Saturday, October 31, 2009

Goals of this Blog

RGMPilgrim’s recent comments challenged me to think about the purpose of this blog.
Here’s the comment:

I think that Calvinism is as diabolical as it was for Calvin to have a man killed in the name of religious convictions.The servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle unto all men was not Calvin's motto I do not think. On the other hand Jude made clear that there is something which we must "earnestly contend" for. It is the faith that JESUS Christ presented to us, and that faith did NOT include an option at thinking that God has not revealed whom he would elect, does it? Jesus is the revelation of the Father and Jesus was a first class gentleman, until he met up with the temple priest/businessmen.Further does not that faith for which we "agonizo" preclude that those who call God's wisdom arbitriness and God's justice, non-justice are to be viewed as "un-godly" and as servants of the Enemy?Perhaps you should beware being too "harmless?" This is war, albeit war in a spiritual theatre.Stay armed and stand my brother! :-) Roy

I never have put too much weight on Calvin's episode with Servitus, since it doesn't falsify Calvinism. Also, although killing Servitus goes against my understanding of the scriptures on the issue of church and state; I will admit I don't find the issue 100% clear, so I am not that dogmatic about it.

But it's the second part, viewing Calvinism as an enemy in a war that really got me thinking. The two main reason I strive to take a moderate approach to Calvinism are 1) I have always thought that Calvinism is inconsistent rather than blasphemous (i.e. it leads to God's authorship of sin, but they deny it) and 2) my past attempts of viewing Calvinism/Arminianism as a war lead me into great temptations to sin.

So if I am not trying to win a war, what is my goal? Reconciliation. I understand that hard-line Calvinists are unlikely to give up their Calvinism. And yet, while I am happy to provide information to those making up their minds about the issue; the rigorous fully thought out model of Calvinism of hard-line Calvinists provides for clearer discussion. So my goal of reconciliation seems impractical and may not be accomplished in my lifetime or even on this world. Still as a consolidation prise, I would like to at least lay out the foundations of a system that I think 'meets in the middle' that may be of some use in a time when reconciliation seems more likely. I think middle knowledge will be very useful in this regard.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

James White's Response on Molinism

Dr. White graciously took the time to respond to one of my posts where I commented on his critique of middle knowledge. (link) The discussion is in the first part of the broadcast. I had argued that Dr. White's positions that Molinism undermines both LFW and God's sovereignty were inconsistent. Dr. White responds that I misrepresented his arguments and it's possible for a system to have more than one problem.

It's true that I didn't quote Dr. White's comments in their entirety, but I did link to them. But what I did say I believe to be both relevant and accurate. As for systems being able to have more than one problem; I agree. But only if you draw out contradictory premises from inside a system, can you validly assert a contradiction. If one or both of the premises are unacceptable to your opponent and outside their system; they have every right to point out that your assertions are inconsistent. Thus Mark notes about Christ's trial: many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. (Mark 14:56)

To explain my position (that Dr. White's arguments are inconsistent) I plan to summarize his arguments and draw out the contradiction.

Dr. White's Arguments

Argument #1 - Molinism Undermines LFW
P1: Molinism says God knows what you would do under any circumstance
P2: In any given circumstance, people can only do what God knew they would do
P3: Libertarian free will requires the person to be able to choose A or non-A
C1: So Molinism undermines LFW


Argument #2 - Molinism Undermines God's Sovereignty
P4: Molinism says God knows what you would do under any circumstance
P5: In any given circumstance, our hypothetical free choices limit God's options
P6: God's sovereingy is inconsistent with anything outside of God limiting His options
C2: So Molinism undermines God's sovereignty


P2 is 'external' to Molinism; an idea introduced by James White. Molina himself said the opposite explicitly and repeatedly.1 P2 and P5 imply a contradiction; that we are only able to do one thing and at the same time our ability to do two things limits God's options. One possibility and twofold possibilities... 1=2. A plain contradiction.

If our nature was such that we only had the ability to do one thing (i.e. if we don't have twofold possibilities), then what we do is necessary such that we cannot do otherwise. Necessary items are a part of God's natural knowledge, not His middle knowledge - the very idea of middle knowledge is based on twofold possibilities and yes, God's choice to give us twofold possibilities limited His options.

