111 Comments
  1. Christophe,

    You may have answered this already but theres so much to read through, Ill ask again. Do you believe God choses some to go to heaven and some to go to hell? Also, do you believe all babies that die go to heaven.

  2. Dr. Brown said, “Would to God that all Calvinists today had the fire of Whitefield, the saintliness of M’Cheyne, the burden of Judson, and the vision for revival of Edwards!”

    I don’t have knowledge of the full scope of beliefs of these historical Calvinists. Did each of them adhere faithfully to TULIP? Were they Calvinists in name only or did they genuinely believe and preach the tenants of Calvinism? My point for asking this question is as follows: If you disagree with the doctrines of Calvinism (TULIP), and you disagree with their understanding of God’s character, is it reasonable to assume that you then believe that the Jesus of whom they promote is not the biblical Jesus? And if Calvinists aren’t advancing the kingdom of the true, biblical Jesus, do you really want them to follow in the footsteps of others that promoted another jesus?

    Would you rather them follow in the steps of Cartwright, Wesley, Finney, Taylor, Booth, or Graham?

    I guess the question should be asked if the level of perceived error with Calvinism rises to the point of anathema?

  3. Greg,

    These men were certainly consistent Calvinists. And without a doubt, Calvinists do NOT preach another Jesus.

    I have learned from past Arminians and past Calvinists, but ultimately, I learn doctrine from the Word.

  4. Christophe,

    First of all thank you for your responses, I appreciate the honest responses. I do feel in some way the question I asked was deflected a little. Just to fully answer your question, I do have the utmost confidence that when I encounter a lost individual I can assure the individual that God is grieved by their sin state and is a just God who will condemn their sin with physical an spiritual death. I can just as assuredly say God does not delight in the death of the wicked but would rather they repent and live (Ezekiel 18:32). If God does indeed have a desire to see all saved (2 Peter 3:9) and see all men repent, I am confident that God wants the sinner saved. However, this desire also includes His desire for justice and we must bow before God on His terms not ours. That being said God’s desire and His decrees walk hand in hand. God’s desire for our salvation is not precipitated from our response. No, in fact much as the reformed view has rightly highlighted God first loved us. God does make it possible for even the opportunity for salvation because of mercy and His grace.

    I pray that be proclaimed from every tounge, Jesus Saves!

    Thank You,

    -Michael

  5. Amen!

    I think it’s necessary to clear up a very prevalent misconception:

    CHARLES FINNEY WAS NOT AN ARMINIAN.

    If you peruse his Systematic Theology that will quickly become clear. That said, I have to agree with Professor Roger E. Olson in his “Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities” when he said:

    “Classical Arminians adore Finney for his revivalistic passion while deploring him for his bad theology. Finney himself said of Jonathan Edwards, ‘Edwards I revere; his blunders I deplore.’ An evangelical classical Arminian might say ‘Finney I revere; his blunders I deplore’.

    Finney’s Lectures on Revival and his Memoirs are some of the most valuable books in my personal library but I can follow him in much of his theology.

  6. White seems to be basing the genuineness and sincerity of the gospel offer on the fact that all who come find an adequate salvation in Christ and are saved. In other words, the offer is sincere or genuine because all who come are saved in Christ. But is that really a suitable basis for the indiscriminate sincere offer of God to all that hear the gospel call?

    Think about it this way: Suppose I am having a big dinner party at my place and I prepare enough food for 10 people. Then, after these preparations, I go out and invite 50 people to come over to my place and eat. Now, it just so happens that I paricularly care about 10 of the 50 people, so I use special measures to secure their coming to the meal. Consequently, these 10 out of the 50 come and are fed. Is the offer to all in this scenario sincere because the 10 who came were fed? NOT HARDLY! I invited all 50, but only had suitable preparations for the 10. On White’s view, the offer was sincere for the 10, but it was not for the 40, since they really had nothing prepared for them in the first place.

    This corresponds to White’s narrow view of Christ’s accomplishment on the cross. He thinks that Christ only substituted for the elect, and thus only suffered for their sin. Thus, the necessary salvific preparations are *only* made for all the elect, not for anyone else, despite the fact that God is offering Christ to many of the non-elect for whom Christ did *not* make salvific preparations. It is like the guy above, who invites 50 people to eat, but only prepared food enough for 10. Since the 10 dear people end up being fed, White thinks the indiscriminate offer to all the other 40 is also sincere or geniune. That seems like an obvious mistake.

