importance, I denied the possibility. Please be accurate.”

        I apologize for this; this was a blunder on my part. These are indeed very different.

        You wrote, “Do you really… think… I’m the first person to ever ‘invent’ the idea that people are different than machines?”

        By no means! I’m saying that you’re inventing a novel taxonomy whereby there is “mechanical trust” and there is “personal trust.” And the reason you felt compelled to do this was because my “trusting a piece of equipment” example showed that “X can actually do otherwise” has nothing to do with “trust in X” or lack thereof.

        Clearly there are big differences between decisionmaking organisms and pieces of equipment. Pieces of equipment generally don’t make decisions at all!

        I’m — in good faith — trying to figure out a way to explain that your original stipulation — that real trust in X requires the real possibility for X to ‘do otherwise’ — has no warrant. The easiest way, at first, was to show that I can trust things that don’t make decisions at all.

        Your countermove was to say that this is a different kind of trust entirely. Parsing “kinds of trust” like this is invoking a taxonomy, a bit like parsing “species of spider” is invoking a taxonomy.

        At this juncture, we then look to see whether the taxonomy you invoked is novel or idiosyncratic, or whether it is something commonly understood and employed. In this case, it very much appears to be the former. While it’s true that bridges are not babysitters, I’ve never heard somebody say that to trust in a bridge is CATEGORICALLY different than trust in a babysitter such that the former kind of trust is independent of “can do otherwise” whereas the latter kind is wholly dependent upon “can do otherwise.”

        THAT is what I am trying to say when I call your taxonomy novel.

        I now see that my approach wasn’t very fruitful. Here’s how I should have responded to your original assertion, that ‘real trust in X is possibly only if X can do otherwise’:

        “That definition of ‘real trust’ seems like a persuasive stipulation, a bit like Budweiser stipulating ‘real men drink Budweiser’ in a commercial. I don’t think ‘real trust’ relies on ‘can do otherwise’ at all — I say this because I really trust all sorts of people, and yet am not even aware of a coherent incompatibilist articulation of ‘can do otherwise.'”

        I hope this doesn’t come across as a personal attack. I don’t think you’re arguing in bad faith at all, which is frankly a breath of fresh air these days vs. the rest of the internet. It’s tough for tone to come across through text; please continue to lend me patience if I misrepresent you (as I inadvertently did above re: impossibility of logical coherence).

        An example of good-faith persuasive stipulation is what we commonly see from Open Theists and “genuine love.” Open Theists will very frequently claim that “real/true/genuine/sincere/whatever” love is dependent upon “real/true/genuine/sincere/whatever” risk, and risk can only be “real/true/genuine/sincere/whatever” if the future is open. If a person believes in libertarian free will but asserts that God knows a single future with certainty, the Open Theist will (often) say, “then ‘real/true/genuine/sincere/whatever’ risk is precluded, and as such, ‘real/true/genuine/sincere/whatever’ love is precluded.”

        And the response is, “Since when does love require that? I don’t think love requires that. You need to do some heavy lifting to convince me of such a ‘tether’ between love and the risk of uncertainty; I’m not going to accept that ‘tether’ just because you stipulate it.”

        Like

      22. You say: THAT is what I am trying to say when I call your taxonomy novel.

        I think you’re over complicating this a bit. When I talk about trusting humans, it’s implied that this kind of trust might be different. If we have a verb, that verb is relative to the object and subject. If I say “I had to really lean on my mother when my father died,” I’m not “invoking a new taxonomy” for “lean” so I can employ “persuasive stipulation.” I’m just using lean in relation to a relationship, because that’s how I’m employing the word. You can say “Well I can lean on wooden posts, and wooden posts don’t have free will,” or whatever. As soon as we involve humans in a topic, we involve everything that humans are. It may be obvious to you that humans don’t have the power of contrary choice, but if you truly believe in determinism much of our language becomes disingenuous, or at the very least, highly metaphorical.

        you say: And the response is, “Since when does love require that? I don’t think love requires that. You need to do some heavy lifting to convince me of such a ‘tether’ between love and the risk of uncertainty; I’m not going to accept that ‘tether’ just because you stipulate it.”

