Online Debate with a Calvinist

Recently Dr. Flowers participated in an online discussion with Calvinist Jason Mullet, of the Logical Beliefs Podcast (in the network of The Bible Thumping Wingnuts). They discussed the nature of free will, sovereignty and human responsibility as taught in the Bible.

Listen

 

Below is an article written by Dr. Flowers explaining his views on the freedom of the will in response to Matt Slick, who is also of the Bible Thumping Wingnut network of podcasts.


 

The Doctrine of Free Will

by Dr. Leighton Flowers

After defending the Traditionalist view of free will I was accused of “worshipping the idol of human autonomy” in a recent conversation with a Calvinistic believer. He went on to assert that there is absolutely no support for the concept of free will in the Bible. This particular Calvinist is an admirer of Matt Slick, of CARM ministries, who defines the point of our contention on his web site.  I will go through each of Matt’s points here:

Free will is the ability to make choices without external coersion.  There are debates as to what extent this free will is to be understood as it relates to people.  There are two main views:  compatibilism and libertarianism.

The compatibilist view is the position that a person’s freedom is restricted by his nature as is described in Scripture.  In other words, he can only choose what his nature (sinful or regenerate) will allow him to choose.  Therefore, such verses as 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20 are used to demonstrate that, for example, the unbeliever is incapable of choosing God of his own free will since they say that the unbeliever cannot receive spiritual things, does no good, and is a slave to sin. …

The biblical position is compatibilism.  Since the Bible clearly teaches us that the unbeliever is restricted to making sinful choices (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20), then we must conclude that anyone who believes in God (John 3:16; 3:36) does so because God has granted that he believe (Phil. 1:29), has caused him to be born again (1 Pet. 1:3), and chosen him for salvation (2 Thess. 2:13).

Let’s look at Matt’s errors point by point in light of the scriptures:

  • Matt wrote, “a person’s freedom is restricted by his nature as is described in Scripture.  In other words, he can only choose what his nature (sinful or regenerate) will allow him to choose.”

While we would agree that mankind’s freedom to choose is restricted to confines of his nature, we disagree as to what those confines are in relation to sinful humanity. For instance, a man is not free to flap his arms and fly around the world no matter how much he may will to do so. He is confined by his physical abilities. So too, there are moral confines on the abilities of sinful man’s will.

We would agree that mankind is born incapable of willingly keeping the demands of the law so as to merit salvation. And we would also agree that mankind is in bondage to sin. We would NOT AGREE that a man is born incapable of willingly admitting that he is in bondage and in need of help — especially in light of God’s gracious, Holy Spirit inspired, clear revelation — by means of the law (a tutor) and the gospel (a powerful appeal to be reconciled).

Suppose a man were born in a prison cell and never told that he was in a cell.  He was simply unaware of any thing outside the walls of his world.  We would all agree that the man is born in bondage and incapable of even recognizing his position. But, suppose someone came into his cell and told him of the world outside the walls.  Is the fact that he was born in bondage prove that he is incapable of hearing the messenger and believing his message? Of course not.  You can acknowledge the bondage of the man from birth without assuming he is also born incapable of believing the testimony of the messengers sent for the purpose of helping him to be set free.

Belief that a man is born in a prison cell is distinct from the belief that the man is incapable of acknowledging that he is in a prison cell and accepting help to escape when it is clearly offered. Calvinists have pointed to passages that prove mankind is born in the cell while assuming mankind is incapable of humbly admitting they are in a cell and trusting in Christ to set them free.

No passage in all of scripture ever suggests that fallen men are incapable of willingly responding to God’s own appeal to be reconciled from their fallen condition.

  • Matt wrote, “such verses as 1 Cor. 2:14; 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20 are used to demonstrate that, for example, the unbeliever is incapable of choosing God of his own free will since they say that the unbeliever cannot receive spiritual things, does no good, and is a slave to sin. … the Bible clearly teaches us that the unbeliever is restricted to making sinful choices (1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 3:10-12; Rom. 6:14-20)

The passages cited simply do not say what Matt asserts. Let’s look at each one and see exactly what they teach:

1 Corinthians 2:14 — “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

So, the lost man needs someone to spiritually discern the “deep things of God” (vs. 10), right? What are the means God uses to discern spiritual truths to mankind?  Is not the very epistle that Paul is writing to the carnal believers in Corinth a means of “spiritual discernment?”  And since the “brethren” in the Corinthian church are “not able to receive” these same “deep things of God” (1 Cor. 3:1-3) one would be hard pressed to suggest that Paul was intending to teach that no one is able to understand the simple gospel appeal to be reconciled unless they are first reconciled.

Again, this text never suggests that mankind is born unable to respond to God’s clearly discerned gospel appeal.  It only affirms that the mystery of the gospel must be discerned for us, which it has been.  As Paul states, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Eph. 3:4

Neither side is suggesting that lost men can understand the deep spiritual truths of God apart from the means God has chosen to discern these mysteries. So, the question is whether God’s means of discernment through the apostles is a sufficient work of discernment that enables those who hear it to respond? More HERE.

Romans 3:10-18 — “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

No one is righteous according to the works of the law.  No one is able to attain righteousness by law through works.  But how does that prove no one is able to attain righteousness by grace through faith?  In verse 21 of this same chapter Paul introduces the means for man to attain righteousness, which is separate from the law.  Calvinists seem to think that proof of our inability to earn righteousness through our own works likewise proves our inability to trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Proving that the lost cannot seek God does not prove that they are unable to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost. Proving that I cannot call the President on the phone does not prove I cannot answer the phone if the President chose to call me.

Romans 6:14-20 – “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.”

While Paul certainly affirms that “you used to be slaves to sin,” he never remotely suggests that you used to be incapable of admitting that fact in light of God’s revelation through the law (a tutor sent to reveal our need) and the powerful gospel appeal (God’s offer to meet that need through faith). How does Paul describe the way in which one comes out of his enslavement in the passage above? He writes, “you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”  He speaks of your obedience to the teaching that he and the other apostles had brought to you. Moreover, Paul speaks of your choice to “offer yourselves as slaves,” as if you are responsible for that choice.  Nothing is said about some effectual or irresistible internal working presupposed by the Calvinist.

Nothing in the three passages listed even come close to suggesting that mankind is incapable of admitting they need help when God Himself offers it. Matt goes on to describe libertarian free will (LFW) in this manner:

  • Libertarian free will says that the person’s will is not restricted by his sinful nature, and that he is still able to choose or accept God freely.  Verses used to support this view are John 3:16 and 3:36

This is an over-simplified and very shallow explanation of LFW.  LFW (or contra-causal freedom) is “the categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action.” So, in relation to soteriology, LFW is mankind’s ability to accept or reject God’s appeal to be reconciled through faith in Christ. Given that mankind is held responsible for how they respond to Christ and His words (John 12:48), there is no biblical or theological reason to suggest that mankind is born unable to respond to His powerful, life-giving words (Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:15-16; Rm. 10:17; John 6:63; 20:31*). It makes no practical sense to hold mankind responsible (response-able) to Christ’s words, if indeed they are unable-to-respond to those words, nor is it ever explicitly taught in Scripture.

*HERE is a great resource to support this interpretation of John 20:31 from the original language. (From Thomas “Willie” Adams, PhD)

In fact, many text suggest mankind is able to reason with God and freely respond to His revelation:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Is. 1:16-20)

Matt continues: All the cults and false religious systems teach the libertarian view of free will…

This is factually inaccurate. Islam, naturalistic Atheism, and ancient Gnosticism, to name a few, all held to forms of determinism.

…that salvation and spiritual understanding are completely within the grasp of sinners (in spite of their enslavement to and deadness in sin).  For them, salvation would be totally up to the ability of the individual to make such a choice.

This is a common error made by Calvinistic believers. They wrongly assert that non-Calvinists believe salvation itself is “within the grasp of sinners” because we teach that mankind is responsible to believe and repent of sin.  Being capable of repenting in faith is not equal to saving oneself. Matt is conflating two separate choices as if they are one in the same.

  • Man’s responsibility to believe and repent.
  • God’s gracious choice to save whoever believes and repents.

By conflating these two very distinct actions, the Calvinist causes much unneeded confusion. It would be tantamount to suggesting that because the Prodigal son chose to return home that the father was obligated to accept and restore him BECAUSE of his choice to return. The son alone was responsible for his choice to return. Likewise, the father alone was responsible for his choice to accept and restore him. The only obligation on the father is one he puts on himself on the basis of his own goodness and grace.  Nothing is owed to the son on the basis of his choice to return. When the Calvinist conflates these two choices as if they are one in the same it confounds an otherwise very simple gospel message.

Below are the passages Matt listed in support of his perspective. Let’s go through each of them:

Man Apart from God

  • 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

Does proof that a leopard cannot change his own spots also prove that a leopard cannot recognize that his spots need changing by the help of another? Once again Calvinists have assumed that mankind’s inability to save himself is equal to his supposed inability to admit that fact in light of God’s clear revelation.

For instance, a doctor may clearly reveal your need for a heart transplant. Your ability to submit to his recommendation and allow him to perform the transplant is not equal to performing the transplant all by yourself, which is exactly what the Calvinist is presuming onto our perspective when they say things like, “you believe that you can save yourself”…or “change your own spots.”

  • 5:10, “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Matt will have to spell out why he feels this passage specifically supports his position. According to 2 Corinthians 5:20, Christ is making his appeal through us to be reconciled to God by faith. The Calvinist seems to think that one must be reconciled in order to willingly respond to Christ’s appeal to be reconciled, which clearly has the cart before the horse.

  • 8:7, “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”

Does proof that mankind cannot fulfill the laws demands also prove that mankind cannot humbly admit this fact in light of God’s gracious appeals? Just because mankind cannot merit his own salvation by works of the law does not mean he cannot trust in the One who did fulfill the law.

Verses related to free will choices of sinners

  • John 1:13, “who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Clearly John is referencing the natural born Israelites who wrongly believe that their Israelite lineage (blood), and works of the law (willing/running) are the means of their salvation. This is made clear by looking at the context of this passage. In verses 11-12, the apostle writes, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Who are “his own” who “did not receive him?” Clearly he is speaking of Israel. Which is contrasted with those who did receive him and believed in his name.  One is not even given the right to become a child until they “believe and receive” according to this passage. Yet, the Calvinist seem to suggest that one must be born as a child in order to believe and receive. Again, the Calvinists have the cart before the horse.

  • 9:16, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” — “the man” is singular
  • 9:18, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

For the sake of time and space, I’ll refer you to my own commentary over Romans 9 to respond to this point of contention.

  • 1:29, “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

God does grant us the ability to believe and suffer for His sake. But “granting” or “enabling” faith is not the same as effectually causing it. Faith comes by hearing the powerful gospel appeal (Rom. 10:11-14), which is granted first to the Jew and then the Gentile (Rom. 1:16). In other words, God is enabling faith through revelation, which is sent first to the Jew and then the Gentiles. During the time of Paul, the Jews had grown calloused to God’s revelation, otherwise they might have seen, heard, understood and turned to God, so the apostles took the message of repentance to the Gentiles, who listened (Acts 28:27-28).

Free Will as “Human Autonomy” (the “separateness” of God)

Websters defines “autonomous” simply as “undertaken or carried on without outside control.” Autonomous describes things that function separately or independently. For instance, once you move out of your parents’ house, and get your own job, you will be an autonomous member of the family. This adjective autonomous is often used of countries, regions, or groups that have the right to govern themselves. Autonomous is from Greek autonomos “independent,” from autos “self” plus nomos “law.”

Some wrongly assume that the Traditionalist’s use of this term is meant to suggest that mankind’s existence, sustenance and natural abilities are independent of God altogether. This is absurd, of course. Paul asked his readers, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), which strongly implies that all our abilities, including the ability to make choices, is given to us by a gracious God.

We can affirm that “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” (Ps. 115:3) while still holding on to the equally valid truth that, “the highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16). This means it pleases God to give man a certain level of “autonomy” or “separateness.”  This is a biblical view of divine sovereignty and human autonomy.  As A.W. Tozer rightly explains:

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

Some Calvinists have wrongly concluded that the Traditionalist seeks to downplay the sovereignty of God and highlight the autonomy of man, when in reality we seek to maintain the right biblical understanding of man’s autonomy so as to better highlight the Sovereignty, Love and Holiness of God.

I have already unpacked the attribute of God’s Sovereignty HERE and God’s Love HERE, so I would now like to turn our attention to the attribute of God’s Holiness. If you notice that the Tozer quote above is from his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy.”  Tozer’s intentions, like that of the Traditionalist, is in defense of God’s Holiness, not an attempt to undermine other equally important attributes of our good God.

I suspect that Tozer, like myself, would wholeheartedly agree with John Piper’s teaching on God’s Holiness here:

“Every effort to define the holiness of God ultimately winds up by saying: God is holy means God is God. Let me illustrate. The root meaning of holy is probably to cut or separate. A holy thing is cut off from and separated from common (we would say secular) use. Earthly things and persons are holy as they are distinct from the world and devoted to God. So the Bible speaks of holy ground (Exodus 3:5), holy assemblies (Exodus 12:16), holy sabbaths (Exodus 16:23), a holy nation (Exodus 19:6); holy garments (Exodus 28:2), a holy city (Nehemiah 11:1), holy promises (Psalm 105:42), holy men (2 Peter 1:21) and women (1 Peter 3:5), holy scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15), holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8), a holy kiss (Romans 16:16), and a holy faith (Jude 20). Almost anything can become holy if it is separated from the common and devoted to God.

But notice what happens when this definition is applied to God himself. From what can you separate God to make him holy? The very god-ness of God means that he is separate from all that is not God. There is an infinite qualitative difference between Creator and creature. God is one of a kind. Sui generis. In a class by himself. In that sense he is utterly holy. But then you have said no more than that he is God.” – John Piper (emphasis added)

Notice the common term used to describe God’s Holiness and man’s autonomy? The word “separate” is referenced in both definitions. This is significant.

Some Calvinists fail to see that the Traditionalists defense of man’s separateness (autonomy) is actually in defense of God’s Holiness, or as Piper put it, God’s separateness “from all that is not God.” But, in a world of divine meticulous control of all things, what is left to be considered “separate” in any meaningful sense of the word?

One would think that sinful intentions would be included in “all that is not God,” yet many Calvinistic scholars affirm that man’s sinful intentions are unchangeably predetermined or brought about by God so as to glorify Himself (see HERE).

We must understand that John Piper, while holding to the same definition of Holiness as Tozer (or Traditionalists), comes to a very different conclusion about the nature of our thrice Holy God.

Continuing with the quote above, Piper concludes:

“If the holiness of a man derives from being separated from the world and devoted to God, to whom is God devoted so as to derive his holiness? To no one but himself.”

Piper fails to relate his understanding of God’s Holiness (separateness) to the nature of morally accountable creatures (as autonomously separate), but instead uses this attribute to emphasize his Calvinistic view of God’s self-seeking nature. Piper is arguing that God is all about Himself because there is no “higher reality than God to which He must conform in order to be holy.” In other words, God is all about God because there is nothing more Holy than God. But, what does this even mean unless you establish that which God has separated Himself from in the meticulously determined world of Piper’s Calvinism? How can one celebrate God being about God unless you separate that which is not about God from that which is about God? What exactly can be deemed as “separated” in a worldview where absolutely everything is brought about by God for God? Holiness loses its meaning in a deterministic worldview because nothing can be described in any significant way as being “separate” from God and His will.

It is senseless to speak of God’s Holiness (as separateness) unless there is something outside of God from which to separate. God cannot be separated from Himself or His own choices. And if you insist on the one hand that God is unchangeably determining all creature’s sinful inclinations so as to glorify Himself, then how can you on the other hand claim that God is wholly separate from those same sinful, yet self-glorifying means?  You might as well be claiming A is not A (God is separate but not separate).

Listen, either God is implicated in moral evil or He is not. He is either Holy or He is not. He is either separate (an affirmation of both Divine Holiness and human autonomy) or He is not (a denial of both Divine Holiness and human autonomy). Do not allow the Calvinists to have their cake and eat it too on this point.

John Piper takes the attribute of Holiness to teach that “God is all about Himself.” Whereas, Tozer takes the attribute of Holiness to teach that while God would be perfectly just to be all about Himself and His own glorification, He graciously chooses to glorify undeserving creatures who have separated themselves from Him through autonomously sinful choices.

Traditionalists, like myself, simply believe that Tozer is right and Piper is wrong.

224 thoughts on “Online Debate with a Calvinist

  1. Leighton,

    You misspelled Matt Slick’s name in the 2nd paragraph as “Matt Stick”.

    You wrote, “Let’s look at Matt’s errors point by point in light of the scriptures:”… You then quoted him directly, and then wrote several things that you agreed with Matt regarding his statement, and then you wrote the following:

    “We would NOT AGREE that a man is born incapable of willingly admitting that he is in bondage and in need of help — especially in light of God’s gracious, Holy Spirit inspired, clear revelation — by means of the law (a tutor) and the gospel (a powerful appeal to be reconciled).”

    Where did Matt argue the above? Why are you attributing something to Matt that he did not say? What purpose does that serve?

    In regard to the accusation that that you worship the idol of human autonomy, the LORD is the ultimate judge of that because He alone knows your heart fully and all of of your motivations. On the other hand, the scriptures instruct believers to carefully examine and test what is taught by teachers such as yourself…”And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…” (Phil 1:9) Are you truly sincere and blameless in challenging Calvinists? Is your argumentation sincere and blameless?

    Why do you oppose and criticize what is clearly seen in the scriptures by persons who honor and love the Lord Jesus Christ? What purpose does that serve? How many hours have you spent putting together and maintaining this blog? The amount of energy that you devote to this makes me wonder if you hope to convince people that the autonomous free will of man is the primary change agent that saves rather than God Himself. Why are you so devoted to the autonomous free will of man? Where do the scriptures exhort us to honor the free will of man?

    Are you ready to be truly honest about this? Then I challenge you to read http://www.fivesolas.com/toplady.htm.

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    1. Where did Matt argue in favor of “Total Inability” as promoted by Calvinism? Is that your question?

      Are you suggesting Matt doesn’t hold to total inability?

      Why do I oppose Calvinism?

      One of two reasons: I am wrong about man’s freedom and God has causally determined me to oppose Calvinism for some unknown reason. Or I am correct and man has genuine free will and I believe Calvinism misrepresents the biblical teaching.

      “…this makes me wonder if you hope to convince people that the autonomous free will of man is the primary change agent that saves rather than God Himself.”

      See my podcast on “the conflation of the Calvinist” because this is a prime example of the conflation between man’s choice to repent and Gods gracious choice to save the repentant. Treating those choices as if they are one in the same is conflating and makes our conversation muddled.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Dr. Flowers writes, “We would NOT AGREE that a man is born incapable of willingly admitting that he is in bondage and in need of help — especially in light of God’s gracious, Holy Spirit inspired, clear revelation — by means of the law (a tutor) and the gospel (a powerful appeal to be reconciled).”

      Absent knowledge of the law or hearing the gospel, we seem to agree that a person is incapable “admitting that he is in bondage and in need of help.” Yet, even with the law, the Jew seemed to have this problem. They had so distorted the law, that they were in bondage, needed help, and were incapable of admitting it – as demonstrated in Jesus’ discussions with the Pharisees. Not everyone hears the gospel preached and for those who do, not everyone “hears” the gospel as not everyone is saved. Something else is going on. Nonetheless, Dr. Flowers seems to agree that all people are born “incapable of willingly admitting that he is in bondage and in need of help” and this condition continues until a person comes into contact with the law or the gospel, and even here, something else is needed.

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  2. According to the Traditionalist’s perspective, humility and ability to admit one’s guilt before a holy God “activates” the process by which a person is saved. How do we know this? Well ask the Traditionalist two questions:
    1) DOES God save anyone absent their humility/ability to admit their guilt?
    2) WILL God save anyone who doesn’t first humble themselves and admit their guilt?

    If the answer is “no” to both questions, then we KNOW that salvation has its origins in man’s autonomous free will according to the Traditionalist’s perspective. In other words, God REACTS to mankind’s choice to humble and admit their guilt. So salvation DEPENDS on mankind’s moral choice! So, instead of saying that , “Salvation is of the Lord”, we say “Salvation is of Man” because God’s freedom of choice must first bow to mankind’s freedom to first humble and admit his guilt.

    Prof. Flowers keeps harping on this concept of mankind’s ability to “admit their guilt”. But this is TOTALLY irrelevant to the argument between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. The overwhelming majority of Calvinists believe that sinners admit their guilt before God everyday. However, admission of guilt doesn’t disprove total depravity or inability.
    Inability simply means that the unregenerate CANNOT believe the Gospel UNTO SALVATION! Admitting guilt is not a precursor to genuine salvation, nor is humility. Humility can be temporary and false.
    The Calvinist simply says that TRUE humility and TRUE repentance are gifts of God. Humility and repentance from an unregenerate heart are both temporary and false.
    Consider the parable of the garments and wine bottles told by Jesus in Matthew 9-16-18..
    Jesus is teaching there that the Gospel message will have an adverse effect on someone whose nature/heart is not FIRST changed. This is why He says in v17b: “but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” You must FIRST have a new heart/nature (thus “fresh wineskins”), then you can pour the Gospel (thus “fresh wine”) into them so that “both are preserved” or the true believer can believe the Gospel and live it.
    Jesus says in order for the “fresh wine” of the Gospel to become effective, the wineskins must FIRST be “fresh”.
    Also Prof. Flowers loves to use the parable of the prodigal son as a proof text for autonomous free will preceding the monergestic work of the father choosing to accept the son.
    Whereas the parable is referring to salvation, it’s NOT relaying the source or mechanism of salvation. The parable is told in the setting of Jesus eating and fraternizing with Gentile sinners and He’s aware of the fact that the Jewish leadership is present. So He relates several parables to express the fact that God’s salvation plan is for sinners (including Gentiles).
    So the parable of the sower is not meant to teach HOW God saves. The purpose of the parable is that God saves “publicans and sinners” (Luke 15:2) who are Gentiles in this passage. The prodigal son is a picture of an unregenerate Gentile whom God (the father) accepts. The older son represents the Jews (especially the Pharisees) who are jealous over the fact that God loves and accepts the Gentile believers too.
    But I reiterate that the parable of the prodigal is not meant to illustrate HOW God saves. It’s only meant to illustrate that He’s “no respecter of persons” in who He saves.

    I could address more of Prof. Flowers’ errors but I’m tired and going to sleep. Maybe I’ll continue tomorrow.

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    1. Hi Troy! I hope you don’t mind if I respond to your comments too.

      You asked – 1) DOES God save anyone absent their humility/ability to admit their guilt?
      2) WILL God save anyone who doesn’t first humble themselves and admit their guilt?

      I would say that if you believe that God is going to save infants who die before their conscience can respond in humility… then, as I do, the answer to both your questions is “yes”. In fact… there may be more in heaven that way then through their personal repentance and faith being expressed first!

      Also… Calvinist’s love to find Scriptural stories that seem to fit their theology. You point to the wine skins parable because it sounds like regeneration before salvation. (… which premise always makes me laugh… that Calvinists separate regeneration from salvation ;-)) But that context in Matt 9 gives no hint that Jesus is talking about personal salvation. On the contrary, if I was to guess, He is talking about the teachings of the new covenant being placed in the forms and applications left over from the old covenant.

      On the other hand… the parable of the prodigal is truly about personal salvation! Read the context of the other two parables before it and see that it is about rejoicing when sinners repent! You are correct that it is not so much about teaching how an individual repents, though the last story gives some indication – “he came to himself”, “he arose and went”. And I concede that I could make those actions fit the Calvinism’s view of regeneration, though it fits better the Scripture’s view of enlightenment before regeneration. But dogmatic doctrine should not be “proven” from parables or historical stories in Scripture just because one thinks they are illustrating their pet doctrine! Anything can be proven that way.

      But the parable of the prodigal is actually mainly about the last son and the Father’s pleading with him. See 15:1-2. The older brother was the sinner, the unregenerate Pharisee, that needed to rejoice at what God was doing in seeking and saving that which is lost. That was the enlightenment Jesus was giving the Pharisees that day. That was their opportunity to “come to themselves” and return to the Father’s will. That would be the beginning of their repentance.

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      1. Good Morning Brian and thank you for accepting my friend request and responding to my comment sir.
        Firstly, the 2 questions were assuming that the subjects ALREADY have the capacity to choose. So please tailor your responses to my earlier questions with this in mind.
        Secondly, whereas most non-Calvinists believe that God saves through OUR repentance and faith, the Scriptures teach that GOD gives AUTHENTIC faith and repentance which is FOREIGN to man’s “autonomous” free will. The Scriptures are quite clear on this. One must simply twist Scripture to evade this truth. But I find that Traditionalists twist a lot of Scriptures to fit their presuppositions instead of letting the text just speak for itself.
        Thirdly, regeneration IS salvation sir. One is not saved unless he/she is regenerated. Actually you CAN’T separate the two because you can’t have one without the other. So I’m not sure why you stated that Calvinists separate the two concepts. Regeneration IS salvation!
        Fourthly, in Matthew 9 Christ is explaining to the disciples of John why the Pharisees fast but His disciples don’t fast. Jesus is using this parable to teach the spiritual truth that the Gospel (new wine) can’t be received by those whose natures/hearts can’t receive the Gospel. So they continue doing what they’ve always done (i.e. fasting) to merit God’s favor because their natures/hearts have not been changed.
        Also, you stated “He is talking about the teachings of the new covenant being placed in the forms and applications left over from the old covenant.” But the parable says that the wine bottles “burst” and are “destroyed”. So if we accept your rendering of this parable we would have to assume that the old covenant teachings were DESTROYED by the new covenant teachings. And we both know that the new covenant never “burst” or “destroyed” the old covenant. But it simply FULFILLED it. Jesus said ““Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matt‬ ‭5:17‬) So the bottles can’t refer to old covenant teachings because they’re never “destroyed”. So I reiterate that the parable is referencing unregenerate man’s ability to receive the Gospel; otherwise it will destroy him (see Hebrews 4:12). It also speaks to why the Pharisees continue fasting because their hearts have not been changed.
        Fifthly, you need to reiterate this to Leighton..”But dogmatic doctrine should not be “proven” from parables or historical stories in Scripture just because one thinks they are illustrating their pet doctrine! Anything can be proven that way.” This is Leighton’s favorite “proof text” to illustrate mankind’s autonomous free will in salvation. The purpose of this parable is NOT to teach the mechanism of salvation. Leighton needs to understand this fact because he’s basing his presuppositions on a parable that doesn’t relate to HOW salvation occurs. The parable is illustrating before self-righteous Pharisees God’s acceptance of Gentile sinners as well; that they are the Jews’ brothers in Christ. There’s no “respecter of persons” regarding salvation.
        Sixth, you said, ” That was the enlightenment Jesus was giving the Pharisees that day. That was their opportunity to “come to themselves” and return to the Father’s will. That would be the beginning of their repentance.” Brian Jesus spoke in parables so as to deliberately and specifically “blind” the Jewish leadership sir (Luke 8:10); not to “enlighten” them. You’re teaching the exact OPPOSITE of Scripture. The parable of the prodigal was meant to enlighten His disciples and any of those “publicans and sinners” who were apart of His elect (“to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God”).
        Also where does the parable mention that the father is “pleading with him [the younger son]” as you stated in the last paragraph of your comment? We must handle the Word of God very carefully sir.
        I very eagerly await your response Brian 🙂

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      2. Hi Troy! Thank you for your thorough response.