    Not only does White think that Christ has *not* made suitable preparations for the salvation of every man that is invited, he does *not* even think God desires all those invited *to be saved*. That is remarkable! God not only doesn’t have anything in Christ to be offered to the non-elect according to White’s system, he has no desire that any of the invited non-elect partake of this piece of nothingness either. How is *that* even an “offer” at all? It’s not. On White’s theology, the gospel is neither an *offer* nor a *sincere* invitation, seeing that nothing is prepared for most of those invited [the non-elect who hear the external call], and the great King has no desire that all those invited be fed. Or, even more astonishingly, the great King desires the non-elect to come [i.e. to repent], but he doesn’t desire to feed them [salvation].

    Keep in mind that this conception of God and the gospel offer is coming from a popular apologist who thinks he is *very* consistent and *most* rational. He has a God who sincerely offers a marvelous piece of nothingness to the non-elect, and it’s a genuine offer *to all* those invited because the elect who come actually get saved when they come. But wait, it gets even worse. The generous and kind Heavenly Father desires that the non-elect extend their hand to recieve the gift [repent], but he doesn’t want to give them the gift [salvation].

    It is no wonder that James White doesn’t talk about God’s universal love much and the issues involving the well-meant offer. These topics are avoided. He thinks God loves all men, but not so as to desire the highest good for them all [i.e. their salvation]. And, he thinks God is sincerely offering a black hole to the non-elect, and it is genuine *for all* because the elect finally get saved when they come.

    With all due respect, I find that pattern of thinking quite embarassing and deplorable, *especially* when it issues in the torturous interpretation of passages [falsely and frequently called “exegesis”] that *so obviously* teach God’s desire for the salvation of all mankind. White’s Reformed Baptist contemporaries can see it, but White isn’t seeing it, yet. He should *at least* come down to John Murray’s position on the free offer of the gospel, like Dr. John Frame, whom he cited during this broadcast.

  7. God desires all to be saved but none can come to Him without His initial action and for His reason He chooses to enable some and not the others. That is His Divine, Creator and Kingly prerogative and who are we to argue with God?

    But this seems to be plainly contradictory. If God desires all to be saved why doesn’t he enable all? You say that God desires all to be saved but takes the initiative only enable some, and then just appeal to God’s rights, etc. But this obviously doesn’t answer the question at all. Of course God has a right to do whatever He freely decides to do (in accordance with His nature and word), but that is not the issue. The issue is what does God actually do? Certainly the God of truth will not be contradictory or say He desires the salvation of all while rendering it impossible for most to be saved. Do you see why your answer really doesn’t answer the question, but just restates the Calvinist position which still leaves the question unanswered (and IMO unanswerable)?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Sam,

    You wrote,

    In verse 26, it explicitly says, “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” It’s very clear. It is because they are not his sheep that they do not believe. You have to be his sheep BEFORE you can believe. A few verses down, it even tells us how we become Jesus’ sheep. It says in verse 29, “My Father, who has given them to me…” The Father gives people to Jesus. That is how they become his sheep. And his sheep hear his voice and follow him. This is also consistent with John 6:37 where Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” The giving precedes the coming. Have you noticed that in John 10:16, Jesus HAS sheep who WILL hear his voice? Those “other sheep” already belong to Jesus before they have heard him and exercised faith in him. I don’t see how it could be more clear. We do not become Jesus’ sheep by having faith in him. Rather, the Father gives people to Jesus, and as a result, those people inevitably come to Jesus for salvation.

    Did you notice the link that “Arminian” left above to the article by Hamilton on the these John passages? It answers all of your questions from an Arminian perspective. You should really take the time to check it out. Here is the link again:

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/282

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. Andrew,

    I think you are missing the connection between particular redemption and the bondage of the will. The offer is sincere in that, if the non-elect would ever have the inclination to believe in Christ and put their faith in him, they would be saved. However, the question is whether or not they *would* ever have that inclination, given the fact that they are dead in trespasses and in sins.

    We all have inclinations, and we all act upon those inclinations. There is always some reason why we choose one thing over another in any situation. Now, with all of this background, let us set up another scenario, where you have a father who has a son, and this son is a die hard fan of heavy metal music. Let us say that the father wins two different contests, and wins a set of tickets to an opera, and a heavy metal concert. However, the concerts are on the same night at the same time. The father then tells this to that son, and gives him his choice of tickets.

    According to your logic, this is an insincere offer, because the father obviously knows he will never go to the opera. The only downside to this illustration is that the father in the illustration is not omniscient like our heavenly father is. He knows our hearts, and has told us that, before conversion, no one will ever be inclined to “come to the banquet.” That is our inclination, and that is what we will choose 100% of the time, until we are changed by the Holy Spirit.