        Love doesn’t require that if you define love as “extreme affection or devotion,” but what people mean by that is that, love becomes far more meaningful if it is something originating within the person’s own power of self-determination rather than a necessary outcome of prior circumstances.

        Liked by 1 person

      23. Dizerner,

        You said, “As soon as we involve humans in a topic, we involve everything that humans are.”

        Sure. But your “leaning” example used the term metaphorically. But if I am drunk and have to lean on my buddy Tony to remain standing, then it is in the same categorical sense that I lean against a wall. And if somebody says, “Your leaning on Tony was only meaningful because Tony could have chosen otherwise and refused to help,” well, I’m going to say, “That’s a weird stipulation. I don’t accept it.”

        Trust is similarly mundane. My trust in a tool is a function of the degree to which I hold it prospectively reliable and depend upon it. My trust in a person is a function of the degree to which I hold them prospectively reliable and depend upon them. I trust my house’s roof. I trust the daycare at which I leave my child while I work. There isn’t a categorical distinction at THIS level.

        You said, “It may be obvious to you that humans don’t have the power of contrary choice.”

        As I’ve said several times in our discussions in this thread, I don’t know what you mean by “contrary choice.” You have yet to supply a definition that is both coherent and incompatibilistic. “Contrary choice” in my mind means “multiple plausible hypothetical prospects.” That’s what I think you’re talking about — the (general) human tendency to “float options” in our imaginations/contemplations before commission — but this is a compatibilistic definition!

        You said, “If you truly believe in determinism much of our language becomes disingenuous, or at the very least, highly metaphorical.”

        Under determinism, many errors in our common language are identified. Compatibilism involves a lot of semantic refinement. But this needed to be done anyway. “Responsibility” under libertarian free will, for instance, is a rat’s nest of horrible internal contradictions held in cognitive dissonance.

        You said, “What people mean by that is that, love becomes far more meaningful if it is something originating within the person’s own power of self-determination rather than a necessary outcome of prior circumstances.”

        My example was what I frequently hear from Open Theists, who are going beyond what you’re saying. They’re saying that it’s not enough that love have exclusive substantial origination within a person to be most-meaningful — they say that it is not meaningful unless not-wholly-expected. That is, they leverage their stipulation of “what real love requires” in order to make it “necessary” that God not have certain knowledge of a closed future.

        Like

      24. If you were told “choose A or B” would you really think that both were not an option for you at that time? That either A or B would necessarily be your choice, but both were not equally possible for you to choose? In that scenario, what do you think “choose” means? Does “choose” mean, “do what preconditions necessarily dictate” to you?

        Like

      25. dizerner writes, “If you were told “choose A or B” would you really think that both were not an option for you at that time? That either A or B would necessarily be your choice, but both were not equally possible for you to choose? In that scenario, what do you think “choose” means? Does “choose” mean, “do what preconditions necessarily dictate” to you?”

        If you are trying to define “contrary choice” in a Libertarian Free Will sense, then you have not done so above nor are you heading in that direction. When you say, “equally possible for you to choose,” you only eliminate coercion from the equation. As “contrary choice” is the language of Libertarian Free Will, you want to do more than remove coercion from choice.

        You need to define what you mean by “freedom” in choices. When can a person be considered “free” to choose in the Libertarian sense?

        I offered points on this before. A person is “free” to choose when he:
        1. Has knowledge of at least two options, A and B. (e.g., eternal life and eternal death)
        2. Can differentiate between the options as they are understandable. (e.g., the consequences of choosing eternal life or eternal death)
        3. Can think rationally and does not make irrational choices.
        4. Is able to make a choice he expects to provide long term gain.

        Like

      26. dizerner writes, ‘You know I don’t think choices have to be rational.”

        That’s fine. An irrational choice is not a libertarian free choice. An irrational choice can be gotten just by flipping a coin. A libertarian free choice is gotten from the freedom of the individual choosing.

        Like

      27. dizerner writes, “Freedom dictates that you can choose to be irrational. That’s within the power of your choice.”

        From what I can tell, irrational people are generally viewed as having mental issues. A person able to exercise Libertarian Free Will may have the power (ability?) to make an irrational choice but would not do so. Why would he?