        Though the example of infant salvation proves that God is the only necessary cause of everlasting life being given, you and I will continue to disagree that regeneration is also a necessary cause. Enlightenment, which is given to everyone, is taught in Scripture as an effective cause to provide the opportunity/ability to everyone to choose to seek before regeneration (John 1:4-13). You need regeneration to be a necessary cause for the benefits of salvation because you can only have a few receiving it to fit your deterministic theology.

        I think we have also discussed before the various ways that the Scriptures use the terms faith and repentance. We actually both see them as gifts, though you believe they are only provided to a few to exercise, and I believe they are provided to all, or at least the opportunity/ability to choose to repent and trust is provided to all. If you like to discuss specific Scriptures that you believe I would “twist” on this subject, please pick one to start with.

        If “regeneration IS salvation”, are you saying that forgiveness of sin and everlasting life, becoming a child of God and receiving God’s righteousness through the exercise of personal repentance and faith happen at that moment of regeneration? I think not. The Calvinist has had to resort to explaining regeneration being a momentary event and a process of events (which is contradictory).

        Did you realize that you left out the fact that the disciples of John were also mentioned as fasting in Matt 9? Are you suggesting that none of them were elect? I think my explanation fits better. Jesus did not destroy the old covenant… that is true… but He certainly caused it to “pass away” (2Cor 3:11) and “become obsolete” (Heb 13:8) by fulfilling it and establishing in its place His teachings as the new covenant obligations. But at least it seems that you agree parables should not be used to “prove” dogma, though I should add, that explanations by Christ Himself of a parable can be used, for that is His clear teaching. He gave no such explanation in Matt 9.

        I am not seeing Gentiles at all in the parable of the prodigal! Jesus is responding to the Pharisees’ dislike of Him eating with tax-collectors and sinners which presumably are all of Jewish background. The other two parables (lost sheep and lost coin) substantiate this connection. And it was the older son that I meant in my last paragraph as being pled with by the Father. I guess calling him the “last son” was confusing… I meant last mentioned in the story. I should have said – “older brother” so there would not have been the confusion. I still see Jesus as using these three parables in Luke 15 in addressing the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

        I guess the “them” in verse 3 could possibly be the publicans and sinners of verse 1, but they didn’t need to hear about heaven, the angels, and the father rejoicing at sinners repenting as those leaders did! I reject your view that parables were to “deliberately and specifically ‘blind’ the Jewish leadership”, if you mean unequivocally all of them. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea stand as evidence in opposition to that idea. I believe Jesus believed that even among those in that group of leaders that day in Luke 15, there may have been some who could seek further understanding (though the meaning of those parables were not too difficult 😉 for Jesus gave explanations in the first two) And also Jesus knew that even the judicially hardened leaders, that would be used for the crucifixion, might get another chance through God’s enlightenment after the crucifixion, watering the seed that He was planting in their hearts that day (cf Acts 6:8).

        I totally agree with you Troy, that “We must handle the Word of God very carefully sir.”

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      3. Brian you wrote, “Enlightenment, which is given to everyone, is taught in Scripture as an effective cause to provide the opportunity/ability to everyone to choose to seek before regeneration (John 1:4-13).” Now prove from this passage and any supporting passages that “enlightenment” = “opportunity/ability” to seek before regeneration; especially in light of v5 where Johns says that “the darkness” doesn’t COMPREHEND “the Light. Unregenerate mankind is born in darkness and one of their qualities is that they’re UNABLE to comprehend spiritual truths in their natural state. Also, Jesus teaches the following concepts in John 3:19-21:
        1) the presence of the Light (Christ Himself) is a judgement on mankind
        2) men hate the Light because it reveals their evil deeds
        3) men will refuse to come to the Light because of their evil deeds.
        So men are, in fact, enlightened. However, this enlightenment only serves to reveal man’s sinfulness and his ultimate hatred and rejection of that Light. So Brian please explain to me how enlightenment is synonymous with opportunity/ability in John 1:4-13??

        I agree that we will not agree on how regeneration occurs. However, can you still respond to my original two questions that I posed in my initial comment to Leighton: 1) DOES God save anyone absent their humility/ability to admit their guilt?
        2) WILL God save anyone who doesn’t first humble themselves and admit their guilt?
        (The questions assume man’s moral capacity)

        Also, Brian please provide Scripture that teaches that all (without exception) have the gifts of faith and repentance as you’ve stated.

        You asked this question: “are you saying that forgiveness of sin and everlasting life, becoming a child of God and receiving God’s righteousness through the exercise of personal repentance and faith happen at that moment of regeneration?” Those are all aspects of our salvation Brian. However, regeneration of the heart is salvation in the sense that God, the Holy Spirit SUPERNATURALLY awakens us to the truth of the Gospel and provides us a new nature whereby we desire to be obedient to God’s Word. This will only occur when a person is born FROM ABOVE (John 3:7). Also, the Spirit itself is the origin of this new birth (John 3:8).

        You asked, “Did you realize that you left out the fact that the disciples of John were also mentioned as fasting in Matt 9? Are you suggesting that none of them were elect?” Brian, regardless if we know if any of John’s disciples were elect or not, your questions are IRRELEVANT to Christ’s teaching about needing to have a new heart BEFORE receiving the truths of the Gospel. Your rendering of this parable in Matthew 9 is untenable because of the language (i.e. destroyed) used in the parable. You are desperately trying to find ways of inserting your ideas into the passage, however the language will not support your rendering sir.

        You stated, “But at least it seems that you agree parables should not be used to “prove” dogma…”
        I couldn’t DISAGREE more!! Parables are ALWAYS meant to teach some aspect of the Gospel message for those to whom it is attended. Parables do, in fact, prove already stated doctrines/dogma. For example, the Parable of the Sower “proves” several doctrines:
        1) the condition of man’s heart (i.e. the ground)
        2) the Great Commission (i.e. the the seeds being sown)
        3) Satan’s ability to squelch the Gospel message
        4) the effects of this world on the heart and its ability to receive the Gospel
        5) perseverance of the saints

        You stated, “I am not seeing Gentiles at all in the parable of the prodigal! Jesus is responding to the Pharisees’ dislike of Him eating with tax-collectors and sinners which presumably are all of Jewish background.” The “sinners” is commonly how Pharisees referred to Gentile people. But even if I adopt your view of Jesus NOT referring to Gentiles, the parable is still mishandled by Prof. Flowers in trying to use it to teach autonomous free will prior to regeneration because the passage, although teaches WHO can become saved, it just doesn’t teach HOW one can become saved.

        You stated, “! I reject your view that parables were to “deliberately and specifically ‘blind’ the Jewish leadership”, if you mean unequivocally all of them. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea stand as evidence in opposition to that idea.” God sent a “spirit of stupor” to the entire Jewish nation. However, that doesn’t preclude the fact that God still had some of His elect people within that Jewish nation. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were among those elected. However, any non-elect Jew were being judicially hardened so as to bring about God’s purpose to sacrifice His Son for His people. The parables were a mechanism to seal the Jewish leaders in their stupor.

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      4. Thank you, Troy, again for your careful reply.

        That God’s enlightenment does indeed provide the ability to accept/reject before the new birth is clear in John 1:4-13, for some reject and some receive as a result of it, all before the new birth. It can’t be much plainer. The darkness does not “overcome” the light… meaning the darkness cannot stop the light doing what it was purposed to do. See John 12:35 for further teaching of Jesus – “So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.’”

        That the light convicts men of their sinfulness, and that in the flesh they hate that conviction is true. But Jesus was teaching Nicodemus, an unregenerate man, that if he would believe, and do what is right, trusting in Jesus, he would come to the light. Jesus was not appealing to the flesh of Nicodemus, but the spirit.

        No, leaving infants aside, God only, according to His sovereign plan, does not save anyone absent of repentance and faith. And I believe the teaching of John 1:4-13 proves that enlightenment (revelation faith) and the ability to accept or reject it (personal faith) is given, as a “gift” if you will, to all. John 20:30 also points to the truth that the revelation faith (the gospel) was written for unbelievers so that they would have the opportunity to exercise their personal faith (believe) and be saved.

        We will just have to disagree on the best interpretation of the unexplained parable in Matt 9. And I also disagree with your hermeneutic that parables, unexplained, “prove already stated doctrine/dogma”. They can illustrate that doctrine if it is clearly stated elsewhere… but not “prove”. Unfortunately, your doctrine of regeneration before faith is not clearly stated, but regeneration after faith is clearly taught.
        And I am surprised that you seem not to comprehend the good effects of God’s enlightenment in unregenerated hearts mentioned in the parable of the sower. Even the evil one realizes the power that the word has in the unregenerate hard heart to provide an opportunity for faith and salvation. Luke 8:12 – “The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” He must know something you don’t. 😉

        That Jesus was using parables to separate those who wanted to seek from those who didn’t is obvious. You did not respond to the fact, and evidence, that even those used in their hardened condition to support the condemnation of Jesus did later receive another opportunity to be enlightened and drawn to the truth (Acts 6:8).

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      5. Brian, with all due respect, where are you getting this from: “That God’s enlightenment does indeed provide the ability to accept/reject before the new birth is clear in John 1:4-13..”
        I’m saying this in a respectful manner sir.. your view and interpretation of Scripture is so convoluted that you really CAN’T recognize plain teachings. You are basing your doctrine of “enlightenment” in John 1 off of conjecture; not careful exegesis. I have illustrated to you that unregenerate man does not want the Light and, in fact, rejects the very Light that you say gives them an opportunity/ability to believe. Something has to occur FIRST before unregenerate mankind will accept and come to the Light. This is what I mean by studying the Scriptures CAREFULLY and pondering the implications of your conclusions.
        John 12:35-37 is teaching the following:
        1) “For a little while longer the Light is among you..” This carries a double meaning..a) Christ will only be on earth for a short time. b) the Gospel will only be on earth for a short time (comparatively speaking).
        2) Christ warns His disciples to walk (follow, live according to) in the Light.
        Once again we see that the Light is Christ Himself; not some generic enlightenment. We can also say that the Gospel too is the “enlightenment” since Christ is the Word. But the Light (Christ, His Gospel) doesn’t enlighten the non-elect. The Light was NEVER meant to enlighten the non-elect. In fact, we learn in John 1:7 that the very purpose of the Light is “so that all might believe through him [Christ]..” It’s for these reasons that “every man” in John 1:9 is LIMITED to every man/woman who the Light enlightens by the Gospel. THERE IS NO GENERIC ENLIGHTENMENT TAUGHT IN SCRIPTURE!! The purpose of the Light is to enlighten the elect ONLY! Otherwise, the non-elect hate and reject it and find it to be “foolishness”.
        3) John 12:37 reveals that, even though men are in the very presence of the Light and watch Him perform miracles, they STILL would not believe on Him UNTO SALVATION. Why not? Weren’t they in the very presence of the Gospel personified? But they STILL didn’t want to believe and follow Him. It’s because they were men “who love darkness rather than light”. The Scriptures are clear that unregenerate men LOVE darkness and HATE the Light. Thus, they will NEVER desire to approach the Light unless there’s an otherwise radical change performed by God in their natures. The Bible is crystal clear about this. It’s mankind who must struggle with this “hard saying”.
        You responded to my original questions posed to Leighton by stating, “No, leaving infants aside, God only, according to His sovereign plan, does not save anyone absent of repentance and faith.” So I guess I’m to assume that humility will lead to our decisions to repent and believe since you never responded to my questions directly about our humility. So I’ll assume that humility is what brings a person to repent and believe. So my argument stands that God CANNOT save a morally responsible person unless that person chooses to be humble FIRST; even though they love their sin and find the Light to be foolish and repugnant. All of a sudden, upon hearing a message inspired by the Holy Spirit (nevermind those who were in the very presence of the Source of the Gospel, but still rejected it), unregenerate men/women can believe a message that the Bible says they hate and reject. Is this what I’m supposed to believe Brian??
        Also, I might conclude with this statement: ENLIGHTENMENT IS SPECIFIC TO WHOM THE SPIRIT CHOOSES TO REVEAL GOSPEL TRUTH UNTO SALVATION. IT’S NOT SOME GENERIC OPPORTUNITY OR ABILITY THAT MEN CAN USE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO MORAL CHOICES. Besides, the choice to believe the Gospel unto salvation is a SPIRITUAL choice; not a MORAL choice. The only thing MORAL about it is that it’s a good choice; but even that choice is first made by God Himself as He gives “saving faith” to whomever He wills.

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      6. Troy writes, “unregenerate men…will NEVER desire to approach the Light unless there’s an otherwise radical change performed by God in their natures….I guess I’m to assume that humility will lead to our decisions to repent and believe since you never responded to my questions directly about our humility…”

        I have argued previously that enlightenment is necessary to salvation but not sufficient to produce salvation. Faith is also necessary (and requires the “good soil” of the parable or regeneration). Faith, if it is the reality or substance of things hoped for (as Hebrews 11), then it can only manifest as a decision to accept the salvation God offers in Christ. Enlightenment by itself will never result in salvation. Enlightenment plus faith will always result in salvation.

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      7. Amen… “Enlightenment plus faith will always result in [God granting the new birth which is] salvation”!

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      8. brian wagner writes, “Enlightenment plus faith will always result in [God granting the new birth which is] salvation”!”

        Or enlightenment may be part of the new birth which, when combined with faith, always results in salvation.

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      9. Calvinist theology demands that the new birth precede, as an event, any enlightenment, since enlightenment is given to every man… but for them enlightenment has no effect unless the new birth has already taken place first as an event… they can’t have the new birth as a process that includes enlightenment!

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      10. I’m sorry Brian, but neither John 1 nor John 12 teach a general or generic enlightenment sir. You are both espousing and teaching a falsehood. The Light in both passages refers to Christ and/or His Gospel; not some generic enlightenment. That Light enlightens “every man” for whom it is intended. Universal terms (i.e. every, all, world,etc) must agree with both the immediate context AND broader context of the entire Bible. But I’ll reiterate again – the Light is meant to reveal the Gospel to those for whom it’s intended. All the rest (non-elect) will remain in darkness. To teach a generic enlightenment when the Bible is clear that mankind both hates and rejects that Light in their unregenerate state is simply erroneous and not approaching the text carefully. Also, there are multi-millions who die never having been exposed to the Light (Christ, Gospel). I STRONGLY suggest that you review your methodology of interpretation and really ponder the implications of your conclusions before teaching them as truth. Your conclusions simply don’t stand up when doing careful comparing of Scripture.

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      11. Thanks for the follow up and evident concern. But the gospel, the good news that Christ IS the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, is “intended” for every creature to hear preached to them! It is “intended” for them all to have an opportunity to repent and believe it.

        God’s intention is clearly spelled out in Acts 17:26-30… where He preordained that mankind be able to seek and find Him and commands every man, everywhere to repent. That has to show us clearly what God “intended” by giving enlightenment to every one, or we are hopelessly dependent on so-called “scholars” who try to tell us these Scriptures really don’t mean what they say.

        The warning and invitation of Christ to “the people” in John 12:36 makes no sense if it was not available to all of them equally.
        John 12:35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.”
        John 12:36 “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

        Again, I think your loyalty to the scholarship of Calvinism has made you willing to see meanings in texts that normal reading, using normal rules of grammar and context, just does not support.

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      12. Brian my brother you’re just not thinking your theology through its logical conclusions. You stated, “..that Christ IS the propitiation for the sins of the whole world..” This is specifically why I stated in my previous comment that words like “every”, “all”, “world” MUST be defined in BOTH immediate and broader contexts in Scripture.
        To illustrate my premise, let’s dissect 1 John 2:2 which states, “…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” Now what can we conclude from this verse?
        1) Christ Himself IS the propitiation for “our” sins
        2) “Our” here refers to both the writer and to whom he’s addressing the epistle.
        3) Christ ACTUALLY propitiated or satisfied the wrath of God on behalf of both “our sins” (John’s and those true believers receiving the letter) AND the “whole world”.
        4) Here are the all important questions: a) Did Christ appease God’s wrath (propitiate) for EVERY individual during His atoning work? b) If so, on what basis is God judging the non-elect?
        5) The word “world” here does NOT mean all-inclusive because Christ did not appease God’s wrath for every individual or else God would have no basis to judge them. World is speaking of creation (cosmos) as used in John 3:16. (By the way, even John 3:16 limits Christ’s atoning work to only “the believing ones” not perishing.) But the “world” in John 3:16 refers to the Cosmos which is all of creation or mankind as a whole) John 3:16 is better rendered: “For God in this manner loved the Creation that He gave His only begotten Son so that the believing ones will not die but have eternal life”. World must be read IN CONTEXT!
        6) Thus 1 John 2:2 is simply teaching that Christ is the ONLY propitiation for His creation (not all inclusive). Any other understanding would have people going to Hell for sins that Christ already atoned for, which is both illogical and untenable.
        You stated, “God’s intention is clearly spelled out in Acts 17:26-30… where He preordained that mankind be able to seek and find Him and commands every man, everywhere to repent.” Yes mankind does have an inclination of worshiping a higher being as evidenced in v23 of Acts 17. Mankind certainly knows that there is a God according to Romans 1:19. However, this knowledge is corrupt and futile according to Romans 1:21. They have and worship their OWN VERSION of the true God; not God Himself. In other words, unregenerate mankind seeks God on THEIR terms, which usually ends up worshipping a false deity. They do not worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH. So it can be concluded that Acts 17:27 reveals that mankind is not seeking the one true God to worship Him in spirit and in truth. However, according to Romans 1:19 they do have a concept of God which He has placed within them (thus Acts 17:23). But this is, by no means, referring to a generic enlightenment that gives man an “opportunity” to believe.
        Yes God gives the command to all of mankind without exception to repent of his wickedness. But this doesn’t preclude that they CAN repent naturally UNTO SALVATION. Nor is God obligated to be fair by giving a command that He KNOWS mankind can’t keep. Grace doesn’t have to be fair because it’s already unmerited and undeserved. It’s God’s prerogative if He wants to enact a law that we can’t keep. Remember that His standard is perfection anyway, which means if He were fair, we’d all be in Hell right now.
        Also if God intended for every man without exception to have an opportunity to believe the Gospel, why do MOST die without ever hearing the Gospel proclaimed. And PLEASE don’t use natural revelation as an argument because Jesus was quite clear that He’s the ONLY way of Salvation. Also Romans 10:14 refutes the “natural revelation” argument.
        You stated, “The warning and invitation of Christ to “the people” in John 12:36 makes no sense if it was not available to all of them equally.” Brian the Gospel is not about equality and fairness. It’s about Ephesians 1:11 and God’s working “ALL THINGS after the counsel of His will”. God has set the parameters for His salvation plan and He’s working it out as He sees fit. It’s not about what we deem fair or equal. We just humbly bow to EVERYTHING He has revealed to us in the Scriptures.

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      13. Troy, I love talking about whether something is logical or not, and especially whether it is following normal grammar and context. When looking for the meaning of the phrase “whole world” in 1John 2:2… the normal rule is to see how the author uses that phrase in the same book, then how he used it in other books he wrote, then how it is used in the rest of the NT, since we are know the NT does not contradict itself.

        You may want to look up every use of the word “world” in 1John, like I have, or just look at 5:19 where “whole world” is used. When John is talking about the sins of the “whole world” in 2:2, I think it is fair to infer since John said Jesus “IS”, not Jesus “WAS”, the propitiation, that all sins already committed can have that satisfaction applied to them, and all sins yet to be committed can have that satisfaction applied too. The Calvinist wants, or has to have, all sins past, present, and future, all predetermined, for he wants the satisfaction to only cover the sins of the so-called “elect”. Do you think all your future sins are already predetermined for you to commit, Troy?

        Jesus is the propitiation, but not all sins have yet received the application of this more-than-sufficient propitiation. You have stated as if the application is completed, all in the past tense. I reject the teaching that all future sins, or all sins after creation, where predetermined and the teaching that the propitiation was already applied to all those sins.

        The Calvinist also tries to prove too much from Rom 1 and ignores the clear purpose of God mentioned in Acts 17:26-30. Rom 1 states that God clearly “makes plain” in people important truths… for what purpose? Rom 2:4 says the goodness of God leads to repentance. And Paul outlined this purpose of God’s enlightenment plainly in Acts 17:27, which was that man “should seek…and might touch and might find”… He wants everyone everywhere to repent.

        Does God really want His purpose in these things to fail, and has He predetermined that His purpose in these things should fail? He certainly allows them to fail sometimes. But man is without excuse, not because he HAD to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but because he freely does suppress it sometimes, instead of letting it lead him to repentance, which some also freely do sometimes (eg. Cornelius, Ethiopian treasurer, etc). Consider again the parable of the sower and power of the Word in each of the soils! Look at Luke 8:12 again.

        Yes God enacts laws that we cannot keep, but they are enacted to enlighten us of our need to repent, to bring us to Christ. He is not a God that reveals a will that He has for everyone, which is also a lie because of a so-called secret will that He has for most people, which is just the exact opposite. The Calvinist believes that God does not have a sovereign will that everyone everywhere gets the opportunity to seek Him, find Him, and repent… even though He clearly said He predetermined that possibility and clearly commanded that such a result be pursued. That position concerning God’s contradictory wills is illogical!!!

        We should humbly bow to everything revealed in Scripture… But Calvinism makes Scripture bow and bend to its presupposition that everything was predetermined before creation, which is a divine immutable eternal fatalism! I will stand with Scripture!

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      14. You’re incorrect Brian about how we are to define grammar in the Bible. The ENTIRE Bible must come to bare on a word. The usage of a word must be defined in light of how it’s used in both testaments. In other words, the ENTIRE Bible is its own dictionary and commentary. The Old Testament is interpreted in light of the New Testament. However, both testaments are essential to understanding doctrine. So we don’t stop with the New Testament when trying to define terms. God’s Word is one complete revelation with two sides!
        Now the fact is that “world” has SEVERAL meanings in the Bible and it’s incumbent upon the student/reader to determine which definition is in view in a particular passage.
        You stated, “Jesus is the propitiation, but not all sins have yet received the application of this more-than-sufficient propitiation. You have stated as if the application is completed, all in the past tense. I reject the teaching that all future sins, or all sins after creation, where predetermined and the teaching that the propitiation was already applied to all those sins.” Brian this goes against ORTHODOX Christianity sir! Wow brother! I’m sorry but your understanding of Scripture is EXTREMELY convoluted and untenable. You don’t even believe that Christ has ALREADY propitiated for sins committed past, present AND future! This is so far left of orthodoxy that you have me in aww sir.
        In Revelation 13:8, Christ is spoken of as the author of the Book of Life (Eternal) which was written BEFORE creation. There He’s referred to as the “Lamb who had been slain”. We can easily and safely infer from this verse that:
        a) Christ wrote the book BEFORE creation
        b) Those written in the book were written BEFORE creation
        c) Christ is referred to as the Lamb BEFORE creation
        d) God’s plan of salvation was ALREADY predetermined BEFORE creation as evidenced by the existence of the Book of Life written pre-creation.

        You see Brian, Christ was the Lamb slain even before creation because it was already preordained that He would enter His own creation and sacrifice Himself for His people who were written in His book of Life. There’s just no denying these truths sir.
        You stated, “I reject the teaching that all future sins, or all sins after creation, were predetermined and the teaching that the propitiation was already applied to all those sins.” This is statement puts you in the minority within orthodox Protestant churches sir. How can you believe that Christ’s sacrifice doesn’t cover all future sins given the totality of Scripture that overwhelmingly contradicts your position.
        1 Peter 3:18 states, ““For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God…” Here God teaches us that Christ died once for all, the Just for the unjust. But He died for sins ONCE FOR ALL; meaning His death was sufficient for EVERY sin that mankind would create. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether I or anyone else believes that our sins are “predetermined” or “preordained”. That’s irrelevant to the fact that the penalty for sin has been satisfied in Christ FOR ALL THOSE WHO ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE BEFORE CREATION!!
        You posed this question to me, “Do you think all your future sins are already predetermined for you to commit, Troy?” My answer is, YES!!! Just as God set up all the circumstances for Christ being crucified (including the very people through whom He entered the world and was crucified), God orchestrates ALL circumstances to accomplish His plans for us. Just as God determined that Herod kill all those innocent babies by prophecy, He also determines all things according to His preordained purposes!

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      15. Thank you for your response, Troy. We can let others read our conversation and determine which of us is giving the most reasonable way to understand meanings of words according to context in Scripture.

        Also you must be looking at a faulty translation… for John did not write “before the foundation of the world” in Rev. 13:8… nor was Jesus slain for sin as a sufficient payment until the right time when God sent Him into the world.

