Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Calvinism’s problems with Total Depravity

This post will be an attempt to add some detail to earlier comments about problems reconciling Calvinism and total depravity, using John Hendryx post as an example (here). To my knowledge, it’s a new argument against Calvinism. Most Arminians are quick to agree with Calvinists on total depravity to avoid being called semi-Pelagian. However, this in my opinion is a mistake, not because Arminians disagree with total depravity, but because Calvinists have some definitional and consistency problems with affirming total depravity.

Here's the basic argument:

Premise 1: Per Calvinists, total depravity is a problem with man’s desires, it is a moral and spiritual problem. However, the depraved person is not physically or mentally handicapped or under coercion. The depraved still choose, they just always choose wrong when it comes to faith in Christ and pleasing God.

Premise 2: Calvinists are compatible determinists. God’s decrees determines all things but we remain free in some sense. This freedom grounds moral responsibility and biblical statements of man’s abilities. This freedom is couched in man’s natural abilities. So long as we are not physically or mentally handicapped or under coercion, we are free. In this sense, Calvinists commonly say, if it’s true that you would brush your teeth if you wanted to, you are free and able to brush you’re teeth.

Conclusion 1: So the depraved man has the freedom to trust in Christ or please God (with freedom understood in the compabilist sense above). So per the compatiblist sense of freedom and ability, man is not totally depraved. (from P1 & P2)

This may not look bad yet, but if you have reached this conclusion, you’re going to end up with problems with the clarity of scripture, consistency, and even the authority of scripture.

For example:

Premise 3: The bible says man in a totally depraved state is unable to trust in Christ or please God (John 6:44, Romans 8:7, John 15:5)

Premise 4: The bible was written to the common man and it’s statements on abilities or inabilities are to be understood with common notions of abilities and inabilities. (Clarity of Scripture)

Premise 5: Calvinists apologists claim the compatiblist sense of freedom is the ordinary, everyday common man sense of man’s freedom.

Conclusion 3: So the compatiblist sense of freedom’s denial of total depravity contradicts scripture. (C1, P3, P4, P5)

Premise 6: Calvinists deny man has free will with respect to trusting Christ or pleasing God.

Conclusion 4: Calvinism is inconsistent, asserting depraved man can and cannot trust Christ and please God.

Now let’s turn to John Hendryx’s post.

JH: First, I want to assure you that I believe man is required to respond in faith to the gospel. But that does not mean that the natural man has a free will to believe in Jesus. I think the issue here is about definitions. It is important to define what we are talking about up front. When you say man has a free will, what do you mean? Free from what? Free from sin? Also let me say that if you think Dr. John MacArthur is arguing for free will then, I believe, you may have profoundly misunderstood him. He actually affirms exactly the same thing all other Reformed thinkers do about this issue.

I agree defining free will is vital. I know you were not asking me but if it helps, by free will, I mean libertarian free will. But right now I am more interested in what does Calvinism mean by free will.

JH: With him, we affirm that all men make voluntary choices and no one is coercing anyone against their will to make a choice. We always chose what we desire the most.

This grants premise 2. So long as we are not coerced or handicapped, we are free and able to act.

JH: But that is not the issue of the free will debate...

Which free will debate? I understand the freewill vs. divine determinism debate is different than the Pelagian vs. Total Depravity debate. But it’s not like Calvinism can say one thing in the freewill vs. divine determinism debate and then contradict those statements in the Pelagian vs. Total Depravity debate.

JH: Problem is that the person without the Holy Spirit (the unregenerate) always desires that which is contrary to God. Nothing he does proceeds from a heart that loves God. The issue of free will (or not) is to ask this: left to themselves (as fallen human creatures who are in bondage to a corruption of nature), does anyone have a free will to believe in Jesus Christ? 

This grants premise 1, so you’re stuck with conclusion 1.

Man’s problem is his evil desires. Now evil desires matter quite a bit in the Pelagian vs. Total Depravity debate, but they don’t matter in the freewill vs. divine determinism debate. It doesn’t matter that a person cannot desire good. What matters is that if they did desire good, they would do good.

JH: We all have a will, but we use it wrongly... we do not have the will to believe in Christ

The part before the comma implies we can trust and obey, the part after implies we cannot.