    Also, again, I have to keep reiterating that I think this line of thinking is dangerous, as it has ramifications to original sin. Is God’s command for us to be holy something that sincere? If it is, then why are we all born into sin, without a choice otherwise, and then punished for that sin? Isn’t the command to “be holy” therefore insincere? God has commanded us to be holy, and promised blessings to those who are holy. These must be totally insincere, since every single person must be a sinner because of original sin.

    I really think that part of the discussion needs to center around what we mean by “free will.” A lot of what I am seeing centers around this idea that man must have an equal ability to choose each option. This scenario reminds me of a story I heard from John Gerstner once about a donkey caught between two bails of hay. The donkey was equally attracted to eating both bails of hay, and couldn’t make up his mind which one to eat, and ended up dying of starvation between the two bails of hay. That is what would happen to us too if there was ever a situation in which we have “free will” in the sense that many people are thinking. However, others may have different views as to what we mean by “free will.” I think a proper definition is important in these kinds of discussions.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  10. Did anyone else notice that Dr. White never really answered Dr. Brown’s basic question? How does Calvinism deal with those texts that says that there are things that happen that God didn’t want? He asked for examples even though Dr. Brown had already given him several. How in the world is God saying “it never entered into my mind” not clear that there was no aspect of His will that wanted what happened?

  11. jcfreak,

    I don’t think Dr. White was avoiding answering questions. When you are on a radio program like Dr. Brown’s where you have crossfire back and forth, with several interruptions due to commercials, it is hard to get to everything.

    The reason I know this is because Dr. White also deals with open theism, and this text, Jeremiah 19:5, is one that open theists use. I have heard him address it on more than one occasion. The key is found in the text itself:

    and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded, or spoke of, nor did it {ever} enter My mind

    Apparently, according to this text, there were people who were saying that God had commanded for them to do these wicked things. God is simply denying this charge, and telling him that it never once crossed his mind to command them build high places to Baal.

    Also, I do think that such an understanding of this passage leads to open theism. If it never entered God’s mind in a crassly literal sense, then it seems to me that it would mean it never entered his mind in terms of his foreknowledge either.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  12. This was addressed to Andrew, but I thought you might have had my comments in mind as well so I wanted to respond.

    I think you are missing the connection between particular redemption and the bondage of the will. The offer is sincere in that, if the non-elect would ever have the inclination to believe in Christ and put their faith in him, they would be saved.

    Going back to my illustration of the gift offered to the cripple it would be like saying that the offer is sincere in that, if the cripple would ever get out of his wheel chair he could accept the gift. But that is plainly impossible, just as it is impossible for the reprobate to choose salvation. Not to mention the fact, again, that there is nothing behind the offer since the atonement was not provided or intended for the reprobate.

    However, the question is whether or not they *would* ever have that inclination, given the fact that they are dead in trespasses and in sins.

    But this confuses the Biblical metaphor of deadness in sin. Dead in sin has reference to a state (separation from God- the source of spiritual life) and not to the inability of a physical corpse. However, the Arminian affirms that God must graciously enable a sinner to believe before he or she can believe. But this enabling does not guarantee a faith response (since God’s grace and call can be resisted), and this enabling is not regeneration.

    We all have inclinations, and we all act upon those inclinations.

    Yes, but you assume that we act on them “irresistibly,” which is yet to be proved. So this is question begging.

    There is always some reason why we choose one thing over another in any situation.

    This is generally true (though I would say that there are times that we make a choice based on no reason at all). But to say that we choose for reasons does not mean that certain reasons or motives or influences have irresistible sway over us. To say so is simply to beg the question of determinism once again.

    Now, with all of this background, let us set up another scenario, where you have a father who has a son, and this son is a die hard fan of heavy metal music. Let us say that the father wins two different contests, and wins a set of tickets to an opera, and a heavy metal concert. However, the concerts are on the same night at the same time. The father then tells this to that son, and gives him his choice of tickets. According to your logic, this is an insincere offer, because the father obviously knows he will never go to the opera.

    Not at all. It is very sincere since there really are tickets for the Opera and going to the Opera is a real possibility. That the son will choose the Heavy Metal concert (assuming he will) does not invalidate the sincerity of the offer since it was a real offer and the opportunity was very real. Not so in Calvinism (BTW, perhaps he knows that a certain girl he likes will be at the Opera and then decides to go there instead based on his desire to see that girl and impress her with his taste in Opera. But he may still decide to go the Metal concert. In either case, he is the one who weighs his options and gives ultimate weight to one option over the other. One option or influence or motive does not irresistibly “cause” him to make that choice. Again, this would simply beg the question of determinism, which Arminians deny). Have you never been surprised by a certain persons decision? Have you never witnessed someone act “out of character”?