        And I’m sorry that you think your future sins are already predetermined to happen. I pray the Lord will open your understanding in that regard. Thanks again for the conversation.

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      16. Brian you stated, “Also you must be looking at a faulty translation… for John did not write “before the foundation of the world” in Rev. 13:8… nor was Jesus slain for sin as a sufficient payment until the right time when God sent Him into the world. Brian “foundation of the world” includes ANYTIME BEFORE creation. Even if you want to define it as “the beginning of creation”, the fact still remains that those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life were written BEFORE THEY WERE CREATED, which proves predestination brother.
        Also, Jesus IN PRINCIPLE was ALREADY slain for them because God had already determined it from the beginning (Acts 4:27,28).
        The Bible is replete with verses that prove God’s predetermined plan for His creation. No matter how much we try to explain away God’s deliberate and meticulous decree, it will NEVER impede His plan!
        Consider the implications of Matthew 5:18 Brian: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law UNTIL ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED.” ALL of God’s predetermined plan (according to His Law/Word) WILL occur before Judgement Day.
        Again I urge you to contemplate your conclusions before you espouse and teach them as truth; for those who teach receive the greater condemnation (James 3:1).

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      17. We are agreed, Troy… all that is predetermined will be accomplished. The Scripture does not teach an eternal immutable meticulous plan by a divine decree. I have shown you many verses that clearly show God still making determinations/plans after creation began.

        And FROM the foundation of the world means that the book existed from that point and that names were added to it from that point as they were joined to the righteousness of God through their personal faith.

        I’m sorry that your loyalty to your theology makes you want to see it another way. I am not afraid of teaching the Scripture as it should be understood according to normal rules of grammar and context. Be blessed my brother.

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      18. God’s determinations/plans are REVEALED in time Brian. But His decisions were long before determined sir. Even His conversations with mankind in creation are also predestined. So when He responds to man’s speech and actions, all had been decreed before hand to have occurred. Remember that He foreknows BECAUSE He decrees!
        Also, your rendering of “FROM” is inaccurate. “From” is denoting ORIGIN; not a beginning point of a series of events. Nor does the verse give any indication of this. The verse is plainly telling us WHEN the names were written in the book.
        Also I would submit to you Brian, that we’re BOTH loyal to our own presuppositions. The question is: whose presuppositions are based on “tota scriptura”?
        You and professor Flowers violate “normal rules of grammar and context” when you teach that National Israel is the “lump of clay” in Romans 9 when the lump CLEARLY includes Gentile believers in v24. You guys violate “normal rules of grammar and context” whenever you pour meanings into passages that the original author never intended.

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      19. You say, Troy, there are determinations made “in time” that were already made before creation, as if determinations can be made twice. The problem is my presupposition is that there cannot be two contradictory realities, with God being in both at the same time. Your presupposition is that He is in both, and your presupposition is without any Scriptural support, besides being contradictory.

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      20. Troy they are REVEALED as being MADE after the foundation of the world… not before… there are not two realities… only a sequential one that never had a beginning with God and never has an end with God or us. The past and the future are not places in another reality in which God is dwelling. That is just illogical.

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      21. Brian Im not sure why you’re not getting what I’m saying because you are quite learned and have theological training. I know you certainly understand the statement that God predetermined in eternity past the events that would occur in eternity future. This is a very simple concept brother. Also the past and the future are two sides of ONE REALITY sir. God has determined both the past and the future which are both apart of the same reality.

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      22. The problem is Troy, that God didn’t predetermine in eternity past all the events of eternity future… NO verse teaches that and many verse teach Him making determinations after creation, which means that were not made before creation, unless you believe God was lying about making them when He did.

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      23. Brian answer me this question and I’ll follow up with another. Please bare with me on this.
        The question is: How is a person physically born?

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      24. Troy, I will walk with you done this path, if you wish. But I was hoping you would show me the verse(s) that convinces you that God has determined everything before creation.

        A person is physically born when after nine months gestation in their mother’s womb, the mother’s body reflexively and successfully pushes the baby out.

        Here are some verses to consider where God clearly makes decisions after creation, and thus not before –

        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 actually had already chosen before creation these things and am lying about not having chosen them”]
        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 “You 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 have devised a plan”]
        Mic 2:3 (NKJV) 3Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, against this family I am devising disaster, From which you cannot remove your necks; Nor shall you walk haughtily, For this [is] an evil time. [To fit determinism it should read “I have devised a plan”]
        Luke 22:42 (NKJV) 42…saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” [To fit determinism it should read “Even though it is not Your will”]
        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 had willed”]
        Heb 4:7 [NKJV] 7…again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.” [To fit determinism it should read “He had designated”]

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      25. Brian! Come on brother! You just don’t understand Reformed doctrine sir. God uses the free choices of men to accomplish His predetermined purposes. For example, I’m freely choosing to dialogue with you and it may be God’s predetermined will that you come to truth. So predestination says that God determined before creation that we have this dialogue so that He may choose you to present the Gospel more faithfully. God’s decree includes free will choices of men. It’s just that their freedom to choose is limited to their creatureliness.
        So NONE of your verses disprove God’s predetermined decree at all. They only serve to prove that mankind has been given limited freedom to choose which God already decreed before creation.
        I will give you a positive response on God’s decretive will shortly.
        However, returning to your response to my question about childbirth..is this your BEST description of childbirth?? Well I guess “gestation” covers the egg and sperm conceiving. However, you’re missing THE most important aspect of physical birth; without this component, there wouldn’t be a physical birth. Remember these verses Brian…
        “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the ground.”‭‭ (Ps 104:30‬)

        “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:13‬)

        These verses teach that a physical union of the egg and sperm aren’t enough for physical birth. Mankind is both a physical AND spiritual being. So God must add a living soul to that physical union or else that union will not conceive, gestate, and eventually lead to birth.
        So why am I harping on the nature of childbirth?? I’ll answer that by asking another question that is related to determinism. Here’s the question: Does God decree/desire (since His decree stems from His desire) that rape/incest occur? If not, why does He bless many rapes/incest with childbearing? In other words, if God doesn’t want rapes/incest to occur, why does He DELIBERATELY procreate during the course of the rape/incest? Especially in light of Psalm 127:3 which states, “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.”

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      26. Troy… I am not interested in… “So predestination says that God determined before creation that we have this dialogue…” I am interested in what the Scripture says. I gave you the Scriptural evidence that God makes determinations after creation and you ignored that fact. Those verses have nothing to do with man’s free choices…. but they deal with God’s free choices.

        You asked about physical birth, but it appears you wanted to talk about physical conception. I believe in the traducian theory for the creation of the human body and soul in each conception. That God permits some of those conceptions to result from rape or incest only shows again how God can bring good out of man’s free choice for evil.

        But your theology teaches that God had eternally immutably determined that such evil acts would happen and that they would be necessary to bring about that good. The Scripture however shows that God chooses to determine after the man’s free choice to allow that man who is now bent on that evil act to do so because God chooses at that moment to allow for or cause an opportunity for good for that man and/or for other people’s futures.

        What a glorious God who allows for such freedom of worship from man and judges man not based on sins that were eternally immutably determined to happen before man is even conceived, but only after man has freely rejected the enlightenment God gave to him, as He does for everyone (John 1:9).

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      27. Brian I’ve not ignored your verses. The free choices of God made within time (creation) were already predetermined by Him before creation. God’s free choices in time are nothing more than His acting out His own predetermined decree sir. The ONLY statement I need is found in Ephesians 1:11.
        Also, I’m not interested in the Traducian THEORY!! Theories prove NOTHING Brian because they are only educated guesses based on assumptions. Conversely, the Bible is VERY clear that mankind is part man and part spirit/soul. Physical matter alone cannot produce a soul. In other words, mankind’s spirit can’t result from a physical union between an egg and a sperm. The soul must be supernaturally added to that union by God. God is creating anew with every birth. This is NOT theory!! I reiterate again PHYSICAL MATTER CAN NEVER GIVE BIRTH TO SPIRITUAL EXISTENCE!!!
        So having said that, conception is a DELIBERATE act of God whereby He decides to breath into every egg and sperm union the “breath of life”. So I would more accurately define conception as the union of mankind’s physical body with his soul or spirit essence. This is also more accurate because the physical union of the egg and sperm won’t matter unless God gives the union a living soul. This explains why many fertile couples can’t conceive because God has not opened the womb.
        So during the course of a heinous act such as rape, God decides to give a soul to that physical union. If He didn’t decree/desire it, why reward the action with conception?
        Brian please don’t repeat that God can bring good from man’s evil actions. Obviously I believe that already. The question is whether the occurrences of rape/incest were foreordained by Him to occur so as to create specific human beings. God is controlling both the means (man’s sinful actions) and the purposes (childbirth) all to fulfill His predetermined decree and bring glory to Himself. God doesn’t CAUSE mankind to sin (James 1:13) but He certainly has decreed that they commit sin in order to accomplish His purposes.
        We know that God decreed/desired mankind to sin when He placed the tree in the Garden of Eden KNOWING Adam would sin and thus set the world in a state of depravity and thus, in need of redemption. God does decree that sin occur but He’s not the cause of it. Therefore we can conclude that God decreed that rape occurs but He does not CAUSE rape to occur. But of course we also know that He “restrains” sin from occurring which is also apart of His decree.

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      28. Thanks for the conversation Troy. If you are unable to see the contradiction between affirming both that something is determined after creation but it was already determined before creation, then we probably we not reach understanding in future dialog on this subject. Eph 1:11 does not mention any meticulous determination of all things before creation. It only states that God is presently working with all things according to a plan the fits His desire, and that plan includes the inheritance we will receive that was predestined for all who are placed in Christ. Blessings to you are wished as you continue to test whether your loyalty is to Scripture or to Calvinistic twisting of it!

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      29. Brian YOU are saying that I’m saying that something is both determined before and after creation. I’m not sure why you’re not understanding what I’m saying because I’m speaking clearly. I’ll say it again this way: God has a decree that He made before creation. The conversations, decisions, and actions He makes IN creation were all predetermined BEFORE creation. This is not hard to understand Brian.
        I also noticed that you chose not to respond to God’s decree including rape. This is because you know that God’s CHOICE to create during a heinous sinful action proves that He DECREED that act to occur.
        My loyalty is to “tota scriptura”; NOT Calvinism. Also Ephesians 1:11 is speaking to God’s orchestrating “all things” to accomplish His predetermined decree. This isn’t Calvinism. This is Bible!

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      30. Hi Troy,
        I hope you don’t mind if I make a comment.

        Using the term “eternity” in regard to events which occur within a time-line might be somewhat misleading.
        Technically speaking, “eternity” is classified within philosophy as “A state of timelessness”
        And historically within Christian philosophy, there are various positions on God’s relationship to time, eternity, and timelessness.

        So if one is speaking about concepts such as “past”, “present” and “future”, one is necessarily speaking about events which exist within the sphere of time. So various Christian philosophers will consider terms like “eternity past” and “eternity future” to be non-sequiturs.

        I believe Augustine, and hence Calvin, held that God’s existence is “timeless” in the sense that he is outside of time, without a past or a future, existing in a timelessly eternal present.

        In that view, it would be logical to speak of God (who is outside of time) producing X affect, to occur at a point within the time-line.
        But to speak of God doing X “at the foundation of the world” is to place God within the sphere of time, which contradicts the assertion that God is outside of time. Perhaps some of the difficulty in your dialog with Brian lies in that issue.

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      31. Thank you br. d for bringing this to my attention. However, it’s my perspective that God is the source of eternity since He is the UNCAUSE. So when I speak of eternity past, I’m speaking assuming God as the beginning OUTSIDE of time. So regarding my comment to Brian, God predetermined events in eternity past PRIOR TO creation. Stated another way, all events occurring in time (after creation) have been decreed to occur outside of time or before creation. God’s decree transcends time but is eternal in that He initiated it in eternity past (before creation) and will ensure its ultimate fruition in eternity future.

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      32. Thanks Troy for you kind explanation.
        If you believe that eternity is defined as timeless, then would it fit to replace the word “eternity” with the word “timeless”.

        Lets see how it works if I do it.

        God is the source of “timelessness” since He is the UNCAUSE. So when I speak of “timeless” past, I’m speaking assuming God as the beginning OUTSIDE of time. So regarding my comment to Brian, God predetermined events in “timeless” past PRIOR TO creation. Stated another way, all events occurring in time (after creation) have been decreed to occur outside of time or before creation. God’s decree transcends time but is “timeless” in that He initiated it in “timeless” past (before creation) and will ensure its ultimate fruition in “timeless” future.

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      33. Brian writes in response to Troy “I’m sorry that you think your future sins are already predetermined to happen.”

        However, Troy is being logically consistent as a Theological Determinist here. It does logically follow in Calvinism that every sinful, evil neurological impulse is predestined and man is powerless to alter the sin and evil god infallibly predestined to occur.

        Liked by 1 person

      34. brian wagner writes, “Calvinist theology demands that the new birth precede, as an event, any enlightenment, since enlightenment is given to every man…”

        The new birth would explain why some believe while others do not under your condition that all are enlightened (presumably all who hear the gospel preached and not all regardless whether they hear the gospel preached). Under Calvinism, only God’s elect are enlightened. So, regeneration can involve the new birth plus enlightenment – with the person then able to manifest faith. Whether the new birth involves enlightenment seems immaterial in the Calvinist system as I don’t think they make a big deal of enlightenment like you do. Under Calvinism, the new birth allows a person to “see” the kingdom of God which can be defined as enlightenment.

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      35. rhutchin,

        Hey, before I leave this blog post, I want to appoligze to you with regard to my comments on Divine Determinism. I still don’t like this term because it is so easily misinterpreted and misunderstood by the opposition. But it is a legitimate term that many (if not most) prominent Calvinists use. You defined it correctly and I think I may have come on too strong with my comments to you. It is me who is the odd man out on this. And it is my personal agenda to argue against it. It’s something I’m working through. So, I hope you will forgive me and understand.

        – Mike

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      36. Mike: Contrary comments are never an issue or something to get upset about; they are always an aid to learning. I appreciate your comments and hope to see more in the future.

        Liked by 1 person

      37. Troy, Thank you for the words of respect. Let me walk with you through John 1:4-13, though I think any layperson reading it would get the meaning that I shared with you, that the true Light can be received and rejected by anyone, and it is the true Light’s will that anyone might believe.

        John 1:4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. *** Should the reader think “of only some men”… I don’t think so.
        John 1:5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. *** as mentioned and shown in the parallel passage of John 12, the darkness does not overcome the light from doing its purpose as long as it is available.
        John 1:6-7 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. *** Should the reader think that “only some through him might get the opportunity to believe”… I don’t think so.
        John 1:8-9 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. *** Why do you give light to someone? Why would you think Jesus, the true Light gives light to every man? Light is an opportunity to see things not seen before and to decide accordingly.
        John 1:10-11 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. *** Some of His own did not receive Him… it is interesting that they are called “His own” isn’t it. Do you really think He would not give “His own” an opportunity to receive Him.
        John 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. *** The becoming children by the new birth is after the receiving. God causes the new birth, not man.

        Troy, if you still cannot see where I am “getting this from: ‘That God’s enlightenment does indeed provide the ability to accept/reject before the new birth is clear in John 1:4-13..’” That’s the best I can do.

        I am surprised you didn’t quote John 12:36 clearly in your discussion – John 12:36 “While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” Nor did you note that Jesus was speaking to the people (vs 29, 34) and not the disciples. It seems to me that you want so much to have the premise of a pre-selected “elect” from before creation to be true, that you ignore the clear teaching in passages like this one. What does this verse say happens to those who “believe in the light”?

        You didn’t respond to my discussion of how effective God’s enlightenment is as seen in the parable of the sower. Enlightenment is for every man. That is what John 1:9 says… NOT “SPECIFIC TO WHOM THE SPIRIT CHOOSES TO REVEAL GOSPEL TRUTH UNTO SALVATION” except that the Spirit chooses to reveal truth that leads to an opportunity to seek God’s mercy to everyone. I hope you will begin to see that theology must be developed from the Scriptures, not read in the writings of men and then forced upon the Scriptures, twisting them out of context and normal grammatical meaning.

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    2. Troy,

      You begin your post with an attempted “set up” of Traditionalists. Your set up is this, you ask two questions in which the Traditionalist (when speaking of able minded persons, not infants) will answer No. As both of these questions point to actions that people do, you then conclude that since people DO THESE TWO ACTIONS, therefore people are saving themselves and so Salvation is not of the Lord.
      Here are the words of your set-up:

      [[“According to the Traditionalist’s perspective, humility and ability to admit one’s guilt before a holy God “activates” the process by which a person is saved. How do we know this? Well ask the Traditionalist two questions:
      1) DOES God save anyone absent their humility/ability to admit their guilt?
      2) WILL God save anyone who doesn’t first humble themselves and admit their guilt?
      If the answer is “no” to both questions, then we KNOW that salvation has its origins in man’s autonomous free will according to the Traditionalist’s perspective. In other words, God REACTS to mankind’s choice to humble and admit their guilt. So salvation DEPENDS on mankind’s moral choice! So, instead of saying that , “Salvation is of the Lord”, we say “Salvation is of Man” because God’s freedom of choice must first bow to mankind’s freedom to first humble and admit his guilt.”]]

      There are some unstated but false assumptions in your “set-up”. First, you assume that if a human person does anything in the process in which they are saved then they MUST be saving themselves. This is really a ridiculous assumption for multiple reasons, I will only give two.

      Must a person be BREATHING in order to admit their guilt before God? Yes. Is breathing SOMETHING we do? Yes. So according to your “logic” if a person is breathing since this is something that we do, we therefore save ourselves. Most people can see this is really ridiculous. By your logic the fact we are breathing and it is something that we do, that means we save ourselves!

      This brings up a second problem in your assumption. If you read the Bible carefully, then it is absolutely clear that God alone saves a person. Another way this could be stated is this: there are certain specific actions, actions that God alone can and must do in order for an individual to be saved. Does our faith save us? No, you could choose to trust the Lord to save you, but IF HE DOESN’T DO CERTAIN ACTIONS you will not be saved. Does admitting our sin save us? No, you could do this, and if the Lord does not forgive you your acknowledgement of sin does not mean a thing. Your set up presumes that Traditionalists believe that our actions save us: when in fact they do not, THEY CANNOT. Because again unless God does certain things we cannot be saved.

      So what are some things that God alone can do, that saves us?

      Well God alone must forgive our sins. We cannot forgive ourselves or our own sins. God must justify us, we cannot justify ourselves. God must give us the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the Christian life, we cannot give ourselves the Spirit. God must raise us from the dead/glorify our bodies to make them fit for eternity. At the end our life, should we die, we cannot raise ourselves from the dead/we cannot change our bodies into an immortal body fit for eternity. Once you look at this way, it is very, very clear that we cannot save ourselves. It is very clear that our good works cannot accomplish these things. It is very clear that even our faith cannot accomplish these things.

      So why do calvinists like you ignore all of this? Simple, you want to present an argument against non-Calvinists/Traditionalists. Unfortunately your argument, your attempted set up completely fails.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wonderful post!!
        I especially liked “breathing” as an example of human activity, correlated to repentance etc, also human activities.
        Good point to disprove the “false dilemma” argument, that a human activity constitutes some kind of divine salvific efficacy in the Traditionalist view, which of-course is logically absurd.

        I also especially liked “we cannot forgive ourselves”, and “God must raise us from the dead” etc.

        Breathing is an obvious prerequisite to salvation (in the normal state of human aliveness), as an ontological necessity, by God’s design. In the normal state of human aliveness, a physically dead person cannot possibly respond to the preaching of the gospel.
        Who then is to say there aren’t other similar human faculties, similarly prerequisites, such as repentance, designed by God, and functional just like breathing, and active in the human frame, and just as ontologically necessary for salvation as breathing?
        It then becomes clear, that extra-biblical qualifications for salvation are based upon philosophical presuppositions forced upon the text of scripture.

        Thank you Robert for this post! :-]

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  3. Another good post Leighton! I look forward to your answers to David Albracht’s comments and questions above. I rejoice in this ministry and testimony that the Lord has given you to help those blinded by a loyalty to scholarship that undermines the clearly stated sound doctrine in Scripture about God’s nature and activity in salvation. I am not sure if you have written much yet about the harmful effects that Calvinism has on one’s confidence that prayer is effective and on one’s motivation of love for the sinner in evangelism. But defending the character of God’s mercy for all and exposing the falsehood of determinism of all things future will help battle those harmful effects I mentioned.

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  4. Hi Brian!

    Thank you for asking Leighton to respond to the comments and questions put to him in my post.

    I am puzzled as to how you would conclude that Leighton’s work helps “those blinded by a loyalty to scholarship”. Are you suggesting that people who develop and hold to Calvinistic beliefs do so as the result of a loyalty to scholarship? Have you heard the personal testimonies of persons who hold to Calvinistic beliefs?

    Did Charles Spurgeon and Augustus Toplady become Calvinists and defend Calvinism because of their loyalty to scholarship? Or did they embrace the means of scholarship to share with the world their love of the doctrines of grace? (also commonly known as Calvinism).

    Surgeon’s testimony… http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.php

    Toplady’s testimony is around the 18th paragraph of this… http://www.fivesolas.com/toplady.htm

    Do you think that Spurgeon and Toplady undermined sound doctrine in Scripture about God’s nature and activity in salvation? Do you think that Calvinism harmed them and those who they preached to? Do you think that their confidence in prayer as being effective was shaken because of Calvinism? Do you think that they did not possess love for the sinner in evangelism?

    Scholarship is a window into the thinking and beliefs of others. Are you suggesting that “loyalty” to the study of God’s word and to the study of church history can be harmful and blinding?

    Please explain.

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    1. Hi David, thank you for the questions.

      I would be surprised if you feel comfortable with the attitude of condemnation of all Arminians by Toplady and the double-minded stances on subjects like Limited Atonement and Church History by Spurgeon. Neither of them did much exegesis to support their Calvinism in those articles, but both liked identifying themselves with words by other “scholars” for authority. Do you really believe Augustine’s forgiveness through baptism is a part of the true gospel? And if not, then why would one ever use him as an authority for theology… even if he got something right once in a while?

      Yes, I am suggesting that, probably subconsciously, most hold to Calvinism, like most hold to other theologies that have harmful doctrines, because they trust the “scholarship” that tells them, “This is what the Bible means in such and such a passage”… even though they cannot see it for themselves, or they clearly feel the passage is saying something different. I am not saying everything taught in Calvinism is harmful. I believe the Scripture clearly teaches part of the Calvinistic view of depravity and part of the Calvinistic view of Perseverance.

      I have read testimonies of those who have left Calvinism after studying the Scriptures for themselves according to normal rules of grammar and context, and who have admitted to previously being convinced of Calvinism partly because of the wealth “scholarship” in support of it.

      You asked me to critique things about Toplady and Spurgeon that I have no way of critiquing, like the results of their preaching Calvinism, their confidence in prayer, their love for the lost. They stand before the Lord on their own for these things. I can judge whether their teachings of Calvinism undermine sound doctrine in Scripture concerning God’s nature and activity in salvation. For sound doctrine must be based on clear Scriptures that even a layperson can understand using normal rules of grammar and context. I think it is easy to show that Calvinism’s main points are built upon inferences made from texts that are in contexts that were not given to teach those points, and easy to show how Calvinism must twist normal meanings in texts that were given to teach points opposite to those of Calvinism.

      And I agree, David, that scholarship “is a window into the thinking and beliefs of others.” And one’s “loyalty” to the study of God’s Word or to the study of scholarship through Christian history is NOT harmful or blinding… but trusting the propositions made by those who control of the majority so-called “orthodox” view in theology, even though Scriptural statements, normally understood, stand in clear opposition to those propositions, is harmful.

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  5. I think that one of the foundational problems is the understanding of “nature.” Matt sees LFW as separating one’s will from one’s nature. Leighton sees this as “over-simplified” and “shallow.” Leighton defines LFW as “the categorical ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action” and “mankind’s ability to accept or reject God’s appeal to be reconciled through faith in Christ.” So, are these definitions in reference to man’s will, man’s nature, both his will and nature? What is the difference between the nature and the will? Can one will against one’s nature?

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    1. Can one act contrary to his nature?

      Is the nature free to decide which desire he will seek to fulfill by acting or is the nature producing instinctive like impulses that must be acted upon?

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      1. James 1:14,15 more than adequately answers this dilemma. Verse 14 says that mankind is “drawn” away. This implies a strong urge that he/she can’t seem to resist. This urge is said to originate from his “own desires”. V15 then reveals that sin occurs when man acts upon his own desires.
        But v13 says we should NEVER blame God for man’s sinfulness because v14 says that the desire to sin belongs to man. Yet you Prof. Flowers always state that God, according to Calvinism, should be blamed for giving us the desires by nature. James 1:14 directly contradicts your premise sir because Scripture says man’s desire is “his own” so he and he ALONE must answer for when he sins. He can NEVER blame God because God created him with a fallen nature.

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      2. We aren’t contending over man’s inability to refrain from sin. We are contending with man’s supposed inability to respond positively to God’s appeals to be reconciled from that sin.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Okay, I’m trying again to see if I can get an answer. Matt Slick sees LFW as separating the will from the nature. You accuse him of over-simplification. The nature question came up in you debate with Jason Mullet but was never really answered (very good debate incidentally). Please explain to me what the difference is between the will and the nature. Can one will against one’s nature?

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      4. Hi Mike! Good issue to question, but I don’t like your question! 😉 The will must be part of one’s nature, so what you may be asking is – Can the will be influenced by other aspects of one’s nature like instinct and reason and still be able to make a choice that can be labeled as “free” from coercion either from those other aspects of one’s nature or from outside influence. I say – yes!

        From reading what you said… it appears to me that you were saying that the instinctive aspect of one’s nature trumps any reasoning that might take place so that every choice of the will is only compatible with the instinctive aspect. Is that what you meant?