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1For the things that issue forth from our choice or depend on it are not going to happen because they are foreknown by God as going to happen, to the contrary, they are foreknown by God as going to happen in this or that way because they are so going to happen by virtue of our freedom of choice – through if they were going to happen in a contrary way, as they are able to, then from eternity they would be foreknown as going to happen in that contrary way instead of in the way the are in fact foreknown as going to happen – and, indeed the knowledge by which God knew absolutely that such and such things would come to be is not a cause of the things, but rather, once the order of things that we see has been posited by the free determination of the divine will, then (as Origen and the other Fathers observe) the effects will issue forth from their causes – naturally from natural causes, freely and contingently with respect to both parts from free causes – just as if God had no foreknowledge of future events. From this it clearly follows that no prejudice at all is done to freedom of choice or to the contingency of things by God’s foreknowledge, aforeknowledge through which, because of the infinity and wholly unlimited perfection and acumen of His intellect, He sees with certainty what the free causes placed in any order of things will do, even though they could really, if they so willed do the contrary; rather, even though that knowledge exists, freedom of choice and the contingency of things with respect to both parts remains intact, just as if there were no foreknowledge. (Molina Translation by Freddoso. Concordia Disp 52 para 29.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

White on Molinism

James White discussed Molinism on a recent dividing line. (link) His two primary criticisms of middle knowledge (God's know what you would do under any circumstances) were 1) it doesn't accomplish God's goal of giving man freewill, which makes man robots and doesn't escape unconditional election and 2) middle knowledge removes God's sovereignty and places too much in the hands of man's autonomous freewill, thereby limiting what God can do with His creation and robbing God of His glory. Awkwardly for Dr. White, sometimes he would raise both objections in the same train of thought - seemingly unaware of how at odds these to claims are to each other. Both cannot be problems at the same time. Nor were his objections based on two distinct aspects of Molinism; they were both based directly on the idea that God knows what you would do under any circumstances. It's odd that those objecting to Molinism's consistency use such inconsistent approaches such as this.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Files: McCant's A Wesleyan Interpretation of Romans 5-8

Jerry McCant's Interpretation of Romans 5-8 is in response to a request to provide a Wesleyan view of Romans 6-8. He expands the scope to cover chapter 5, since he finds a close connection between 5 and 6. While I personally didn't like McCant's not finding original sin in Romans 5 or his saying Paul's analogies in Romans 6 & 7 have problems, McCant does make some interesting points. Overall, McCant does not find a Wesleyan 'second work of grace' in the passage.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Impact of Arminius on Calvinism

My recent post about Arminius' impact on Calvinism drew criticisms from Turretinfan and Steve Hays. (link) TF suggests one could read my article and come to the conclusion that Arminius was a infralapsarian. I am not sure how that could be, given I said Dort condemned Arminianism.

Steve wonders if I think Arminius originated some ideas that impacted Calvinism, but I had said "Arminius didn't teach anything new". Origination of the ideas isn't the only way to impact an outcome. Piscator fought tooth and nail to keep the 'well meant' offer out of the confession, at one point saying he would count the rest of the synodists as Remonstrants if he didn't get his way on the issue, but in the end he as overruled. (Womock. Calvinist Cabinet Unlocked. 94) It's important that the issue turned out this way rather than that, and Arminius got attention on the issue by point out the drawbacks of denying a well meant offer.

TF said "When the Westminster Assembly (still later) adopted their confession and catechisms they were actually more careful (I'd say) to avoid making the Supra/Infra distinction a confessional matter."

Dort debated the issue of infra/supra. Gomarus championed the supra side, along with at least Piscator, Festus Hominmius, Henricus Aroldi, Baltazar Lydius and Gisbertus Voetius (Acts of National Synod of Dort. Part 1. 233) . The synod choose their wording on this issue carefully.

But TF's comment about the 'openness' of the WCF reminders me of another point. TF notes well the WCF is open to supra, but WCF is also open to unlimited atonement. It was written such that both 5 point Calvinists and 4 pointers would be satisfied. TF himself has noted Arminius' influence on Amyraldianism. So that's another way in which Arminius impacted Calvinism. (I didn't note this in my first post, because Arminius' influence here was certainly far more remote.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Arminius' Impact on Calvinism

Arminius didn't teach anything new, but his shoulders were strong enough to carry the cause of the many non-Calvinist Protestants of his day. While his influence on non-Calvinists was the strongest, I did want to point out on this the 400th anniversary of his death, his influence on Calvinism.