What’s the alternative? By “we use it wrongly”, you don’t mean inability? That denies total depravity, which you just affirmed. By “we have a will” you don’t mean ability? How then do you deal with passages saying we have abilities?

JH: The need for grace does away with free will altogether because if man's will was naturally free he would not need grace at all. He could come to Christ on his own. 
The need for grace does not do away with compatiblist free will. So long as man is unforced and not handicapped,the is free and able to trust and obey. He can come to Christ.
JH: But ask yourself, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will anyone freely come to faith in Christ? If your answer is no, then you reject free will the same way I do. 

My answer is no, but I I don't reject free will in the same way you do. I say we don't have libertarian free will to come to Christ, but surely you don't mean this? I reject our ability to come to Christ in the common sense notion of free will or ability.
JH: So to teach man has a free will in this sense, i.e. that the natural man has a free will overthrows the gospel ... it is precisely because man is in bondage that he needs Christ to set him free." (John 8:34, 36)

Which is why your philosophical notion of compatiblist freedom is so serious. Never-the-less, thankfully, Calvinists are inconsistent on this point, and end up affirming the gospel anyways.

JH: The discussion about free will has always historically been about the bondage of the will and affections. 

Not always. The free will vs. divine determinism debate has a long and colorful history as well.

JH: And that which is in bondage is not free. 

I agree, but what about a man is bound to sin? His desires or his body? If his desires alone, then per compatiblism, he is free.

JH: We are not talking about not being free to choose which toothpaste we are going to use tomorrow morning. We are talking about does a fallen person have the ability to make a good saving choice apart from the work of the Holy Spirit

In the compatiblist sense in which a depraved man can use Colgate or not, he can accept Christ or not.

JH: The Bible seems pretty clear on this.
I agree. I affirm depraved man is unable to trust and obey. I mean this in the common man's sense of the term inability, the sense Christ uses - depraved man does not have libertarian freedom with respect to trusting Christ and pleasing God.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How in the World does World mean the Elect?

One of the clearest passages in scripture teaching Christ came to save each and every person is John 12:46-48:

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.  And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

Notice a few things about world.  First, Christ comes "into" the world. You go into a place, in this case Christ went into the planet earth. And who on earth will be judged one day?  Each and every person who ever lived on earth.  So who did Christ come to save?  Every person who has ever lived on the earth,  including those who rejected Him and will be judged on the last day.  One of the key issues in the limited/unlimited atonement debate is God's intention, plan and design in sending Christ into the world and  according to Christ, He came to save the world.  This isn't some overly simple all means all folks- we have strong reason to believe in unlimited atonement.




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Resources on Middle Knowledge

Hopefully this blog is helpful on middle knowledge (middle knowledge tag) But here’s a bunch more resources.

Molina, Luis de, Alfred Freddoso

Molinism, Alfred Freddoso

A Molinist View of Election Or How to Be a Consistent Infralapsarian, by Ken Keatherly

Ducking Friendly Fire: Davison on the Grounding Objection, William Lane Craig

Middle Knowledge, Truth–Makers, and the "Grounding Objection", William Lane Craig

'Men Moved By The Holy Spirit Spoke From God' (2 Peter 1.21): A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Biblical Inspiration, William Lane Craig

"Lest Anyone Should Fall": A Middle Knowledge Perspective on Perseverance and Apostolic Warnings, William Lane Craig

Molinism and Romans 9, William Lane Craig

Grace, Actual and Habitual: A Dogmatic Treatise (especially chapter 3) , Joseph Pohle, Arthur Preuss

Natural Theology (especially book 2, chapter 4), by Bernard Boedder

A collection of tracts concerning predestination and providence, by John Plaifere, Christopher Potter, Laurence Womock, Thomas Goad, Louis Chéron

Sententias posts on Molinism, by Max Andrews

Public Disputation 4 on the Nature of God (especially 30 to 49), by James Arminius

Varieties of Accidental Necessity, by Thomas Flint

New Advent Entry on Molinism

Middle Knowledge entry on Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, By John D. Laing

"They Shall Never Perish": Possible Worlds and the Problem of Eternal Security, by Shandon Guthrie

The Hubner/Feinberg-Guthrie/Fishel Debate:Calvinism vs. Arminianism pt. 2 - On the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

The Hubner/Feinberg-Guthrie/Fishel Debate:Calvinism vs. Arminianism pt. 1 - On the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints

Offline Resources

On Divine Foreknowledge (Part IV of the Concordia) by Luis de Molina

Divine Omniscience and Human Freedom by William Lane Craig

The Only Wise God by William Lane Craig

Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views edited by James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy

Four Views on Divine Providence edited by Stanley N. Gundry and Dennis W. Jowers

Divine Providence: The Molinist Account by Thomas P. Flint

Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach by Kenneth Keathley

Molinism: The Contemporary Debate by Ken Perszyk

'Was Arminius a Molinist?, Eef Dekker Is Molinism as Bad as Calvinism?, Jerry Walls

Monday, January 21, 2013

Depravity and Grace in Divorce

Many take Christ’s words in Matthew 19:11 as only talking about the gift of celibacy – not marrying to focus on God.  But Christ’s words have another aspect – if your heart is hard, you will not accept God’s restrictions on divorce and sleeping around.  Here’s the passage in context.

Matthew 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” 11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

Look at the disciples comment.  If we [can’t dump or wives for any reason or sleep around], then it’s better not to marry.  For some, there may be good reasons not to marry, but God’s marriage laws are not one of them.  So growth rates in divorce and sex outside of marriage are a sign of increased hardness of hearts.
Moses permitted divorce because he had a nation of sinners to run.  Those with hard hearts cannot accept God’s restrictions on divorce and adultery.  But if God helps then (those to whom it has been given), then they are able to accept it, and they should accept it (He who is able to accept it, let him accept it). 

So for those facing divorce, I think we have two cases: those who can accept God’s marriage rules and those who can’t.  So if we struggle with obeying God’s marriage rules; we should thank God for His graciously enabling us to accept His rules as our standard in the first place.  God has not abandoned us to the hardness of heart that rejects and cannot accept His rules.  Sometimes the spirit is willing, but the flesh is week, so we must pray not to enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41). 

If on the other hand, we cannot accept God’s marriage rules, we really should be asking why not?  It is true that God isn’t giving us the grace to be able to accept His marriage rules, but why not?  Sometimes we do not have ears to hear, because we are unwilling to receive the message (Matthew 11:14-15).  In other words, hardness of heart about God’s marriage laws may betray some deeper stubbornness in our fundamental relationship with God.    

Now for those Calvinist who deny free will with respect to God's marriage rules - you have done well, but not gone far enough.  You must also get rid of your philosophy which says, a man is able to do something, if he would do it were he to want to.  So you're really saying "we can and cannot obey God's rules on divorce".  On one side of this contraction  you have the implication that man is physically and mentally handicapped when it comes to divorce.  On the other, you have the implication that notwithstanding what Christ said, in the normal sense man can accept God's rules on divorce.  Without this philosophical obstacle  our need for God's grace shines clear.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chrysostom on LFW and Resistable Grace