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      5. Brian,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question but this is frustrating. Non-Calvinists demand simple straight forward answers from Calvinists. They hate equivocation and nuance on subjects like compatibilism and determinism. When a Calvinist asks what made Joe choose Christ over Sam, all things being equal, the non-Calvinists says that that is an illegitimate question. I think there is a bit of a double standard going on.

        Be that as it may, no I am not saying that instinct trumps reason. Reason trumps instinct. Reason is simply the mechanism of the will. And nature directs the will. One can not separate the will for one’s own nature. One can not will against one’s nature. It seems that you disagree with this. Therefore you should agree with Matt Slick’s evaluation of LFW.

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      6. Mike, Thanks for answering my question, I think. 😉

        Do you see instinct and reason and will as all parts of one’s nature? If so, do you see how saying “one can not will against one’s nature” seems based on an assumption that something in one’s nature, apart from one’s will, is an aspect of that nature that does not allow for a free choice to be made. What is that one aspect of one’s nature that has so much control over the will?

        [As a non-Calvinist, I think I am truly not showing the “hate” for nuance that you suggest exists in some. But I do hate equivocation! ;-)]

        And I do think your question “what made Joe choose Christ over Sam, all things being equal” is sort-of a illegitimate question, for can you prove there is ever a case where “all thing being equal” exists? Or even that something “made Joe choose” is the only option, especially if we are trying to establish the possibility of free choice?

        I actually like the idea, that I think Scripture clearly teaches, that though all things are never equal, God has freed for everyone the aspects of man’s nature sufficiently at various times through His enlightenment so that man’s will can make a free choice to seek or not to seek more understanding and grace from God.

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      7. Brian,
        I hate these rabbit trails. They just obscure the main points. But I need to deal with your second half first. Do you not see that saying that “that is not a legitimate question” undermines argumentation. The Calvinist could do the same thing! When Flower’s asks: But “could” you have done otherwise? The Calvinist could just respond: Sorry but that’s not a legitimate question. This is just a tactic to avoid answering questions you don’t have answers to.

        Putting that aside, here are some definitions of “NATURE.”
        – Merriam-Webster: NATURE: 1a. the inherent character or basic constitution of a person. 2b. an inner force (as instinct, appetite, desire) or the sum of such forces in an individual. 4. the physical constitution or drives of an organism. 5. a spontaneous attitude. 7a. humankind’s original or natural condition. 8. the genetically controlled qualities of an organism.
        – Dictionary.com: NATURE: 1. the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; identity or essential character. HUMAN NATURE: 1. the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind, especially in contrast with other living things.
        – English Oxford Living: NATURE: 2. the basic or inherent features, character, or qualities of something. 2. the innate or essential qualities or character of a person. 2.2 inborn or hereditary characteristics as an influence on or determinant of personality.
        – Cambridge: NATURE: c1. the type of main characteristic of something. b2. a person’s character.
        – American Heritage: NATURE: 6. the set of inherent characteristics or properties that distinguish something.
        – Collins: NATURE: 3. the nature of something is its basic quality or character. 4. someone’s nature is their character, which they show by the way they behave.
        – Jeremiah 13:23 Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots?

        Now, to answer your question: yes, I see instinct and reason and will as all parts of one’s nature. And I’m not sure what you are getting at. I hope you are not saying that because LFW is part of one’s nature that asking if the one can will apart from one’s nature is a non sequitur. Because this would be just another tactic to avoid answering the question.

        The question is simple and we ask it everyday: Why did he or she do such and such? Because that is who they are. Can they change? Yes but it is often very difficult and in many cases impossible.

        I know that you will not answer—Can one will against one’s nature? Okay fine. But why? Why not just admit that one can will against one’s own nature? If you admit this does it destroy your argument for LFW? Is it because of Jeremiah 13:23? I just don’t get it.

        I ask Leighton Flowers a simple question: Can one will against one’s nature? And instead of an answer I get back a cryptic question. Please look at the dictionary descriptions. I know what ’nature” means, do you?

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      8. Mike, actually I think it is you that hates nuance. You confirmed that will is an aspect of ones nature, and you confirmed that one can change his nature. I would presume that the function of the will is involved in that change. So one must have willed against his old nature for the change to take place.

        You accused me of rabbit trails… but I only responded to the things you said. Listing all the definitions for “nature” seemed like a rabbit trail to me!

        You didn’t like my affirming your question as having some illegitimate elements, though I pointed out what they were… which you did not show how I was mistaken. You just said you could call a question like “Could you have done otherwise?” also an illegitimate question… though you did not give evidence why it is illegitimate.

        And I did not even pose such a question to avoid answering yours. I answered yours three times now. And I gave reasons for my answer. Yes man can will against other aspects of his nature… and God makes sure he gets that opportunity/ability through divine enlightenment at least a few times.

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      9. Brian,

        When we have these discussions I’m taking into account what other non-Calvisints have said, and I’m assuming you listen to Flower’s podcast. For Pete’s sake Flower’s does this constantly! Why are you getting on my case for doing it? The reason I listed the definitions is because you guys don’t know what the word “nature” means. How is that a rabbit trail?

        Sorry but I’m finding these written discussion frustrating. I’m not blaming you, it just is what it is. We both think each other is side stepping the other.

        You say that you answered my question three times. I guess I’m just too stupid to get it. But this last time you said: “Yes man can will against aspects of his nature.” Good, I’ll take that as an answer. Though I think this contradicts Flowers’ assertion and affirms Matt Slick’s view that LWF can will against one’s nature. But I’m sure I’ve got this wrong.

        It’s always the same. I ask Flowers a simple question and instead of him giving me an answer I get his defenders and I’m no closer to understanding his position then when I started. I’m going back to staying off the blog. Sorry I wasted your time.

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      10. Maybe the problem is, Mike, that you thought I was trying to defend Leighton. I was not. I was just trying to answer your question and understand more what you meant by willing against one’s nature since will is a part of one’s nature. I’m sorry my interaction and my comments and questions cause such frustration for you.

        Having someone answer my question with another question is frustrating. But I hope you will reread what I said and see that I always answered your questions even though I also asked some of my own.

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      11. Brian,

        It is my fault. When I’m have discussions with you or any other non-Calvinist on this blog I am assuming that you represent Leighton Flowers views. Flowers wrote in the above article that saying that LFW separated the will from the nature was an over-simplification and shallow. I really wanted to understand this from his perspective. Blogging here, with a multiple of opinions of the subject, is not going to help me understand what his or the Traditional view is. I will just have to wait for some future podcast. Thanks for your help.

        Liked by 1 person

      12. Hi Mike,
        Have you looked at the other articles that Dr. Flowers presented? You may find more statements providing some of the detail on LFW from Dr. Flowers, you are looking for.

        You may be interested in checking this one out, for example, which goes into some detail on Dr. Flower’s representation of LFW.

        https://soteriology101.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/the-doctrine-of-free-will/

        As for me, my current understanding of LFW is best stated as:
        (1) The ontological existence of alternative possibilities.
        (2) The ontological existence of “do otherwise”, based upon (1).

        On Determinism, I am in agreement with William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, and Peter Van Inwagen
        “Determinism is quite simply the thesis that the past (or events in the past) determine one and only one, single unique, future (i.e., for every event).” We are powerless to alter events which occurred in the remote past. And we are powerless to alter the laws which govern the universe in which we live. Therefore if determinism is true, our thoughts, choices and actions are not up to us.

        Blessings! :-]

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      13. br.d,

        Thanks. This is helpful. I am in agreement with this definition of determinism. But I do not agree with Craig and Plantinga—Molinists—and van Inwagen who consider compatibilism a subterfuge and lump compatibilists into the determinist camp—as do most Arminians and Traditionalists. And unfortunately many Calvinists do not understand the differences between compatibilism and determinism. I do find van Inwagen less dogmatic then the others and appreciate him more. Here is a quote you might find interesting:

        In “A Promising Argument,” Peter van Inwagen reconsiders an argument he initially put forward in an essay that appeared in the first edition of “The Oxford Handbook of Free Will”—Free Will Remains a Mystery”—purporting to show that libertarian free will is impossible. Some explanation is necessary here because van Inwagen is known as a libertarian about free will and is perhaps the most well-known proponent of the Consequent Argument. Nonetheless, though he continues to defend the Consequent Argument and continues to believe libertarian free will is the correct view of it, van Inwagen also believes there are strong, as yet unanswered, arguments suggesting that libertarian free will may be impossible. Hence, in his view, a libertarian free will “remains a mystery.”
        – Oxford Handbook of Free Will, page 28

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      14. Thanks Mike!
        I always appreciate your thoughtful posts!! :-]

        And yes, I agree with Van Inwagen on the mystery aspect of LFW. And like you, I also appreciate his humble approach to it. You may be interested in watching Robert Lawrence Kuhn’s online video series “Closer to Truth” investigating free will.

        https://www.closertotruth.com/topics/consciousness/free-will
        They are also on You-tube.

        I especially liked his interviews with Van Inwagen, where he reiterates the mystery aspect (which you pointed out), and also Kuhn’s interview with Alfred Mele, the overseer of the free-will research project.

        Kuhn’s has an extremely sharp mind and in his interviews with various people positing views, he catches them in arguments where illusions are presented as real. These catches occur in little micro-seconds during the interviews, so one has to be looking for them.

        Great to see you again BTW!! :-]

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      15. br.d writes, ” I am in agreement with William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, and Peter Van Inwagen
        “Determinism is quite simply the thesis that the past (or events in the past) determine one and only one, single unique, future…”

        This is different than Theological Determinism where God, by virtue of His sovereignty, is the active agent determining the future.

        Determinism, as expressed above, in not an issue in theology.

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      16. rhutchin,

        This definition of philosophical determinism is correct. I do not like or use the term theological determinism. I equate that term with hyper-Calvinism. I prefer compatiblism. But I’m aware that the terms can have different meanings and can get confusing.

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      17. Mike Ranieri writes, “This definition of philosophical determinism is correct.”

        I agree. It’s the notion that a person is the product of his environment and the external environment, events, determines everything people do.

        Then, “I do not like or use the term theological determinism.”

        However, it is unique from philosophical determinism in that God is the determiner of all things directly through what He chooses to do or indirectly through what He chooses not to do – with external events having no say in what people do other than as God chooses to use them as secondary factors.

        Then, “I prefer compatiblism.”

        Which I never found to say much other than that God being sovereign is consistent with man being free to choose based on internal desires and self motivation to satisfy those desires.

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      18. rhuthin writes “This is different than Theological Determinism where God, by virtue of His sovereignty, is the active agent determining the future.”

        This is simply an elementary-school error in categorical logic.

        The word “Theological” is a derivative of the Greek “Theos” meaning God. So “Theological” Determinism is differentiated from other forms of Determinism by virtue of the fact it is “Theistic”. The determining force is “Theos”, but it exists in the category of Determinism.

        An Apple and an Orange both fall into the category of “Fruit”. An Apple doesn’t auto-magically lose its “Fruit” category simply because its not an Orange.

        And Theological Determinism doesn’t auto-magically lose its “Determinism” category simply because its theistic.

        Therefore Van Inwagen’s statement concerning determinism applies to “Theological” Determinism, by virtue of its category.

        Van Inwagen’s “events in the past” which determine all future events, in Calvinism, simply refers to “divine decrees” which occurred in the past, being the determining force. Therefore the logical entailments of Determinism which entail one and only one single unique future for all events which come to pass, applies to Calvinistic Determinism.

        We can however understand human psychology, and how logical entailments may not be palatable for certain folks.

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      19. br.d writes, “The determining force is “Theos”, but it exists in the category of Determinism.”

        A am not sure that is true. Philosophical determinism seems to focus on “fate” and impersonal events determining future events. I don’t think the idea of a “personal” God involved in determining future event is really a subset of “determinism.” They seem like parallel tracks heading in the same direction but never crossing paths.

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      20. Here you are simply conflating determinism and fatalism again. Determinism and Fatalism are of the same model species. That is to say, they have many of the same logical entailments. But they are different enough to be differentiated from each other.

        To be fair, this conflation is not uncommon within Calvinist language, because determinism and fatalism do share many of the same logical entailments, such as inevitability. So its quite common for Calvinist language to cross over into the language of fatalism.

        And that is why many observers, at least at first blush, think Calvinism is Theological fatalism.

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      21. I should also note, if your supposition were true, there would be very few disagreements within Christianity on the notion of Theological Determinism…which as we can see historically, is not the case.

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      22. Well, I think what you are getting at with these questions is simply: are we instinctual animals or are we reasoning beings. Of course the answer is that we are reasoning beings. But this is not an answer to the question as to the difference between the nature and the will, and if the will can contradict the nature. An animal is not a robot. It acts on instinct. Its nature and will are complimentary. Man is higher that an animal. Man has instincts, but he also has a higher cognitive ability to reason and go beyond instinct. But his reasons our not random. The will is directed be reason which is a cognitive casual process which in turn is dictated and complimentary to the nature. One can not will against one’s nature. So, I have answered the question. How about you?

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      23. What do you suppose the purpose is in giving man the ability to reason and deliberate when deciding a moral choice if indeed He ordained all man to lose that freedom after the fall?

        Liked by 1 person

      24. Dr. Flowers, I want to tell you that I appreciated your blog and your podcast. I thought your debates with Matt Slick and especially the recent one with Jason Mullet were very useful. I think you have been unfairly treated by James White with regard to the one-string-banjo label. But sometimes I find these discussions on the blog frustrating (as I’m sure you do as well)—especially when you answer a question with another question.

        The question you asked is a good one and it is an important question to ponder and deliberate upon. And it deserves an answer but it doesn’t really help with answering the original question that I asked. And it puts me in the position of having to speculate on the meaning of what you are trying to get at as it relates to the original question. Also, it’s a difficult question that I just can’t answer in a few lines of text and do it any justice.

        You said that Matt Slick’s definition of LFW as the separation of one’s will from one’s nature was over-simplified and shallow. But as I discuss this issue with the other bloggers on this site it seems that this definition is in fact correct. And I’m not sure from your stand point why the separation of the will from the nature is a problem for LFW. Perhaps this is an equally difficult question and you too can not do it justice in a few lines in a blog post. Okay, I’ll accept that. But keep in mind that this cuts both ways. When you reduce compatiblism to the false dichotomy of LWF vs determinism this too is over-simplified and shallow.

        Perhaps some day we can discuss this in another venue, until then I will keep listening.

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  6. What is the definition of Amorphous Autonomy?

    God is the sole author of *ALL* human thoughts, choices and actions, but in such a way that God is *NOT* the sole author of *SOME* human thoughts, choices and actions.

    If that categorical statement seems perfectly coherent, you may be the victim of Calvinism’s closed system of logic.

    Every proposition the Calvinist AFFIRMS concerning free will, divine culpability for evil, and human culpability for evil, will eventually DENIED, by 1000 subtle qualifications. The following arguments are common fare:

    1) There is no such thing as man having free will declared by the bible.
    2) The bible explicitly declares man has a will and sins freely.
    3) Calvinism does not reduce people to robots, functioning as automatons (i.e., self-motivated mechanisms designed to follow predestined operations or instructions).
    4) In Calvinism, people are best likened to “self-motivated” dominoes, (i.e., pitching mechanisms).
    5) The ungodly’s every movement is by the: quote “secret impulse of God, that he may do service to god”s will”
    6) The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are….held in by the hand of God as with a bridle…..as he commands…FORCED to do him service.
    7) God does not FORCE anyone to do any sinful thing, man does sinful things of his own will.

    Calvinism’s language of double-speak is described by ex-Calvinist Daniel Gracely, in his book “Calvinism: A Closer Look”

    Gracely describes this phenomenon as: “Calvin’s Rocking Horse”

    quote:
    “This is what I used to do as a Calvinist. I liken these non-sense statements, or propositions, to the riding of a rocking-horse. As a Calvinist rider, I would throw my weight forward toward my belief in the absolute sovereignty of God until I could go no further, whereupon I would recoil backwards toward my belief in human freedom. Thus, I would go back and forth in seesaw motion, lest on the one hand I find myself accusing God of insufficient sovereignty, or on the other hand find myself accusing God of authoring sin. All the while, there remained an illusion of movement towards truth, when in fact there was no real movement at all. At length, I would allow the springs of dialectical tension to rest the rocking horse in the center, and then I would declare all as harmonious propositions, which in fact, were totally contradictory to each other. Calvinist riders still ride out this scenario.”

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  7. Troy there are some problems with your post here.

    “James 1:14,15 more than adequately answers this dilemma. Verse 14 says that mankind is “drawn” away. This implies a strong urge that he/she can’t seem to resist. This urge is said to originate from his “own desires”.”

    Be careful about pushing your point too far (i.e. claiming that our desires are irresistible) because in v. 14-15 James is not speaking just of nonbelievers, but also believers. He is making a statement about human nature in general (i.e. that when we sin, it occurs when we give in, follow sinful desires that we have). Do not push this too far, because if you do, the result would then be that believers cannot resist their sinful desires ever. This does not fit scripture at all. For example we are promised that when a temptation comes God will provide a way of escape. So when we face a temptation (which involves a sinful desire), we as believers have a choice between giving in to the sinful desire/temptation OR resisting that desire.

    “V15 then reveals that sin occurs when man acts upon his own desires.”

    And we would all agree with this. The problem with calvinism (at least for those who claim that God ordains everything) is that if God ordains everything, then that means He also ordains our desires. If He ordains our desires, then He is the one giving us sinful desires and also ordaining that we give into these desires. That is not at all what James is saying. James is saying that when we give in and follow sinful desires, we cannot blame God for it, we can only blame ourselves. But if God **does** ordain our desires and ordains what desires we act upon, then God is to blame for our sin.

    “But v13 says we should NEVER blame God for man’s sinfulness because v14 says that the desire to sin belongs to man.”

    Right, we never should blame God for our sins, because He neither ordains them nor ordains what sins we commit (instead it is us choosing to follow the wrong desires, it is us choosing to commit sins).

    “Yet you Prof. Flowers always state that God, according to Calvinism, should be blamed for giving us the desires by nature.”

    Prof. Flowers is merely taking Calvinism’s claim that God ordains all events to its logical conclusion. If God really does ordain all events (including our desires, including our choices, including our actions, etc. etc. etc.) then He is to blame. If all is ordained, then God ordained that we would all have a fallen nature. So if all is ordained not only is God to blame for our sin, He is also to blame for our sinful nature. Put it another way, Calvin was very clear in claiming that God ordained the fall of Adam (so Adam had no choice, he had to sin/fall, and the resulting sin nature that all received due to this sin is a result of what God ordained (so God is responsible for the fall, desired the fall, intended for the fall to happen, which amounts to God is to blame for the fall).

    “ James 1:14 directly contradicts your premise sir because Scripture says man’s desire is “his own” so he and he ALONE must answer for when he sins. He can NEVER blame God because God created him with a fallen nature.”

    You are correct that man’s desires are his own. This is true BECAUSE GOD DOES NOT ORDAIN OUR DESIRES, GOD DOES NOT ORDAIN OUR ACTS OF SIN, ETC.

    A calvinist who claims that God ordains all events ***is*** contradicted by what James writes: which demonstrates that the claim that God ordains all events is false.

    If you want to take the position that God does not ordain all events then you will have no problem with what James says.

    On the other hand if you claim that God ordains all events then what James says CONTRADICTS your view.

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  8. Mike Ranieri,

    You might first want to define what you mean by “nature”.

    It seems to me that when we speak of somethings nature we are talking about the attributes and capacities common to that kind of creature (similarly when we speak of God’s attributes, it is these attributes combined that are His nature).

    So for example we speak of spiders having 8 legs, humans having 2 legs. We can speak of the capacity for the spider to run across the floor just as we can speak of the capacity of the human to run around the track.

    If we ask what are the attributes and capacities of human persons? One of those attributes is the capacity to make choices.

    The free will discussion goes to whether or not, and of what kind, are there restraints on the capacity to make choices?

    In the past they spoke of the capacity or ability to make choices as a mental faculty (i.e. one of the capacities that humans have because they have minds and can engage in mental operations). I would say that the capacity to will, to make our own choices is part of human nature. Can we choose against our nature? Not really if choosing is itself a capacity that belongs to human nature.

    Calvinists come along and argue that the nonbeliever because of their “fallen” nature are incapable of making certain choices (most notably the choice to trust in Christ for salvation). But this makes a subtle error (i.e. it fails to distinguish between the capacity to make choices, which is part of human nature, and the range of choices for a particular person, which varies from person to person, with some having some choices within their range of choices and others not having some choices within their range of choices).

    Mike I explained this to you in the past and you just ignored it, so I am skeptical that you really want to discuss this topic.

    What is more likely is that you are just here to argue for your Calvinistic beliefs, presuppositions and assumptions all the while assuming your beliefs about some choices not being within a nonbeliever’s range of choices due to what you refer to as their “sin nature”.

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  9. The following is a question concerning Calvinism:
    1) An unsaved person cannot know God, or be a vessel of honor, but is spiritually dead, totally depraved, lost in trespasses in sin, under the power of the god of this world.

    2) An unsaved person, in total depravity, who believes he is saved is in a state of total deception.

    3) According to Calvin, a percentage of believers in the church (i.e., Calvinists) are, in fact non-elect hypocrites, whom god is holding – quote: “for a time”, until he – quote: “strikes them with even greater blindness”.

    4) The elect and the non-elect are known only in the secret councils of god, and no man knows which Calvinist is saved, and which is deceived by God and doomed to be – quote: “hypocrites for a time, to be stricken with even greater blindness”.

    Lets say we have a Calvinist who is as Calvin describes: Totally depraved, in spiritual death, who cannot know god, in total deception, under the power of the god of this world, deceived for a time into believing he is saved, and deceived in to believing he functions as a Holy Spirit inspired mouthpiece of the true gospel.

    Question: Can God use such a one as a spokesperson for doctrine or evangelism?

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    1. Hello. I have been looking at both Calvinism and Traditionalism and have a similar question. The Calvinist has this idea of total inability. But I wonder how do we have people that seemingly believe in God and have fruit in their lives, yet after a time they fall away. Now we have someone who seems to have chosen the Gospel and then later rejected it. The idea in Calvinism seems to be that only someone regenerated could do such a thing. But that doesn’t seem to account for observation of the church and Jesus warnings about people who did amazing things and say Lord, Lord… I have seen explanations from Calvinists like, “well they weren’t “truly regenerated” ,” but doesn’t this idea contradict the T in Tulip. I thought no one could seek after God unless he first enabled them to.

      This also brings up a question for Traditionalism, where do you get the idea for perseverance? I see many texts that encourage us to persevere, and the blessings of believing on Christ. But where is the text that says once you believe you can’t stop believing? Doesn’t Paul warn us of the same issue that Israel had in Romans 11? Perhaps 11:22 is a good verse. Here it seems possible that you can undo your grafting by turning away from the faith.

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      1. Travis writes, “The Calvinist has this idea of total inability.”

        Total Depravity deals with the person’s nature and desires – he does not seek God, for instance. Total Inability recognizes that people are not born with faith – it comes through the preaching of the gospel, nor does the Holy Spirit help people until they believe – then being sealed by the Spirit. Dr. Flowers appears to agree with this as he qualifies those who are not unable as those who have been influenced by the law or the gospel.

        Then, “But I wonder how do we have people that seemingly believe in God and have fruit in their lives, yet after a time they fall away.”

        This is distinguished in the faith vs works argument. Christianity is attractive because of the forgiveness for sin and the hope offered in Christ. Some people will seek the benefits of Christ through their works (as Matthew 7 illustrates). In doing this, people can manifest “fruit” in their lives. However, it is that fruit which flows from a desire to glorify God that is the true fruit. A person can produce fruit through works, but such fruit has as its purpose to justify the person’s works as the means of salvation. People who seemingly believe and have fruit in their lives do not necessarily fall away (again, as Matthew 7 illustrates). People who do fall away tell us that they were depending on their works for salvation and did not have faith. Consequently, only those who are regenerated (regardless when people say it occurs) are truly saved and will never fall away.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Dlaruemahlke,

        Are you aware that the topic of this thread is free will (specifically libertarian free will)? I ask this because your post is on the issue of whether or not we can lose our salvation.

        This is a Baptist site so whether it is Calvinists or non-Calvinists/Traditionalists, most of the people here hold to eternal security(i.e. that one cannot lose their salvation if genuinely saved). You asked what the basis for this is, I am sure that you know that those who hold to eternal security, believe certain Bible verses lead to this conclusion. We are also aware of the warning passages such as those in Hebrews but we are not convinced that they teach, when properly interpreted, that a person can lose their salvation.

        I would suggest that if you are interested in the Baptist perspective on this, do an on line search and you will have no problem finding what Baptists say on this issue.

        In the meantime, the topic here is free will, do you have anything to add regarding the subject of libertarian free will?

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      3. Sorry….. His post was spring-boarded by my post We do see tangential dialogs occurring around main topics.
        I don’t remember there being any hard and fast rule limiting topics for participants.
        But if there is such a rule, please allow me to accept the blame for not knowing it.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Mike Ranieri keeps asking questions and when they are not answered to his satisfaction (which is never) he just reacts emotionally with statements of frustration.

    Mike writes:

    “When we have these discussions I’m taking into account what other non-Calvisints have said, and I’m assuming you listen to Flower’s podcast. For Pete’s sake Flower’s does this constantly! Why are you getting on my case for doing it? The reason I listed the definitions is because you guys don’t know what the word “nature” means.”

    This claim that we “don’t know what the word ‘nature’ means” is completely false. Mike gave some definitions of nature including the following:

    [[– Dictionary.com: NATURE: 1. the fundamental qualities of a person or thing; identity or essential character. HUMAN NATURE: 1. the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind, especially in contrast with other living things.
    – English Oxford Living: NATURE: 2. the basic or inherent features, character, or qualities of something. 2. the innate or essential qualities or character of a person. . . .

    – American Heritage: NATURE: 6. the set of inherent characteristics or properties that distinguish something.]]

