YOU TOO!

YouTOOfallacy


 

This is probably the most employed logical fallacy of the Calvinistic believer when engaging in a debate over the claims of their TULIP systematic. Here is how the conversation typically goes:

Calvin: God brings about every meticulous detail for His own glory, including man’s sinful inclinations and choices.[1]

Hobbs: That claim undermines the character, holiness and goodness of God who abhors moral evil (Prov. 6:16-19; Jer. 7:31), is holy or separate from all evil (Is. 6:3; Ex. 15:11) and who does not even tempt men to sin (Jm. 1:13). He is the redeemer of sinful choices, not the one who brings them about!

Calvin: YOU TOO have the same problem because you believe God knows every evil thing that is going to happen but did not prevent it.

Notice that the Traditionalist (Hobbs) is critiquing an ACTUAL CLAIM of the Calvinistic systematic.  The Calvinist does not answer that critique, but instead they commit the “you too” fallacy by appealing NOT to an ACTUAL CLAIM of the Traditionalistic scholars, but to their own philosophical conclusion about the infinite attribute of divine omniscience – a philosophical conclusion that Traditionalists deny.  

So, the Traditionalist is critiquing an actual claim of Calvinism while the Calvinist is appealing to something all Traditionalists deny (i.e. if God knows something and does not prevent it then it is the same as Him determining it).

Let’s take a look at this same fallacy in a “real world” discussion and see how it plays itself out:

Calvin: I hired a mean kid at my son’s school to bully him so as to toughen him up so he can represent my name in a strong powerful way.

Hobbs: You did what?!? How can a good and loving father do that to his own child?! If your son finds out what you did he will never trust you again.

Calvin: YOU TOO did the same thing last year when your son told you about that bully and you sent him to school anyway. You didn’t have to send your son to school knowing there was a bully there. You could have prevented him from being bullied, but you didn’t, so YOU TOO are as bad as I am!

Hobbs: WHAT!?  I did not hire some mean kid to mercilessly torture my son. I hated that he went through that. I wept with him. I worked with him every night on what to say and do in order to confront his bully. I helped redeem that horrible situation to make him stronger. I did not cause it, or bring it about, or make it happen for my own namesake. If someone went to my house and convinced my son that I had actually hired that bully last year then he would never trust me again. It would undermine my character and trustworthiness and completely ruin our relationship. I am the helper and redeemer of my son’s bad situation, not the cause of it! How dare you even compare what I did to what you did!

The idea that God’s choice to permit free creatures to make free choices and suffer the full weight and consequences of those choices is somehow equal to the divine meticulous determinism being promoted by pastors like John Piper is blantantly absurd. It would be tauntamont to suggesting that someone who chooses not to actively get involved in helping feed starving children in Africa is equal to someone who purposefully starves a child locked inside his own house. Yes, the concept of divine permission may be problematic but it pales in comparison to the problem inherent within the actual claims of what Calvinists teach. 


[1] See the quotes from John Piper and John Calvin HERE. I am not suggesting a “Calvinist” must agree with John Piper or even John Calvin on every theological point in order to be considered a “Calvinist.” But if you are going to proudly promote this label shouldn’t you at least affirm the basic theological claims over the issues that make Calvinism so controversial in the church?  The major reason we even know of John Calvin and “Calvinism” is because of his controversial views over predestination, election, free will, sovereignty, etc.  If you cannot affirm his statements on at least those issues, then may I suggest you stop promoting the label “Calvinist?” Or, if nothing else, at least stop accusing people like myself of not really understanding Calvinism?

*Plus, the WCF does in fact affirm that “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…” and “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.<link> This clearly indicates all creature’s evil intentions were “unchangeably ordained by God in eternity past” and this is not based on foreknowledge of future events.

96 thoughts on “YOU TOO!

  1. Leighton wrote, “I am not suggesting a “Calvinist” must agree with John Piper or even John Calvin on every theological point in order to be considered a “Calvinist.” But if you are going to proudly promote this label shouldn’t you at least affirm the basic theological claims over the issues that make Calvinism so controversial in the church? The major reason we even know of John Calvin and “Calvinism” is because of his controversial views over predestination, election, free will, sovereignty, etc. If you cannot affirm his statements on at least those issues, then may I suggest you stop promoting the label “Calvinist?””

    Yes, that’s a problem I’ve noted among many Calvinists. They often lament, “Must I believe everything Calvin taught or wrote to be a Calvinist?” Well, if you abandon Calvin’s supralapsarianism, his belief in exhaustive divine determinism, or unconditional election, then what do you have left of his theology?

    I’ve had a few Calvinists claim the following: God didn’t predestine the reprobate to hell–He merely “passed him over”, God allows sin but doesn’t will it, and there are conditions to election (we just may not know them). That’s not objecting to a doctrine in Calvinism, that’s wholesale repudiation of Calvinism.

    Now, if you want to go out and refer to yourself as “Reformed”, you have a slightly larger tent to shelter under.

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  2. Yes, God abhors all evil but apart from the evil God ordained, there would be no point to a redeemed creation or Christ assuming flesh and sacrificing himself for,his,chosen. God s separate,from all evil but does maintain his presence in hell and tolerated the presence of satan as indicaged in Job. Job also indicates that satan may only do what God allows him to, supporting the Scriptural idea of total divine sovereignty. Christ taught us to pray “Lord, lead us not into temptation…” . Why would Christ teach us to pray this if God doesn’t do it (regardless of what James claims). God,ordained sin for,two reasons: to drive his elect to Christ and to condemn the reprobate. These are,both good,things. It appears to me that you are suffering from a lack of logical thought and cherry picking Scripture to support your own view. Eisegesis at its worst.

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    1. Hi Roger Huckle! There is no contradiction between James and Jesus, between God not tempting with evil and His leading someone into an areana where he probably will be tempted. Read this post’s example of the hired bully for commanded abuse of the child, or the child sent into school where there is a bully, and where only the possibility of abuse exists within regulated limits (1Cor 10:13).

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  3. Yes, this is a red herring. Even if they were right, it wouldn’t disprove the arguments. It’s like fat people with “Stay in shape!” T-shirts. The truth of the message is irrelevant to the speakers. Even if we HAD the same problem, it wouldn’t make their position somehow better.

    The thing that bothers me post, though, is the constant doublespeak in compatibilism. If they want God to be responsible for action A, boom, it’s all theirs under sovereignty. If they want man to be responsible for that same action, well, shazaam, he is under secondary means. As I posted on CARM:

    QUOTE BY CALVINIST: God certainly doesn’t need to force people to sin.
    It’s weird to me that people want to profess a form of hard determinism, but then use language that only has a distinction under autonomy. It’s like they want to have their cake and eat it too. Permission, responsibility, force, cause, culpability, sin, secondary means, allowance, rebel, whatever you say is only one thing: the decree of God. Calvinists get frustrated and call that “flattening everything out,” because they are so used to playing a little back and forth game, where they jump into whatever worldview they want like a slippery eel, so that you can never pin them down on anything. At one point God does it, no man does, no God does, no man does, but God does, but man does it, but man doesn’t really do it, but God doesn’t really do it, but man doesn’t do it, but God does do it, but God doesn’t do it.

    “Oh you just don’t understand Calvinism.”

    I don’t think anyone in the world understands Calvinism, lol.

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  4. I am not sure what point Pastor Flowers is trying to make here. The issue seems to be about how to challenge Calvinism. The best starting point is “omniscience” simply because both sides appear to agree that God is omniscient. If all agree that God is omniscient, then where do the opposing parties start to move apart? Everyone also agrees that God is sovereign over His creation. The argument of the Calvinist is: God is omniscient; God is sovereign; therefore God brings about every meticulous detail of every event. If Hobbs does not like that, then he must have a problem with omniscience or sovereignty. For the Calvinist to point this out is not a “you too” argument. It is simply an effort to determine where the two sides diverge on omniscience and/or sovereignty.

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  5. A wonderful article!! :-]
    There are a few argumentation techniques I’ve noticed are consistent and reoccurring, which over the years, I’ve come to name.

    The Bullfighter technique, the Carrot on a stick technique, the Snowflake technique, the Double-agent technique, the Wolf-pack technique, the Greased Pig technique, and the “We don’t say it that way” technique. All of these techniques typically incorporate various forms of semantic magicianries and double-think, which evolve, increasingly convoluted and sophisticated.

    We have in this system, a conception of the universe, so highly deterministic, that it often manifests as a form of *theistic* fatalism (not to be conflated with “natural” fatalism or other forms of fatalism). Now theistic determinism is not problematic in and of itself. The problem becomes obvious when this degree of determinism/fatalism incorporates the perpetration of evils, by a “Holy” God, who, (as asserted by its adherents) does so for the purpose of manifesting voluntaristic prowess or deriving pleasures from the tormenting of creatures. There is no need for cognitive dissonance within the mind of Lucifer, in his manifesting voluntaristic prowess or deriving pleasures from perpetrating evils, nor do we see any need for it with pagan deities, simply because neither Lucifer or the pagan deity is ascribed the attribute of “Holiness”. And it is this attribute of “Holiness” which separates the God of scripture from all others. So we can readily see how cognitive dissonances quite naturally arise within the mind of a believer who perceives God’s intentions and conduct parallel those of Luciferian impulses. Especially when that believer perceives God’s intent is to derive pleasures from them.

    Every individual Calvinist seems to have his own unique way of resolving the obvious ethical-moral dilemmas logically entailed within such conceptions. In this way every Calvinist can be likened to a Snowflake. His conception of the system is unique from other Calvinists, but in order to be a Calvinist, his conceptions must contain essential defining constituents, just like every Snowflake being slightly different contains the essential defining constituents that make a Snowflake a Snowflake and not an ice-cube.

    Where the Snowflake manifests as an argument technique is when he asserts his own unique conceptions of Calvinism, representing them AS CORE Calvinism, when they really aren’t. On a discussion forum such as this, multiple Calvinists can work together in this tactic, and the process turns into a version of the “Whac-A-Mole” game.

    The strategy of the “Whac-A-Mole” game, is to POP-UP out of a hole and say “That’s not Calvinism…it’s over here!”. Then as soon as the unsuspecting recipient is drawn off in that direction, another one POPS-UP out of a completely different hole and says “That’s not Calvinism….it’s over here!”. As each one POPS-UP, he represents his unique “Snowflake” representation of Calvinism AS CORE Calvinism. The end result is the unsuspecting recipient is eventually worn out chasing moles (or rabbits) down un-ending holes. The Snowflake technique is designed to create smoke-screens, and confusion, with the hopes of wearing down those who attempt to critically examine the system.

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    1. Br.D,

      As usual I appreciate your post, you have a very good grasp of the problems and nature of this form of theological determinism known as Calvinism. You make reference to some of your own terms for he semantic game playing that Calvinists engage in:

      “The Bullfighter technique, the Carrot on a stick technique, the Snowflake technique, the Double-agent technique, the Wolf-pack technique, the Greased Pig technique, and the “We don’t say it that way” technique. All of these techniques typically incorporate various forms of semantic magicianries and double-think, which evolve, increasingly convoluted and sophisticated.”

      Could you elaborate on these, I would like to see what you mean by these terms, thanks.

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      1. Hi Robert,
        Thank you for your kind words!
        You are appreciated!
        I think you probably get the gist of the “Greased Pig” technique. But without taking up too much room, let me just post a small snippet on the Double-Agent technique, which I posted in one of the other discussions, as I observed it in action there.

        Observers watching Calvinists defending their system’s logical entailment’s concerning God’s role in sinful evil events, occasionally note the Calvinist appears to operate as a kind of double-agent. Let me explain. Lets say we have a double-agent operating between the U.S. and Russia. When he is in Russia, he operates as an agent for the U.S. and when in the U.S. he operates as an agent for Russia.