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:” and this is worse than death. Then to show how it is at once death and enmity; “for it is not subject to the Law of God,” he says, “neither indeed can be.” But be not troubled at hearing the “neither indeed can be.” For this difficulty admits of an easy solution. For what he here names “carnal mindedness” is the reasoning (or “way of thinking,” λογισμὸν) that is earthly, gross, and eager-hearted after the things of this life and its wicked doings. It is of this he says “neither yet can” it “be subject” to God. And what hope of salvation is there left, if it be impossible for one who is bad to become good? This is not what he says. Else how would Paul have become such as he was? how would the (penitent) thief, or Manasses, or the Ninevites, or how would David after falling have recovered himself? How would Peter after the denial have raised himself up? (1 Cor. v. 5.) How could he that had lived in fornication have been enlisted among Christ’s fold? (2 Cor. ii. 6–11.) How could the Galatians who had “fallen from grace” (Gal. v. 4), have attained their former dignity again? What he says then is not that it is impossible for a man that is wicked to become good, but that it is impossible for one who continues wicked to be subject to God. Yet for a man to be changed, and so become good, and subject to Him, is easy. For he does not say that man cannot be subject to God, but, wicked doing cannot be good. As if he had said, fornication cannot be chastity, nor vice virtue. And this it says in the Gospel also, “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit” (Matt. vii. 18), not to bar the change from virtue to vice, but to say how incapable continuance in vice is of bringing forth good fruits. For He does not say that an evil tree cannot become a good one, but that bring forth good fruit it cannot, while it continues evil. For that it can be changed, He shows from this passage, and from another parable, when He introduces the tares as becoming wheat, on which score also He forbids their being rooted up; “Lest,” He says, “ye root up also the wheat with them” (ib. xiii. 29); that is, that which will spring (γίνεσθαι, 4 mss. τίκτεσθαι) from them. It is vice then he means by carnal mindedness, and by spiritual mindedness the grace given, and the working of it discernible in the right determination of mind, not discussing in any part of this passage, a substance and an entity, but virtue and vice. For that which thou hadst no power to do under the Law, now, he means, thou wilt be able to do, to go on uprightly, and with no intervening fall, if thou layest hold of the Spirit’s aid. For it is not enough not to walk after the flesh, but we must also go after the Spirit, since turning away from what is evil will not secure our salvation, but we must also do what is good. And this will come about, if we give our souls up to the Spirit, and persuade our flesh to get acquainted with its proper position, for in this way we shall make it also spiritual; as also if we be listless we shall make our soul carnal. For since it was no natural necessity which put the gift into us, but the freedom of choice placed it in our hands, it rests with thee henceforward whether this shall be or the other. For He, on His part, has performed everything. For sin no longer warreth against the law of our mind, neither doth it lead us away captive as heretofore, for all that state has been ended and broken up, and the affections cower in fear and trembling at the grace of the Spirit. But if thou wilt quench the light, and cast out the holder of the reins, and chase the helmsman away, then charge the tossing thenceforth upon thyself.  (John Chrysostom's comments on Romans 8:7)


Monday, January 14, 2013

Does the "Age of Accountability" Imply Infants are Sinless?

No, even if infants sin, that does not mean God would send then to hell if they die.  The "age of accountability" is more about the time when children can trust in Christ for salvation, rather then when they can first sin.  Most parents realize their young children do things they shouldn't long before they can understand the Gospel.  I tried explaining this to a Presbyterian once, but he insisted the age of accountability means young children are not moral agents - they cannot sin.  So here's a few quotes on the age of accountability (frankly the first three hits off a Google search, but they do the trick).

"It doesn't mean that they are not fallen; it doesn't mean that they are not sinful -- it does mean that God mercifully treats them as "innocent" in spite of that, and He has to exercise grace to do that, just as He exercises grace to save those who believe." (John MacArthur Grace to you)

"Frequently lost in the discussion regarding the age of accountability is the fact that children, no matter how young, are not “innocent” in the sense of being sinless... The age of accountability is a concept that teaches those who die before reaching the age of accountability are automatically saved, by God’s grace and mercy. The age of accountability is a belief that God saves all those who die before reaching the ability to make a decision for or against Christ. ...The fact that Christ's death was sufficient for all sin would allow the possibility of God’s applying that payment to those who were never capable of believing." (Got Questions)

"But second, since that response is based on one’s ability to comprehend and respond to the message, a person becomes personally accountable when he or she reaches a point where they have the spiritual and mental facility to grasp the issues. This does not mean they are not sinful, but only that they have not reached a place where they can understand." (Bible.org - What does the Bible say about the age of accountability? )

John 6:44 – Compatible with Compatiblism?

Both Calvinist and Arminians hold to total depravity, which minimally includes the idea that man cannot believe without God’s grace, but they mean very different things by this. Most of the historic controversy has centered on what each side means by God’s grace; but it’s time to look at what each side means by “man cannot believe”. I am going to argue that total depravity is not compatible with compatiblism. Because Arminianism asserts and Calvinism denies total depravity in ordinary everyday language, Arminianism makes better sense of total depravity.

John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  (See also Job 15:14, Romans 8:7-8, John 6:65, John 15:5, and Romans 5:6)

When our Lord says “no man can come to me”, does He mean we would not come to Him even if we wanted to? No if we wanted to we would come. Christ is not saying we have a physical defect with our minds, such that we cannot think the thoughts. So in the classical compatiblistic sense of saying a man can do something, if it’s true that he would do it if he wanted to, we would deny Christ’s words and say yes man can come, because it’s true that he would come if he wanted to.

When our Lord says “no man can come to me”, does He mean we have dispositions such that we would not come to Him even if we wanted to? No if we wanted to we could come. So on dispositional compatiblism, we would deny Christ’s words and say yes man can come, because he has dispositions such that he would come if he wanted to.