    I gave the following definition of nature: “It seems to me that when we speak of somethings nature we are talking about the attributes and capacities common to that kind of creature” Note how similar my definition is to those that Mike himself listed.

    So we do know what nature means and it is false to claim that we do not.

    “Sorry but I’m finding these written discussion frustrating. I’m not blaming you, it just is what it is. We both think each other is side stepping the other.”

    Actually Mike has this habit of asking questions then when they are answered he does not like the answers so he pretends that his questions were not answered. I have seen him do this over and over here.

    “You say that you answered my question three times. I guess I’m just too stupid to get it.”

    It is not that Mike is “too stupid to get it” it is that he is too obstinate to accept answers that are given by others.

    “But this last time you said: “Yes man can will against aspects of his nature.” Good, I’ll take that as an answer. Though I think this contradicts Flowers’ assertion and affirms Matt Slick’s view that LWF can will against one’s nature.”

    Apparently Mike is a follower of Slick. I recently heard Slick talking with a friend of mine in a video and Slick tried to minimize and justify his rude and obnoxious behavior as being due to his Asperger’s syndrome. Sorry, I have a lot of experience working with people with autism, and while Asperger’s fits into the autistic spectrum (it is at the high end of the spectrum), it does not justify a person’s rude behavior. That is a cop out and trying to use Asperger’s to cover rude behavior is unacceptable. I have worked with people with Asperger’s and while they sometimes have difficulty with relating socially with others this does not mean they are rude or obnoxious in their behavior. Being rude and obnoxious is not part of the “nature” of those with Asperger’s.

    And Slick’s view that LFW means a person can will against his nature is a really strange view. If our willing and choosing is part of our nature (as most people believe, whether they are calvinists or non-Calvinists including Traditionalists) then how do we will against our nature? How is one part of our nature (the will) going against other parts of our nature? Slick tries to make these ridiculous arguments against LFW, most are really bad and inaccurate representations of LFW. If Mike is following Slick, this explains a lot.

    “It’s always the same. I ask Flowers a simple question and instead of him giving me an answer I get his defenders and I’m no closer to understanding his position then when I started. I’m going back to staying off the blog.”

    It **is** always the same, Mike asks questions, does not get the answers he wants so he gets frustrated and then blames those who do not answer to his satisfaction. I do not see this pattern of Mike’s ending anytime soon so if Mike decides to stay off this blog perhaps that will be a good thing for all of us.

    “Sorry I wasted your time.”

    People are happy to engage in positive and civil discussions here. What gets old is someone who keeps engaging in a negative pattern over and over that just frustrates themselves and others. It is also not pleasant to see Matt Slick’s ridiculous arguments against LFW being parroted here by someone who does not appreciate people’s answers to his questions.

    Slick is not a good representative of calvinism nor is he fair and accurate in his presentations on LFW. What people want is fair and accurate representations of their views.

    I believe that we can all agree to disagree agreeably, and have fruitful discussions **if** we believe our views are being fairly and accurately presented.

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  11. I just saw this statement by Mike Ranieri:

    “But I do not agree with Craig and Plantinga—Molinists—and van Inwagen who consider compatibilism a subterfuge and lump compatibilists into the determinist camp—as do most Arminians and Traditionalists. And unfortunately many Calvinists do not understand the differences between compatibilism and determinism.”

    Sorry these statements are not accurate at all
    .
    First of all, Craig and Plantinga, and Arminians and Traditionalists are absolutely correct that COMPATIBILISM **is** a form of determinism. This is readily acknowledge by both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (but for some reason Mike refuses to accept this) and this can be readily seen by perusal of scholarly literature on this topic.

    Mike needs to read Paul Manata’s paper on this (titled “Free will, Moral Responsibility, and Reformed Theology: a Contemporary Introduction”). Manata is a staunch calvinist with lots of philosophical training who argues in his paper (that compatibilism ***is*** a form of determinism (look for Manata’s paper on line as it is readily available, here is an example of where it is available http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2011/07/paul-manata-free-will-for-reformed.html.

    Second, Mike also says that “many Calvinists do not understand the differences between compatibilism and determinism”.

    Actually many calvinists are quite knowledgeable on this and KNOW that compatibilism IS A FORM OF DETERMINISM, so some like Paul Feinberg even label themselves as holding to soft determinism.
    For whatever reason, Mike is out of the loop on this one, out of touch on this one. A look at the scholarly literature reveals a common distinction between two forms of determinism: “hard” determinism and “soft’ determinism (compatibilism is soft determinism). This distinction between the two forms of determinism is readily known in philosophical discussions of free will. But again for whatever reason, Mike refuses to accept this reality. Since Mike appears to operate completely disconnected from the main stream on this issue, his comments on compatibilism and determinism must be taken with a huge grain of salt. Presently he really does not know what he is talking about on this issue.

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  12. Dr. Flowers writes, “The compatibilist view is the position that a person’s freedom is restricted by his nature as is described in Scripture. In other words, he can only choose what his nature (sinful or regenerate) will allow him to choose.”

    God has true libertarian freedom by virtue of His Omniscience, His omnipotence, His infinite understanding of all things, and His ability to make perfectly wise decisions. The freedom that people have is restricted by limited knowledge, limited power, little understanding of anything, and being prone to make unwise decisions. Throw in a sin nature with the absence of faith and no indwelling of the Holy Spirit and you have the prescription for disaster – a person can manifest the works of the flesh but has no ability to manifest the works of the Spirit per Galatians 5. The freedom that a person possesses is only the perception of freedom in making choices as he has no awareness of external or internal influences and how he makes decisions other than that he sees himself making logically sound decisions.

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    1. rhutchin,

      I know we are supposed to be on the same side but I have to disagree with you. God does not have LFW. LFW is the ability to do otherwise and, as it is applied to theology, specifically the ability to sin or not to sin. God can not sin, therefore God does not have LFW. LFW is incoherent!

      As for theological determinism—and once again I don’t like this term—to say that God chooses “with external events having no say in what people do” and then to add “other than as God chooses to use them as secondary factors” seem like a contradictory statement to me. God is the one who creates and determines the external events and secondary factors. Therefore what you are saying is external factors have no effect unless God creates them—but the external factors can not exist unless God creates them!

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      1. Mike Ranieri writes, “God can not sin, therefore God does not have LFW. LFW is incoherent!”

        I think LFW allows that one have knowledge of the options available and not be limited by forces outside oneself to choosing an option. But who really knows as LFW has not been developed to any extent – thus it can appear incoherent. Generally, LFW seems to involve A or ~A choices. It does not require that one be equally disposed to either option so long as one is aware of the option. That God cannot sin results from His character and not from factors outside Himself that limit what He can do. So, I think that, technically/philosophically, if LFW is defined consistently, then God sets the standard for one who actually has LFW – by virtue of His omniscience, omnipotence, perfect understanding, perfect wisdom, etc. If humans have LFW, it is a watered down version – the choices people have are limited because they don’t always know the options available to them, do not understand the impacts of their choices, etc.

        Dr. Flowers defines LFW as the ability to choose otherwise – A or ~A. This allows that ignorance reduces the full range of choices that people have and most choices people can make tend to be trivial. The only choice that matters concerns salvation and Dr. Flowers seems to insist that a person who cannot make his own personal choice regarding salvation does not have LFW. However, if a person does not have the ability to make other choices for whatever reason, then he still has LFW. LFW basically seems to be the back door to requiring that the final decision on salvation rest with the person and not with God.

        Then, “God is the one who creates and determines the external events and secondary factors. Therefore what you are saying is external factors have no effect unless God creates them—but the external factors can not exist unless God creates them!”

        This is to say that God is the first cause. After that God need only sustain the system – gravity, physical laws, etc. – and within that system, humans can manipulate that which God has created to many effects – people plant crops or steal from those who do; Cain kills Abel; people enslave others – and God is heavily involved in restraining the evil that people set out to do or not restraining – all to accomplish His purposes. At times, God initiates certain outcomes – the Flood of Noah, the confusion of languages, the impregnation of Mary, the calling of Saul/Paul. Most times, God seems to be restraining people.

        The point is that philosophical determinism says that the physical environment in which people live determines what they do. When we introduce God into the equation, we are not talking about “determinism” in the philosophical sense. Thus, we need a new term to use for discussions that involve God and can reflect accurately His sovereignty.

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      2. rhutchin,

        Your definition of LFW as simple non-coercion is not incorrect, many people use it such as William Lane Craig. But as you go deeper you find that for those who hold to LFW theology this is not sufficient. Why? Because this definition is in fact compatible with compatiblism.

        I disagree that LFW has not been developed. There is copious literature on the subject, both secular and religious. Also, I don’t think it is helpful or effective to redefine LFW from a Calvinist perspective. But perhaps I’ve misunderstood you. I also think that I’m not really understanding how God’s omni-attributes are relevant to the discussion other than redefining your opponents position—which, once again, really doesn’t get you anywhere. What’s the point of saying LFW exists we just define it completely differently than you do? All you end up doing then is talking past each other.

        Again, I may have misunderstood you. I am taking some of my cues from the discussion in Anselm, where he specifically defines free will as the ability to sin or not to sin. I don’t agree with his conclusions but I’m on firm ground with this debate historically.

        If there is some literature or a website that would explain this omni-view of LFW more fully please let me know.

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      3. Mike Ranieri writes, “What’s the point of saying LFW exists we just define it completely differently than you do?”

        When issues get fleshed out in the technical literature, you tend to see the results in the general literature (like in blogs). Dr. Flowers recently received his doctorate and he basically uses a very simple definition of LFW – the ability to chose otherwise or to choose between A and ~A (as you note from Anselm). Maybe this summarizes the copious literature on the subject. I don’t know but I never see anything much beyond what Dr. Flowers does, so I tend to have doubts that much has really been done – or anything much beyond Jonathan Edwards. It’s not that I am trying to redefine LFW; I am offering analysis looking to see if anyone rejects it and offers an alternative way to describe LFW. As you said earlier, “LFW is incoherent,” indicating that you have not found anything substantive being written about LFW that pins down a solid definition.

        I see that Robert has offered a lot of comments on this, so I will walk through his comments for anything to advance this discussion.

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      4. I think LFW allows that one have knowledge of the options available and not be limited by forces outside oneself to choosing an option.

        If the proposition that God’s options are unlimited were true, it would then follow that God has the option of making a square circle, or decreeing Adam free to be a married bachelor, or to walk through a door that does not exist. God could have the option of existing and not existing at the same time, or he could have the option of being holy and unholy at the same time, or making true=false, etc.

        If God had these types of options, we would certainly see that affirmed in scripture.

        Additionally, if the proposition that God has LFW as an option, is true, then it follows that LFW does have ontological existence.

        These questions allow us to see why Reformed believers have debated this question, and why it will probably remain an unresolved question for future generations of Reformed believers.

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      5. Alright now I see the problem with Mike Ranieri’s comments concerning libertarian free will/LFW:

        “I know we are supposed to be on the same side but I have to disagree with you. God does not have LFW. LFW is the ability to do otherwise and, as it is applied to theology, specifically the ability to sin or not to sin. God can not sin, therefore God does not have LFW. LFW is incoherent!”

        I explained this to Ranieri months ago, perhaps even years ago, but he intentionally continues to ignore what I said and continues to INTENTIONALLY MISREPRESENT LFW. I explained that we have to make a distinction between a person’s capacity to choose otherwise AND THEIR RANGE OF CHOICES. Most people when simply defining LFW refer to the capacity to choose otherwise (without reference to a person’s range of choices). To take two famous examples consider the definitions of LFW of Alvin Plantinga and William Hasker (note both describe it as the ability to do otherwise, neither gets into people’s range of choices).

        First Plantinga:

        “If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t.” (Alvin Plantinga, GOD, FREEDOM, AND EVIL, p. 29)

        Then Hasker:

        “An agent is free with respect to a given action at a given time if at that time it is within the agent’s power to perform the action and also in the agent’s power to refrain from the action.” (William Hasker, “A PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE” p,136-137)

        Note the common denominator: the person can perform an action OR refrain from performing the action (if you can perform the action or refrain doing it, that means you can do otherwise).

        Now if LFW is defined in this way, the ability to choose to do an action or choose to refrain from doing that action/the ability to do otherwise: does God have LFW? Absolutely. Anytime God has the choice to do something or refrain from doing something, he has LFW (according to this definition of Plantinga and Hasker). God says Himself that He has mercy on whom He has mercy and hardens whom He hardens (this means He has choices regarding who He has mercy on and whom He does not have mercy on). You would think that even Calvinists would agree to this, so they would agree that by the Plantinga/Hasker definition, God has LFW.

        But some Calvinists because they are trying so hard to argue and refute non-Calvinism, ***present a STIPULATED definition*** of LFW that goes beyond how it is defined by most non-Calvinists such as Plantinga and Hasker. With a stipulated definition, you say that the person holds to X definition of something, you declare their definition when in fact it is not their definition (say their definition is Y). The problem is that when you present such a stipulated definition, if it is not the definition held by the person, you are confusing things and presenting a different definition then they hold to (i.e. you are misrepresenting their position, if you do so intentionally ignoring their saying that this is not their definition then you are committing the straw man fallacy). When you substitute a stipulated definition for the other person’s actual definition, nothing but confusion, frustration, error and misrepresentation results.

        Matt Slick has done this with LFW (and it appears that Mike Ranieri is a follower of Slick). Rather than staying with the definition of LFW held by people like Plantinga and Hasker, Slick stipulates a definition where LFW means that ****a person who has LFW is able to choose to sin***. Now if LFW is given a stipulated definition in which it means a person is able to choose to sin: then can God have LFW? No, because God is incapable of sin. Do believers in the eternal state have LFW by this stipulated definition? No, because in the eternal state believers are incapable of sin.

        What Slick also does is ignore the distinction between the capacity to experience LFW (i.e. a situation where a person, whether it is God or man, can choose one option or choose the other option, choose one option or refrain from choosing that option, where a person can do otherwise with respect to a particular choice) and an individual’s RANGE OF CHOICES. People’s range of choices differ. In the past I often use the example of Donald Trump and I in regard to purchasing MULTIPLE million dollar homes. I do not have this choice within my range of choices (at most I could purchase one million dollar property): Trump however does have this choice within his range of choices (he could if he chose buy multiple million dollar properties). Do we then conclude that since this choice is not within my range of choices that I never experience LFW? No, I experience LFW with regard to other things (e.g. if preparing a sermon or Bible Study I can choose which verses I will cite and which I will not cite, I can choose which illustrations I will use and which I will not choose to be part of the message, etc. etc. etc.). both Trump and I sometimes experience LFW, but we have a different range of choices. I can talk about the Greek text of the New Testament, so that is within my range of choices: but I doubt that Trump can talk about the Greek Text (does that mean since he cannot he does not ever experience LFW? No).

        What people like Slick (and Ranieri) do is inherently wrong because they foist their stipulated definition of LFW on non-Calvinists and then argue from their stipulated definition, rather than from our definition of LFW. If they did this accidentally, that would be one thing, but they have been told by non-Calvinists that that is not our definition of LFW. And yet they continue to operate by the stipulated definition THEY have created.

        Ranieri writes “LFW is the ability to do otherwise and, as it is applied to theology, specifically the ability to sin or not to sin.”

        If he stopped with “LFW is the ability to do otherwise” he would be speaking of the definition of Plantinga, Hasker and even Leighton. But note he goes further with the “AND”. He adds “as it is applied to theology, the ability to sin or not to sin.” According to WHOM is this the definition of LFW? According to Slick and those who follow him like Ranieri. And notice the choice to sin or not to sin is GOING TO A PERSON’S RANGE OF CHOICES. It is not within God’s range of choices to choose to sin. But does this then mean that God never experiences LFW? No. It is identical to making the mistake that since I cannot choose to buy multiple million dollar properties, therefore I never experience LFW (or making the mistake that since Trump cannot discuss the Greek Text of the New Testament, he therefore never experiences LFW, or making the mistake that since God cannot sin, it is not part of His range of choices, therefore He never experiences LFW). And we all know this distinction between the capacity to make choices or refrain from making choices AND our range of choices: why do we value education? Because we think that the more educated you are, the greater your range of choices becomes. Why do people value money so much? Because they believe it will increase their range of choices.

        Until Ranieri starts operating by our definition of LFW rather than the one stipulated by Slick, I suggest that Ranieri is ignored when it comes to his comments on LFW. As long as he operates by a false definition, a definition that we non-calvinists are not operating from, his comments will only lead to confusion, useless arguing, continual and repeated misrepresentation of our view of LFW and a waste of time. And it is not difficult to understand our view of LFW. Even rhutchin understands it.

        Notice that rhutchin actually understands the concept of LFW as held by Leighton Flowers and other non-Calvinists:

        “Generally, LFW seems to involve A or ~A choices. It does not require that one be equally disposed to either option so long as one is aware of the option. That God cannot sin results from His character and not from factors outside Himself that limit what He can do. So, I think that, technically/philosophically, if LFW is defined consistently, then God sets the standard for one who actually has LFW – by virtue of His omniscience, omnipotence, perfect understanding, perfect wisdom, etc.”

        So LFW is the ability to do otherwise (“seems to involve A or –A choices”). God cannot sin, though God has LFW (“God cannot sin . . . . God sets the standard for one who actually has LFW”).

        He is also correct that humans have a lesser range of choices than God does:

        “If humans have LFW, it is a watered down version – the choices people have are limited because they don’t always know the options available to them, do not understand the impacts of their choices, etc.”
        Rhutchin even gives a good description of Leighton’s view of LFW:

        “Dr. Flowers defines LFW as the ability to choose otherwise – A or ~A. This allows that ignorance reduces the full range of choices that people have and most choices people can make tend to be trivial.”

        There it is again LFW involves “the ability to choose otherwise – A or –A”. Note also that rhutchin gets the point that people’s choices involves their “range of choices.” So one person, say Donald Trump, being president has the choice to make executive orders,that is part of his range of choices. But it is not part of my range of choices. Does that mean that I do not ever experience LFW and that only Trump does? No, we would say that we both sometimes experience LFW, it is just that OUR RANGE OF CHOICES IS DIFFERENT.

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    2. Rhutchin writes “God has true libertarian freedom by virtue of His Omniscience”

      The notion that God has libertarian freedom in a world in which libertarian freedom does not have ontological existence, has historically been debated among Reformed thinkers.

      Francis Turretin, for example, held that libertarian freedom does not have ontological existence, but also that God did exercise some form of libertarian freedom in his creation of the world. Turretin acknowledged the contradiction and appealed to human ignorance and mystery as the explanation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmm, that’s interesting. I have not read Turretin. I guess that is what Rhutchin was getting at with God’s omni-atributes defining LFW. I will have to look this up.

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      2. Hi Mike,
        I don’t think rhutchin and Turretin are on the same page at all. Turretin was noted for his discipline and sensitivity to rational reasoning. If you review the full compliment of rhutchin’s posts here at SOT101, I think you’ll discover most are belief-based and not well thought out. In many cases, simply wishful thinking.

        IMHO, you are much more disciplined in your sensitivities towards rational reasoning than you may be aware. I would suggest, if you look for indicators of double-think in rhutchin’s posts, you’ll eventually understand what I’m hinting at.

        There are a number of approaches to logical contradictions.
        – Proposition (A) and Proposition (O) are not a contradictions they are perfectly logical
        – Proposition (A) and Proposition (O) only appear as contradictions, they are in fact a paradox
        – Proposition (A) is emphasized at point A, resulting in some degree of the denial of Proposition (O) without being cognizant of that denial
        – Proposition (O) is emphasized at point B, resulting in some degree of the denial of Proposition (A) without being cognizant of that denial

        All of those responses to contradiction are much more a manifestation of one’s psychology than one’s theology/philosophy.
        :-]

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      3. Thanks br.d. I appreciate the encouragement. I’m finding it hard to continue on this blog with the barrage on negativity I’m getting from one particular blogger who I’m trying hard not to engage with.

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      4. If you can hang in there… do, Mike! You contribute some good stuff, and Roger probably won’t feel as lonely with you around! 😉 Sometimes we just have to ignore the lack of tact that some might display from time to time (or all the time ;-)). I have found that all have some good thought provoking things to say… even though I know that I am the only one that sees it all perfectly the right way! lol

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      5. That is the nature of the environment, I’m sorry to say.

        My most significant regret is, there have been sisters who have come to participate here, who have been treated in an aggressive manner they weren’t prepared for…..and shouldn’t have to be. I’ve seen it happen two or three times. And its sad to watch. They really do deserve a place at the table of discussion. I hope and pray for a higher degree of sensitivity on that issue.

        You know, I also think Dr. Flowers would have more opportunity to have sincere dialog with you and others, if it weren’t for the consistent tendency toward reflexive antagonism in response to his articles.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. br.d writes, “… the consistent tendency toward reflexive antagonism in response to his articles.”

        I think it relates more to his tendency to make generalizations and leave out details.

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  13. In response to the “That’s Baloney Bee!” article.

    Good humor there!! I enjoyed the reading…..thank you!! :-]

    Two anecdotal observations:
    1) Calling James White an apologist for “Christianity” in-toto, is complimentary, but obviously misleading, because any observer of White’s focus can see he is an apologist specifically for Reformed Theology, representing a fraction of the Christian population, a subset of Protestant Theology, which is itself a subset of Christian Theology.

    2) It may be true, that a person can have opinions on every conceivable topic in the world, but in this case, everything is obviously perceived through, and presented through the microcosm of NeoPlatonic-Determinism.

    As the biologist says; there is a world of life, exterior to the microscope. 😉

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  14. One only needs to read Anselm to discover that the debate of whether God has LFW as he is unable to sin has an historical pedigree.

    Within the scope of the definition of LWF is non-cohesion. Also, is the range of possibilities and choices. And, indeed, range of choices can be defined as A or not A. But if this is the extent of the definition than there is no disagreement between LFW and compatibilist free will. So where is the debate?

    If I am given 3 positive choices and no negative choices is this the LFW held by LFW proponents, both secular and theological? And vice versa, if I am given a plethora of choices but they are all negative are these real choices? Is “Sophie’s Choice” a true libertarian free choice?

    If you define God’s LFW as the ability to create or not to create than, once again, there is no debate. Calvinists and Arminians, monergists and synergists, free will libertarians, determinists and compatibilists can unite! But this is not what is being argued. And it is counterproductive to define LFW in this limited sense and then go on to argue that man must have the ability to reject or accept God—that is to sin or not to sin—on his own libertarian free volition.

    I would be foolish to think that straw-man argumentation never happens. In fact it happens on both sides. Leighton Flowers and most non-Calvinists, label Calvinists as determinists. This is understandable. To the non-Calvinist compatibilism is incoherent and the implications of the Calvinist theology is hard-deterministic and makes men into robots. Comparatively non-Calvinism’s implications require LFW to support the ability to sin or not to sin.

    Once again, if both camps agree that God can not sin and the saved can not sin in the eternal state and that this is the definition of LFW than there is no disagreement. But one only needs to read the literature to find libertarians debating among themselves as to the freedom of those souls in heaven.

    And again, I referrer you to Anselm for the discourses on the ability to sin as regards to libertarian free will.

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    1. Apparently somewhere (I am guessing due to the influence of Matt Slick as he seems to be the person that Mike Ranieri parrots) Ranieri got this notion that Anselm is **the** spokesperson for LFW. This is not accurate for a few reasons. First, the discussion of LFW predated Anselm by centuries (i.e. people were discussing free will and determinism for centuries before Anselm ever came on the scene). Second, discussions have also followed Anselm, so he is not the end point of discussion of LFW. Thrid, Anselm held to LFW and in only one place made a comment that some take to argue that He did not hold to the ordinary conception of LFW (an acquaintance of mine Katherin Rogers wrote a helpful article on this, here:

      http://www.anselm.edu/Documents/Institute%20for%20Saint%20Anselm%20Studies/Abstracts/4.5.3.2b_52Rogers.pdf

      “One only needs to read Anselm to discover that the debate of whether God has LFW as he is unable to sin has an historical pedigree.”

      People for centuries, beginning in the early centuries of church history believed that God has LFW (the primary argument was that if He freely chose to create the world, was under no necessity to create the world, then He had LFW).

      “Within the scope of the definition of LWF is non-cohesion. Also, is the range of possibilities and choices. And, indeed, range of choices can be defined as A or not A. But if this is the extent of the definition than there is no disagreement between LFW and compatibilist free will. So where is the debate?”

      Ranieri’s comments here are mistaken because he refuses to accept the fact that compatibilism involves determinism. Theological determinism as espoused by calvinists involves exhaustive determinism (i.e. God has decreed every event without exception). If God has decreed every event, then we never ever experience LFW (we may MAKE choices but WE NEVER HAVE CHOICES). A major failing on the part of Ranieri is that he says he holds to compatibilism but he simultaneously argues that his compatibilism does not involve exhaustive determinism.

      “If I am given 3 positive choices and no negative choices is this the LFW held by LFW proponents, both secular and theological?”

      Yes if you are acting freely, meaning that you can choose any of the three options, no necessitating factor is causing you to choose one option rather than the others.

      “And vice versa, if I am given a plethora of choices but they are all negative are these real choices? Is “Sophie’s Choice” a true libertarian free choice?”

      Yes, most people are aware that in this fallen world, at times, we have to choose between two options and both are not “positive”. A classic illustration was the decision of whether or not to drop nuclear bombs on Japan. If they did not, many ground forces would have died trying to take Japan, if they did then thousands of civilians would be killed or harmed (either way the choice was negative, many would die with either choice).

      “If you define God’s LFW as the ability to create or not to create than, once again, there is no debate. Calvinists and Arminians, monergists and synergists, free will libertarians, determinists and compatibilists can unite!”

      And they should unite on the fact that at least sometimes God himself experiences LFW (choices where He can make either choice, neither choices is necessitated for Him).

      “But this is not what is being argued. And it is counterproductive to define LFW in this limited sense and then go on to argue that man must have the ability to reject or accept God—that is to sin or not to sin—on his own libertarian free volition.”