        Now in this model, Russia and the U.S. hold certain doctrines that are antagonistic to each other. So when in Russia, the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with Russia, and disapproval of U.S. doctrine. But when in the U.S., the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with the U.S., and distance himself from Russian distinctives. The agent learns how to communicate in such a way as to represent the doctrines of either side, without people in dialog recognizing it.

        People watching Calvinists observe this phenomenon sometimes as the following:
        (1) The Calvinist harshly condemns a doctrine of (lets say Arminianism or Molinism).
        (2) The Calvinist then uses that very doctrine which he previously condemned, as a defense for Calvinism, representing it AS-IF it were THE Calvinist position on an issue of disagreement.

        People in dialog with the Calvinist are totally unaware when the Calvinist is actually presenting an Arminian or a Molinist distinction AS-IF it were a Calvinist distinction, because the Calvinist has previously harshly condemned all things Arminian and all things Molinism. And so in this type of dialog, they get drawn around in useless never ending circles, trying to make sense of a “so called” Calvinist distinctive, when what is REALLY being presented is an Arminian or Molinist distinctive, temporarily used as a defense position.

        Let us say there is a line, which we will call the “Continuum of Determinism”. From left, to right on this line we have: Very-low to medium determinism = ‘SOFT’ determinism. Medium to high determinism = SEMI-HARD determinism. High to Ultra-high determinism = “HARD” determinism. The Calvinist has his pick of any place along that spectrum he wants to position himself and still be a Calvinist.

        When representing God’s role in GOOD events, which come to pass, he will instinctively lean towards the HARD end of the continuum, presenting God as meticulously rendering certain *ALL* things that come to pass, sometimes to the point of stipulating that God controls every neurological impulse every human brain can have, as way of glorying in the Calvinist’s superior distinction of divine sovereignty.

        However when representing God’s role in SINFUL EVIL events which come to pass, he instinctively realizes the ethical-moral consequences the HARD determinist’s position entails. So, functioning as a kind of double-agent, he can switch to representing a SOFT or Non-deterministic position as a way of removing the specter of God as author of evil. And if he does this, people often don’t realize an Arminian or Molinist position is being presented AS-IF it were a Calvinist position. In the event an Arminian or Molinist presents the same exact position, the Calvinist would move to refute it, only to then later again carefully enunciate it himself as a defense. People are unprepared for this because they see Calvinists harshly condemning Arminian and Molinist distinctions. And this is also one of the reasons Calvinists avoid giving their position on HARD deterministic enunciations which are commonly expressed by leading Calvinists. as Its almost impossible to assert a HARD deterministic position and then use a SOFT position as a defense without being detected. Its good to keep a watchful eye out for this, and not to get drawn in to useless circular dialog by it.

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      2. br.d ,

        You had spoken of ““The Bullfighter technique, the Carrot on a stick technique, the Snowflake technique, the Double-agent technique, the Wolf-pack technique, the Greased Pig technique, and the “We don’t say it that way” technique.”

        In your latest post you centered in on the “double Agent” technique:

        [[But without taking up too much room, let me just post a small snippet on the Double-Agent technique, which I posted in one of the other discussions, as I observed it in action there.
        Observers watching Calvinists defending their system’s logical entailment’s concerning God’s role in sinful evil events, occasionally note the Calvinist appears to operate as a kind of double-agent. Let me explain. Lets say we have a double-agent operating between the U.S. and Russia. When he is in Russia, he operates as an agent for the U.S. and when in the U.S. he operates as an agent for Russia.
        Now in this model, Russia and the U.S. hold certain doctrines that are antagonistic to each other. So when in Russia, the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with Russia, and disapproval of U.S. doctrine. But when in the U.S., the agent’s enunciations must display solidarity with the U.S., and distance himself from Russian distinctives. The agent learns how to communicate in such a way as to represent the doctrines of either side, without people in dialog recognizing it.
        People watching Calvinists observe this phenomenon sometimes as the following:
        (1) The Calvinist harshly condemns a doctrine of (lets say Arminianism or Molinism).
        (2) The Calvinist then uses that very doctrine which he previously condemned, as a defense for Calvinism, representing it AS-IF it were THE Calvinist position on an issue of disagreement.
        People in dialog with the Calvinist are totally unaware when the Calvinist is actually presenting an Arminian or a Molinist distinction AS-IF it were a Calvinist distinction, because the Calvinist has previously harshly condemned all things Arminian and all things Molinism. And so in this type of dialog, they get drawn around in useless never ending circles, trying to make sense of a “so called” Calvinist distinctive, when what is REALLY being presented is an Arminian or Molinist distinctive, temporarily used as a defense position.
        Let us say there is a line, which we will call the “Continuum of Determinism”. From left, to right on this line we have: Very-low to medium determinism = ‘SOFT’ determinism. Medium to high determinism = SEMI-HARD determinism. High to Ultra-high determinism = “HARD” determinism. The Calvinist has his pick of any place along that spectrum he wants to position himself and still be a Calvinist.
        When representing God’s role in GOOD events, which come to pass, he will instinctively lean towards the HARD end of the continuum, presenting God as meticulously rendering certain *ALL* things that come to pass, sometimes to the point of stipulating that God controls every neurological impulse every human brain can have, as way of glorying in the Calvinist’s superior distinction of divine sovereignty.
        However when representing God’s role in SINFUL EVIL events which come to pass, he instinctively realizes the ethical-moral consequences the HARD determinist’s position entails. So, functioning as a kind of double-agent, he can switch to representing a SOFT or Non-deterministic position as a way of removing the specter of God as author of evil. And if he does this, people often don’t realize an Arminian or Molinist position is being presented AS-IF it were a Calvinist position. In the event an Arminian or Molinist presents the same exact position, the Calvinist would move to refute it, only to then later again carefully enunciate it himself as a defense. People are unprepared for this because they see Calvinists harshly condemning Arminian and Molinist distinctions. And this is also one of the reasons Calvinists avoid giving their position on HARD deterministic enunciations which are commonly expressed by leading Calvinists. as Its almost impossible to assert a HARD deterministic position and then use a SOFT position as a defense without being detected. Its good to keep a watchful eye out for this, and not to get drawn in to useless circular dialog by it.”]]

        Thanks for elaborating on that one, could you elaborate on the others? I want to hear you on this.

        Regarding this double agent technique, seen it many times. They attack non-Calvinistic premises and yet when presenting their view borrow our premises to argue their view.

        Something I have also seen a lot is the opposite of this: instead of borrowing from our premises to make their argument, they inject their premises into our view and then attack our view.

        Seen this most often with the problem of evil. It is a calvinistic premise that God creates people to be whatever they are (rather than their choosing to be what they end up being). So the calvinist will then argue that if God foreknows all events and creates the world, in non-Calvinistic thinking he is creating people for hell just as he does in calvinism! No, if libertarian free will is present, and people’s choices result in heaven or hell, they are not created by God to be hell bound: instead they make repeated choices that result in their being eternally separated from God. Big difference! But when they attack us they will inject their premise that God creates people to be what they are.

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      3. Robert writes, “It is a calvinistic premise that God creates people to be whatever they are (rather than their choosing to be what they end up being). ”

        God created Adam and declared it good. Adam then sinned, and it is because of Adam’s sin that people are now slaves to sin. People are born slaves to sin and do not have a choice (Calvin calls this the horrible decree).

        Then, “So the calvinist will then argue that if God foreknows all events and creates the world, in non-Calvinistic thinking he is creating people for hell just as he does in calvinism! ”

        To be clearer, the Calvinist argues that God is omniscient and when God created the world, God knew who would be saved and who would not. Robert agrees with this as he claims to believe that God is omniscient.

        Then, “No, if libertarian free will is present, and people’s choices result in heaven or hell, they are not created by God to be hell bound:”

        Adam was created with LFW and this was lost when Adam sinned. Adam’s sin resulted in all people being born with a sin nature thereby disqualifying them from entry into heaven.

        Then, “…instead they make repeated choices that result in their being eternally separated from God.”

        Calvinists say that people sin because they are born sinners.

        Finally, “But when [Calvinists] attack us they will inject their premise that God creates people to be what they are.”

        We can say that each person is a creation of God and after Adam sinned, each is a sinner.

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    2. “…incorporates the perpetration of evils, by a “Holy” God…”

      Can we at least acknowledge that Calvinists say God uses secondary agents to perpetrate evil making it a “control” issue and not a “cause” issue?

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  6. It’s probably less useful to call this tu quoque, but rather to call it a reductio ad absurdum that begs the question.

    You would then attack the question, e.g., rightfully point out, “Even if adequate determinism is true and God is totally sovereign and foreknowing, it is not necessarily the case that God meticulously and surgically ordains evil; under conditions of deterministic chaos, micromanagement evaporates over time unless incisively reasserted by supernatural fiat.”

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    1. “…under conditions of deterministic chaos…”

      Sorting that out can keep the wheels spinning in one’s head for a while. Kinda reads like an oxymoron.

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      1. Yep. Chaos has colloquial connotations of “disorder” but it’s actually something much weirder and cooler, and offers us a hugely functional distinction between primary and secondary causation.

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    2. Hi Robert,
      I agree totally with your observation where the Calvinist inserts his own unquestioned resuppositions into non-Calvinist enunciations.
      In regard to this, you might find the phenomenon of “Milieu control” interesting. The term was originally coined by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, in regard to how powerful socialization processes are common within highly dogmatic religious or political groups. And how those socialization processes can eventually control the way group members perceive reality. In street language “group-think”. Often enunciations about biblical things made by persons outside of the group can actually be heard as confusion by group members because “Milieu control” has so influenced their thinking that they cannot acknowledge concepts that don’t honor group dogma.

      In the Bullfighter technique: As you know, the bullfighter positions himself behind a red cape and imitates the body language of aggression, to which he knows the bull will respond. The bull charges the cape, thinking he is charging the man. The man then steps to the side, so the bull is unwittingly, no longer charging the man, but the cap. As the bull reaches the cap, usually with head down, in full charge, the man simply flicks the cap out of the way and the bull is left charging thin air. This process then repeats itself, and the bull is not intelligent enough to know how the strategy works.

      This can occur between Calvinist and interlocutor. The Calvinist may assert the interlocutor is not qualified to critique Calvinism, because he doesn’t understand it. The Calvinist hopes he can simply dismiss the interlocutor out of hand with this charge, or become an unwitting bull. Here we have the shaking of the red cape. If the interlocutor is unsuspecting of the technique, he unwittingly becomes an entertaining bull. He interprets the assertion as a challenge to accurately enunciate Calvinism. If the interlocutor is unaware of the underlying presupposition of Universal Divine Causal Determinism, which functions invisibly within the system, (and we can now see how valuable its invisibility is), the interlocutor has lost the game from the onset. He is charging full speed into a red cape, assuming the role of an unwitting bull.

      In many cases the Calvinist’s challenge, is itself a misleading statement reliant upon ambiguity. The interlocutor thinks the Calvinist is asserting he doesn’t know enough about Calvinism to critique it, because that is what the Calvinist appears to be saying. However, the Calvinist’s meaning may be hidden. What he may really be saying, is the interlocutor doesn’t know [his unique] understanding of Calvinism. Which, of course should be obvious, because every Calvinist is his own unique snowflake, having his own unique understanding of Calvinism, residing at his own unique location on the continuum-line of determinism—a location where he is comfortable living with its dark implications. The Calvinist is quite correct; the interlocutor can’t possibly know his particular and unique understanding of Calvinism. In the event, the interlocutor doesn’t recognize the subtle play in wording, he will lunge head-on, full speed into a bright red cape.