        Like

      28. Good morning Dizerner,

        You wrote,

        “If you were told ‘choose A or B’ would you really think that both were not an option for you at that time? That either A or B would necessarily be your choice, but both were not equally possible for you to choose? In that scenario, what do you think ‘choose’ means?”

        Both are hypothetically possible, but if A is defined as mutually exclusive with B (for instance, either eat something for lunch, or fast through lunchtime), then we know that the two cannot both be ontologically possible; one precludes the other by definition. In modal logic (the logic of necessity and possibility), we find that if A and B are mutually exclusive, and A is chosen at T1, then B is revealed to have been outright impossible at T0 when we preserve the accessibility relations from T0 to T1. This is extremely counterintuitive because, when noon hits, eating vs. fasting are both completely hypothetically plausible in my imagination, and these hypothetical imaginations are that which we’re familiar.

        On October 1st of this year, I wrote the following article, which explains the tension between what we intuitively feel (hypothetical possibility) and what we logically know (ontological possibility of two mutually exclusive choices is false). Included are diagrams that show what I’m talking about.

        Check it out: “Schrödinger’s Cup: A Closed Future of Possibilities”

        http://stanrock.net/2015/10/01/schrodingers-cup-a-closed-future-of-possibilities/

        Like

      29. Good morning Stan! You said to David, “Under determinism, many errors in our common language are identified. Compatibilism involves a lot of semantic refinement. But this is needed to be done anyway. ‘Responsibility’ under libertarian free will, for instance, is a rat’s nest of horrible internal contradictions held in cognitive dissonance.”

        I believe you think you are helping identify those “errors in our common language”, but to what purpose, if I may ask? Is it so that we will have greater love and trust in our Savior, Jesus Christ?

        And why do I think that your opinion of the meaning of “‘responsibility’ under libertarian free will… /as/ a rat’s nest of horrible contradictions held in cognitive dissonance” is the same opinion you have for how Scripture portrays the meaning of “love” and “trust” under libertarian free will and not determinism? Does God have libertarian free will to make random choices, or even any true choice consistent with the rest of His nature, in your view?

        Scripture says He is making choices, which clearly affirms that not all has been predetermined by Him or for Him. Is Scripture portraying “cognitive dissonance” in such verses, in your opinion, that need your “semantic refinement”?

        Like

      30. Dizerner, you wrote,

        “Would I be right, then, in saying you believe choosing is ‘doing what preconditions necessarily dictate’?”

        This isn’t precisely what choosing is. Under adequate determinism, an avalanche is also “doing what preconditions strictly dictate” but we wouldn’t say any decisions are involved.

        An avalanche is ’causes strictly yielding effects’ in the form of snow, rocks, and other material flowing down a mountain. Choicemaking is ’causes strictly yielding effects’ in the form of somebody actualizing from among several hypothetical options in their minds. We are part of natural creation; we don’t defy the manner by which it ‘works.’

        (I changed “necessarily” to “strictly” above because there are two kinds of necessity in different modal scopes; there is metaphysical necessity in one scope, and hypothetical necessity in another scope. “Strictly” more plainly denotes metaphysical necessity alone.)

        Like

      31. ➡ An avalanche is ’causes strictly yielding effects’ in the form of snow, rocks, and other material flowing down a mountain. Choice-making is ’causes strictly yielding effects’ in the form of somebody actualizing from among several hypothetical options in their minds

        If I were a bit snarky I’d say “the taxonomy of ‘material vs. mind causation’ was invented by you just now, and you’re invoking a new taxonomy so you can employ persuasive stipulation and that there isn’t a categorical distinction at THIS level and ‘That’s a weird stipulation. I don’t accept it.'” But I don’t like being snarky and don’t think it’s a good way to argue.

        If you go on to say: “We are part of natural creation; we don’t defy the manner by which it ‘works.’” then you’ve erased any categorical distinction between avalanche and mind, for the mind is just as physical and natural as an avalanche or a rock, and you’ve asserted scientific naturalism.

        Our choices then are determined not by anything solely in ourselves, but by the physical laws of nature, just like an apple falls from a tree and cannot decide to fly upwards instead.