As those familiar with Arminius know, his primary issue with Calvinism was supra-lapsarianism - the idea that the decree of unconditional election logically precedes the decree of the fall. In supra-lapsarianism, God uses the fall as a means of coming up with the end. It's like planning a trip. First you set the destination, then you plan the route. In supra-lapsarianism, God first decides who to glorify and who to destroy, then He plans for man to fall so they will need salvation and punishment in Hell.

Arminius' writings against the supra-lapsarians Perkins and Gomorus focused on that issue, as did his commentary on Romans 9 and his declaration of sentiments. Sub-lapsarianism is treated as an after thought and dismissed as inconsistent. Even his dialogue with the sub-lapsarian Junius was spent on demonstrating that supra-lapsarians went 'that far'. If there hadn't been supra-lapsarianism, I doubt there would have been an Arminius.

How did Arminius' efforts against supra-lapsarianism impact Calvinism? The Canons of Dort are sub-lapsarian, not supra-lapsarian. From the Canons of Dort: Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery.... those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. (link)

Arminius pointed out enough problems with supra-lapsarianism and got enough attention on the issue, that the synod moved away from supra-lapsarianism. No doubt, Arminius' role was contributory rather than individually decisive, but then again, Arminius is best seen as the 'point of the spear' in non-Calvinism, rather than a rogue elephant.

Additionally, Dort adopted Arminus' language regarding a serious call. Here's what Arminius said: Whomsoever God calls, he calls them seriously, with a will desirous of their repentance and salvation. (Works of James Arminius) Here's were Dort picked up the same language: Nevertheless, all who are called through the gospel are called seriously. For seriously and most genuinely God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him. Seriously he also promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to him and believe. (Dort)

Finally, Arminius and Dort agreed that God is not the author of sin.

Based on Dort's affirming sub-lapsarianism and a 'well meant' offer of the gospel and denying God is the author of sin, the issue with Calvinism today is consistency rather than blasphemy. What a vital contribution to Calvinism! No doubt, I am seeing the thin silver lining on a huge gray cloud, since Dort condemned Arminianism, but it's good to know the bulk of Arminius' work was not lost on Calvinists.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Files: Cottrell "Sovereignty and Free Will"

In Jack Cottrell's article, Sovereignty and Free Will, he discusses the question: is there a logical incompatibility between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man? He points out that every detail may be included in God's decree without everything's being determined or effectuated by God. God decided to give man freedom; God has sovereignly and absolutely determined man's freedom, but not man's free acts. This is the way he planned it, decreed it, created it. God is in control, in that he is the creator and sustainer of all and that God controls the external circumstances of a man through his divine providence and he works within the heart through the Holy Spirit, but not to the point that man is left without choice. God works even to the point of opening or hardening the heart, yet without turning the will itself to one side or the other and always within the frame work of His foreknowledge.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Files: Dunn, A DISCOURSE ON THE FREEDOM OF THE WILL

In Dunn's article, A Discourse on the Freedom of the Will he dispatches Jonathan Edwards two main arguments in a quick and decisive manor. He responses to Edwards' cause of a volition dilemma (infinite regression of causes or causeless cause) by pointing out that Edwards begs the question regarding the definition and nature of causes and that his argument undermines God's freedom. Following Edwards' principles, Dunn argues: therefore there never was a divine volition without a pre-existing motive. Hence there was a time when there was no force in the universe, but the force of motive; and when there either was no God, or else no active God. If we take one horn of the dilemma, and say there was a God, but a God without volition, and consequently without activity or character, we have the Pantheist's God. If we take the other, and affirm that previous to volition there was no intelligent God, we have the God of the Atheist. In either case, the universe presents but a vast blind machine, driven by fate through the immensity ,of space and duration.

Dunn counters Edwards claim that Calvinism explains how God knows the future and Arminianism does not, by stating God is infinite, filling all space, and even filling all duration, there, can be no object or evidence between him and the object or fact known. God knows the future directly, not indirectly by way of predetermining it or any other mediating factor.

Dunn also address the practical implications of Calvinism, point out that is it not universally known, that in their efforts for changing the hearts and characters of men--for promoting morality and religion, they leave entirely out of sight their peculiar views upon this question, and address themselves to common sense and common consciousness... Does not this fact go to show most conclusively, that our opponents themselves have no confidence in the practical influence of their doctrine, and especially when any great practical interest is at stake?

I thought this articles was fabulous!