      In order to meet this challenge, if it is indeed asserted in earnest, the interlocutor must have done his due diligence well in advance. He must have a full and comprehensive factual knowledge of quotes from leading Calvinists, and he must be able to enunciate them, unemotionally, accurately, in a sequence that is non-aggressive, intelligent, rational, and lucid. The Calvinist knows, if the interlocutor doesn’t have the ability to do all that, he can be dismissed out of hand. The interlocutor must also be prepared for the Calvinist to deviate from the leading enunciations of Calvinism and represent a unique often illusive understanding of Calvinism. The interlocutor must been keenly prepared for this strategy, and know how to quickly respond. If the Calvinist chooses that recourse, dialog is doomed fruitless and destructive, as the interlocutor is at that point chasing after multiple rabbits, each having their own hole to escape into. When that is the case it is best to disengage cordially, friendly, in a Christ-like manner. If any Christ-like, truth-seeking dialog is to be exchanged, it must be agreed, that the Calvinist will represent CORE Calvinism and not some unique illusive understanding of it. In most cases, one will find that only internationally leading Calvinists are willing to enunciate CORE Calvinism, because as representatives of Calvinism, that is expected of them.

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      1. Hey Br.D, my notif said that you were responding to me with this post, but it looks like you were talking to Robert?

        For the record, I’m not a Calvinist and think Calvinism has a host of problems itself. In fact, the very thing of which I indict overt libertarian free will theologians — using the incoherence of libertarian free will as a “logical wildcard” to bridgebreak (make valid corollaries seem invalid) and bridgemake (make invalid corollaries seem valid) — can be found festering in hidden pockets throughout Calvinist theology.

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      2. stanrock writes, “…the very thing of which I indict overt libertarian free will theologians — using the incoherence of libertarian free will as a “logical wildcard” to bridgebreak (make valid corollaries seem invalid) and bridgemake (make invalid corollaries seem valid) — can be found festering in hidden pockets throughout Calvinist theology.”

        But isn’t it the problem that “libertarian free will” is incoherent and not how Calvinists, and others, are forced to deal with that incoherence (but this may exacerbate the original problem that exists and add to the confusion). Straighten out LFW and everyone else can straighten out their arguments.

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      3. Stanrock: Hey Br.D, my notif said that you were responding to me with this post, but it looks like you were talking to Robert?

        Yes, I’m sorry for that. I looked for the “REPLY” hyperlink under Robert’s post and must have selected the wrong one. My apologies!
        I ascribe to the wisdom of Roger Fisher and William Ury who seperate people from problems: “Always honor and respect the people, and attack the problem…and not the reverse”. So I strive to be gracious with people. However, perhaps it was providential….I’m grateful for.your post where you defined “bridgebreaking” and “bridgemaking”. Your explanation was very helpful. I liken them to “connecting dots” or “not connecting dots”. One of our human vulnerabilities…”Attribution Error”…we can err both ways. My thanks Stan. :-]

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      4. Rhutchin,

        The root problem is that libertarian free will is incoherent. This incoherence makes it utile as a logical wildcard to bridgemake and bridgebreak. This rhetorical utility makes it irresistible as a “puzzle-solver” even to the most brilliant people, and the only way to fight it is a boring but relentless insistence that the concept be defined “one level lower,” in a positive and coherent way, AND in such a way that is incompatibilistic (many folks meet the “positive/coherent challenge” but inadvertently posit a compatibilistic view of free will in doing so).

        The issue I mentioned before is that even camps that are “officially” opposed to views of LFW often find themselves invoking it, sometimes openly, sometimes implicitly. One example is when you hear certain Calvinists claim that God has libertarian free will. Anyone sticking to their guns that LFW is incoherent should not be making such a claim. Another example is when you hear certain Calvinists, due to their views about the nature of Judgment, bow to deserts-prime ideas of moral response (which are fueled by libertarian thinking like contra-causality and exclusive self-direction) as opposed to purpose-prime ideas of moral response.

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      5. stanrock writes, “Calvinists claim that God has libertarian free will. Anyone sticking to their guns that LFW is incoherent should not be making such a claim.”

        I think in doing this, Calvinists are saying that LFW is coherent only when applied to God (because of His omniscience, infinite understanding, etc.). This explains the difficulty in defining LFW coherently when applied to man who is not God.

        Then, “Another example is when you hear certain Calvinists…bow to deserts-prime ideas of moral response (which are fueled by libertarian thinking like contra-causality and exclusive self-direction) as opposed to purpose-prime ideas of moral response.”

        Are you distinguishing here those arguments that emphasize the basis for punishment to rest in the requirement that a person have a certain level of freedom to disobey (contra-causality) versus those that emphasize that the person broke the law regardless how he came to do so or how free he was?

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  7. Professor Flowers,

    I see your posts, and feel that every one of your criticisms of Calvinism can be easily answered. I’m here in the DFW metroplex and would love to sit down for a discussion/debate over any of the problems you have with reformed soteriology. I don’t have the time at present to devote to a long drawn out comment battle with multiple people that accomplishes little to nothing, but I would definitely be willing to have a personal discussion to be aired for the benefit of your audience.

    The problem with this latest post is not that anyone thinks you are in any way affirming divine determinism, but that you are inconsistently and illogically denying that the omniscient Creator of the universe created without intentionally determining all the repercussions of His creative actions. In addition to your school bully analogy, I’ve heard you use analogies like live streaming from your car. Someone watching can know you’re in your car going down the highway without having caused it. These analogies don’t even come close to touching the issues raised by Calvinists.

    The issue is that God is eternally omniscient. All His actions are known to Him eternally. He knows exactly what and how He will create. He knows every time He will intervene within His creation. He knows absolutely everything that will happen within the very specific creation He will bring into existence from the brightness of the largest star down to the continuing orbit of every electron. None of these things existed prior to or independently of God. Everything in creation is dependent on God for its very existence. Every event in creation, including human decisions, was known to God from eternity. Every person, every circumstance, every motivation, and every decision was known to God and depended on God’s actions for any given person in any given circumstances to even exist and exist in those circumstances.

    What is necessarily entailed in this is that when someone knows exactly what the repercussions of their actions are and then knowingly carries out those actions, those known repercussions are intended to take place and are properly said to be determined by the person carrying out those actions. I won’t even go into the law of causation and how it requires the idea of human decisions being causally traced back to God as their primary cause. That discussion isn’t even necessary here. You affirm that God perfectly knows those decisions and then creates the universe in the specific way in which He knows those decisions will take place. That is called determining, and it applies to everything and every event within the creation of our omniscient God.

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    1. Hi Matt. I hope you are doing well. You sound like you believe exactly like every other theistic determinist I’ve discussed these matters with over the years. And you seem under the impression that because I don’t agree with determinism that I just don’t quite understand it as well as you do and so a sit down conversation with you will straighten me out… Is that about right? 🙂

      I am now trying to reserve my personal interactions with those who have mutual respect for each other’s scholarship despite the differences, not those who introduce themselves with belittling and patronizing commentary.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “the Calvinist definition of omniscience isn’t found in the Scriptures,…”

        Might we say that this conclusion is debatable.

        Then, “…that such a definition makes it impossible for for God to have free will to make any future choices or decisions like the Scripture says He does?”

        This is basically a non sequitur. Free will is exercised in making a decision. Once God makes decisions regarding the future, free will has been exercised and it is no longer an issue. That God has “free will” says that He could, in theory, change His mind, but there is no need for a different decision as the original decision reflects God’s perfect knowledge, understanding and wisdom and a change would be imperfect meaning that God would not do it.

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      2. Good morning Roger! Every conclusion is certainly “debatable” and that is why we look at the evidence. The evidence is that God is still making decisions after creation, using His free will and infinite understanding. What does not follow (non-sequitur) in your line of reasoning is the Scriptural evidence. God having the free will and power to decide everything before creation (Molinism) or no free will that could be exercised, since it is locked behind an eternal immutable omniscience (Calvinism) are both reasonable philosophical views, but the evidence of Scripture, taken with normal grammatical, contextual understanding refutes those two positions. Any amoeba can see this! 🙂 [note to readers: The last sentence was an inside joke.]

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      3. First Brian wrote, “…that such a definition makes it impossible for for God to have free will to make any future choices or decisions like the Scripture says He does?”

        Now you condition that statement by, “the evidence of Scripture, taken with normal grammatical, contextual understanding refutes [the Calvinist position].”

        The question here is whether you are talking exegesis or eisegesis which you, as a biased observer, cannot rule on. What we need is a nice little (or lengthy) article where someone spells out how your claim might be true true. You make a nice eisegetical statement; it just needs to be backed up by a sound exegetical proof – so does that exist?

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      4. After all our interaction you and I have had with specific Scriptures, you would excuse me of making a “nice eisegetical statement”? I see this call, Roger, for an article as a red herring.

        But since you seem to like the sense of authority that comes with something published, how about articles on Omniscience by Chris Fisher, which he has made available at https://realityisnotoptional.com/category/god/omniscience/

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      5. brianwagner writes, “…how about articles on Omniscience by Chris Fisher, which he has made available at https://realityisnotoptional.com/category/god/omniscience/.”

        Well, I was looking for something that addressed your position. I did not see anything that did so based on subject matter and reading a couple articles. I did not get the impression that Fisher and you see eye to eye on omniscience. Did you have a specific article in mind?

        I get the impression that they is nothing out there (no sound exegetical proof) to support your eisegetical opining else you would have been more forthcoming with a source(s). That’s the way it is; Open Theism is in its infancy and little real exegetical work has been done to support its claims from what I have seen; so they are no help – maybe you could become their champion by doing some solid exegetical work in this area!

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      6. Did you read yet – Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, by IVP pub? Would you consider Boyd’s presentation and defense of the Open Theist’s view of omniscience exegetical enough?

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      7. brianwagner writes, “Did you read yet – Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, by IVP pub? Would you consider Boyd’s presentation and defense of the Open Theist’s view of omniscience exegetical enough?”

        Yes and No. Boyd’s paper is like a first submission to an academic journal. The paper is sent out for review and the author then incorporates reviewers’ comments into a revision of his paper. That Boyd’s paper is short on exegesis is evident from the comments section in the book and the other positions described – so, a rewrite is necessary to make it “exegetical enough” and even one rewrite does not guarantee this – human writers being what they are and now possibly reacting in defense mode to reviewers’ comments. Even you should not conclude that Boyd’s paper is “exegetical enough.”

        Maybe the problem here is the definition of “exegesis.” If you have concluded that Boyd’s paper represents sound exegesis of a subject, then we clearly have different notions of that which constitutes sound exegesis.

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      8. Thanks Roger for clarifying a little more about what you mean by exegetical. My definition of that term, at least, is probably very close to yours! 🙂

        I wonder what Calvinist work you would point to that is “exegetical” concerning omniscience. I have looked, and I believe that a thorough exegetical study of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “know” and “knowledge” and relevant passages that use phrases like “knows all” still needs to be done. I am open to suggestions you might have.

        We have discussed Charnock’s presentation of omniscience, and I would view that as the same level of exposition as you are placing Boyd.

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      9. brianwagner writes, “We have discussed Charnock’s presentation of omniscience, and I would view that as the same level of exposition as you are placing Boyd.”

        I put Charnock way above Boyd who I see stating opinions and then looking for verses to support his claims.

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      10. Roger, that is exactly what I saw Charnock doing… stating philosophical opinions and then looking for verses that sounded like they supported them! Though Charnock was much more wordy! 🙂

        I appreciated that Boyd discussed that major passages that disagreed with his view, which Charnock did some too, but I agree that both could have provided more exegesis in their rebuttals concerning those passages that disagreed with their views.

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      11. brianwagner writes, “I appreciated that Boyd discussed that major passages that disagreed with his view,…”

        Really! Boyd looks at Isaiah and says, Isaiah does not mean that the future is “exhaustively” settled. What verse does the Calvinist use to extend Isaiah to encompass all things exhaustively – Is it not Ephesians 1:11. Yet, Boyd refers to Ephesians 1:11 immediately prior to his claim and then only to allow for God’s purpose to secure His elect. We see no more attention to Ephesians 1:11 until later (pg 47) only to say nothing is meaningless to God and then to state his opinion that “This…is a much better…consolation then the belief that every nightmarish thing about our world is specifically allowed or ordained for a diving reason.” I guess you could have been even more appreciative if Boyd had discussed ALL the major passages that disagreed with his view. When analyzing someone’s exegetical efforts, what is the first rule – look at what they left out.

