February 12, 2010

Dr. Brown Answers Your Questions (Including More on Calvinism and the Tyra Banks Show and Transgenderism)

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105 Comments
  1. Robert,

    One quick note: I took up the issue of how God could express pain and even apparent disappointment in the Reflection to Jer 3:19 in my Jeremiah commentary. If you get a chance to look at it, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    You state: “Anyone reading scripture without the axe to grind of defending and arguing for and supporting theological determinism/compatibilism, reading the ordinary language utterances of scripture in which situations are described where people are not only making a choice but also as having a choice, is going to conclude that the bible presents the ordinary understanding of free will.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

  2. Hello Dr. Brown,

    “One quick note: I took up the issue of how God could express pain and even apparent disappointment in the Reflection to Jer 3:19 in my Jeremiah commentary. If you get a chance to look at it, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.”

    I will definitely get back to you on that soon. I sometimes buy books through Borders bookstores as they sometimes have good discount coupons if you have their free membership program. Recently, they had a coupon in which you could get 33% off the price of any one item (plus they will ship it to your home for free). So I ordered your commentary, got the 33% off, plus free shipping, and I should be receiving it any day now!

    I am really looking forward to seeing your commentary. I have really appreciated your blog and what you are doing in your ministry so I expect the commentary will be great!

    Robert

  3. Dr. Brown said:

    “First, why do you insist on using language that already prejudices the argument (namely, “libertarian free will”)?”

    To be honest, I had no idea this label would offend you. What would you prefer I call your position?

    Dr. Brown said:

    “This already exposes an inability to rightly understand the position you are rejecting, a serious flaw if one intends to have constructive interaction.”

    What is your position? If you look back to my first post here, that is what I was asking. Robert claimed to understand what it is you believe and since you haven’t corrected him I have assumed he was correct. If I was wrong in assuming that, please forgive my mistake and tell me what your position is.

    Dr. Brown said:

    “Second, why do you read things into my simple statement?”

    Can you blame me for thinking you were attempting to answer the question I posed to you since you preface your answer with, “As for God having freedom to choose…”? Are you telling me you were just making a general statement that had no relation to my question whatsoever?

    Dr. Brown said:

    “Does He choose something contrary to His nature? Of course not.

    I really do want to understand you, Dr. Brown. Are you saying God is in fact able to do that which is contrary to His nature, but He chooses not to? The reason I’m asking you is because here you use the word “Does” instead of “Can”, which implies ability. Robert has been arguing that in order to “have” a choice one must be able to choose otherwise. Therefore, according to Robert’s view of what constitutes “having” a choice, if God is not able to choose otherwise then He doesn’t “have” a choice. If you say God is in fact able to choose otherwise, then you are saying He is able to do what is contrary to His nature.

    Dr. Brown said:

    “But once again, you read things into statements based on some very odd, quite unbiblical thinking in your system, coming to wild conclusions.”

    I really don’t know what to make of this statement. It sounds like an insult to me, but I don’t see how anything I have said deserves it.

    Dr. Brown said:

    “I do hope (and I say this with all sincerity) that you will do your best to learn some things from Robert here rather than simply reject sound biblical logic.”

    So if I disagree with Robert I’m rejecting sound biblical logic? Really? I’d like to think that sound biblical logic involves a little more than simply assuming that which you intend to prove.

    Dr. Brown said:

    “Again, I’m doing my best to leave you to discuss things here with Robert and others, but your very odd comments required a response from me for the sake of other readers.”

    What exactly makes my comments very odd? I really don’t understand why you would say something like that, Dr. Brown, unless you were intending to insult me. You would think I’ve been arguing we’re controlled by little green men or something. Instead I disagree with Robert and my comments are labeled “very odd”. Very odd indeed.

  4. Ray,

    I just skimmed through interaction here. Can you give a VERY SHORT summary what you believe? (Example: Calvinist, Hyper-Calvinst, etc…)

  5. I want to deal with Ray’s attempted set up and show some problems with his question. He has repeated his set up a few times but here is how it was first presented:

    “I just don’t have the time right now to respond to all of your objections, but let me ask you one quick question if you don’t mind.
    Does God “have” a choice? Is He able to choose to do evil instead of good?”

    In logic there is a fallacy called “complex question” which occurs when someone asks a question in such a way that you are set up to fail, set up to look bad, set up to have your view misrepresented. The famous example virtually everyone has heard of is expressed in the question: “have you stopped beating your wife?” The question has already hidden within it, an assumption that sets you up to look bad. The assumption is this: that at one time you were in fact beating your wife. So if you answer No, then the response is that you must be continuing to do so. If you answer Yes, then you still look bad because you are admitting that while you are no longer doing so, at one time you did. So either way you answer you are set up to look bad. Lawyers are well known for these kinds of set up questions as were the Pharisees in their interactions with Jesus. The key is to recognize when they are coming and to challenge the hidden assumptions within the question, assumptions that are false, and so taint the whole reasoning process.