When our Lord says “no man can come to me”, does He mean we know for certain we will never come to Christ? No, for no one knows for certain they are reprobate. So on epistemic compatiblism, we would deny Christ’s words and say yes man can come, because we don’t know that we will not come.

Yet classic compatiblism, dispositional compatiblism and epistemic compatiblism are the three main engines compatiblists use to interpret ordinary everyday statements on ability. So John 6:44 is not compatible with compatiblism. While this problem never crosses the lips of Calvinist popularizers such as Piper, Sproul, and White; Johnathan Edwards admits total depravity is an improper use of language and using language normally can do good.1 Tell that to Christ!

But the bible affirms and never denies that man cannot believe without God's grace. This is because the bible was written to the ordinary man in ordinary language.
When our Lord says, "no man can come to me" does He mean we cannot come? Period. Without qualification. Yes. We do not have libertarian freedom respecting conversion. Unlike Calvinism, which in ordinary language must affirm man's ability to believe, man cannot believe without God's grace.

---------------------------
1But it must be observed concerning moral Inability, in each kind of it, that the word Inability is used in a sense very diverse from its original import. The word signifies only a natural Inability, in the proper use of it; and is applied to such cases only wherein a present will or inclination to the thing, with respect to which a person is said to be unable, is supposable. It cannot be truly said, according to the ordinary use of language, that a malicious man, let him be never so malicious, cannot hold his hand from striking, or that he is not able to show his neighbor kindness; or that a drunkard, let his appetite be never so strong, cannot keep the cup from his mouth. In the strictest propriety of speech, a man has a thing in his power, if he has it in his choice, or at his election: and a man cannot be truly said to be unable to do a thing, when he can do it if he will. It is improperly said, that a person cannot perform those external actions, which are dependent on the act of the Will, and which would be easily performed, if the act of the Will were present. (Edwards.  Freedom of the Will.  I.4)

Friday, January 11, 2013

You're Philosophy; I’m Scripture

Recently I had separate conversations with Steve Hays and Turretinfan both of which got down to the charge that "you're using philosophical speculation, I am using scripture".  A serious charge, this; one wants his theology to be grounded in scripture rather than floating away via the levitating power of thin air. However, faith and reason are often intertwined; can you even trust scripture's words without trusting your eyes, ears and brain more than some philosophers are willing to do? We all have philosophies whether we are aware of them or not.

My comments in blue; Steve and Turretinfan's comments in red.

------------------------------

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/12/outside-camp.html


Steve: Then I read a book by Jerry Walls and David Baggett which says my God could command people to torture little children for the fun of it.


When I read that, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. It doesn’t offend me. But it does alienate me. It instantly dissolves any sense of spiritual rapport between me and Jerry or David. A chasm opens up between us. They can’t talk that way about my God, and still expect to be friends. That’s too compartmentalized. Too horizontal–at the expense of the vertical.


Now, you might respond, “Oh, we’re not talking about God. We’re just talking about your idea of God. Your Calvinist conception of God.”


Except that if I’m right, then my idea of God maps onto the one true God–just as you think your Arminian concept of God maps onto the one true God.


Me:I appreciate your commitment to making theology practical but I fear you may not understand your Arimian opponents. I could be wrong, maybe Walls and Olson do go too far, but take this classic comment by Wesley: 

"You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. But you say you will prove it by scripture. Hold! What will you prove by Scripture? That God is worse than the devil? It cannot be. Whatever that Scripture proves, it never proved this; whatever its true meaning be. This cannot be its true meaning."

I assume you do not think God is worse than the devil. So you and Wesley agree that God is not worse than the devil. That’s vital common ground.

Perhaps you think Wesley is saying, “if Calvinism is true, then God is worse than the devil”, and that’s the offense. Maybe verbally Wesley, Olson or Walls say that, but they could never mean by it what that statement means to you.

For an Arminian, Calvinism is inconsistent and for a Calvinist, Arminianism is inconsistent. Sure you can make sense of this claim here and that claim there, but the whole system is at odds with itself. You can never understand a contradiction.