        Also, “…that is exactly what I saw Charnock doing… stating philosophical opinions and then looking for verses that sounded like they supported them!”

        What were some of those philosophical opinions?
        “Fourthly, God knows all future things, all things to come. The differences of time cannot hinder a knowledge of all things by him, who is before time, above time, that is not measured by hour, or days, or years; if God did not know them, the hindrance must be in himself, or in the things themselves, because they are things to come: not in himself; if it did, it must arise from some impotency in his own nature, and so we render him weak; or from an unwillingness to know, and so we render him lazy, and an enemy to his own perfection;…”
        1. “Everything which is the object of God’s knowledge without himself was once only future.”
        “…the earth and heavens were in him, as a model is in the mind of a workman, which is in his mind and soul, before it be brought forth into outward act. [so] 2. The predictions of future things evidence this.”
        3. “Some future things are known by men; and we must allow God a greater knowledge than any creature.”
        4. “God knows his own decree and will, and therefore must needs know all future things. If anything be future, or to come to pass, it must be from itself or from God: not from itself, then it would be independent and absolute: if it hath its futurity from God, then God must know what he hath decreed to come to pass;
        5. If God did not know all future things, he would be mutable in his knowledge. If he did not know all things that ever were or are to be, there would be upon the appearance of every new object, an addition of light to his understanding, and therefore such a change in him as every new knowledge causes in the mind of a man,…”
        “Fifthly, God knows all future contingencies, that is, God knows all things that shall accidentally happen, or, as we say, by chance; and he knows all the free motions of men’s wills that shall be to the end of the world. If all things be open to him (Heb. iv. 13), then all contingencies are, for they are in the number of things; and as, according to Christ’s speech, those things that are impossible to man, are possible to God, so those things which are unknown to man, are known to God; because of the infinite fulness and perfection of the divine understanding.”
        2. “It is therefore certain, that God doth foreknow the free and voluntary acts of man. How could he else order his people to ask of him things to come, in order to their deliverance, such things as depended upon the will of man, if he foreknew not the motions of their will (Isa. xlv. 11)?”

        Presumably, you object to the above philosophical opinions.

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      12. You are correct, Roger, that I object to Charnock’s philosophical rant you quoted, because it twists the normal reading of Scripture about the future that God has determined to be already partly settled and yet also partly unset with many open possibilities.

        The two references thrown in as if to prove that he had Scriptural support do not the idea that the future is completely created as settled in God’s mind, but that idea has to be extrapolated from those texts. God’s knowledge of a partly open future that He determined would fit both of those contexts also, if one wanted to extrapolate that idea from those verses.

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      13. brianwagner writes, “…I object to Charnock’s philosophical rant…”

        Nothing wrong with the philosophical part as that only points to the use of logical arguments to establish points for discussion – which should always be encouraged.

        At issue is whether Charnock engages in a “rant.” That description suggest to me that you might not have read Charnock but only scanned through his work, perhaps loosely. Maybe one day, you, or someone else, can write an article taking the opposite position to Charnock – a difficult task for anyone and requiring a great deal of time and effort.

        Just out of curiosity, did you realize the error in Boyd’s presentation that you corrected in your theory (or does your theory only coincidentally deal with Boyd)?

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      14. Messed up the placement of my comment to Brian.

        Regardless, did you (Pastor Flowers) ever do an article on God’s omniscience and explain how you see the Calvinist view of omniscience to be misguided? You say that Matt “believe(s) exactly like every other theistic determinist I’ve discussed these matters with over the years,” so it’s not like you haven’t heard this before. What’s your take on God’s omniscience – given its importance to the Calvinist system?

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      15. Professor Flowers,

        Let me start by apologizing if I came across as belittling and patronizing toward you. That was not my intention. I was simply pointing out what I see as a gaping logical inconsistency in your affirmation of both omniscience and non-determination. There really isn’t a nice way of putting that while directly addressing our point of contention. My comment was not intended to disparage you personally in any way though.

        I do notice that my argument was not at all addressed. If God knows that something will not happen unless He creates in a way in which the specific conditions for that thing to happen are present, and He knows that if He creates that way that thing will surely happen, then by knowingly creating that way has He not intentionally determined that thing? You seem to affirm that God eternally has all that knowledge, yet your answer to the question is “no”. Will you defend and explain your answer please? Can you defend any of the analogies you have used to explain this away and show how they draw an accurate parallel between themselves and the omniscient creator of all that exists?

        It does trouble me that you liked Brian Wagner’s comment below where he labeled the orthodox view of God’s omniscience as the “Calvinist definition of omniscience”, and stated his belief that God still has future decisions to make based on his open theistic beliefs. You aren’t going to ride off the reservation of orthodoxy into the land of a lesser god who makes mistakes and can only play the odds when it comes to the future are you? I don’t think you are ready to venture that far into liberalism, and at least in that respect, I thank God for your logical inconsistency.

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    2. So it doesn’t bother you Matt that the Calvinist definition of omniscience isn’t found in the Scriptures, and that such a definition makes it impossible for for God to have free will to make any future choices or decisions like the Scripture says He does?

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      1. Brian Wagner,

        I think we have already had this discussion a little over a year ago, and I’m not really interested in repeating the long comments that it required then. I presented a number of verses that require that God exhaustively knows and determines the future. I also pointed out the logical impossibility of your position that God has an ever growing yet finite amount of knowledge that could be traced back in an unending eternal regression. You presented a number of verses from the incarnation that required an unorthodox view of the hypostatic union to make them support your claims, and a number of anthropomorphic statements pulled from contexts where the knowledge of God was not the subject of discussion. If your same hermeneutical method for these verses was consistently applied across scripture it would also show that God doesn’t have exhaustive knowledge of the present or past either. Even you won’t go that far. And the answer is no. It doesn’t bother me that God doesn’t make future decisions, because as Rutchin pointed out, the changing of an eternally intended course of action that is part of exhaustive and perfect knowledge would be a change to a less than perfect course of action. Perfection can’t be improved. Does it bother you that we are one of the god of open theism’s first and biggest mistakes? (Gen.6:6) That’s rhetorical; you don’t have to answer it.

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      2. Hi Matt, First I don’t believe God makes mistakes or plays the odds, nor do I think that perfection can not experience change. Do you believe God’s knowledge of the past is increasing, since more events that He is experiencing are now past?

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      3. brianwagner writes, “…nor do I think that perfection can not experience change.”

        If that which is perfect changes, can it become anything other than something less perfect? If we move from the point of perfection, we necessarily move to a less perfect position assuming that something has actually changed. I think you probably are arguing that something new is being added to that which is perfect (perfection is relative to that which is known) so that which is perfect is not that which changes but some additional perfect event is added to the total – in your case, new decisions God makes as time moves into the future.

        Then, “Do you believe God’s knowledge of the past is increasing, since more events that He is experiencing are now past?”

        God’s knowledge is not increasing; only the categorization of that knowledge as past, present or future. In your case, present knowledge is reclassified as past knowledge but that knowledge does not change as it moves from present to past. It seems your question should have been, “Is God’s knowledge of the present changing because your claim seems to be that it is – a person makes a decision in the present increasing God’s knowledge of the present enabling God to make decisions in the present based on that new knowledge.

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      4. A change in perfection does not “necessarily move to a less perfect position” unless you define perfection that way. Moving to an equally perfect position has to be possible. You admitted to a change in categorization of knowledge.That’s a start! 🙂 When a person makes a free-will decision, that is a such a change in the categorization of God’s infinite understanding.

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      5. brianwagner writes, “A change in perfection does not “necessarily move to a less perfect position” unless you define perfection that way.”

        The distinction here is the way that “perfection” is to be defined.

        Then, “Moving to an equally perfect position has to be possible.”

        An equally perfect position would be the same position. You have two different positions that you want to be equally perfect – thus “Moving to a second position that is equal in perfection to the first.” However, can two different positions, A and ~A be equally perfect? If perfection is defined at position A, then any other position ~A (say B) cannot be perfect in the same way that A is. I think you need the philosophy boys to see if they can construct a proof of your concept. I am doubtful that it can be done. Maybe Stanrock can chime in here.

        Then, “You admitted to a change in categorization of knowledge.That’s a start! 🙂 When a person makes a free-will decision, that is a such a change in the categorization of God’s infinite understanding.”

        The point here was God’s knowledge. You are categorizing God’s knowledge as past and present and then adding to that knowledge as people make decisions in the future. You define “infinite understanding” relative to God’s past and present knowledge. Thus, God has an infinite understanding within the limitations of His actual knowledge. I don’t think that is the sense of “infinite.” It is becoming obvious that your definitions of key words – knowledge, understanding, infinite, perfect(ion), are different than other people.

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      6. Roger – God the Father and God the Son are both perfect, but the Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father.

        And you are correct that definitions of key words is key to solving our disagreement. But how should these definitions be formed… from so-called orthodoxy that may have borrowed them from philosophy, or should we test and formulate all definitions with Scriptures only for theology?

        God’s infinite understanding also includes all determinations already made for the future and all possibilities left undetermined. There is not limitation just because you define His actual knowledge as somehow limited. His actual knowledge will always be limited by other aspects of His nature… for He will never know the time He lied… for it doesn’t exist, nor will it. In the same way He does not know a future fully determined because it doesn’t exist.

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      7. brianwagner writes, “But how should these definitions be formed… from so-called orthodoxy that may have borrowed them from philosophy, or should we test and formulate all definitions with Scriptures only for theology?”

        Can’t stop the philosophers from defining terms (not necessarily bad), we we need to recognize the unique, context that shapes the use, and unique definition, that these terms may take on in the Scriptures.

        Then, “God’s infinite understanding also includes all determinations already made for the future and all possibilities left undetermined. There is not limitation just because you define His actual knowledge as somehow limited. His actual knowledge will always be limited by other aspects of His nature… for He will never know the time He lied… for it doesn’t exist, nor will it. In the same way He does not know a future fully determined because it doesn’t exist.”

        What we have is an “infinite understanding” based on part actual (past and present)/part potential (future) knowledge (let’s call it A) or that based on full (past, present, future) knowledge (let’s call it B). If A=B, then infinite understanding is the same in either case. If A ≠ B, then in only one case is infinite understanding truly infinite; it is limited in the other case.

        God does not know the time He lied because it does not exist and cannot exist – it is impossible. God can know the future because it can exist, as you agree, to the extent that He determines that future. Even Boyd says, “This motif (that God’s purposes cannot fail) clearly entails that much of the future is settled…known by God as such…God can settle whatever He wants…” (p15 of Four Views) Boyd’s complaint – that this motif does not mean that the future is exhaustively settled – which he tries to show thorough appeal to certain Scripture to the exclusion of others that more than minutia is not settled.

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  8. Brian,

    How do you claim that Gen.6:6 is a statement of God truly regretting making man and at the same time say that He did not view it as a mistake? Either He recognized that He should not have made man, thus regretting that He had, or He later recognized that making man was really a good thing after all, thus admitting that He was mistaken in regretting making man. How would you define making a mistake so that it would not include doing something that you later recognized you should not have done? How would you define regretting or being sorry in a literal way that did not recognize something as being a mistake and yet still required that God did not know something in the future? The same thing can be asked about 1Sam.15:10. Did God view anointing Saul as king as a mistake?

    If God were to make decisions in the present in anticipation of what He believed would happen in the future, yet His knowledge of the future was a knowledge of open possibilities and their likelihood, would He not be playing the odds? I understand that you think that God sometimes acts to ensure things in special circumstances, but that would mean that He still plays the odds normally.