      This is another persistent mistake that Ranieri engages in. Because he fails to distinguish between the capacity to make choices (experiencing LFW) and the range of choices that a person has (these choices are influenced by various factors). He cannot see that the real disagreement is not whether or not LFW ever exists (there are clear instances with both God, e.g. his choice to create or not create the world; and man, e.g. Adam before the fall, could choose to obey God or listen to Satan): but about specific choices whether or not they are within our range of choices. Calvinists argue that due to total depravity the nonbeliever does not have within their range of choices the choice to trust in Christ for salvation (unless God first regenerates the person thus enabling them to have this choice as part of their range of choices). Traditionalists like Leighton on the other hand, argue that the fall did not result in the choice of choosing to trust Christ for salvation being not part of the non-believers range of choices. And that really is where the debate should be: specifically did the fall result in all of Adam’s descendants being born without the ability to choose to trust in Christ unless regenerated first.

      “I would be foolish to think that straw-man argumentation never happens. In fact it happens on both sides.”

      This is true, it does happen at times on both sides. Whenever we present the other side as holding X, when in reality they hold Y, we are misrepresenting them and fruitful discussion then becomes impossible. Only confusion and useless argument results.

      To use an illustration most of us can relate to. If we have a problem at work and we are seeking to develop a workable solution for it. If we do not agree on the nature of the problem, we will talk past each other and we will not successfully deal with the problem. We have to carefully define the problem and make sure everyone is operating from this same definition.

      “Leighton Flowers and most non-Calvinists, label Calvinists as determinists. This is understandable.”

      It should be understandable because it is true.

      “To the non-Calvinist compatibilism is incoherent and the implications of the Calvinist theology is hard-deterministic and makes men into robots.”

      Compatibilism appears to be incoherent when the compatibilist speaks of free will as involving having choices when in reality if exhaustive determinism is true we never ever have a choice. That is a contradiction and so is incoherent. If the compatibilist redefines free will so that it does not involve the ability to choose otherwise, then it makes sense, we just believe it is wrong.

      “Comparatively non-Calvinism’s implications require LFW to support the ability to sin or not to sin.”

      This is a misrepresentation of LFW because one can believe in LFW and believe that a person may not have sin within their range of choices (God all the time, believers in the eternal state). Put another way, a person can be incapable of sin and yet have LFW (Jesus had LFW which is clear from his own statements He was also incapable of sin and He was fully human).

      “Once again, if both camps agree that God can not sin and the saved can not sin in the eternal state and that this is the definition of LFW than there is no disagreement.”

      Actually being incapable of sin is not the definition of LFW. The definition of LFW involves the ability to choose otherwise. It is only in speaking of a person’s range of choices that we then talk about how they have LFW but are incapable of sin.

      “But one only needs to read the literature to find libertarians debating among themselves as to the freedom of those souls in heaven.”

      All of the libertarians that I personally know believe both that we retain LFW in the eternal state and that we will be incapable of sin (this includes friends like Alvin Plantinga, J. P. Moreland, Kevin Timpe, and many, many others).

      “And again, I referrer you to Anselm for the discourses on the ability to sin as regards to libertarian free will.”

      And I refer people to Rogers’ article where she explains what Anselm meant. Anselm’s definition of LFW was not that it means the ability to sin as some such as Ranieri claim .

      Like

      1. Robert writes, “an acquaintance of mine Katherin Rogers wrote a helpful article on this, here:

        http://www.anselm.edu/Documents/Institute%20for%20Saint%20Anselm%20Studies/Abstracts/4.5.3.2b_52Rogers.pdf

        The cited article says this (citing Anselm), “Only a rational being who can step back from its immediate desires and choose to align its desires with the will of God can be said to have free will.” So, should free will be limited to rational beings?

        Using this as a definition of “free will” would seem to eliminate the unsaved person as having free will. I think Jonathan Edwards made the same point. The Calvinist view of free will exercised by the lost is consistent with this – not coerced and in line with one’s desires.

        So, would those who advocate LFW be willing to add this as an addendum to their definition of free will – being the ability to choose otherwise?

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    2. Hi Mike,

      If, as you have mentioned, alternative possibilities do not exist. And if you agree with the thesis that a core constituent of determinism, is that it entails one and only one single unique future for every event (which would include the event of making a choice), then doesn’t it follow, that a person really doesn’t have more than one, and only one, single unique choice to make?

      Calvinists have tended to have different ways of answering YES to this question.

      One answer Calvinists have given, is to assert that alternative possibilities don’t exist, and then at a later time assert they do.

      Another answer I’ve seen follows this line of reasoning:
      1) God, with his divine knowledge and divine foreknowledge knows that a person can only choose what God, from the foundation of the world, decreed that human to choose.
      2) And since God makes that choice in the past, there is, in fact, one and only one, single unique future (i.e. future choice for the human to make).
      3) But humans, not having divine knowledge, perceive themselves as having alternative possibilities, and thus see themselves has having alternative choices, (i.e., more than one single unique choice to make).
      4) But since alternative possibilities don’t really exist in a deterministic cosmology, the human perception of alternative possibilities, is merely an illusion.

      So for that Calvinist, at least during that argument, alternative possibilities exist, but only as human illusions.
      The interesting and ironic twist from that line of reasoning is, that Calvinist may later assert, that by virtue of alternative possibilities existing as human illusions, God does genuinely give humans alternative possibilities to choose from.

      But you can see, that line of reasoning backfires on the Calvinist without him seeing it do so.
      For in asserting that God gives genuine alternative possibilities, that are in fact illusions, he has now fallen prey to the illusion.

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      1. br.d writes, “So for that Calvinist, at least during that argument, alternative possibilities exist, but only as human illusions….”

        So, can you argue against the Calvinist position without begging the question?

        Then, “…in asserting that God gives genuine alternative possibilities, that are in fact illusions, he has now fallen prey to the illusion.”

        Then, Calvinists should drop that argument.

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      2. You’ll have to explain the “beg the question” reference.

        And yes, on the last question, if the Calvinist ( or any critical thinker) doesn’t want to get caught such a trap.
        But as Ravi Zacharias laments….Christians all to often cling to positions that are not well thought out

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      3. br.d writes, “yes, on the last question,”

        Yet you do not offer anything. Maybe in another comment. Or maybe, your, Yes, actually means, No, in your double think world.

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      4. I suggest you research what “begging the question” really is in regard to it being one of the standard fallacies.
        Might as well get a handle on what it means to fabricate a straw-man in order to knock it down, while your doing that research.
        Just a little friendly help for you.

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      5. br.d

        This is quite a dilemma and I can certainly follow your reasoning. I think I would need sometime to really think this through. It is not that I haven’t considered this before, it’s just that I’ve put it on the back burner in favour of doing more reading and research. All I can say at this point is that this is indeed a problem in the Calvinist system. But at this point in my development I see more logical problems with LFW than with compatiblism and I find the scriptural weight on the Calvinist side. I guess you got me on this one 😉

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      6. Hi Mike,
        I appreciate your kind words but please don’t see it that way!
        We’re both in the same boat together here.
        Both of of us striving for the same goal.
        You have a sincere heart for truth, which I honor.
        It’s my privilege to know you!!

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  15. Is compatiblism a form of determinism? The short answer is yes. But what does this really mean?

    Often when non-Calvinists (and even some Calvinists) hear this and they jump on it and say, “See, Calvinists are determinists!” This is just false. Even from a logical semantic stand point this is false. If Calvinists are determinists than why call themselves compatiblists? Is this just some kind of misdirection or trick? Are Calvinists being dishonest? Compatiblism must mean something different than determinism—they’re not the same word. If this were not the case than the honest thing to do would be for Calvinists to label themselves theistic determinists—in fact some do, but I feel that this label is better appropriately applied to hyper-Calvinistism.

    The reason compatiblism is a form of determinism (and I dislike this phrase for the simple reason that it is misunderstood—as I have indicated above) is because compatiblism contains determinism. Compatiblism posits a compatibility between determinism and free will. One could equally say that compatiblism if a form of free will. But libertarians are quick to argue that the type of free will that compatiblists espouse is not real free will because free will and determinism are incompatible. And this is where both determinists and libertarians agree.

    Many secular and theistic philosophers (and theologians) want to reduce the argument to the false dichotomy of determinism vs. LFW (though among secular philosophers the majority view is some version of compatiblism). The reasons for this have to do with the supposed incoherence of compatiblism—though often this is just a knee-jerk reaction and the incoherence of their own system is ignored—and it is just easier to argue extremes. It’s like trying to defend democracy where someone says, “Your democracy supports unions—that’s socialism, so you must really be a socialist!”

    The compatiblitst view must effect and alter both free will and determinism. It’s like the old commercial where the participants declare, “You’ve got chocolate in my peanut butter—you’ve got peanut butter on my chocolate”—both combine to make something new!

    And even simple determinism isn’t so simple. Non-Calvinists accuse Calvinists of determinism which makes people into puppets and robots. But what about animals? Do animals have LFW? No? Then are animals robots? No? Than if animals do not have LFW nor are they determined than what?

    The philosophical nomenclature is confusing. There are soft and hard versions of libertarianism, determinism and compatiblism. Both soft-determinism and soft-libertarianism could also be referred to as forms of compatiblism. An incompatiblist can be a libertarian or a determinist.

    Like

    1. I’m not sure I could say that Compatibilism is a form of Determinism. If we accept the standard definition:

      “Compatibilism is the thesis that free will is compatible with determinism.”

      Then it would follow that determinism, compatiblism, and free will, are three distinct and separate things.
      And that compatibilism is said to facilitate a FORM of free will within a deterministic cosmology.

      For most compatibilists, LFW is rejected as a viable FORM of free will.
      They define free will as freedom to act according to one’s motives without arbitrary hindrance from other persons, individuals etc.

      Jonathan Edwards, following this mode of definition, would replace “act according to one’s motives” with “act according to one’s nature”.

      I applaud you for your insight in identifying the “mechanical” nature of determinism. This is another example of your sincerity, and the intellectual honesty you apply to these conceptions.

      And like you, I envision the various positions people take on this issue similarly, except I call it the “The Continuum Line of Determinism”.

      So for me, since most of these concepts have been well defined historically within Christian philosophy, the remaining dialogs tend to center around what qualities one ascribes to free will.

      Like

      1. br.d writes, “For most compatibilists, LFW is rejected as a viable FORM of free will. They define free will as freedom to act according to one’s motives without arbitrary hindrance from other persons, individuals etc.”

        More than that, they define “free will” in unsaved man as lacking faith. Thus, the person has nothing to override his sin nature. The conveyance of “faith” to an unsaved person through the preaching of the gospel enables the unsaved person to override his sin nature and accept God’s salvation in Christ. Otherwise, the unsaved has “freedom to act according to one’s motives” and those motives are selfish and prideful focussed on seeking one’s own glory – until God gives the person faith.

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      2. Does a true follower of Jesus Christ speak half-truths, while obfuscating the whole truth?
        Answer: Not if he truly honors Christ.

        In Calvinism’s form of Theological Determinism, man’s “Nature” (along with everything else) is the consequence of divine immutable decrees. As Calvinists often put it “its **ALL** part of God’s plan”.

        Calvinists *rightly* assert that evangelism (in their system) is simply a MEANS to god’s END.
        The *whole* truth, is that EVERYTHING (in the system) is a MEANS to god’s END.

        This includes Lucifer, Adam’s disobedience, all sin, all evil, Total Depravity…etc
        Let us strive to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
        In that way we honor the Lord of truth.

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      3. br.d writes, “Let us strive to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In that way we honor the Lord of truth.”

        Let us all declare that God is sovereign and omniscient ruling the future as well as the present.

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      4. rhutchin writes “Let us all declare that God is sovereign and omniscient ruling the future as well as the present.”

        I would add to that “And that man should not create a graven image of God that unwittingly makes him the author of evil”.

        Like

      5. br.d writes, “I would add to that “And that man should not create a graven image of God that unwittingly makes him the author of evil”.’

        Within the context of scripture, of course. “by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created by Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1) and “The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, Even the wicked for the day of evil.” (Proverbs 16) and “So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus says the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.’ (Jeremiah 18)

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    2. Mike Ranieri’s comments on determinism, compatibilism and free will are so off base, so out of touch with mainstream scholarship in this area that it is hard to read his comments.

      “Is compatiblism a form of determinism? The short answer is yes. But what does this really mean?”

      It means what it has always meant, compatibilists believe free will (as defined by them) is compatible with determinism.

      “Often when non-Calvinists (and even some Calvinists) hear this and they jump on it and say, “See, Calvinists are determinists!” This is just false.”

      It is not false, calvinists who hold to compatibilism ARE DETERMNISTS BECAUSE COMPATIBILISM IS A FORM OF DETERMINISM. John Fischer says this, Plantinga says this, Craig says this, on ad infinitum.

      “Even from a logical semantic stand point this is false. If Calvinists are determinists than why call themselves compatiblists?”

      Because as has been clearly recognized by almost everyone, compatibilism is a form of determinism.

      “Is this just some kind of misdirection or trick? Are Calvinists being dishonest?

      Not they are not being dishonest if they call themselves compatibilists and believe that their conception of free will is compatible with determinism.

      “Compatiblism must mean something different than determinism—they’re not the same word.”

      No they are not the same word, but again compatibilism is a form of determinism (usually designated as “soft determinism”).

      “If this were not the case than the honest thing to do would be for Calvinists to label themselves theistic determinists—in fact some do, but I feel that this label is better appropriately applied to hyper-Calvinistism.”

      This a red herring, bringing in hyper-calvinists. Well known calvinists such as John Frame and Paul Feinberg view themselves as compatibilists and do not see themselves as hyper-calvinists.

      “The reason compatiblism is a form of determinism (and I dislike this phrase for the simple reason that it is misunderstood—as I have indicated above) is because compatiblism contains determinism.”

      No, it is because compatibilists view their view of determinism as compatible with free will.

      “Compatiblism posits a compatibility between determinism and free will.”

      Exactly, which is why they will also call themselves “soft determinists”.

      “One could equally say that compatiblism if a form of free will.”

      Not that is not how the term is used.

      “ But libertarians are quick to argue that the type of free will that compatiblists espouse is not real free will because free will and determinism are incompatible. And this is where both determinists and libertarians agree.”

      The libertarian does not argue that free will as defined by compatibilists is incompatible with determinism, the argument is that determinism is incompatible with libertarian free will.

      “Many secular and theistic philosophers (and theologians) want to reduce the argument to the false dichotomy of determinism vs. LFW (though among secular philosophers the majority view is some version of compatiblism). The reasons for this have to do with the supposed incoherence of compatiblism—though often this is just a knee-jerk reaction and the incoherence of their own system is ignored—and it is just easier to argue extremes. It’s like trying to defend democracy where someone says, “Your democracy supports unions—that’s socialism, so you must really be a socialist!””

      People are not trying to reduce the argument, they are trying to discuss things with the agreed upon definitions of terms. Mike Ranieri does not agree with the accepted terms so he tries to change the vocabulary, which is why he does not make sense.

      “The compatiblitst view must effect and alter both free will and determinism. It’s like the old commercial where the participants declare, “You’ve got chocolate in my peanut butter—you’ve got peanut butter on my chocolate”—both combine to make something new!”

      They do not combine to make something new, compatibilism claims that determinism and free will are compatible.

      “And even simple determinism isn’t so simple. Non-Calvinists accuse Calvinists of determinism which makes people into puppets and robots.”

      We make this accusation because in many instances calvinism is hard determinism disguised as soft determinism.

      “But what about animals? Do animals have LFW?”

      Why not, if an animal has a mind and decides between two options, isn’t that LFW?

      “ No? Then are animals robots? No? Than if animals do not have LFW nor are they determined than what?”

      My pets have always shown evidence of making choices between differing options, so apparently they sometimes experience LFW.

      “The philosophical nomenclature is confusing.”

      Actually it is not confusing at all, it is only when someone like Ranieri comes in and tries to redefine things that things get confusing.

      “There are soft and hard versions of libertarianism, determinism and compatiblism. Both soft-determinism and soft-libertarianism could also be referred to as forms of compatiblism. An incompatiblist can be a libertarian or a determinist.”

      I am not even going to waste time trying to show how messed up these comments are.

      Like

      1. Robert writes, “compatibilists believe free will (as defined by them) is compatible with determinism.”

        Technically, compatibilists believe free will (as defined by them) is compatible with God’s sovereignty and sovereignty require the conclusion that God ordains all things as the primary agent and through secondary agents (among secondary agents, each person’s sin nature is the primary agent to bring about God’s purposes).

        Like

  16. Mike Ranieri writes:

    “I’m finding it hard to continue on this blog with the barrage on negativity I’m getting from one particular blogger who I’m trying hard not to engage with.”

    Not hard to guess this is referring to me. It is not a “barrage of negativity” it is presentation of the truth that Ranieri refuses to deal with.

    As long as he chooses to engage in straw man presentation of LFW, his comments on LFW are a waste of time and lead only to confusion and error and useless arguing.

    If we say the sky is blue, and Ranieri says that we say the sky is red, no positive and fruitful discussion can follow. It is not “negativity” to state this obvious truth that as long as he intentionally operates from a definition of LFW that Plantinga, Hasker, Leighton, myself and myriads of others DO NOT hold to. All he is doing is fostering a straw man of his own imagination.

    As he keeps doing this misrepresenation after being corrected about it, his actions become dishonest.

    I don’t care if someone makes fun of our claim that the sky is blue, or attacks it, or tries to argue with it, but claiming that we are saying the sky is red when we are saying it is blue, is dishonest and obstinate.

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  17. I should have figured that if I put out an article a person like rhutchin would cherry pick from it to try to prove his view:

    “The cited article says this (citing Anselm), “Only a rational being who can step back from its immediate desires and choose to align its desires with the will of God can be said to have free will.” So, should free will be limited to rational beings?”

    That is not what the point of the quote is. The quote is contrasting animals and human persons. The point being made by Anselm is that desires do not necessitate actions for human persons. A rational being can have desires and can choose not to follow them, they can decide rationally not to follow them. The quote is not saying that free will is limited only to rational beings.

    Also this is NOT a definition of free will:

    “Using this as a definition of “free will” would seem to eliminate the unsaved person as having free will.

    But it is not a definition of free will. Anselm was not a calvinist and so did not hold to total depravity. Anselm would believe that this quote would be true of both the non-believer and the believer.
    The statement thus cannot be used to argue that this “would seem to eliminate the unsaved person as having free will”.

    “The Calvinist view of free will exercised by the lost is consistent with this – not coerced and in line with one’s desires.”

    But this is not the definition of free will, it is a statement by Anselm that rhutchin tries to cherry pick to prove his view. It is similar to those who ignore the context of a given scripture and simply quote something to prove their view (cf. Mormons quoting that God must be physical because it speaks of the “arm of the Lord” etc.).

    “So, would those who advocate LFW be willing to add this as an addendum to their definition of free will – being the ability to choose otherwise?”

    No, because the quote is not a definition of free will nor did Anselm intend it as such (if you look at the context of the quote it is distinguishing animals from men: “A lower animal, like a horse or a dog, can have rightness of will when it wills what it ought. But it cannot have the power to keep rightness of will for its own sake. Only a rational being who can step back . . .”). There is no need to add to free will being the ability to choose otherwise. Hopefully no one else will attempt to cherry pick from this article.

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  18. The really frustrating thing about discussing issues on this blog is that certain people are so focused on their own personal agendas that they are not careful readers and make wild assumptions. Anselm is not the spokesperson for LFW. And Anselm is not a monergist. And he, in fact, defends LFW as does Katherine Rogers, one of his apologists and biographers. The point is simply that he is one of the early church fathers, if you will, that discuss this issue of the ability to sin.

    Another problem is in trying to be brief and concise, one has to give general examples which can not cover all possibilities. If I give you a choice between chocolate and vanilla but not the choice to reject either is this real LFW? I guess “Sophie’s Choice” is a movie no one remembers. And I am certainly not going to defend LFW by defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

    Compatiblism, and there for Calvinism, have always supported a range of limited choices. Calvinists believe the man’s free will, and his range of choices, are limited and determined by his fallen nature. Now, original sin is a related issue but the foundation is whether Adam’s decedents—that’s all mankind—have the ability refrain from sinning through their own volition. Apart from regeneration man must have the ability to accept or reject God. This is were the classic Arminian brings in prevenient grace. As for the Traditionalist this is still a mystery to me.

    And finally, to say the LFW is the ability to do otherwise and then make a myriad of qualifications and exceptions, as most libertarians do, is one of the main reasons I reject it. Sorry but I guess I’m just out of the loop. I’ve never heard or read (until now) that the ability to choose otherwise “only” means that a person has a range of limited choices. Once again, if this is the case then why are we arguing?

    I agree that the main argument is about puppets and robots. But I’m trying to explore and understand some of the distinctives. Perhaps I am going outside the official nomenclature. And I do disagree with some of the standard Calvinist and free will philosophy apologetics. But robots and computers also have a range of choices and I don’t know about you but, regardless of Star Trek, I contend that robots don’t have free will—even compatibilist free will!

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    1. Mike Ranieri writes:

      “The really frustrating thing about discussing issues on this blog is that certain people are so focused on their own personal agendas that they are not careful readers and make wild assumptions.”

      Well this is the pot calling the kettle black. Ranieri’s “own personal agenda” is rather transparent (i.e. defend his calvinistic beliefs and attack the Traditionalist beliefs of Leighton Flowers).

      “If I give you a choice between chocolate and vanilla but not the choice to reject either is this real LFW? I guess “Sophie’s Choice” is a movie no one remembers. And I am certainly not going to defend LFW by defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki!”

      Wait a minute play back the tape on this one. Ranieri wrote in another post:

      ““And vice versa, if I am given a plethora of choices but they are all negative are these real choices? Is “Sophie’s Choice” a true libertarian free choice?”

      I took this to be a question about whether a choice can be a genuine choice if all of the options involved appear to be negative. I responded with:

      “Yes, most people are aware that in this fallen world, at times, we have to choose between two options and both are not “positive”. A classic illustration was the decision of whether or not to drop nuclear bombs on Japan. If they did not, many ground forces would have died trying to take Japan, if they did then thousands of civilians would be killed or harmed (either way the choice was negative, many would die with either choice).”

      One need not be a non-Calvinist to understand this point about available choices in a fallen world. I gave a famous example where the available choices all appear to be negative.

      Ranieri says “And I am certainly not going to defend LFW by defending Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” I really was not defending LFW, I was dealing with HIS question about whether or not we have a genuine choice if all of the available options appear to be negative. You don’t have to even hold to LFW to grant that in this fallen world sometimes we have a genuine choice and all of the choices are “negative.” In ethics they talk about the lesser of evils concept.

      “Compatiblism, and there for Calvinism, have always supported a range of limited choices.”

      No one argues for human persons having unlimited choices.

      “Calvinists believe the man’s free will, and his range of choices, are limited and determined by his fallen nature.”

      There is no such thing as a “fallen nature” that acts as an entity in the world causing events (including choices). That is a cop out. The “fallen nature” does not determine anything as it is not an existing entity that has causal power. If we ask concrete questions about this supposed entity called the “fallen nature” we quickly see that it does not exist (e.g. what size is this fallen nature? Where is it located? How does it cause events to occur in the world? What kinds of events can it cause? Can it be destroyed or modified? Etc. etc. If the questions sound absurd, they are because they commit the error of category confusion, like asking “how heavy is the color blue?, how long is the color yellow?)

      “Now, original sin is a related issue but the foundation is whether Adam’s decedents—that’s all mankind—have the ability refrain from sinning through their own volition.”

      I doubt this is much of an issue as virtually everyone believes that mankind is fallible and sinful and incapable of never sinning in this life.

      “Apart from regeneration man must have the ability to accept or reject God. This is were the classic Arminian brings in prevenient grace. As for the Traditionalist this is still a mystery to me.”

      Not sure what the mystery is, as Traditionalists deny the calvinistic conception of total depravity. Leighton in particular has been very clear about this on this blog. Now you may not agree with Leighton, but again, if you want to understand his view, you have to fairly and accurately represent it (and in his view there is no fallen nature that prevents people from choosing to trust in Christ, or put another way, Leighton denies inability).

      “And finally, to say the LFW is the ability to do otherwise and then make a myriad of qualifications and exceptions, as most libertarians do, is one of the main reasons I reject it.”

      Most libertarians start with the basic conception of LFW as involving the ability to do otherwise, as a situation where a person has a genuine choice from at least two different options, both of which are available and accessible to the person. The “qualifications and exceptions” come in because human choosing is contextual and effected by various factors.

      To take one example, what a person is aware of and not aware of influences his/her range of choices. If you don’t know about the “big sale” at such and such store, why would you choose to go to that store to save money at the sale? We all know this. We treat people differently when they are sick or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. We speak of “diminished capacity”. Fact is, everybody in real life speaks of choices with “qualifications and exceptions”. Same is true of compatibilists as well. Look at their writings and you see “qualifications and exceptions” being discussed (e.g. a big one is the issue of coercion, was the person under coercion when making their choice?). If you are going to reject a person’s view because they make qualifications and exceptions, then you will ****have to reject every view****, both LFW and compatibilism, because everyone understands choices do not occur in a vacuum, they occur with lots of factors being involved. And if you discuss these factors you will find yourself discussing “qualifications and exceptions”.

      “Sorry but I guess I’m just out of the loop.”

      From your comments it appears that either you do not know what people believe in this area or you for whatever reason(s) are mistaken about what the concepts such as determinism, LFW, compatibilism, hard and soft determinism, etc. mean in their standard usage.

      “I’ve never heard or read (until now) that the ability to choose otherwise “only” means that a person has a range of limited choices.”

      You don’t have to believe me, just ask someone like Alvin Plantinga, yourself.

      “Once again, if this is the case then why are we arguing?”

      I said it before and it bears repeating, the real issues of contention occur when you start speaking not of the simple capacity to make choices from among alternatives: but from discussing why one choice is part of a person’s range of choices and another is not (e.g. why is the choice to choose to trust Christ for salvation not available to the nonbeliever? At least that is a point of contention made by calvinists based on their belief that total depravity eliminates this choice from the range of choices of the unbeliever, calvinists will speak of how the nonbeliever can choose this and this sin, but they cannot choose to trust in Christ for salvation unless regenerated first, well that whole disagreement goes to what is within the range of choices for the nonbeliever and why?).