        Like

      32. Dizerner,

        You wrote, “If I were a bit snarky I’d say ‘the taxonomy of material vs. mind causation was invented by you just now.'”

        I did not create such a taxonomy. There are a number of different functions God’s creation exhibits — functions like avalanches from mountains, meltwater from glaciers, bites from mosquitoes, decisions from people, etc. And with the exception of rare occasions, God doesn’t micromanage those things — for the most part, he lets them emerge from the chaos of secondary casuation. We have a sense of unique ownership over our decisions that develops thereby (but is not “absolute” or “divorced from prior causation”).

        Like

      33. stanrock writes, “…with the exception of rare occasions, God doesn’t micromanage those things — for the most part, he lets them emerge from the chaos of secondary casuation.”

        Given that God decides to let them emerge and without that decision, they would not emerge, we could say that He is micromanaging these also.

        Like

      34. ➡ I did not create such a taxonomy.

        But apparently I had the brilliant ingenuity to create a similar taxonomy, and can’t just say “I did not create such a taxonomy.”

        Like

      35. Dizerner,

        You earlier stipulated that there is a categorical difference between trust of nonpersonal objects and trust of persons, such that the former does NOT require the object of trust to be able to “choose otherwise,” and that the latter DOES require the object of trust to be able to “choose otherwise.” I did not agree with that stipulation and found no reason to accept it. And by rejecting that stipulation, I was not saying “people are the same as machines” (the reductio ad absurdum you threw my way).

        Here, I am saying only that “causes strictly yielding effects” qualifies EVERY behavior and action of created things under determinism, so it would be silly to define choicemaking as mere “causes strictly yielding effects.” Choicemaking is a kind of “causes strictly yielding effects” but is not defined as “causes strictly yielding effects.” Similarly “pump fake” is a kind of “basketball manuever” but is not defined as — that is, equivocal with — “basketball maneuver.”

        Your original question was, “Would I be right, then, in saying you believe choosing is ‘doing what preconditions necessarily dictate’?”

        Upon rereading this, I realize that I may have misinterpreted you. I thought by “is” you meant “equivocal to,” and that’s how I was responding. If instead by “is” you meant “is a form of” or “an instance of” then my reply is “yes.”

        Sorry if I derailed us with a misunderstanding there.

        Like

      36. You were saying trust in machines was the same as trust in people. That’s exactly what you were saying, and that was the point you were making.

        If that wasn’t it, what was your point?

        Like

      37. Dizerner, you wrote,

        “You were saying trust in machines was the same as trust in people. That’s exactly what you were saying, and that was the point you were making. If that wasn’t it, what was your point?”

        The point was that trust in something does not require that this something have the ability “can do otherwise.” I referred to trust in a machine by indirect analogy only; in retrospect this was sloppy of me, since it implied more than I intended with it.

        Let’s talk about trust in God instead. God shall succeed in making his good will ultimately manifest and cannot fail in this. The reason I trust God in this is because I don’t think he can do otherwise. “Can do otherwise” doesn’t seem relevant to trustworthiness. That’s why I don’t agree with the earlier stipulation that it is essential to trusting.

        Now, I can IMAGINE God failing or being evil in the hypothetical; this is where “do otherwise” lives, in hypothetical imagination.

        “Otherwise” is a relative term; it means “other than X,” where X is some referent. If, however, X is defined as “what I shall do,” then “can do otherwise” means “can do other than what I shall do,” and this is obviously impossible. “Otherwise” only makes sense in hypothetical imagination (especially counterfactual hypotheticals, where we imagine having done something different) where multiple mutually exclusive things can all feel very attainable, even when we know that one of them precludes the others.

        Like

    3. Jeff writes, “…every single one of us, experiences the phenomenon of making choices daily. This is so obvious and so universal that it cannot be refuted. Thus, the Calvinist has an uphill battle in proving that the common experience of all people everywhere is actually an illusion or a deception,…”

      The issue is not whether people make decisions – everyone agrees that people do that. The challenge is to prove that people have “free” will and are essentially above all the influences that enter into decision-making – the primary influence being the sin nature.

      then, “…and that all people are actually unwittingly obeying the will of God, even though they believe otherwise.”

      Not everyone believes otherwise – some believe that God is sovereign.

      Like

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