    Your statement that perfection can experience change is only possible if you are basing what you call perfect on current information of an uncertain future, in which case I would say it wasn’t perfect if it changes, it was simply the best bet at one time.

    I don’t remember exactly how you view time, but I view it as simply a word we use to describe succession. I won’t go into all that, but the content of God’s knowledge doesn’t change based on the eternally known succession of events.

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    1. Hi Matt! Part of the Calvinist’s problem is his insistence on Plato’s definition of perfection. That “perfection” cannot change in any way, cannot humble itself, cannot suffer loss, or the definition does not stand in Plato’s view. God putting Himself in a position where He could experience regret (known perfectly by Him as a possibility within His infinite understanding) would be seen by some as being a foolish choice. But in His chosen creation set up to interact with those bearing His image and free will, He is willing to allow His interactions to venture into experiences of regret (grief), not to viewed as a mistake, but as a part of the multifaceted revelation of His nature.

      Either we believe God’s revelation of His nature based on normal grammatical contextual meanings or we allow Plato’s definitions, or the definitions of others, cause us to say to the readers of Scripture, “This verse in a history narrative where God speaks about Himself does not mean what it says.”

      I could grant you the statement – “playing the odds”, however, it does not take into account God’s infinite understanding of all possibilities. Odds are based on chances unknown to man, and God controls the results even of those events so that He is always in control of the “odds” and nothing happens that was not completely known as a possibility. That infinite understanding makes it so that nothing ever takes Him by surprise, in the sense of revealing something He never considered, but things do happen, by His permissive will, that go against His expectations. A good example – Isa 5:4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected [it] to bring forth [good] grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes?

      The Scripture does not teach the eternal determination of all events, which makes God unable to express free will or even have a normal conversation within the Godhead.

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      1. Brian,

        Forgive me if I sound overly critical, but the first paragraph of your latest comment sounds like you are very euphemistically saying God makes mistakes that are not to be viewed as mistakes. You say, “God putting Himself in a position where He could experience regret (known perfectly by Him as a possibility within His infinite understanding) would be seen by some as being a foolish choice. But in His chosen creation set up to interact with those bearing His image and free will, He is willing to allow His interactions to venture into experiences of regret (grief), not to be viewed as a mistake, but as a part of the multifaceted revelation of His nature.” If I’m understanding you correctly, you are saying that God makes mistakes (although you deny that label) about what will happen in the future because the preservation of libertarian freedom is more important to God than any of the undesirable possibilities that He knows as less likely possibilities. You think that His refusal to ensure a favorable outcome means that His inaccurate assessment of what will actually take place in the future is not a mistake.

        First of all, I see no evidence of libertarian freedom being so high on God’s list of priorities anywhere in scripture. I really don’t see any evidence of libertarian freedom existing at all in scripture, only people insisting that it is implied from human culpability. The fact remains, however, that regardless of the position God puts Himself in, He is said to anticipate something in the future and act in accordance with that anticipation only to find that He acted wrongly. If God does A in anticipation of X being the most likely future outcome because A corresponds favorably to X, but Y happens instead of X then A was not the perfect decision and by any common use of the word was a mistake.

        I don’t see how you can insist on “normal grammatical contextual meanings” leading to the position of Open Theism. Anthropomorphic, anthropopathic, and rhetorical literary devises for the benefit of the hearer or reader, the purpose of painting a mental image, or the sake of brevity when not wanting to divert from the subject under discussion etc. is very common. As often as these literary devises are used of all types of things, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them used even more frequently of an unperceivable, eternal Being of whom nothing comparable exists. None of the proof texts for Open Theism occur within a context where the knowledge of God is being discussed, so I don’t see how these understandings have any real contextual support.

        You used Is.5:4 as an example of something happening that God knew as a less likely possibility but that was against His expectations. This is one of the weaker proof texts for you position, in my opinion, because it appears in an analogy within poetic prophetic literature. The point of the analogy is clearly the guilt of the Israelites in pursuing sin after having been given so many blessings. There is no reason at all to think Isaiah intended any perceived implications drawn from the analogy to be understood as a statement about the knowledge of God.

        Even if we look at other supposed proof texts that occur within historic narratives, the context doesn’t support the view that they are meant as statements about the knowledge of God. If we apply your hermeneutic of “normal grammatical contextual meanings” consistently across scripture even you will deny the supposed implications. In Gen.3 when God called to Adam, “Where are you” does that imply that God didn’t have present knowledge? When He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” does that imply that God didn’t have knowledge of the past? In Gen.18:21 when God says of Sodom and Gomorrah, “I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know” does that imply that He didn’t know what they had already done? Would you be the one saying, “This verse in an historical narrative where God speaks about Himself does not mean what it says.”

        Like I said in my original post to Professor Flowers, I don’t have the time to devote to a long comment battle, but I am already getting drawn into one. My hope was to have a dialog with Professor Flowers where his claims could be challenged and critiqued. I don’t think his criticisms of Calvinism would fare so well if we had that type of dialog, but sadly he has excused himself under the pretense that I wasn’t nice enough in my first comment. I’m sure you have something you want to say in response to this comment, and I will have to let you have the last word. God bless.

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      2. Hi Matt! No need to ask for forgiveness for your critique! Your responses have been respectful to me, which is appreciated. And I understand the need to regulate your interactions. It was kind of you to give me the last word in this thread. I am sure we will meet again in dialog, and I look forward to it!

        The bottom line is that your idea of perfection includes a God that ordains sin to happen in such a way that it cannot but certainly happen even though you maintain He is not responsible for it happening. I would call that the same kind of loyalty towards a non-biblical view of omniscience, as you would accuse me of loyalty to what you think is a non-biblical view of free-will for God and man, which I believe is a part of His perfection, and that allows God to still choose to experience situations that may cause Him to display regret (grief) as part of His nature. Would it be wrong to choose to get married knowing there is a possibility of your spouse dying before you do and your experience of grief being such that you might say, “I wish I had not gotten married”?

        Your appeal to God asking interrogating questions in Genesis to which He knew the answer does not disprove a future that is known to Him as partially open and partially determined as He designed it to be. And in my view, God saying that He will “go down to see… and if not I will know” must indicate that some possibilities for repentance of His scheduled judgment for Sodom still existed in His mind, and that His personal gracious visit would provide that final opportunity for that repentance, which would become experientially known to God! God’s experiential knowledge does increase without changing His infinite understanding. It is an obvious truth that God did not have eternal experiential knowledge of being incarnate! But when He became man, that new experience, of which He already had an infinite understanding, became a new known reality to Him.

        If we do not take historical narratives with a normal, contextual meaning for words used, but try to bring analogical or figurative meanings so that we can maintain our pet theological/philosophical definitions, then where does that leave us when we read that Jesus promised to rise from the dead! False idea: Maybe He did not actually rise physically from the dead, but he took back His former angelic form, which could eat and be touched, and his former body just evaporated by the will of God so that people would not use it for relics. That sounds reasonable, if you have the presupposition and the definition of Deity that Arians and Jehovah witnesses have, and you are willing not to take historical narrative in its normal contextual grammatical meaning when God speaks about Himself.

        As for Is. 5:4, you will have to ask yourself, what does God want as an answer to His rhetorical question, and what does He mean by the word “expected”? You should not just say my understanding is weak without addressing the exact words that support that understanding. To appeal to “anthropomorphism” in all such passages where God is speaking about Himself, sooner or later makes one feel that God was not willing to speak clearly in a way that even a Calvinist should be able to understand. 🙂

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      3. brianwagenr writes, “The bottom line is that your idea of perfection includes a God that ordains sin to happen in such a way that it cannot but certainly happen even though you maintain He is not responsible for it happening.”

        I am not sure that this is correct. Matt should acknowledge that God is responsible for sin (because of sovereignty) but not the cause of sin.

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      4. Matt, responding to Brian, writes, “You used Is. 5:4 as an example of something happening that God knew as a less likely possibility but that was against His expectations. This is one of the weaker proof texts for you position, in my opinion, because it appears in an analogy within poetic prophetic literature. The point of the analogy is clearly the guilt of the Israelites in pursuing sin after having been given so many blessings. There is no reason at all to think Isaiah intended any perceived implications drawn from the analogy to be understood as a statement about the knowledge of God. ”

        We might add that context is important here. Earlier, in Isaiah 1, we read “’Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD.” Now in Isaiah 5, “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard (or let us reason together).” We have a dialogue between Isaiah (representing God) and the Jews. We have the rhetorical question, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?” The obvious response by the Jews would be, Nothing – and then to repent and turn back to God. This is a dialogue between God and the Jews in which God reasons with them to bring them to certain conclusions. It is not that God expected one thing and was surprised that it did not happen. It is an argument God makes to the Jews that He has done those things that should have caused the Jews to obey Him but they did not. The argument requires that the Jew explain, Why not?, and thereby confront their disobedience.

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      5. Roger, I appreciate your further interaction with the Is 5:4 verse. You said – “It is not that God expected one thing and was surprised that it did not happen. It is an argument God makes to the Jews that He has done those things that should have caused the Jews to obey Him but they did not.”

        First, God did “expect” one thing, which was fruit from His vineyard. You need to respond further what you think that means, that God expected something. You should not make it sound that He did not.

        Second, I agree that God was not surprised, like we might be, when we have unfulfilled expectations, for our surprise is often caused experiencing an event that we might not have considered possible. God’s infinite understanding knows of all possibilities perfectly, so His “surprise” would be more in line with a realization of something He knew could happen, but hoped wouldn’t, and yet was not willing to force it not to happen.

        Third, the argument is not that God “has done those things that should have caused” His expectation to be met, but instead that God had enabled the opportunity for His expectation to be met. If the Jews has only utilized freely the grace He had offered them, His expectation would have been met. There would be no reason in reasoning with these Jews about these things with these words if their failure had been immutably ordained

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      6. brianwagner writes, “First, God did “expect” one thing, which was fruit from His vineyard. You need to respond further what you think that means, that God expected something. You should not make it sound that He did not.”

        Here God says that they owed Him. It was His right to receive their obedience because of what He had done. God is not saying that He expected obedience in the sense of anticipating a certain response but that it was reasonable or necessary that the people should respond in a specific manner as God expected. It is not that God thought they might respond in obedience but that it was the duty of the people to respond such. Again, God is interacting with the people – not for the purpose of telling them that He was caught off guard and disappointed that it did not happen but for the purpose of inciting the people to consider their actions and why they did not behave as might naturally have been expected of them. The “expectation” is not applied to God as if He did not know what would happen but to the Jews as if they should have known how to behave.

        Then, “,…so His “surprise” would be more in line with a realization of something He knew could happen, but hoped wouldn’t, and yet was not willing to force it not to happen.”

        As above, God’s purpose is not to express something he hoped would not happen since He surely understood that it would not happen but to confront the Jews with their actions – contrary to that which He was right to expect – and demonstrate to them, and have them admit, that whatever punishment God inflicted upon them was completely justified – thereby leading them to repent and turn back to Him. God’s purpose is not to focus on Himself – His feeling – but on the Jews – their disobedience – and the need for them to own up to their sin.

        Finally, “…God had enabled the opportunity for His expectation to be met. If the Jews has only utilized freely the grace He had offered them, His expectation would have been met. There would be no reason in reasoning with these Jews about these things with these words if their failure had been immutably ordained.”

        What had God ordained – that the Jews be free to choose how they would behave (and God knows how sinful man behaves even if limited only to predicting that outcome). God was within His right to expect obedience – good grapes – as the natural result of His efforts and the Jew was on the hook to explain why wild grapes – disobedience – resulted. The burden is not on God (as disappointment) but on man, so God’s expectation is the burden on the Jews to explain why they did not meet that expectation.

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      7. Roger – You really tried your hardest to dance out that one! You said – “God is not saying that He expected obedience in the sense of anticipating a certain response…” But then you said – “God was within His right to expect obedience – good grapes – as the natural result of His efforts.” Dance, Dance, Dance!