      “I agree that the main argument is about puppets and robots.”

      Actually one of the arguments is whether or not exhaustive determinism makes people appear to be no different from puppets or robots (with compatibilists saying it does not, libertarians saying ED eliminates genuine free will and so makes people into puppets and robots).

      “But I’m trying to explore and understand some of the distinctives. Perhaps I am going outside the official nomenclature.”

      That is where you have to be very careful. The so-called “official nomenclature” serves a very useful purpose, mainly so that when we speak of X, we are operating from the same meaning of X. If we are not, then confusion and talking past each other will occur. The same is true with all ordinary language use. If by the word “Yes” I mean “I agree with you” and you mean the opposite “I disagree with you”. How can we carry on a rational and fruitful conversation? If this is true with ordinary conversation, how much more is this true with issues of debate and disagreement? It is especially true when debating an issue, if the terms do not have the same meaning for those involved, the debate/discussion is useless. So there is nothing wrong with using the standard meanings or “official nomenclature”.

      “And I do disagree with some of the standard Calvinist and free will philosophy apologetics.”

      Nothing wrong with disagreeing, as long as you are in fact talking about the same things and presenting what others believe accurately and fairly.

      “But robots and computers also have a range of choices and I don’t know about you but, regardless of Star Trek, I contend that robots don’t have free will—even compatibilist free will!”

      My understanding is that when speaking of free will we are usually speaking of conscious persons, not things. A robot or computer is a thing ****without consciousness**** not a person. Now Star Trek did get into this discussion by its inclusion of “Data” an android who possessed both consciousness and seemed to function as a person. This was one of the main points of discussion in the series, was “Data” a person? How was he different from a human person? If you go back and watch the show, as he possessed consciousness and had and made choices he appeared to be experiencing LFW. Others did not treat him as **thing** but as a person. Others held him responsible for his choices. We **do not hold things responsible** for events they cause (we don’t get made at our car and “say bad car, why did you do that?”, unless we are delusional!), we hold only persons responsible (or in the case of animals, we hold them responsible when they appeared to make a choice that they did not have to make, we scold a dog for doing its thing on the carpet instead of outside). A simple robot or computer WITHOUT CONSCIOUSNESS is very different from “Data”. One of the main points of contention between non-Calvinists and calvinists is that the non-Calvinists are convinced that if ED is true, this eliminates people from being genuine persons with genuine choices, they instead seem to operate like robots or computers.

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      1. Robert writes, “Traditionalists deny the calvinistic conception of total depravity.”

        As an aside and not to sidetrack discussion, I made this point at SBCToday and was excommunicated for doing so. While it is true that Dr. Flowers denies this, I am not sure that all those who call themselves Traditionalists have figured out that they must do so also (or else follow those like Brian who advocate some form of open future).

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  19. Well, I see Robert is back to his bloviating best.

    To date, Robert has left 12 comments on this particular thread. The word count for each is as follows…

    647
    669
    375
    181
    845
    336
    1,688
    1,336
    814
    223
    448
    1,757

    At SBC Today, they have guidelines to prevent such abusive behavior. One of the “rules” at SBCT is no comment can be over 500 words and no one is allowed to post consecutive lengthy comments (another “rule”). If applied here, only 5 of Robert’s posts would have been allowed.

    To put this in perspective, all of Robert’s comments combined come to a staggering word count total of 9,319. Leighton’s article, in its entirety, only comes to 4,327.

    In one of his overly lengthy posts Robert wrote….

    “I am not even going to waste time trying to show how messed up these comments are.”

    Thank God. If he had we would have certainly died from boredom, if not old age.

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    1. I was even thinking, just yesterday, “my, Phillip hasn’t commented lately”, until now:

      Phillip writes:

      “Well, I see Robert is back to his bloviating best.”

      Boy Phillip really likes that word “bloviating”, he has been using it in his last posts. I don’t know anyone else who uses that word.

      Is Phillip trying to impress us perhaps?

      “To date, Robert has left 12 comments on this particular thread. The word count for each is as follows…”

      It is too bad that Phillip doesn’t have better things to do with his limited time then do word counts on my posts. Pretty pathetic life if that is how he gets his kicks.

      I really can’t complain however, in the past Phillip repeatedly claimed that I was a Pharisee, unsaved, and all sorts of nasty personal attacks. Apparently he’s cleaned up his act and he is “maturing” in his faith, as now instead of making personal attacks he is reduced to doing word counts on my posts and using his favorite word “bloviating”. If that is his worst current personal attack, the best that he can do, that I am “bloviating”, I guess that is progress so I really shouldn’t complain. 🙂

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  20. Bro. D in a recent post here said that we should speak the truth (“Let us strive to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”). He also asked: “Does a true follower of Jesus Christ speak half-truths, while obfuscating the whole truth?Answer: Not if he truly honors Christ.”

    Rhutchin is lying.

    He writes:

    [[Robert writes, “Traditionalists deny the calvinistic conception of total depravity.”
    As an aside and not to sidetrack discussion, I made this point at SBCToday and was excommunicated for doing so.”]]

    Rhutchin was not banned from posting at SBC Today for merely pointing out that Traditionalists deny the calvinistic conception of total depravity.

    Other Calvinists have made this claim and they were not banned.

    One of the things regularly discussed there is that Traditionalists do not hold the calvinistic conception of total depravity. And that is Ok, that is one perfectly acceptable view, it also in itself does not make you a “Pelagian.”

    No, he was banned from posting there because he repeatedly kept claiming that SBC Traditionalists were PELAGIANS. He was openly and publicly warned three times directly by Rick Patrick one of the moderators to cease and desist from doing this. Each time he ignored the warnings, kept claiming that they were Pelagians and so he was banned.

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    1. Robert writes, “No, he was banned from posting there because he repeatedly kept claiming that SBC Traditionalists were PELAGIANS.”

      At it’s heart is the Pelagian denial of Total Depravity. I said that Traditionlists would be Pelagian if they denied Total Depravity and none really tried to explain they were not. At the least, a person ought to be able to defend their own beliefs – which few on the non-Calvinist side seem able to do.

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  21. Robert writes…

    “I really can’t complain however, in the past Phillip repeatedly claimed that I was a Pharisee, unsaved, and all sorts of nasty personal attacks.”

    I have already addressed this a number of times. It appears Robert’s writing skills are only surpassed by his reading skills. Providing the word count for Robert’s comments takes only a few minutes; about a fraction of the time it takes to read just one of his comments.

    Robert writes (to Bro D regarding rhutchin)…

    “Rhutchin is lying.”

    Perhaps the “nasty personal attacks” Robert was alluding to is when one calls another brother in Christ a liar.

    And with two more posts with a word count of 199 and 217, Robert’s staggering word count total is now up to 9,735. At this pace, Robert should surpass the Dow Jones Industrial Average (20,981.33) soon.

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    1. Actually, the identification of what might be best characterized as “flirting with dishonesty” on rhutchin’s part, has been sighted by numerous Christian participants at SOT101, both ongoing, and by visitors who have come, engaged in dialog, and perhaps not returned.

      Robert was simply referring to a post I made in that ongoing acknowledgement, although the word “liar” hasn’t come up before.

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  22. Romans 2:4-11 In verse 4 Paul speaks of God’s “riches of goodness, forbearance and long suffering ” and they don’t know that the ” goodness of God” leads them to repentance. Are we going to say that the “riches of his goodness” is not rich enough to bring about repentance? Are we also going to say that God is leading them to repent yet refusing to give them a heart to repent therefore making God to have two wills for the same people ,leading them to repent but not allowing them to repent. Verse 5 speaks plainly it is THEIR hard and impentant heart that treasures up wrath against them. This puts the fault directly on them because they did respond to the “riches of his goodness” . Now verse 7 speaks of another group who are ” by patient continuance In well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life”. Does it say they were doing this because God gave them a new heart or are we to simply understand they were responding to the “riches of his goodness”? Back to the other group, verse 8 they are contentious, do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” ,look what is coming their way, ” indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil.” Now back to other group verse 10 “glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good”. We see there are only 2 groups and both are found in Jew and Gentiles alike . In verse 11 it is declared there is no respect of persons with God, certainly this would shock the Jew who thought the Gentiles were not included to receive the “riches of his goodness”. So we see it Is God who first offers the “riches of his goodness” to Jew and Gentile and it us who must respond by LFW (granted, ordained and created in us by God who made us in his image) . Yes sin entered the world and the human race by the fall of Adam but where in scripture does it say in the fall man lost his LFW to respond to the “riches of his goodness”? To glory of God alone!!!

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    1. Very well said and interpreted according to context, Brent. And the words “disobeyed” in verse 8 are better translated as “unpersuaded”, which points I believe to them having recognized but freely rejected the truth that God had led them to know about Himself and their need to repent and seek His mercy.

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      1. brianwagner writes, “…which points I believe to them having recognized but freely rejected the truth that God had led them to know about Himself and their need to repent and seek His mercy.”

        Which seems to be Paul’s argument in chap 1. Among atheists are many Bible scholars, as many atheists come out of a religious background. I suspect a great many atheists have a better knowledge of the Scriptures than many who profess to be believers.

        Thus, the author of Hebrews exhorts believers, “Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God,” and “indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” What, then, is the plight of non-believers to whom no faith has been given?

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      2. Actually those warned in Hebrews 4 had never yet entered God’s salvation rest, nor had the ceased from their works… just like their Jewish forefathers who perished in unbelief in the wilderness. They refused to mix with faith the gospel that was preached to them. It was their fault… They had no excuse, like – “But God… we couldn’t believe the gospel we heard, because You didn’t give us the ability through regeneration or the gift of faith we needed… But You’re still going to judge us? Really?”

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      3. In Calvinism, everything boils down to whatever the deity specifically decrees it to be, logically entailing the authorship of evil.

        But the God of the bible is not irresponsible, hiding behind compulsory defense arguments made by minuscule men.

        The God of the bible bears full responsibility for whatever He does.
        A theology of man however, that creates an image of God as the author of evil, would certainly have to go on the defense, and create a multitude of convoluted, hyper religious, evasive, obfuscating, defense arguments.
        That is how we know it is of man.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. br.d writes, “In Calvinism, everything boils down to whatever the deity specifically decrees it to be, logically entailing the authorship of evil.”

        Do you have the logical argument that supports your conclusion – “logically entailing the authorship of evil”? My suspicion is, No.

        Then, “The God of the bible bears full responsibility for whatever He does.”

        And man must bear full responsibility for whatever he does.

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      5. rhutchin writes “Do you have the logical argument that supports your conclusion – “logically entailing the authorship of evil”? My suspicion is, No.”

        Again, he simply chooses to ignore talents provided by others, including William Lane Craig, Peter Van Inwagen, Alvin Plantinga, Ravi Zacharias, etc..etc.

        He then MAKES BELIEVE no logical arguments have been made.

        Take the talent from him, and give it to the faithful servant. For to everyone who is faithful with what he has been given, will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who is unfaithful, even what he has will be taken away.

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      6. br.d writes, “He then MAKES BELIEVE no logical arguments have been made.”

        Since you don’t know the argument personnally, maybe you could provide a citation where it can be found.

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      7. brianwagner writes, “They refused to mix with faith the gospel that was preached to them.”

        And as Paul explains in Ephesians 2, faith is a gift from God. Had God given them faith, they would then have mixed it with the gospel and been saved.

        Then, “They had no excuse, like – “But God… we couldn’t believe the gospel we heard, because You didn’t give us the ability through regeneration or the gift of faith we needed… But You’re still going to judge us? Really?””

        Such is the pride of sinful man to argue that God owed them mercy for their sins and not judgment. Had they been serious, they would have confessed they depravity and unworthiness for mercy and trusted God to save them and to accept their well earned punishment if He did not.

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      8. God doesn’t owe mercy… He owes His nature not to falsely offer mercy or falsely command repentance or to create those after His image just to watch them unjustly suffer in hell forever because of Adam’s sin.

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      9. brianwagner writes, “God doesn’t owe mercy… ”

        You had set up the hypothetical: the unsaved (of Hebrews 4) did not have the excuse you described. However, as God gives faith, their lack of faith would mean that God had not given them faith. Thus, they would actually make the excuse you described. To do so would have been the epitome of pride and given that pride is a distinctive characteristic of the unsaved, I think they could easily take your hypothetical excuse and argue it, just not successfully.

        Then, “He owes His nature not to falsely offer mercy or falsely command repentance or to create those after His image just to watch them unjustly suffer in hell forever because of Adam’s sin.”

        Alternatively, as Paul put it, “God said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy…Therefore God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens.”

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      10. Hebrews 4 does not say they didn’t have the ability to exercise faith… it says when they heard the gospel they didn’t mix it with faith, which a normal reader would assume would have been possible since they were judged for not doing so. But Calvinists are not normal readers, for they must make each passage fit their determinism perspective. That is pride, in my view.

        And Praise the Lord that He promises to have mercy and compassion on whom He should have mercy and compassion… consistent not only with His nature, but the clarity of His Word… He has it on ALL! Rom 11:32

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      11. brianwagner writes, “Hebrews 4 does not say they didn’t have the ability to exercise faith… it says when they heard the gospel they didn’t mix it with faith, which a normal reader would assume would have been possible since they were judged for not doing so.”

        We read that the hearing of the gospel did not profit them (or had no value to them) because it was not mixed with faith. The point of the author (one view) is that the readers have been given a faith that they can then mix with the gospel and enter the rest God has prepared for them. Without faith, those in the wilderness then disobeyed God by refusing to enter the promised land (God’s rest) – but what other outcome might we expect where faith is absent.

        People are judged for their sin even though the ability to resist temptation and not sin requires that one have faith and faith is a gift from God.The writer of Hebrews is emphasising the grace of God toward his readers through the faith that has been given to them which they are now able to mix with the gospel to enter God’s rest.

        Then, “Calvinists are not normal readers, for they must make each passage fit their determinism perspective. That is pride, in my view.”

        Calvinists are not normal readers in that they have a different worldview that sees consistency within the Scriptures. You see pride, but the Calvinist see themselves as Bereans who receive the Scriptures with all readiness of mind, and search the scriptures daily, to determine whether the things Brian says about them are consistent with those Scriptures. You see pride; they see good scholarship.

        Then, “Praise the Lord that He promises to have mercy and compassion on whom He should have mercy and compassion… consistent not only with His nature, but the clarity of His Word… He has it on ALL! Rom 11:32”

        “God said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy…as you [Gentiles] in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through [the Jews] unbelief: Even so have these [Jews] also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded all [both Jew and Gentile] in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all [both Jew and Gentile].” Praise the Lord for the clarity of His word.

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      12. Roger, Jews and Gentiles have always been getting saved since creation. Paul is talking about the nation of Israel and the other nations in Rom 11… because His plan has always been to offer salvation mercy to everyone. I am sorry that you can not see that truth as flowing from His character as clearly revealed in Scripture.

        The Bereans in searching the Scripture will see that it is so that God has predetermined things so that each man should seek and might find Him (Acts 17:26-27, Job 33:29-30, John 1:9, Rom 1, 2, 10:18)… This is the consistency of Scriptures that Calvinism must seek to reject by imposing their definitions about determinism borrowed from philosophy and then make unwarranted inferences from proof texts that don’t follow the normal grammar and word meanings in those contexts.

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      13. brianwagner writes, “Jews and Gentiles have always been getting saved since creation.”

        Yet, Paul writes, “…you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,…”

        Then, “Paul is talking about the nation of Israel and the other nations in Rom 11… because His plan has always been to offer salvation mercy to everyone.”

        That’s the conclusion I came to – thus, my use of [Jew and Gentile]. At least, we both agree God has a plan and is sticking to it.

        Then, “This is the consistency of Scriptures that Calvinism must seek to reject by imposing their definitions about determinism borrowed from philosophy and then make unwarranted inferences from proof texts that don’t follow the normal grammar and word meanings in those contexts.”

        Calvinism’s doctrine of determinism was stated by Calvin in his treatise on Predestination – “But as it would be utterly absurd to hold, that anything could be done contrary to the will of God; seeing that God is at Divine liberty to prevent that which He does not will to be done.”

        Jordan Ferrier, who wrote the introduction, “Since God is Omnipotent and Sovereign, He is free to over-rule any decision or action of any of His creatures at any time.  If God chooses not to over-rule His creature, then God permitted the decision or action:  Calvin quotes Augustine:  “Nothing, therefore, is done, but that which the Omnipotent willed to be done, either by permitting it to be done, or by doing it Himself.”

        I am confident you know the Scriptures that are cited in support of this conclusion.

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      14. The problem with your quotes, Roger, on determinism is that that are nebulous enough that I can make the wording fit what God’s Word teaches while know that Calvin and the others don’t mean that at all! None of those statements clearly declare the eternal immutable determination of all things so that God’s free will (if it exists) will ever be exercised to permit anything. Even permission is only theoretical since there was predetermined only one reflex of man to every stimuli put before him. I will stick with Scripture which clearly teaches that everything was not predetermined before creation so that the future is only one set outcome forever.

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      15. I think this may the Calvinist pin-ball affect.
        The Calvinist knows that if his language remains true to determinism, its deviation from the language of scripture will be evident.
        So like a pin-ball, he bounces back to “indeterministic” language, in order to mimic the language of scripture.

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      16. brianwagner writes, ” None of those statements clearly declare the eternal immutable determination of all things…”

        “Eternal” was not the issue. “Determination” is the issue. You may continue to believe that all was not determined before creation as it doesn’t matter. God is sovereign and under your theology or mine, He still exerts absolute control over His kingdom and the outcome is the same either way.

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      17. The total outcome is not yet determined and there are multiple good outcomes available. Calvinism locks God into only one because or their unScriptural doctrine or simplicity and perfection that is only defined as eternal immutable determination of all things against the clear teaching of Scripture. Deny as you will… Roger… dem is the facts! 😉

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      18. “God is at Divine liberty to prevent that which He does not will to be done.”

        rhutchin, have you noticed you consistently frame god as if he is anthropomorphic.
        This statement is a good example.

        In a world in which no event can have ontological existence unless God wills it too, we have here the notion of an event which God needs to prevent from occurring, which doesn’t have any ontological existence anyway.

        That would be like God preventing a non-existent square circle from being a non-existent square circle.
        Its just as irrational to say that God wanted an event to occur, which he then needed some kind of “liberty” to prevent.
        If God is unlimited in power, he doesn’t need “liberty” to do anything.
        And there is nothing for him to “prevent”, unless there’s another god up there with him causing events which he did not will to occur.

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      19. I would add to that:
        Calvin asserts, the reason a person doesn’t have faith, is simply because god withholds it from them (by the secret councils of his will).
        And god does not give or not give faith because of anything deserving or undeserving within the man (i.e., the condition of the man does not determine god’s will – god’s will determines the condition of the man)

        Then it logically follows:
        (1) Whatever determines X is responsible for X.
        (2) It is antithetical to the bible to say someone is to be blamed for something he has no power to determine

        The Calvinist interpretation forces them into a position of double-think. (in biblical language double-mindedness)
        Calvinism is thus biblically and psychologically unstable
        Additionally, it forces them to conceive a deity who speaks with forked tongue.
        Thus we have depraved man, conceiving of a deity in the likeness of his own depravity.

        William Lane Craig quote:
        “God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism

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    2. Great points!
      William Lane Craig would say, Calvinism imposes philosophical assertions onto the text.
      But of course any critical analysis of Calvinism’s use of scripture is always aggressively rejected by those who strain at gnats while swallowing Augustine’s camel! 😉

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      1. br.d writes, “William Lane Craig would say, Calvinism imposes philosophical assertions onto the text.”

        Could you provide examples from Craig of such philosophical assertions? Maybe something relevant to the present discussion.

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      2. Without realizing it, you gave your answer of what you would do with Craig’s (or anyone’s) contributions.
        You ignore the main points and build convenient strawmen. 🙂

        Remember the parable of the talents?
        God doesn’t extend them to one he knows will only handle them with disrespect of pervert them.
        Simple principle.

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    3. Brent Beauford writes, “Are we going to say that the “riches of his goodness” is not rich enough to bring about repentance?’

      No, we see that such people have a decisions to make. What is the outcome, “…because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath…” It is by the “riches of His goodness” that unrepentant man is not immediately destroyed.

      Then, “Are we also going to say that God is leading them to repent yet refusing to give them a heart to repent therefore making God to have two wills for the same people ,leading them to repent but not allowing them to repent”

      It is not God leading people to repentance. It is the kindness of God in not immediately calling them to judgment thereby allowing time to repent. What kindness of God” does Paul have in view that “leads”? Back to Chap 1 – “that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

      If it is true that God gives a person a heart to repent, do we presume God so inept in doing so that the person would not repent? Nothing here requires that God give people a heart to repent.

      Then, “Verse 5 speaks plainly it is THEIR hard and impentant heart that treasures up wrath against them. This puts the fault directly on them because they did respond to the “riches of his goodness” .”

      Showing us that God has not given them a heart to repent – the heart is still “hard” thus, unrepentant.

      The, “Now verse 7 speaks of another group who are ” by patient continuance In well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life”. Does it say they were doing this because God gave them a new heart or are we to simply understand they were responding to the “riches of his goodness”?”

      We don’t know. That information is not given. We must investigate other Scriptures to shed light on this.

      Then, “So we see it Is God who first offers the “riches of his goodness” to Jew and Gentile and it us who must respond by LFW (granted, ordained and created in us by God who made us in his image) . Yes sin entered the world and the human race by the fall of Adam but where in scripture does it say in the fall man lost his LFW to respond to the “riches of his goodness”?”

      The Scriptures say that man became dead when Adam sinned and his heart became hard. Thereby, faith was lost and not to be recovered until the gospel was preached and then conveyed only to the person by God as a gift.

      It does not say here that God “offers” the riches of His goodness, bu that it is the riches of His goodness that allow the person time to repent.

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      1. You must get tired sometimes Roger working so hard to try make God’s mercy and kindness that is given to all seem insufficient and ineffective. That it provides all with opportunity to seek and helps lead them to repentance just won’t do. Are you afraid God might get some glory for something He doesn’t deserve?

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      2. brianwagner writes, “That it provides all with opportunity to seek and helps lead them to repentance just won’t do. ”

        The key word here is “opportunity.” Lets grant that some avail themselves of that opportunity whereupon, God grants them faith and they are saved. At that point the Calvinist system kicks in and God selects from among those who squandered the opportunity and saves whom He will. Of course, as God has infinite understanding, He would have known who would take advantage of the opportunity (given the way He structured it) in the first place and then it would be His turn to save some exceptionally reprobate.

        Then, “Are you afraid God might get some glory for something He doesn’t deserve?”

        God gives the opportunity knowing who will accept that opportunity (not by omniscience but by understanding), so He gets the glory and then, in choosing who to save from the leftovers, He gets all the glory.

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      3. Not a modification. Let’s just grant your point and see if it accomplishes that which you want it to. The term, “opportunity,” is very nebulous and doesn’t appear to say very much. Why use a word like that? I think you need a stronger term to make your argument.

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      4. Strong enough for me! We can let others decide if it makes my argument, even if you don’t think it does. I thank the Lord Jesus that the good intention behind giving light to every one stands unapologetically against the storm of Calvinistic theology that attempts to lie against that intention. And it seems to be that they do it just to maintain their loyalty to immutable determinism that was spawned in the minds of unsaved men.

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      5. rhutchin writes concerning the works of god: “At that point the Calvinist system kicks in”

        This is an excellent example of man sitting in the house of god declaring himself to be god. In this conception of divine action, god follows a processes called – quote “the Calvinist system”.

        The Lord has a day for the proud and lofty, and those who are lifted upon in their own pride, for they shall be brought low.

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  23. RHUTCHIN writes “It is by the “riches of His goodness” that the unrepentant man is not immediately destroyed” Romans 2:4 does mention God’s forbearance and longsuffering but it does not say anything about unrepentant man not being immediately destroyed. It clearly says the “goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance”. Verse 5 tells us God’s wrath is held back unto the “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God”. That is alot of forbearance and longsuffering while the goodness of God ieads them to repent.
    Revelation 2:21 Speaking of Jezebel, says ” And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.” Why did she not repent? Was it because God gave her space but did not give her grace to repent? I think not, God did give space but she refused of her own free will. Think about this, if I gave someone 6 months to pay a debt but I had all the money in the world and they had none and the only way they could pay the debt was that I gave them the money, yet I refused. What would be the point of me giving them space to pay? Let us be careful how we represent GOD.

    Some believe LFW was lost at the fall of Adam. After the fall, two sons were born, Cain and Abel. They brought offerings unto the Lord, Cain brought veggies and Abel brought firstlings of his flock. God had respect to Abel’s offering but not to Cain’s. Genesis 4:5……”.And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell”. verse 6 “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? verse 7 “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.”
    God did not tell Cain the only thing you can do are the not well things, a one sided free will. God made it clear to Cain, do well and be accepted or do not well and sin lieth at the door. I believe that by verse 7 ” If thou doest well” both sons knew what God required , a lamb offering, but as some people do, they think their veggies are good enough for God and become angry when God does not accept their works. Yes ,they trade the truth in for lies. So we see LFW after the fall, though it be the first example it certainly won’t be the last.

    May we all seek to know the “I AM THAT I AM” as God told Moses. For God is not what I believe Him to be. He is who He is and none of us can change that. He is who He is as revealed by Holy Scripture. We have a great responsibility to represent Him correctly to a lost world and to help each other grow in the knowledge of God. I pray God help us. To God Be The Glory!!

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    1. Brent Beauford writes, “That is alot of forbearance and longsuffering while the goodness of God ieads them to repent.”

      I agree. We marvel at God’s goodness toward sinful humanity and stand amazed that any would refuse such goodness and be lost forever.