    The only downside to this illustration is that the father in the illustration is not omniscient like our heavenly father is. He knows our hearts, and has told us that, before conversion, no one will ever be inclined to “come to the banquet.” That is our inclination, and that is what we will choose 100% of the time, until we are changed by the Holy Spirit.

    Indeed, the Holy Spirit must enable a faith response before someone will come. He can cause new desires in us that we can then act upon or reject. The enabling work of the Holy Spirit is entirely necessary to make faith possible, yet it does not guarantee a faith response.

    Also, again, I have to keep reiterating that I think this line of thinking is dangerous, as it has ramifications to original sin. Is God’s command for us to be holy something that sincere? If it is, then why are we all born into sin, without a choice otherwise, and then punished for that sin? Isn’t the command to “be holy” therefore insincere? God has commanded us to be holy, and promised blessings to those who are holy. These must be totally insincere, since every single person must be a sinner because of original sin.

    This would only follow if God made it impossible for everyone to attain to holiness. But this is exactly what the Arminian position denies. Through faith in Christ we can attain to the holiness of God, and according to Arminianism God enables sinners to respond in faith and thereby attain to the holiness that is found in a relationship with Christ and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If anything, you have just further illustrated the absurdity of the Calvinist position.

    I really think that part of the discussion needs to center around what we mean by “free will.” A lot of what I am seeing centers around this idea that man must have an equal ability to choose each option.

    Not necessarily an “equal” ability, but the ability must truly exist for there to be a “choice”. If no ability exists, then there is only one possibility. If only one possibility, then no “choice”. You cannot “choose” from options that you do not have.

    This scenario reminds me of a story I heard from John Gerstner once about a donkey caught between two bails of hay. The donkey was equally attracted to eating both bails of hay, and couldn’t make up his mind which one to eat, and ended up dying of starvation between the two bails of hay.

    Are you suggesting that a donkey’s “will” is comparable to human will? But who is to say that a donkey wouldn’t just start eating and not really care which bail he eats from anyway? Even further, we are not talking about making choices between things that are exactly the same are we? We are talking about choosing between different options and having the God given power to assign more weight to one option over the other for whatever “reasons” we deem more important. The cause of the choice is the agent and his will is a full and adequate cause needing nothing outside of itself to cause it to choose a certain way. If you insist that something must cause him to choose then you just beg the question of determinism and deny that man can have the God given power to cause his own choices, which is the point of debate.

    That is what would happen to us too if there was ever a situation in which we have “free will” in the sense that many people are thinking. However, others may have different views as to what we mean by “free will.” I think a proper definition is important in these kinds of discussions.

    I just gave you one. I hope you found it helpful.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  13. Apparently, according to this text, there were people who were saying that God had commanded for them to do these wicked things. God is simply denying this charge, and telling him that it never once crossed his mind to command them build high places to Baal.

    Also, I do think that such an understanding of this passage leads to open theism. If it never entered God’s mind in a crassly literal sense, then it seems to me that it would mean it never entered his mind in terms of his foreknowledge either.

    I don’t think this really addresses the issue from a Calvinist perspective. The text certainly indicates that God never thought to command them to sacrifice their children. But it says more than this. It says that God never intended for them to do such a thing at all. That is where the language seems to plainly lead us. It is not a matter of God knowing what will happen, but God intending for something to happen. The Arminian accounting of foreknowledge does not have a problem with this. God can certainly foreknow the free actions of His creatures that He did not intend or desire for them to do.

    But the Calvinist denies this. The Calvinist says that all that God does is in accordance with His eternal decree. In fact, His decree is the basis of His foreknowledge so that God can only foreknow what He decreed to take place and will infallibly bring about in time, down to the minutest detail. So it certainly did enter God’s mind for them to sacrifice their children since God decreed for them to do it from all eternity and then personally made sure that His decree came to pass. In fact, the initial idea belonged to God alone long before the Israelites were even created.

    So this passage is big trouble for Calvinism while it poses no real threat to Arminianism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. arminianperspective,

    Going back to my illustration of the gift offered to the cripple it would be like saying that the offer is sincere in that, if the cripple would ever get out of his wheel chair he could accept the gift. But that is plainly impossible, just as it is impossible for the reprobate to choose salvation. Not to mention the fact, again, that there is nothing behind the offer since the atonement was not provided or intended for the reprobate.

    The problem with the illustration is that it does not take into account the inclination of the person. A person in a wheelchair will still have the inclination to take the gift. What the Calvinist says is that the non-elect do not ever have the inclination to take the gift at all.