        If those Jews had only been as “smart”as Calvinists, when God asked – “What more could I have done?” all they would have needed to reply – “We’re your elect people… give us that irresistible grace you give to your elect, and we will bear fruit. But it is impossible for us to bear fruit just based on what You’ve done without that irresistible grace!” Really…? Let’s not foolishly twist Scripture away from its normal meaning.

        We agree, Roger, that the burden was on the Jews to explain their disobedience. But that disobedience was in light of God giving them sufficient grace to which their wills were freed enough to obey and produce good grapes! That’s the normal grammatical, contextual understanding of this passage!

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      8. brainwagner writes, “We agree, Roger, that the burden was on the Jews to explain their disobedience. But that disobedience was in light of God giving them sufficient grace to which their wills were freed enough to obey and produce good grapes! ”

        Agreed. That is why God engages the Jews in dialogue through His prophet. God makes an airtight logical argument that places the burden to respond on the Jews. The burden is on them to explain why they did not obey and produce good grapes. The dialogue between God and the Jews does not purposely point the reader to issues of God’s omniscience nor does it imply anything about God’s omniscience. Essentially, God engages in that same dialogue with unbelievers today. No dancing here – I don’t see us disagreeing on the primary focus of the passage. The issue is whether a valid exegetic can also tease out something about God’s omniscience from the passage as you want to do.

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      9. Divine expectation would be normally understood by any reader of God’s words in Is 5:4 that the possibility for Israel to bear good grapes had been ordained to be possible, thus the future was ordained to be partly open, thus it was known that way in God’s infinite understanding before He spoke those words!

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      10. brianwagner writes, “Divine expectation would be normally understood by any reader of God’s words in Is 5:4…”

        I think it obvious that the logical argument advanced by God used diving expectation to enhance the premise – the point of emphasis not being whether God personally expected good grapes but that the actions taken by God gave no other expectation than that of good grapes. Having their eyes focused on those actions (not on God Himself), the Jews could only conclude that good grapes should have obtained. Thus, the rhetorical, “What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” The Jew could only answer, Nothing – no other action need be taken. Thus, he condemns himself leaving only one option – cry out for mercy. Even if God really did not “know” that Israel would be disobedient, He could easily have predicted it, but what God personally expected is irrelevant to the argument that God makes – God’s actions are the relevant factors because the argument showed that no more need have been done to get the desired result.

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    2. I’m no Open Theist, but regret doesn’t necessitate God making a “mistake.” That’s assigning your own man-made value system to what is a right or wrong action for God. God can act perfectly in a way that brings him regret—as even you as a determinist would assert, I assume. You have the odd burden though of making God regret God’s own actions, instead of the autonomous actions of his creation. Know this—no Arminian believes God regretted creating autonomy, rather God regretted what autonomy chose. Just as you don’t regret having birthed a daughter, even if that daughter one days turns to producing pornographic material. You regret rather, her choice to do such a thing, not your choice to allow her the possibility to one day do it, by bringing her into existence.

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  9. Dizerner,

    I like the P52 avatar. Please forgive me if I don’t engage in a long dialog. I stated in my first comment to Professor Flowers that I don’t have time to devote to these long discussions right now and was only interested in a live dialog, which he has sadly avoided. I will only note that in the two examples I gave God regretted His own actions. In Gen.6:6 “the LORD regretted that He had made man on the earth” and in 1Sam.15:11 God said, “I regret that I have made Saul king”. In any normal understanding of the word “regret” in reference to your own actions, it means that you recognize that you did the wrong thing or should have done something else (in other words made a mistake). We both would agree that is not what the inspired authors intended to communicate, and we would agree that the testimony of scripture is that God knows all future events perfectly as facts. The contexts of these verses are concentrating on the sin of people and the sin of Saul not the knowledge of God and by using the term “regret” as an anthropomorphic device the reader gets the mental image of God’s disgust with peoples’ sin. That disgust would be comparable to a person viewing something he made as nothing more than a mistake because of how disappointing it was, but to move beyond that by claiming that the authors intended any perceived implications to be taken as truth statements about the knowledge of God is not warranted. I really don’t think there is too much disagreement between us on this. My first comment to Professor Flowers would address where I think we would disagree. I’m sorry if I don’t continue commenting on this thread. Apparently my hope for a live dialog with Leighton was conveniently excused, and that was the only reason I posted a comment in the first place. God bless.

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    1. Matt, why would ur god be disgusted of people’s actions if he was the one to ordain them in the first place? Shouldn’t your god be disgusted of himself for creating such a disgusting race? Maybe instead of killing all the people of the earth (save Noah’s family) he should’ve killed himself for being such a disgusting god.

      Your theology is wrong. Period. This is a truth statement. Not anthropomorphic.

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      1. Simple,

        I left this conversation a week ago even though I had much more that I would have liked to have said. I just can’t let your comment go though. I have a real problem when someone says that maybe my little g “god” should kill Himself for “being such a disgusting god”. I think you don’t really understand my position very well and have a very simplistic approach to the whole question of the justice of God in punishing sinful people for doing what He ordained they would do. First of all, I believe that God ordains that evil happens because those evil things work toward the accomplishment of His good purposes in the best way. I believe that the absence of the evil things that happen would keep God’s ultimate purposes from being perfectly achieved, and so if God did not ordain that those evils happened, He would be negligent in achieving the ultimate good that He knows should be achieved.

        We don’t have to go anywhere other than scripture to see that God has revealed that He ordains evil for His good purposes and then punishes the ones who do the evil because of their sinful intentions in doing it. Let’s look at Is.10:5-18

        5. Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! 6. Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. 7. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; 8. for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? 9. Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? 10. As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, 11. shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?” 12. When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. 13. For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom, for I have understanding; I remove the boundaries of peoples, and plunder their treasures; like a bull I bring down those who sit on thrones. 14. My hand has found like a nest the wealth of the peoples; and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken, so I have gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved a wing or opened the mouth or chirped.”15. Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! 16. Therefore the Lord God of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire. 17. The light of Israel will become a fire, and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and briers in one day. 18. The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the Lord will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away.

        Notice that in v.5 Assyria is the rod of God’s anger and the staff in their hands is God’s fury. In v.15 God points out that in all their conquering and destruction of other nations they are no more than a tool in His hand like an axe, a saw, a rod, or a staff. God also clearly says of Assyria “I send him” and “I command him”. The thing that has been commanded (ordained) is “to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets”. It’s clear from the first four verses of this chapter as well as verse 6 that God’s intention in this evil is to bring just punishment on the Israelites for turning away from Him and pursuing sin, but the intention of the king of Assyria in v.7 is to simply “destroy and cut off nations” for his own personal gain. The king of Assyria is also prideful and will boast that he has been victorious due to his own strength, wisdom, and understanding (v.13). The sinfulness of the king of Assyria is not necessarily found in his actions. If God had revealed to him that he was to trample Israel for their rebellion to God and the king of Assyria had done it out of obedience to God, then there would have been no sin on the king’s part. Verse 12 clearly says that when God is finished using Assyria against Israel He will punish them for the king’s “arrogant heart” and “the boastful look in his eyes”. God decreed that the Assyrians would do evil so that God’s good purpose would be accomplished and also decreed that He would punish the Assyrians for doing what He had decreed because of the sinful condition of their king’s heart in doing what God had decreed. This is God’s own self-revelation. If you feel that He should maybe kill Himself for acting in this way, your own words reveal that you have a sinful attitude in your own heart.

        Now I can already anticipate the worn out old objection that I believe that God not only determined the actions but also determined the condition of the king’s heart. That is true in the sense that God is the primary cause of everything, and that is the sense in which He determines all evil. God did not intervene as an immediate secondary cause planting sinful intentions and arrogance in the king’s heart. Those things were already there as a result of the fall. God simply allowed or possibly directed those sinful desires through outward circumstances to accomplish His purposes. Now before you accuse me of double talk, let me make it clear that by “allowed” I do not mean bare permission of something that cannot be causally traced back to the eternal mind of God as its primary cause. The king’s sinful desires are traced back to the fall, and the fall was also intended by God. God created a forbidden tree and gave Adam instructions about not eating its fruit knowing full well that Adam would believe a lie rather than God and break the command. God knew every result of the fall and how it would affect every person to live afterwards, including the king of Assyria. If we believe that God “works all things according to the council (plan) of His will” (Eph.1:11), that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rm.8:29), that “The Lord brings the council of the nations to nothing… The council of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations” (Ps.33:10-11), and that God truly is the One who says, “My council shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose” (Is.46:11), then He intended the fall and every subsequent sin that followed as a result to accomplish His good purposes. I think scripture reveals that God often restrains sin, and He also directs people’s sinful intentions through outward circumstances to perfectly work toward His good purposes. If the fall and all the subsequent sins that follow are necessary for accomplishing all of God’s perfect purposes, not just in some way but in the best way, then wouldn’t God be wrong not to ensure all that is necessary for this perfect accomplishment happens?

        Now, since you think the God of scripture is “disgusting”, can you tell me one of His actions in all that I claim He has done that is sinful? He created man “very good” according to Gen.1:31, and in Gen.2:17 He gave Adam the command not to eat from the one forbidden tree and told him the truth that he would die if he disobeyed. He never planted a sinful desire or intention in anyone’s heart, and merely exploited the sin that was determined by His good actions and intentions to accomplish His good purposes. In all this everyone who sinned did so because they wanted to sin out of selfish and sinful desires. God intended for them to sin out of His good desires, yet He is still in one sense disgusted with their sinful actions because they sprung from sinful desires that He may have determined for good purposes but did not directly create and doesn’t view as good in and of themselves in any way except insofar as He providentially directs them to accomplish His good purposes. This discussion goes much deeper than, “If He ordained it, He can’t punish it or be disgusted with it”.

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      2. Matt writes, “I believe that God ordains that evil happens because those evil things work toward the accomplishment of His good purposes in the best way.”

        When the Calvinist says this, he means that God is in complete control of all that happens and evil does not happen unless God decides that it will happen. It also means that God is necessarily involved in any evil that happens but does not mean that God causes evil.

        We can use the garden into which God placed Adam as an example. God protected Adam from Satan even as God protected Job, and it was not until God said that Satan could enter the garden that Satan did so. As Satan tempted Eve, God was present observing all that happened and it was God who decided not to intervene but to do nothing as Eve made bad decisions and then later as Adam received the fruit from Eve and ate. God was fully aware of all that happened and consciously decided not to prevent the sin because this was according to His eternal plan working out in complete agreement with God’s omniscience.

        If one is to argue that God has not ordained all things, including all evil things, then they can begin by arguing that Satan is more powerful than God and entered the garden despite God’s objection and then that God was on vacation while Satan tempted Eve and when Adam ate the fruit. If that argument can be made, then the Calvinist is wrong to conclude that God has ordained all things.

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  10. “I freely acknowledge my doctrine to be this: that Adam fell, not only by the permission of God, but by His very secret council and decree; and that Adam drew all his posterity with himself, by his fall, into eternal damnation” John Calvin, (Secret Providence, p. 267).

    “Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the
    inheritance which he predestines to his children…” John Calvin III:xxiii,1

    “Even the fall of Adam, and through him the fall of the race, was not by chance or accident, but was so ordained in the secret councils
    of God.” Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination p. 234

    All things that happen in all the world at any time and in all history—whether inorganic matter, vegetation, animal, man or angels (both
    good and evil ones– come to pass because God ordained them, Even sin- the fall of the devil from heaven, the fall of Adam, and every
    evil thought, word, and deed in all of history.” Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, 1999

    “God fore-ordains everything which comes to pass….God initiates all things, regulates all things….” Arthur W. Pink, The Sovereignty of
    God (Baker Book House, 1984), 240

    “…by his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to eternal destruction” John Calvin III:xxi,7

    “It is even biblical to say that God has foreordained sin.” Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism

    “…God desired for man to fall into sin… God created sin…” R.C. Sproul, Jr., Almighty Over All, 1999

    “No, he has foreordained everything ‘after the counsel of his will’: the moving of a finger, the beating of a heart, the laughter of a girl, the
    mistake of a typist — even sin.” Calvinist Edwin Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinist

    Rutchin writes:

    Matt writes, “I believe that God ordains that evil happens because those evil things work toward the accomplishment of His good purposes in the best way.”