      Then, “What would be the point of me giving them space to pay? Let us be careful how we represent GOD.”

      That is the argument advanced by the universalists. It would not bother me if the Universalists turned out to be right. It is hard to argue against the notion that a God of love could do none other than to save all.

      Then, “Some believe LFW was lost at the fall of Adam.”

      That’s because the definition of LFW has never really been defined except in very general terms. The Scriptures are clear that faith is required for one to be saved and no one is born with faith. So, if we grant that people still have LFW, the absence of faith means that lost humanity cannot even consider salvation much less have any choice about their salvation.

      Then, “So we see LFW after the fall, though it be the first example it certainly won’t be the last.”

      We know that Cain was without faith (attested by his sacrifice) and his depraved nature led to the killing of Abel. His LFW choice was reduced to kill or not kill. Are we surprised how the depraved Cain acted?

      Then, “May we all seek to know the “I AM THAT I AM” as God told Moses.”

      And God has expressed Himself clearly in the Scriptures that He inspired His prophets to record. So clear are those Scriptures that we must stand amazed that so many reject them as Paul describes in Romans 1.

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  24. Even though man is unable to “will” something to occur that is contrary to his nature, he can very much desire or wish for that very thing. Although it was contrary to David’s (and our) nature to fly like a bird, he very much wished he could do so (Psa 55:6). The same with salvation. No person can save himself or even “will” God to save him, but he can eagerly desire and accept the salvation God offers him.

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    1. Amen!!
      For me the reason is a love that is so wonderful, it can be found nowhere else in the universe!!
      Nobody loves me like the Lord does!!
      The older I get, the more true it is.

      Thanks for your great post! :-]

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    2. Timotheos, whereas I can appreciate your comment, I must respectfully reject its claims.
      Firstly, you cannot separate the will from desire. Both God’s will and man’s will necessarily stem from their desires. In other words, what we will we ALWAYS desire.
      Secondly, apart from God’s grace in gifting mankind both faith and repentance, mankind will NEVER desire salvation on God’s terms. Mankind will always seek a salvation that’s palatable to his/her sin nature. How does the Bible describe mankind’s desires before regeneration?
      1) They hide from God (Gen 3:8)

      2) They blame God for their sin (Gen 3:12)

      3) They complain about God’s will (Num 14:2)

      4) They hate their own Creator (Rom 1:30)

      5) They despise His message (1 Cor 2:14)

      6) They are hostile towards God (Rom 8:7)

      So we see that mankind’s desires are ALWAYS negative towards God, thus they will NEVER desire His salvation plan outside of His supernatural working.

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    3. Timotheos writes, “No person can save himself or even “will” God to save him, but he can eagerly desire and accept the salvation God offers him.”

      That is why, as the Universalists tell us, all will be saved. It is that eager desire that guarantees the acceptance of salvation.

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      1. How can unregenerate man desire salvation if he deems foolish the only message that will brings him salvation?

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      2. It’s a mystery. The interesting point is that non-Calvinists always seem to appeal to Universalist arguments to explain how unregenerate people are saved even when they don’t believe all people will be saved. Then then leave God out of the picture as a cause for unregenerate people “eagerly” desiring salvation claiming that it just somehow happens. Of course, some unregenerate people seem to really “eagerly desire” salvation moreso than others, and they are the ones whom God saves – really real eagerness for salvation being a prerequisite for salvation. It’s part of the double-think system parched together by non-Calvinists as they went down the cafeteria line.

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      3. Hi Troy,
        Thank you for your post.
        I have a question….if all of man’s motivations are based upon desires that are antithetical to god, do you find you can observe on a daily basis what percentage of your personal motivations are antithetical to god or equally anti-Christ?

        Thanks in advance.
        br.d

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      4. I’m sure you know that the answer to your question is impossible to answer since we cannot possibly know what percentage of our motivations are pleasing to God and which are not. But I’m not sure how your question relates to my previous comment.
        However, I’m quite sure that man’s desires before regeneration are DOMINATED by his sinful nature; so much so that they hate God and don’t want His Gospel.

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      5. Praise the Lord for the power of His light that He gives to every man, enabling them to seek Him!

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      6. Well I’m sure you already know what I think about that statement Brian. But do we really want to praise God for a heretical teaching. This is some serious stuff brother.

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      7. Praise God that – John 1:4-9 Life was in Him, and that life was the light of MEN. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness DID NOT overcome it. There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that ALL might believe through him…. The true light, who gives light to EVERYONE, was coming into the world.

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      8. brianwagner writes, “John 1:4-9 Life was in Him, and that life was the light of MEN. The true light, who gives light to EVERYONE, was coming into the world. ”

        The terms, “men” and “Everyone” need only refer to the gentile as well as the Jew as this seems to be a theme of John. God so loved the world – not just the Jews but the gentiles also – that He sent His son to give eternal life to those Jews and gentiles who believe thereby leaving unbelievers to fend for themselves.

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      9. “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
        ‭‭John‬ ‭3:20‬ ‭

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      10. Unfortunately, Troy you continue to ignore the plain meaning of verses… Jesus is the true light that gives light to each man that comes into the world… you can ask Him why He does that… though He said why two verses before… that all may believe through Him. And the word in Acts 17 should not be translated “grope”… for it is the same word used for Jesus asking Thomas to touch Him! The context plainly says what God does and why He does it… so that man should seek and touch and find!

        And you took one verse out of context to try to prove that no one seeks before regeneration… but the context is Jesus giving truth/light to an unregenerate man – Nicodemus, to get him to “do” that truth. You didn’t quote the very next verse after the one you tried to prove too much from… – John 3:21 says “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” It is just very sad that you do not want to believe God wants His light to shine on everyone to draw them to an opportunity to seek and find Him. But the Scriptures are clear that He does!

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      11. I’m so sorry Brian but you are unwilling to accept God’s salvation plan. But as I stated before, you must struggle with this sir

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      12. Also, Brian the context of Acts 17:27 demonstrates mankind seeking God as if their groping or trying to feel for Him in darkness. The fact remains that this verse doesn’t support your view of a general enlightenment. It actually conveys the idea of mankind seeking after an unknown God as stated in v23. This is why we have so many religions today because people are seeking to find God on their terms; not on God’s terms. But they will NEVER find Him.
        I’m sure that your theory of general enlightenment gives you a certain level of comfort because it supports YOUR view of God and man’s autonomous free will. However, I’m quite sadden that the truth is hidden from your eyes and, thus you will be held accountable for teaching heresy. I apologize if I’m coming across as condescending because that’s not my intention. However, I’m a stickler for careful Bible study and teaching because I know that God holds me to a higher standard as a student/teacher of His Word.

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      13. Troy, God’s intentions are clearly written even if you do not want to admit it! He commands everyone, everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). His universal commands and warnings clearly reveal what He wants everyone to do. He is still planning (present tense) that all come to a opportunity of repentance (2Pet 3:9), so yes, all the light He has been giving and is giving to every person is to get them to seek and find! You just don’t seem to think it is honoring to God to allow His intentions to be rejected! (See Is 5:1-4)

        Paul in Acts 17:26-27 is talking about what the real God has done/planned with the clear purpose of man being enabled to seek and touch and find. If you want to believe God does not have that purpose and did not adequately provide for it, you can continue to ignore what this passage clearly means or twist its meaning more as others have done.

        Paul said they all have heard (Rom 10:18), and Elihu in the book of Job says the same thing – Job 33:29-30. And, of course, you know what John says, even though your keep rejecting its clear meaning – The true Light, our Lord Jesus, gives light to each person who is coming into the world.

        Again, I am sorry that you refuse to give God all the glory due Him for His wonderful mercy to each born in His image. I will be praying for you, my brother…

        I may not be the one the Lord wants to use to help you any further to see this… so for now at least, we can let others read what our conversation has been so far. Please have the last word in this thread between us, if you wish!

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      14. God commands that His disciples be perfect as He is perfect in Matthew 5:48. God gave mankind the 10 commandments KNOWING that they could not keep them. In other words, the fact that God gives commands (i.e. to repent) does not mean that mankind has the ability to obey that command. Put another way, the ability to obey a command should never be assumed just because the command is issued.
        Let’s exegete 2 Peter 3:9 to see if God has every person in view there..
        The passage says, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” We can glean the following from this passage:

        1) What is the “promise”? Is it not God’s promise of salvation?

        2) For whom is the promise intended? Is it not for the elect?

        3) Who are the “you”? Is it not the same “beloved” of v1?

        4) So we can safely conclude that God’s patience is reserved for His beloved (the elect) as He’s patiently waiting for all of them to come to repentance which is part of His promise to save them.

        5) If God were patient wishing that all (without exception) would come to repentance, then He would NEVER return because the promise would NEVER be realized. The promise is that all the elect would come to repentance. Every human being is NOT in view in this verse.
        You stated, “You just don’t seem to think it is honoring to God to allow His intentions to be rejected!” God’s intentions will ALWAYS be fulfilled. He will ALWAYS accomplish HIS purposes. Man cannot thwart His decree. We are mere creatures in the hands of a loving, holy, angry, vengeful, jealous God. This God has arranged a salvation plan for His own purpose and only His elect will reap the rewards that stem from it. This is a hard saying but it’s true nonetheless.
        Acts 17:26,27 does prove that “the real God” has put in mankind a knowledge of His existence. But He is the “UNKNOWN GOD” to them UNLESS He DECIDES to reveal Himself to them. Otherwise, they will seek for Him in vain!
        In Romans 10:18 Paul is speaking of the Great Commission being fulfilled. He’s quoting an Old Testament passage and relating it to the Great Commission and speaking in past tense to demonstrate as if it has already occurred. Otherwise, he would be lying because the Great Commission was in its infancy when he wrote his letter to Rome.
        Job 33:29,30 rebuts your theory Brian. God must do an action first (i.e. bringing one from the pit) and THEN God enlightens mankind. Job reinforces the fact that God must do the action of regeneration (bring back from the pit) FIRST and then the enlightenment takes place. One must be born again via the Holy Spirit applying the Gospel to the hearts of mankind. There is no “general enlightenment” brother. Enlightenment ALWAYS leads to genuine salvation!!
        Have a blessed Lord’s Day brother!

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      15. brianwagner writes, “Jesus is the true light that gives light to each man that comes into the world…”

        We also know that “In [Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men.” It is the life of Christ that is light and those who see that light – that life – are enlightened. The means for giving light to anyone is the preaching of the gospel. We also read in 2 Corinthians 4, “…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,…” When someone hears the gospel and does not believe, they are like the rocky ground upon which the seed falls and the birds eat it. Jesus then explains, “when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.” Thus, Christ is the light of men and it is in seeing Christ that people are enlightened. Yet, not everyone hears the gospel and not all who hear the gospel are enlightened. Apart from the preaching of the gospel – the preaching of Christ – there can be no enlightenment. Brian is looking for some other means outside the preaching of the gospel for people to be enlightened but has been unable to find any as the Scriptures are all about Christ and the gospel. Apart from Christ, there is no light.

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      16. Yes rhutchin, Brian and those who espouse his teaching are desperately trying to preserve man’s autonomous free will by presenting a theory of general enlightenment for every human being but the verses he provides simply don’t support his view.
        We all have presuppositions when we approach Scripture. The question is which presuppositions are faithful to ALL that Scripture has to say on a particular doctrine. When we examine what/who the Light is in Scripture we discover that it’s a reference to either Christ or His message and that the light saves those for whom it was intended and is hated and rejected by all others. Brian and His Traditionalists friends are desperately trying to fit certain Scriptures within their theological construct but tota scriptura just won’t support it.

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      17. brianwagner writes, “Praise the Lord for the power of His light that He gives to every man, enabling them to seek Him!”

        I don’t think the Scriptures necessarily tell us that light is given to every individual. That light – assuming that it is a knowledge of Christ – comes through the preaching of the gospel and not everyone hears the gospel preached. Even among those who do attend a service )or other venue) where the gospel is preached, it is not necessarily so that ll in attendance “hear” the gospel and therefore receive light. Had God not opened the heart of Lydia, could we say that she received light?

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      18. John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

        The phrase “every man” is from παντα ανθρωπον – literally – “each human”.

        The statement – “I don’t think the Scriptures necessarily tell us that light is given to every individual” is obviously false.

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      19. brianwagner writes, “The statement – “I don’t think the Scriptures necessarily tell us that light is given to every individual” is obviously false.”

        So, your position is that every individual is given light regardless whether they even hear the gospel or ever know who anything about Christ. Thus, under your system, the light given to each person has nothing to do with the gospel or with Christ.

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      20. Brian,
        rhuthins question here is such a red-herring rabbit-hole, personally, I won’t bother to take the bait.
        Blessings!
        br.d :-]

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      21. Roger, The light is directly related to leading to finding God and trusting His mercy (cf Act 17:26-27)… which is the core of the gospel. So you are wrong and have misrepresented my words and the words of Scripture when you said – “Thus, under your system, the light given to each person has nothing to do with the gospel or with Christ.” You are forgetting that it is the “true Light” that is giving the light to each person. Why do you think Jesus does it? The context says why – “so that all through Him might believe” (vs 7). I am so sorry that you don’t seem to want God to be so gracious with everyone! I praise His name that He is!

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      22. Brian you have yet to give any meaningful exegesis in support of your idea that the Light refers to a “generic enlightenment” or “opportunity/ability”. On the other hand, the Scriptures are clear that the Light is Christ Himself or His Gospel. The Scriptures also teach that unregenerate mankind HATES and REJECTS the Light, which means the Light was never intended to enlighten every person.
        Brian your enlightenment THEORY is untenable sir!

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      23. brianwagner writes, “you are wrong and have misrepresented my words and the words of Scripture when you said – “Thus, under your system, the light given to each person has nothing to do with the gospel or with Christ.””

        OK. How is light given to everyone? Is it given through preaching of the gospel or without hearing the gospel? Can a person be given this light without first hearing about Christ. If you really mean that light is given to everyone, then you cannot be saying that it comes through the preaching/hearing of the gospel because not everyone hears the gospel, preached or otherwise, and you cannot require that a person must first hear about Christ because not everyone has heard about Christ.

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      24. Rhutchin it’s clear to me that Brian is trying to fit Acts 17:26,27 into his theological construct but it just doesn’t fit. Acts 17 doesn’t even give a hint of enlightenment. In fact, it proves the exact opposite as mankind is “groping” for God. When do people “grope” after something? When they’re STILL in darkness. This passage only proves that mankind is searching for an unknown God as expressed in v23 of the same passage. Those who are seeking after God in v27 will NEVER find Him UNLESS God FIRST reveals Himself to them! Brian is simply stretching this verse to prove his theory of enlightenment. Unfortunately for him, he chose a passage that only proves that mankind is still in darkness, groping after the UNKNOWN GOD!!

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      25. Troy writes, “…it’s clear to me that Brian is trying to fit Acts 17:26,27 into his theological construct but it just doesn’t fit. Acts 17 doesn’t even give a hint of enlightenment….Brian is simply stretching this verse to prove his theory of enlightenment.”

        Acts 17
        24 “The God who made the world and all things in it,…
        26 …He made from [Adam], every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation,
        27 that they should seek God,…
        30 “…God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent,
        31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

        If one emphasizes the free will of man, then this should be a key verse. This describes the “opportunity” that Brian says God gives to every person. There is nothing here about “enlightenment,” and much about responsibility. The point here is that God has arranged circumstances (as Romans 1) so that people should seek Him. God wants everyone to repent. God leaves people to their free will. Romans 1 describes what people of free will choose to do. If this is all that Brian means by enlightenment, then he advocates nothing more than that which Paul explained in Romans 1 (with this Scripture adding to the argument that Paul made in Romans 1).

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      26. God commands everyone (without exception) to repent. This is true. However, He only intends for His people to actually do it. 2 Peter 3:9 proves this point as His promise of salvation is only meant for His people and He’s patiently waiting until they all come to repentance and faith.

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      27. The question, Roger, should not be asked – “How is light given to everyone?” Rejoice instead that it is given to each person! And believe that it is given to each person to do what it was designed to do… to lead people to seek and trust the truth revealed. Look at John 1:7 again. Again I say that it saddens me that you do not want to believe God gives everyone the opportunity to seek and find Him, and even in spite of the clear biblical support for that truth!

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      28. Brian what really saddens you is the fact that God doesn’t and never INTENDED to give every person an opportunity for salvation because millions have perished without so much as knowing that a Gospel even exists. This is something that YOU must struggle with my friend!

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      29. Hi Troy,
        I hope you don’t mind if I say so…but I’m not sure a human being can make this claim.
        None of us know all of the means that God uses to bring people to himself, which may include pre-death or after-death experiences.
        We do have testimonies from unsaved people who died in hospitals and came back saying they met Jesus and became saved.
        So I know I wouldn’t be confident saying that someone who doesn’t hear the gospel is doomed.

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      30. With all due respect br.d, your perspective violates so many verses of Scripture that I would be surprised if your were a faithful student of the Bible. God has outlined the means by which all men can be saved and that means involves exposure to the Gospel and the application of the message to the hearts of men by the Holy Spirit.

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      31. Thank you Troy,
        With all due respect Troy I suspect what I violated was nothing more than a human tradition.
        The vast majority of the time someone claims to be defending scripture it turns out to be a false presentation of ex cathedra.
        Can you be specific about what scripture is violated and how?

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      32. brianwagner writes, “The question…should not be asked – “How is light given to everyone?” ”

        That means that the Scriptures do not say this outright (at least, you have not discovered where it does, yet), so you need to presume this to be the case because that is the way your system works. That’s fine. For now, it’s a weak point in your system.

        Then, “Again I say that it saddens me that you do not want to believe God gives everyone the opportunity to seek and find Him, and even in spite of the clear biblical support for that truth!””

        I have no problem attributing to God the responsibility to give everyone the opportunity to seek Him and find Him. If God discriminates, in some manner, in favor of His elect, then that would explain why His elect take advantage of that opportunity (the Calvinist conclusion). If God gives equal opportunity to seek Him, then another explanation is needed to account for some seeking Him and some not. That explanation can also be something God does for His elect (again, the Calvinist explanation).

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      33. We have testimonies of Muslims who were given personal dreams or visions etc, because they live in an environment where the preaching of the Gospel is forbidden on pain of death. Obviously, this enlightenment, is kata-pneumatos. But what man is to dictate to God how he is to work in his presentation of enlightenment or his gift of salvation? Some testimonies insist they were given these experiences of enlightenment over a period of months prior to their salvation experience.

        Does the Muslim become spiritually regenerated before he can have true saving faith?
        Or does the Muslim have a number of experiences of enlightenment which lead him to a true saving faith and salvation?

        People defending opposing religio-theoretical positions will insist their position is kata-pneumatos, and not kata-sarka.
        But this can simply spring out of carnal religious pride.

        It is a fact human nature, to start with a presupposition and turn to scripture to affirm it.
        Where scripture is explicit and without question, there is normally little controversy.
        It is where scripture is not explicit, and where man is reliant upon implicit inferences from scripture that man abuses the text.

        Interpretation via implicit inference is fraught with one insurmountable vulnerability.
        It demands the text CONFORM to whatever cosmology or philosophical notions the interpreter holds as unquestionable truth.
        So if the interpreter holds as unquestionable, the notion that the sun orbits around the earth, the bible will affirm that.
        And human hubris will then argue the interpretation is kata-pnuematos rather than kata-sarka

        If man is reborn and then faith comes afterward, then it logically follows that man can be reborn without faith.

        Can we list the verses from scripture which EXPLICITLY state that man can be reborn without faith?

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      34. “each human” for whom the Light (i.e. Christ, the Gospel) was intended. Everyone else hates the Light and finds His Gospel to be foolishness

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      35. Thanks Troy.
        I see..so Calvinists make a distinction between human motivations, thoughts, choices, etc, “before regeneration” and then “after regeneration”? That would of course be based on the presumption that the believer is in fact elect and thus regenerated.

        But Calvinism states: “In the church there is a very large mixture of hypocrites, who have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance”
        And “before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the **SECRET** will of God”

        Is it emotionally difficult for you to know that you may be one of those who has nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance?

        And if its impossible for you to know what percentage of your motivations, etc are anti-Christ, then wouldn’t it follow that it would be impossible for you to know when your motivations, are in sin, or not in sin?

        Thanks in advance.

        Liked by 1 person

      36. I’m certain that, although I’m a new creature in Christ, that I will continue to sin. However, God grants me grace in whatever He deems necessary in any situation to either refrain sin in me or allow me to commit sin, which includes my thoughts, motivations, desires, etc. This is why Paul always struggled with sin in his life as expressed in Romans 7:18,19. As Christians, we have two natures and they both war against each other until our salvation is completed and we no longer have a body that lusts after sin.
        A true believer will remain in constant war with the flesh because he/she now has the mind of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
        I’m certain of my salvation because God’s Spirit has witnessed with my Spirit that I am His child and I also have an ongoing and ernest desire to DO the will of God

        Liked by 1 person

      37. Thanks Troy,
        You didn’t answer my first question:

        Is it emotionally difficult for you to know that you may be one of those who has nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance?

        I’m wondering specifically how you resolve that knowledge internally?

        Do you ever think about the possibility that God is, as Calvin says: “illumining” you for a time, holding salvation out to you as a savor of greater condemnation?

        Thanks in advance

        Like

      38. br.d asks Troy, “Do you ever think about the possibility that God is, as Calvin says: “illumining” you for a time, holding salvation out to you as a savor of greater condemnation?”

        Given that Troy has embraced that theology developed by the Calvinists, it appears to me that God has him on the right track. Had Troy espoused a non-Calvinist theology, then it is quite possible that Calvin is correct.

        Like

      39. br.d asks Troy, “Do you ever think about the possibility that God is, as Calvin says: “illumining” you for a time, holding salvation out to you as a savor of greater condemnation?”

        rhutchin writes:
        Given that Troy has embraced that theology developed by the Calvinists, it appears to me that God has him on the right track. Had Troy espoused a non-Calvinist theology, then it is quite possible that Calvin is correct.

        That doesn’t make logical sense. Since Calvin explicitly teaches that god deceives – quote “a large mixture” of Calvinists to believe they are elect, in order to – quote “hold salvation out as a savor of greater condemnation” and then to -quote “strike them with even greater blindness”.

        If we take Calvin’s teaching as true, then it follows that your looking for indicators of one’s election status, (by one’s theology), is exactly what Calvin describes as hypocrites who have nothing of Christ but “OUTWARD SIGNS”.
        And as such those OUTWARD SIGNS would be part of that divine deception which Calvin describes as a “large mixture” of the Calvinist fold.

        But you have the flexibility of asserting this teaching of Calvin’s is (for this discussion) an OPINION and not a DOCTRINE.

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      40. Not at all br.d!! I’m quite confident that I’m one of God’s elect because His Spirit agrees with my spirit that I’m his child. Remember what God says in 1 John 5:13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” I NEVER doubt my position in Christ br.d

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      41. Thanks Troy for that answer!
        I do understand what scripture says, but I distinguish it from what Calvin teaches.

        So is sounds like even though Calvin teaches that “a large mixture” in the church are deceived by God, temporarily into believing they are saved, as God -quote “holds salvation out to them as a savor of greater condemnation” isn’t something you ponder as applicable to yourself

        I guess that makes sense from a psychological perspective. Neuroscientists tell us that the human brain seeks relief from uncertainty the same way it seeks relief from physical pain or discomforts. So just as we move our bodies, to give us relief, when we experience pain from a certain movement, our brain does the same when we unconsciously experience the pain of uncertainty.

        My guess, is that Calvinists learn to compartmentalize the notion that they might be one of the “large mixture” of believers who God is deceiving into believing they are saved, as a process to relieve cognitive dissonance from that notion.

        But then again, if God truly is deceiving a person into believing they are saved, it makes perfect sense that they would have no doubts they are saved.

        Thanks for helping me think that through! :-]

        Like

      42. br.d writes, “Calvinists make a distinction between human motivations, thoughts, choices, etc, “before regeneration” and then “after regeneration”?”

        Everyone else makes this distinction between those who are believers and those non-believers. So, there is not real disagreement except on the technical argument concerning how one becomes a believer.

        Then, “Is it emotionally difficult for you to know that you may be one of those who has nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance?”

        Not for the Calvinist as he trusts everything to God rather than himself – in everything, God will do what is right. The non-Calvinist also has Matthew 7 to contend with meaning that they cannot trust in any action of theirs as the basis for their salvation.

        Like

      43. Thanks rhutchin lets review:

        “Is it emotionally difficult for the Calvinist to know that he may be one of those who has nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance?” (as Calvin teaches)

        rhutchin answers:
        “Not for the Calvinist as he TRUSTS everything to God rather than himself”

        Ok, lets assume this is theoretically true.
        Then it follows, per Calvin’s teachings that you TRUST God for 1 of 2 things:

        1) You TRUST God is deceiving you into believing you are elect, regenerate and a spokesperson for divine truth, while you are really, non-elect, totally depraved, and under the power of the prince of darkness.

        2) You TRUST God has truly elected, and regenerated you, and you are a spokesperson for divine truth.

        So if it is true that you simply TRUST god, then it follows you TRUST god for your damnation as well as your salvation.
        Since God has assigned 1 of 2 possible fates for you.

        That would seem to make logical sense.
        But the assertion that a human being can TRUST god for being sent to an eternal lake of fire, and not have any emotional struggle is dubious.

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      44. br.d writes, “So if it is true that you simply TRUST god, then it follows you TRUST god for your damnation as well as your salvation.”

        I trust God to do what is right in His eyes, whatever that may be. God gave me life; God sustains my life; God has appointed the day for my death. God does with my life whatever He wants while I live and into eternity.

        Like

      45. Hyper-confidence is quite often the subconscious’s way of masking internal anxieties.
        The way we know normal confidence from hyper confidence is by observing the degree to which it is over-emphasizes.
        Hyper-confidence always comes out bearing the characteristics of a commercial advertisement.

        Like

      46. Interesting how universalists believe all will be saved.

        That makes me wonder rhutchin…do you know for sure that you are elect?

        Like

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