What Wesley is most likely doing is combining an incompatiblist notion of moral responsibility with the idea that God unconditionally reprobates. He’s saying that would make God worse than the devil. He rules out a compatiblist notion of responsibility as incoherent. And if you believe reprobation requires a compatibilist notion of moral responsibility, then you might even agree that reprobation and an incompatiblist notion of moral responsibility would make God worse than the devil. If you agree, that’s vital common ground.



Steve: I appreciate your commitment to making theology practical but I fear you may not understand your Arimian opponents.”

Funny that David Baggett didn’t think to accuse me of that.

This isn’t about how Calvinists understand Arminianism, but how Arminians understand Calvinism.

I assume you do not think God is worse than the devil. So you and Wesley agree that God is not worse than the devil. That’s vital common ground.”

That’s not really common ground since we don’t agree on what would make God devilish. Therefore, the superficial agreement is equivocal.

“Perhaps you think Wesley is saying, ‘if Calvinism is true, then God is worse than the devil’, and that’s the offense.”

I didn’t say it was “offensive.” I said it was “alienating.”

Maybe verbally Wesley, Olson or Walls say that, but they could never mean by it what that statement means to you.”

They mean that if God has the characteristics Calvinists think he has, then he’s morally monstrous, worse than Hitler, worse than the devil, could command people to torture little kids for fun.

What Wesley is most likely doing is combining an incompatiblist notion of moral responsibility with the idea that God unconditionally reprobates.”

I don’t think he distinguishes between unconditional and conditional reprobation. Rather, he’s indignant at the notion that God never gave them a chance.

And if you believe reprobation requires a compatibilist notion of moral responsibility, then you might even agree that reprobation and an incompatiblist notion of moral responsibility would make God worse than the devil. If you agree, that’s vital common ground.

I don’t agree. I don’t begin with a theory of moral responsibility, then use my preconceived theory to pick out which God I’m prepared to believe in.



Me: Baggett and I probably agree on the big picture (i.e. on soteriology and that Calvinists are brothers in Christ). And this issue is a two way street, I have to deal with the fact that Calvinists sometimes say that on Arminianism, God is not sovereign, He’s a cosmic bell hop, a looser.

You and Wesley have very different notions of what conditional reprobation means.


It doesn’t really matter if you start with what the bible says about responsibility or somewhere else. Responsibility is an important part of the soteriological picture; everyone has to get around to it. The bible says sin is against God’s will - something He hates, laments and takes efforts to avoid. You may think we are overly philosophical when it comes to God’s will in predestination, but we think Calvinists wax philosophical when it comes to God’s will concerning sin. 

For my part, I think it’s less dangerous to ask the why and how questions than not ask them.

But it remains that if you insert a single Calvinist tenant into an Arminian worldview, you get a bizarre result. Likewise, Arminians don’t have a concept for a whole Calvinist worldview – it just looks inconsistent to us. Either Calvinists or Arminianians are inconsistent, but not blasphemers.



Steve: “And this issue is a two way street, I have to deal with the fact that Calvinists sometimes say that on Arminianism, God is not sovereign, He’s a cosmic bell hop, a looser.

Those are two very different streets. That’s quite mild compared to saying God is worse than Satan, a moral monster, &c.

You and Wesley have very different notions of what conditional reprobation means.

Actually, I expect Wesley was subconsciously reacting to his tyrannical father.

It doesn’t really matter if you start with what the bible says about responsibility or somewhere else.”

It makes a hell of a difference whether we start with a philosophical preconception of responsibility, then say God is Satanic or morally monstrous if he doesn’t measure up to our philosophical preconception.

The bible says sin is against God’s will - something He hates, laments and takes efforts to avoid.

You sound like an open theist.

But it remains that if you insert a single Calvinist tenant into an Arminian worldview, you get a bizarre result.”

I didn’t insert a Calvinist tenet into Arminianism. I was working off of how Arminians like Olson, Baggett, Wesley, and Walls characterize Reformed theism as well as their own position.

Either Calvinists or Arminianians are inconsistent, but not blasphemers.”

If the inconsistency was merely based on misinterpreting Scripture, that wouldn’t be blasphemous. But to compare God to Hitler, the Devil, &c., based on a philosophical postulate, is most certainly blasphemous.

Me: “The bible says sin is against God’s will (John 7:17) - something He hates (Psalms 45:7), laments (Luke 19:41-42) and takes efforts to avoid (Jeremiah 2:30).”
Do I still sound like an open theist
?