    When the Calvinist says this, he means that God is in complete control of all that happens and evil does not happen unless God decides that it will happen. It also means that God is necessarily involved in any evil that happens but does not mean that God causes evil.

    We can use the garden into which God placed Adam as an example. God protected Adam from Satan even as God protected Job, and it was not until God said that Satan could enter the garden that Satan did so. As Satan tempted Eve, God was present observing all that happened and it was God who decided not to intervene but to do nothing as Eve made bad decisions and then later as Adam received the fruit from Eve and ate. God was fully aware of all that happened and consciously decided not to prevent the sin because this was according to His eternal plan working out in complete agreement with God’s omniscience.

    If one is to argue that God has not ordained all things, including all evil things, then they can begin by arguing that Satan is more powerful than God and entered the garden despite God’s objection and then that God was on vacation while Satan tempted Eve and when Adam ate the fruit. If that argument can be made, then the Calvinist is wrong to conclude that God has ordained all things.”

    It is an undeniably essential tenet of Calvinism that God determines all things, even evil. Having proven rather unpopular with the masses, many Calvinists, including the composers of the Westminster Confession, have attempted to assert that God is somehow the cause of all things, but not the author of evil. That this is bare assertion, and logically and literally impossible, did not seem to phase them, or the countless millions who have since defended this illustrious confession.

    Thus, while the above quotes honestly admit what cannot be honestly denied, many, many Calvinists do not. They will, as Rutchin does, attempt to admit in one moment that God must cause evil, then in the next redefine ’cause’ as ‘permit’. Most non-Calvinists acknowledge that God does indeed ‘permit’ evil, and even bring good from it, but that is not, I repeat, NOT, what Calvinism asserts.

    Calvinism asserts, as it must for its 5 points to hold together, that not a single thought, word or deed comes to pass that was not deterministically preordained by God from all eternity. That’s the Westminster Confessions’s ‘whatsoever comes to pass’ and, in spite of their futile attempt to deny it, makes God the author of evil along with all other ‘soever’ comes to pass.

    Thus, contrary to Rutchin’s misleading suggestion, Calvinism does not have God ‘permitting’ Satan into the garden, as he full well knows. Nor do non-Calvinists accuse the neglectful God of having gone on vacation, letting the devil slip in, which is not only a false caricature of the actual, scriptural truth that most biblicists assert, but does not agree logically with his earlier accusation that they must believe Satan is ‘more powerful’ that God.

    It is non-Calvinists who assert that God indeed had to ‘permit’ Satan into the garden, because they acknowledge the scriptural truth that God is omniscient and sovereign, but not determinatively controlling. God has permitted sin to temporarily afflict his creation, allowing the selfish and sinful actions of free creatures to run their course, so that in due time, all will see and recognize the genuine truth that God’s will is good and perfect and that all resistance to it is wicked and destructive.

    There is no legitimacy to the claim that non-Calvinists must question who is more powerful. Or clever. They have no doubt about who is more powerful, who is in charge, or who will triumph over evil just as he promised.

    Whereas Calvinists must – if they are consistent with their stated theology – assert that God, having thought up and ordained every evil deed Satan or any other creature would ever imagine or do, did not ‘permit’ but SENT Satan into the garden, as the means by which Adam and Eve would succumb to the sin God planned for them to do. It’s all downhill from there – if such a thing is possible – as Calvinism has God cursing all men with a fallen, sinful nature that requires them to be born in sin and be utterly unable to refrain from sinning, and choosing to rescue only an arbitrarily chosen few from the fate of eternal torture just to show he can do whatever he wants.

    In other words, contrary to scripture, men do not go to hell because they sin, but they sin because God ordained them to go to hell, cursed them with an inability to not sin, created the devil and ordained all of his evil deceptions in order to wreak havoc, and left those he cursed before they were ever able to even think of sinning to irresistibly fulfill their preordained fate. Most Calvinists prefer not to put it that bluntly, many do not even understand it, but that is what their definition of predestination requires. But that’s okay, ’cause it all works out for ‘good’ in the end. There is not a sadistic despot that does not have Calvinism to thank for giving them the excuse that ‘the ends justify the means’. It is a lie straight from hell.

    God has NEVER ordained, desired, willed or caused a single wicked or evil action and never will. He has patiently endured many, called men to turn from many, sent his Son to die for many, and will only, in the end, punish only those who stubbornly refuse his gracious offer of pardon and life. That, my friend, is the true gospel.

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    1. truthseeker writes, “Thus, contrary to Rutchin’s misleading suggestion, Calvinism does not have God ‘permitting’ Satan into the garden,…”

      Let me clarify then and not be misleading. God exercises sovereign control over all things. Satan is under God’s control and restraint at all times. To say that God “permits” Satan (or anything) to act according to their will is to say that God loosens His restraint on Satan giving Satan greater freedom to do the evil he desires.

      We get the permission idea from the book of Job where Satan discusses Job with God. Satan’s direct claim is that God protects Job such that Satan cannot touch him. God then removes His protection over Job to a degree and Satan is then able to harass Job – first to take away his family and possessions and then to take away his health. In effect, by removing His protection over Job, God removes His restraint over Satan.

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      1. So Roger… if God’s sovereign control does include the “permission idea” where God “loosens His restraint”, and Satan has a freed enough will to choose between options within the confines of that “permission idea” for that event of attacking Job, then only those options available to Satan could possibly be known by God, or there is no true permission. To know as certain which option Satan will freely choose in attacking Job would make a lie to Him knowing as possible that Satan truly has freedom to choose between options and a lie that true divine permission was being granted for that moment. The Calvinist has to have God to have had it all locked in already (or it was all locked in His nature already), that is what would happen that day in Job’s life, before even the creation of Satan or Job.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “f God’s sovereign control does include the “permission idea” where God “loosens His restraint”, and Satan has a freed enough will to choose between options within the confines of that “permission idea” for that event of attacking Job, then only those options available to Satan could possibly be known by God, or there is no true permission. ”

        I guess it depends on what you mean by “true permission.” Are there really “options”? Satan desires to enter the garden but is prevented from doing so by God. If God moves aside, Satan enters the garden as he desires, and now Satan wants to get Eve to eat the fruit. Again, it is only by God removing His protection of Eve that Satan is able to pursue his desire. Satan is always under God’s restraint – he is not free to wander around alone and unchaperoned. While there is the appearance of “options,” the option that one pursues reflects the strongest desire and it is God who holds that desire in check and neither Satan nor anyone else can pursue that which they desire without God first deciding that they do so. We call it “permission” but it is determined by God by that which He decides through manipulation of His protection/restraint.

        As you understand, God can have it all locked up by virtue of the decisions He has made and the knowledge of the totality of His decisions is the source of His omniscience. Without omniscience, God still has decisions to make and that is why you determined that God cannot be omniscient for Calvinism to be deficient in its theology.

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      3. And as you have just demonstrated, Roger, – It is the Calvinist definition of omniscience that is truly deficient. For the Calvinist wants to speak about permission as if it really exists, but if there is not true freedom between options then there is no real permission, and God is locked in with no freedom to do otherwise than one course of action. That, my friend is not the biblical view of God’s omniscience. God doesn’t believe such lies about the future in His omniscience.

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      4. Let’s chill a bit. The “Calvinist definition of omniscience” is just the classical definition, as opposed to notions of omniscience under an ontologically open future.

        Watch out for stipulative definitions. Splicing “true” and “real” in front of terms — with meanings that accord with your own views, which are at best not consensus, at worst idiosyncratic — cannot make a cogent argument (since it uses persuasive stipulation).

        It is further an oddity, for those of us in the deterministic compatibilist camp, to splice “true” and “real” in front of “freedom” when this splicing is meant to dogwhistle the ability to actually do counterfactual things — when, from our camp, that’s not *real*! From our perspective, it’s much more real to talk about freedom from, say, overregulation, or misinformation, or an addiction, or shackles (I am not ASSERTING that it’s “the real freedom,” but I’m saying there’s an impasse). If freedom from shackles is the kind of freedom we’re talking about, then permission is completely in accord, in the same way that I can give or deny permission for an ant to cross my countertop.

        We need to be super honest about whether the whole house of cards collapses under deterministic compatibilism. We’re all on good faith journeys here, and many of us have found deterministic compatibilism to authentically and coherently uphold concepts like volition, responsibility, permission, and freedom. I don’t think you’re daffy, and you shouldn’t think we’re daffy either.

        All that being said, I don’t think Calvinism coheres. But Calvinism represents a bunch of baggage atop/beyond Christian deterministic compatibilism.

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      5. Thank you for the encouragement Stan to try to make my responses more persuasive from your perspective. We may just have a different predisposition on how to express earnestness and commitment to our views. I would see your use of “chill”, “dogwhistle”, “super honest”, “good faith”, “daffy”, and “bunch of baggage”, as very similar to the terms “true” and “real” that I used.

        None of those terms you used bother me, and I see in them your earnestness to help me be more precise, as you would see it, when presenting my view. I would also see your use of the words “authentically and coherently” to describe your view of the terms “permission, and freedom”, as very similar to my use of “real” and “true” for those same terms.

        And Stan, I do not think you or Roger are in any way “daffy”. 🙂 I respect the intelligence both of you have. My guess is that my IQ lags behind both of you. But I think a bigger difference between us is our hermeneutic basis for reality. I am discerning, I think, that philosophy and tradition form the grid that interprets Scripture for you guys instead of the other way around.

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      6. brianwagner writes, “I think, that philosophy and tradition form the grid that interprets Scripture for you guys instead of the other way around.”

        Philosophy is no more than the application of logic and logical arguments to extend our knowledge beyond that which is empirically known. By the use of “philosophy” or logical arguments, the planet Neptune was hypothesized to exist before anyone could empirically verify its existence. We both use logical arguments (philosophy) as neither one of us can empirically verify that God exists but sound logical arguments would hypothesize the existence of God even without the Scriptures – thus, we re on sound, logical ground to believe the Scriptures when it says, the fool says there is no God.

        So, that leaves, “tradition.” I have no idea what you mean by this with respect to Calvinism. So, what do we call it when people have insisted that man has “free will” (without ever defining what that means) ans insist that an undefined term is logically defensible?

        And, what exactly, is this “grid” that you are writing about?

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      7. You gave a good example Roger of what I meant by “grid.” You proposed the existence of God from philosophical reasoning and then went to Scripture for confirmation. Tradition is the source of some of your definitions, like omniscience, also originally defined by philosophy and then imposed upon Scripture.

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      8. Do you have evidence to suggest that omniscience was thought-of one way, but shifted a different way due to the influence of philosophy? (That is, evidence that doesn’t require we already agree with you that Scripture naturally agrees with an ontologically open future.)

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      9. Good morning Stan! (I’m on the east coast) 🙂 In my view your request affirms what I said about the grid you have chosen for the discovery and discussion of truth. I am sure you are aware that we are somewhat hamstrung when it comes to studying evidence that comes from and for historical theology.

        We must rely on what RC has preserved in this area, or we must find what they did not destroy that was in disagreement with their dogmatic interpretations of theology. It is fairly easy to show from their writings that they clearly endeavored to show their theology as compatible or integrated with certain Greek philosophy.

        Dissenting voices concerning their Platonic view of omniscience can be found, like Calcidius, On Fate, from the 4th century. Or sometimes recognition of disagreement is noted as existing. But it is the prevailing magisterial voices who decide what gets published and what is burned and forgotten.