    Ray **assumes** a **false definition** of **free will as held by non-Calvinists** attempting to argue against the ordinary understanding of free will. Ray wants to think that we believe a person has free will if they can choose to do anything. But this is a caricature, an intentional misrepresentation of our view. It is also confusing what some believe to be omnipotence (i.e. the ability to do whatever you choose to do) with a mistaken view of free will (i.e. I have free will if I can choose to do anything and no one, not even God, can stop me). Ray’s set up, his complex question starts by assuming that this is what the non-Calvinist means by having free will (though none of us here has stated this to be our view so he is attempting to put words in our mouth and then argue against the words he put there! :-)). The next move is to show that even God does not have THIS “free will”. This is shown by presenting something that presumably God cannot do. So then the argument goes: well even God cannot do THAT, THAT Is what you mean by free will, so if THAT is what you mean by free will, then God does not have it. Ray’s chosen example of what God cannot do is: to do evil. So Ray asks this seemingly innocuous question fully expecting those of us who are not theological determinists to answer that God cannot do evil (or that God cannot choose against His nature, is another common attempt theological determinists put in, to make the “argument” work). Once we answer: No, God cannot do evil or God cannot choose against his nature. Then comes the punch line: well if he can’t do evil (or choose against his nature) and having free will supposedly means doing anything we choose to do, then God obviously does not have what you call free will.

    And where does this whole argument get off track, fail from the get-go?

    It fails when it tries to claim that non-Calvinists ****define having free will**** as the ability to do choose to do anything (recall Ray’s earlier words where he suggests this very caricature of the non-Calvinist position: “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying someone must be able to choose every alternative in order to “have” a real choice. According to this position does God “have” a real choice? Can God choose to do evil instead of good?”)

    I believe that we have free will as ordinarily understood, and this is crucia:I also believe we have free will and yet we do not have the ability to do anything or choose to do anything. I have sometimes heard theological determinists try to argue against free will as ordinarily understood, by saying things like: “Well, can you fly if you choose to do so? No, well then you must not have free will!” Now this is absurd and again is grounded on the caricature, the intentional misrepresentation, of the ordinary understanding of free will as meaning that you can choose to do anything that you want to do. As if having choices amounts to having no limitations and being completely independent of everything else including God! “Dirty Harry” got it right: “a man’s got to know his limitations.” 🙂 And as human persons we most definitely have limitations. And yet having limitations is not equivalent to not ever having choices.

    So Ray’s whole set up ought to be obvious at this point.

    And yet there are other problems with his set up/”argument”.

    A useful distinction to make is between a person having the capacity to have and make choices (which is the way God designed us to be, similar to him in that we can have and make choices as He does, being created in His image) and the **range of choices** that a particular person has. Both Donald Trump and I have the capacity to have and make choices (i.e. we sometimes have free will as ordinarily understood). And yet due to his wealth, when it comes to material things, Trump has a greater range of choices than I do. So we both experience free will as ordinarily understood when it comes to material things (we both have and make choices in regards to material things) and yet his range of choices due to his wealth is much greater than mine. There are also things that both of us cannot do that have nothing to do with whether or not we have free will (neither of us can fly like a bird, neither of us can get pregnant and have children, etc. etc.). And yet no rational person would argue or conclude based on the things that we cannot do that we do not have free will as ordinarily understood. Pointing at things that we cannot do does not prove we do not have free will as ordinarily understood: rather, it shows what our range of choices includes and does not include.

    Having a free will and having a range of choices also applies to God. There are things that God cannot do (e.g. he cannot lie, he cannot engage in stupidity, he cannot commit suicide, etc.) things that are not part of his range of choices. And yet at the same time he has free will. One of the best examples is the creation of the world. God had a choice of whether or not to create the world or to not create the world. God had choices regarding whether or not to create the world with certain features or not to create the world with those certain features. These are all alternative possibilities available to him and then he made choices from among the alternative possibilities (he chose to create a world with the creatures in it that are in it, with the features that the present world has).

    There is another major problem if someone wants to claim that God does not have free will as ordinarily understood. The SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD PRESSUPPOSES THAT GOD HAS FREE WILL, that he has choices. God is sovereign if he can choose to do something or choose not to do something as He pleases. If he has to do something (the action is necessitated) and it is impossible for him to do otherwise, than not only does he not have free will he also cannot be sovereign. The bible says that God is sovereign meaning that he does as He pleases. But if his actions are necessitated, if he has to do what he does and never has a choice, then he cannot do as He pleases and is NOT SOVEREIGN. So if you are going to claim that God is sovereign as the bible clearly affirms, then you have to simultaneously be claiming that he has choices, that he has free will as ordinarily understood.

    Another major problem with the denial of the ordinary understanding of free will, especially with God, is that theological determinists regularly run to Romans 9 as their proof text for the sovereignty of God. And they love to quote the passage that says that he has mercy on whom he desires and he hardens whom he desires (Rom. 9:18). Now again if we operate from the correct understanding of words, from the ordinary understanding of words and what free will means (i.e. not only making a choice but also having a choice). Then if God freely decides whom he mercies and whom he hardens, then he has to have that choice. And if he has that choice then he has free will as ordinarily understood. If he **has to** mercy whom he mercies and he **has to** harden whom he hardens (i.e. his actions are necessitated), then he is **not** sovereign and he does not have free will. But again most of us (except for theological determinists) have no problem understanding that that passage says both that God has a choice and that he is sovereign. Even a theological determinist such as James White understands that God’s sovereignty is tied to his freedom, to his having free will as ordinarily understood. God’s actions are not necessitated, there is no factor outside of God or antecedent to God that forces Him to make the choices that He makes. When He has a choice and then makes a choice He does so freely, as free will is ordinarily understood.

    Robert

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