Steve: Since open theists quote the Bible, too, how does merely quoting the Bible distinguish your position from an open theist? What have you quoted that an open theist would take issue with?

Me: I wasn't really trying to distinguish my position from open theism, but I didn't think I had to. Do you think the Bible itself sounds open theistic?

Steve: It's a question of your hermeneutic.

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http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2013/01/dont-conflate-middle-knowledge-and.html

Turretinfan: Rather, he [Dan] is missing an argument for the distinctively Molinistic view as contrasted with a Bañezians (aka Thomistic) or Calvinistic view. In other words, we firmly agree that God knows future contingents that are contingent on creaturely freedom (the so-called counter-factuals of freedom). We simply affirm that God knows those future contingents postvolitionally. 

Nothing in or about the cited verses suggests a prevolitional knowledge, and thus appeals to these verses continue to leave Molinism without support as to its distinctive assertions. We recognize that some Molinists, such as William Lane Craig, are content to acknowledge that Molinism is not something taught by Scripture, and we think that all Molinists ought to join with him in this important concession.


Me: I doubt many Calvinists actually hold that God decreed what they would do if they were Gandolf the Gray. If they did the might not be so quick to say my view was speculative and not based on scripture. But until determinists put forward some more plausible account of counterfactuals of creaturly freedom then they have done, middle knowledge does provide the best reading of these text.

Turretinfan: I don't see the Gandolf the Gray problem as a serious objection either to Calvinism or Molinism (I don't think many Molinists actually hold that God middle-knew what they would do if they were Gandolf the Gray), but if it is a problem for Calvinism it is at least as big a problem for Molinism.
d) Just asserting that compatibilism isn't a plausible account seems to beg the question. 


Me: On Gandolf, part of my point was that the Dominicans were more influenced by the scolastics and natural theology in general than modern Calvinists. That's partly why they don't respond to Molinism the same way modern Calvinists do and if your average Calvinist were steeped in the scolastics; they probably wouldn't object to Molinism on the basis that it's overly philosophical.
On compatiblism and scripture, I have argued on the subject here: 

http://www.traditionalbaptistchronicles.com/2012/10/1-corinthians-1013-teaches-libertarian.html
 

Turretinfan: Partly that's because post-Reformation Dominicans had less of an emphasis on Sola Scriptura.
If you want your theology to be accepted amongst the children of the Reformation, it has to come from Scripture. 


I will re-read your argument from 1 Corinthians, but my recollection is that it has the same problem as the arguments I've linked to above, namely that it falls short of actually demonstrating LFW from Scripture. 

Me: By putting space between Calvinists and the Dominicans and by conceding most Calvinists don't hold to decrees regarding Gandolf, you have shot your on views on Gandolf in their gigantic gray boots.
What, the Dominians believed in decrees regarding Gandolf because of philosophy whereas some small number of Calvinists get those same views from scripture? Um, double-standard. 


Turretinfan: respectfully decline to agree with your characterizations. I think the preceding comments are clear enough.
"What, the Dominians believed in decrees regarding Gandolf because of philosophy whereas some small number of Calvinists get those same views from scripture? Um, double-standard. "

Even assuming I were saying that the Thomists/Banezians/Dominicans got to the same conclusion by philosophy that we get to by Scripture (that's not what I'm saying, but let's run with it), that's not a "double standard," that's a one-two knockout combination.

Moreover, if Molinism loses when evaluated just by philosophy (e.g. Harry Frankfurt) and then if it also loses when evaluated based on Scripture (e.g., Francis Turretin), that's not a double-standard, just a loss on two fronts. 

Thanks to Steve and Turretinfan for taking the time to share their thoughts on these subjects!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Middle Knowledge in Exodus 3:19

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. (Exodus 3:19)

Pharaoh wouldn't let the Hebrews go - not out of love for God or the Hebrews.  Not from guilt or respect or fear or reason or wisdom.  No, it took force.  And how did God know that all non-forceful ways would not lead Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go?  Because He knows what anyone would choose under any circumstances.  This passages support for middle knowledge is less famous then say, Matthew 11:21, but it is more broad.  God knew that a vast array of options Moses could have tried would not lead Pharaoh to freely release the Hebrews.