        The RC whitewashed the first three centuries of Christianity to preserve only the records that supported their sacramental Christianity where their salvation could be controlled through their “priesthood”. They argued that their definitions of terms like bishop, priesthood, infant baptism, etc were all apostolic and orthodox. Today they would also ask for the same kind of “evidence” that you are asking for to show anything different.

        That is why the Scripture must be the source and grid from which we need to get our definitions that we will use to critique or to seek confirmation in philosophy from general revelation. Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Paul, Peter, John, etc are my “philosophy” sources, because their writings are inerrant and based on direct divine revelation. Their writings help us define the nature and works of God accurately.

        Let me suggest a good article I found that discusses the interplay motifs between philosophy and Scripture in theology, especially in ethics, that have been developed and chosen. Toward Defining Christian Ethics:
        An Evaluation Of Contrasting Views
        Daniel R. Heimbach, Global Journal of Classical Theology.

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      10. I was looking more for evidence that this is what the Hebrew people believed about their God prior to Hellenic influence. Is your assertion actually something softer, like, “It may be that God’s knowledge about the future was viewed differently (than today’s common teaching) before Hellenic philosophy made inroads”?

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      11. I think we can assume that various views about God and His decisions about the future have existed since man walked the earth and the evil one began to misrepresent God and His decisions about the future.

        The Hebrew Scriptures demonstrate God communicating that the future is not fully determined by Him. Since truth is a part of His nature as revealed in those same Scriptures, He could not know the future falsely.

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      12. brianwagner writes, “You proposed the existence of God from philosophical reasoning and then went to Scripture for confirmation.”

        Actually, what I said was that a logical (philosophical) argument could be made for the existence of God without the Scriptures. It just shows the power of using truth in logical arguments – which is what philosophy is all about. But why say “grid” when you could just use the term, “logical argument.”

        Then, “Tradition is the source of some of your definitions, like omniscience, also originally defined by philosophy and then imposed upon Scripture. ”

        You have it backwards. The Scriptures are the source of the definition of God’s knowledge as being omniscient. Philosophy showed the logical validity of the argument for God being omniscient.

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      13. brianwagner writes, “It is the Calvinist definition of omniscience that is truly deficient. For the Calvinist wants to speak about permission as if it really exists, but if there is not true freedom between options then there is no real permission, and God is locked in with no freedom to do otherwise than one course of action.”

        If God makes decisions about the future (e.g., that He will give Satan access to the garden, or should the occasion arise, He will not intervene to help Eve avoid eating the fruit, nor Adam and then He will expel them from the garden) then He has a knowledge of the future based on His decisions that could be made in eternity past. The issue here is the extent to which God can make decisions about the future. Certainly God has the ability to decide everything about the future and His knowledge could then be described as omniscient.

        I don’t know what argument you are trying to make when you say, “God is locked in with no freedom to do otherwise than one course of action.” Anytime God makes a decision, whether under my system or yours, He necessarily locks Himself into that one course of action (unless you propose that God is wishy-washy). I don’t see an issue here.

        Earlier you focused on “true permission” and now you highlight “true freedom.” What do you mean by “true freedom”? I guess if it is not true freedom, then it is not true permission. So, what do you mean by “true freedom” and “true permission”?

        Finally, “God doesn’t believe such lies about the future in His omniscience.”

        What would be examples of the “lies” that you have in mind?

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      14. I don’t think I can express it any clearer than I have for you Roger. Sorry. What I meant by lies is that for God to know something or everything as already decided for the future when the future is not already fully decided is to have a false knowledge of that something or everything concerning the future. And God cannot know a lie as true. You can have the last word my friend in this interaction between us if you wish.

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      15. brianwagner writes, “for God to know something or everything as already decided for the future when the future is not already fully decided is to have a false knowledge of that something or everything concerning the future. And God cannot know a lie as true.”

        The issue is, What has God decided about the future? God knows that which He has decided and nothing prevents God having decided everything about the future as the Calvinists claim He has done. At least, we agree that God does not decide one way and act another way.

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      16. So when in Scripture God says He makes a decision changing the course of a nation, He is not lying, which He would be if He had already made the decision before creation, something He could easily have told the reader.

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      17. brianwagner writes, “So when in Scripture God says He makes a decision changing the course of a nation,…”

        That brings out the issue. Does God say that He will make a decision to change or does God say that he will change? God can change the course of a nation at any time He wants, but God can make the decision to change the course of a nation based on predetermined (already decided upon) criteria.

        What exactly must God tell people about Himself or that which He is doing?

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      18. The truth, and not deception that require too-smart-for-their-good scholars to tell the modern reader that ancient people of God were just not smart enough to benefit from the truth.

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      19. brianwagner writes, “The truth, and not deception that require too-smart-for-their-good scholars to tell the modern reader that ancient people of God were just not smart enough to benefit from the truth.”

        O Brian!!! God always tells us the truth. The issue is how we understand that truth.

        You cited several verses all of which included (I presume) the same Hebrew word, or Greek equivalent, that has been translated using the English word, “choose.” The question before us is whether that which God is conveying to us by the word, “chooses (or wills),” is that which we are understanding.

        The primary concept conveyed in the use of “choose” is that God is in control of the situation. God chooses; not man. At the very least, we understand this point from the cited verses.

        So, is that the only thing God wants us to take away from these verses or is God telling us something else – e.g., that He just decided something, or that He is making known to the people what He is doing without regard to when He made the decision to do so. There are more than one way in which these verses might be translated to convey better the range of meaning of the Hebrew text.

        Deut. 12:5 (NKJV) 5“But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, [not where you choose but where God says, that God shows you, what God appoints]

        2 Chr. 6:5-6 (NKJV) Yet I [ not you] have chosen [appointed, identified] Jerusalem,…and David…

        2 Chr. 7:16 (NKJV) 16For now I [not you] have chosen [appointed, identified] and sanctified this house,…

        Psa. 25:12 (NKJV) Him shall He teach in the way He chooses [not how people think he ought to teach]. [Here, God already knows how to teach and does not have to decide how to teach – the emphasis is that it is God who teaches in any manner He wants.]

        Psa. 65:4 (NKJV) 4 Blessed is the man You choose, [select, appoint]… [The emphasis here is God’s control and right to take any person He wants and do with them anything He wants.]

        Jer 18:11 (NKJV) I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you [based on your actions as I declared I would do in the Law].

        1Cor 12:11 (NKJV) 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills [wants. elects, determines] [and not as any man would have God do].

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      20. Thank you Roger for illustrating what I meant about scholars telling readers that God really didn’t mean what He said… but He meant what you said He should have written.

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      21. That’s what it’s all about. You know whereof you speak – you are a scholar (at least to a lot of impressionable students).

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      22. Exactly… I do know what I speak of, and I think you do too, Roger… and you can ask any of the students that I have the privilege of instructing to see if I ever say, “I know this Scripture says what it says, but it really doesn’t mean what it says.” Of course, there are cases of translation issues that can be easily remedied with a literal interlinear translation or grammar.

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      23. And the issue is always to determine what it is that God is conveying to people through the Scriptures. Had God personally written a book to people who knew Him and believed Him, He would have been able to write very directly as you have pointed out. Yet, we find God working through individuals who see things through the lens of their life, and God allows those individuals to express their hopes and frustrations in that which God inspires them to write. The prophets were not frustrated about issues related to God’s knowledge – what He knows and when He knew it – but about the way people treated God ignoring Him and bowing down to false gods and worshiping idols made of wood. Our arguments are not generally about what the Scriptures say but what we can take away from what they say. It can be that people want the Scriptures to address issues that they don’t address and we get a forcing of Scriptures in directions that they were never intended to be taken. Even you can be guilty of doing that.

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  11. There are lots of things God could easily have told the listener. There are a number of teachings we agree are correct and yet aren’t gleaned from Scripture in manner that conforms exactly to what we’d expect. For example, when in John 6 the crowd asked how in blazes Jesus planned to give them his flesh to eat and blood to drink, he could have easily said, “This is just a metaphor for belief in me.” But he didn’t; instead, he just repeated himself. The way God chooses to speak very often defies expectations. For another example, if sola fide is true, we wouldn’t expect the phrase “pisteos monon” to show up only once (when it’s being rejected). These are both examples in the abstract of the flaws inherent to expectation-driven hermeneutics.

    We’ve talked about the decision thing before, if I remember correctly. It’s perfectly acceptable to plan on a response to something you know will happen and express it as the course-correction it is. It’s perfectly acceptable to express true conditionals with false antecedents — e.g., I can tell my daughter, “You’ll either get a xylophone, a bicycle, or a painting set for Christmas,” even if I’m wholly committed to getting her the bicycle.

    We can use our imaginations to come up with possible reasons why God speaks non-plainly about things. We already know that some of his messages were deliberately obfuscated in order to that folks might stumble for reasons ancillary to his big picture plans (Matthew 13:11-17). In the case of open language, we can imagine a much more straightforward reason: Since we lack knowledge about what has happened, what is happening, and what shall happen, we talk about all three using open language, and our notions of stewardship, responsibility, dynamism, and choicemaking all employ that language. As such, using open language in disciplinary communication (threats, rewards, consequences, contingencies [including reactions and mind-changing], etc.) for the development of God’s people makes a lot of sense.

    It’s not lying, but rather speaking in terms of a more limited modal scope (similar to how we can say “Judgment could happen at any time” — even though the Father knows when — because WE don’t know when). Consider that God appointed-out the spatial and temporal boundaries of every nation ever (Acts 17:26) — and yet, the spatial boundaries and temporal boundaries of nations are both details about which God used open language, contingent promises, and reactive expressions. These two facts play nicely together only if it’s “okay” that a foreordaining God use open language, contingent promises, and reactive expressions about the things he’s foreordained.

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    1. Oops, my example of “true conditional with false antecedent” was bad.

      This — ‘I can tell my daughter, “You’ll either get a xylophone, a bicycle, or a painting set for Christmas,” even if I’m wholly committed to getting her the bicycle’ — is an example of multiple possibilities on a more limited modal scope when there’s just one possibility on the more knowledgeable modal scope.

      An example of true conditional with false antecedent would be more like walking toward the door and telling my son, “If you did a good job staining the fence, I’ll give you more than I said… otherwise we’re going to have to talk about reducing that money, or fixing the job,” while having already peeked out the window and seeing that he did a poor job. Both “If/then” conditionals are completely true and establishing them is an effective way to set expectations and discipline, even though I know the former antecedent (“You did a good job”) is false.

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    2. It’s not just that God could have said other things or that Jesus used parabolic information sometimes to get divide those who wanted to understand and trust from those who just wanted miracles. I am saying that God spoke about the future and His own decision making in such a way that to say it was already all decided before creation would make it impossible not to accuse God of speaking deceptively. Here are some examples –
      God’s Decision Making After Creation

      Deut. 12:5 (NKJV) 5“But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. [To fit determinism it should read “God chose”]

      2 Chr. 6:5-6 (NKJV) 5‘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. 6Yet I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel.’ [To fit determinism it should read “I have already chosen”]

      2 Chr. 7:16 (NKJV) 16For now I have chosen and sanctified this house, that My name may be there forever; and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. [To fit determinism it should read “before creation I chose”]

      Psa. 25:12 (NKJV) 12Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. [To fit determinism it should read “He has chosen”]

      Psa. 65:4 (NKJV) 4 Blessed is the man You choose, And cause to approach You, That he may dwell in Your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Of Your holy temple. [To fit determinism it should read “God have chosen”]

      Psa. 75:2 (NKJV) 2 “When I choose the proper time, I will judge uprightly.[To fit determinism it should read “Because I have chosen”]”

      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.” ’ ” [To fit determinism it should read “I devised a plan”]

      1Cor 12:11 (NKJV) 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. [To fit determinism it should read “as He willed”]

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