    But this confuses the Biblical metaphor of deadness in sin. Dead in sin has reference to a state (separation from God- the source of spiritual life) and not to the inability of a physical corpse. However, the Arminian affirms that God must graciously enable a sinner to believe before he or she can believe. But this enabling does not guarantee a faith response (since God’s grace and call can be resisted), and this enabling is not regeneration.

    Actually, Jesus compares the resurrection of Lazarus to spiritual life when he says that he is the “resurrection and the life” and those that believe in him, though they were dead, yet they shall live. Could Lazarus have resisted Jesus’ call for him to arise? Also, the problem with what you said is that faith and repentance are gifts [Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29, Acts 5:31, 2 Timothy 2:25], so, I would say that the whole premise is flawed.

    Not at all. It is very sincere since there really are tickets for the Opera and going to the Opera is a real possibility. That the son will choose the Heavy Metal concert (assuming he will) does not invalidate the sincerity of the offer since it was a real offer and the opportunity was very real.

    And it is also very real in the Calvinist system. If that person ever had the inclination to repent and believe, he would be saved. The issue is whether he *would* ever do that!

    In either case, he is the one who weighs his options and gives ultimate weight to one option over the other. One option or influence or motive does not irresistibly “cause” him to make that choice. Again, this would simply beg the question of determinism, which Arminians deny). Have you never been surprised by a certain persons decision? Have you never witnessed someone act “out of character”?

    Yes, but that is because I am not omniscient. God is, and he has revealed the will of man before salvation as “only evil all the time” [Genesis 6:5], “evil from his youth” [Genesis 8:21], “unable to change” [Jeremiah 13:23], unable to please God [Romans 8:7-8], “not able to submit to the things of the spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:14″ etc. That is why I say that, because I am not omniscient I cannot know what any person’s inclinations are at any point in time, but I do know that a person cannot choose against their own inclinations. That would be a self-contradiction. You choose what you don’t choose.

    Indeed, the Holy Spirit must enable a faith response before someone will come. He can cause new desires in us that we can then act upon or reject. The enabling work of the Holy Spirit is entirely necessary to make faith possible, yet it does not guarantee a faith response.

    Okay, then name me one thing that you ever in your life did that you did not want to do, all things considered. You say that God gives you these desires, but you can choose not to act on them. That would require that you do something you do not desire. Even if someone sticks a gun to your head, and tells you to give them your money, you still have a choice: to give them your money, or to get shot. Given all of the options, you prefer to give him your money, rather than get shot, and so, you still are doing what you want to do. I cannot come up with any instance of someone doing something that, all things considered, they don’t want to do.

    This would only follow if God made it impossible for everyone to attain to holiness. But this is exactly what the Arminian position denies. Through faith in Christ we can attain to the holiness of God, and according to Arminianism God enables sinners to respond in faith and thereby attain to the holiness that is found in a relationship with Christ and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. If anything, you have just further illustrated the absurdity of the Calvinist position.

    However, what is the logical conclusion of what you have just said? Sin is only deserving of death if there is a way of holiness. In other words, there is nothing in sin, in and of itself, that is worthy of death. Also, can we please watch our language with terms like “absurdity,” especially when you say something with a logical conclusion like that, which is clearly outside of the bounds of orthodoxy?

    But who is to say that a donkey wouldn’t just start eating and not really care which bail he eats from anyway?

    The question is why he chose to eat one bail of hay first. It may be a rather arbitrary reason [i.e., it is the first bail of hay that he saw, one has more hay than the other, etc.], but there is still a reason why he started there, and nowhere else.

    Even further, we are not talking about making choices between things that are exactly the same are we?

    Are the two bails of hay the exact same bail of hay? No, they are not. He has to make a choice as to which one he is going to choose to start eating first. So, how does he do that with no inclinations? In other words, it is a contradiction to say that two things are exactly the same. If two things are exactly the same, then they are the same thing!

    The cause of the choice is the agent and his will is a full and adequate cause needing nothing outside of itself to cause it to choose a certain way. If you insist that something must cause him to choose then you just beg the question of determinism and deny that man can have the God given power to cause his own choices, which is the point of debate.

    I am simply wondering where you are getting the inconsistency here. We believe that God decrees an evil action. You seem to suggest, for some reason or another, that man cannot choose, because of his own evil inclinations, to do the same action. What is being affirmed and denied in that?

    Again, I still think that what you are presenting ends up with the donkey dying between the two bails of hay. If there are no inclinations, then on what basis does someone choose anything? Are our choices totally random? If our choices are totally random, then we are usually considered to be insane. Murder trials will always be looking for things like motive, assuming that the you are saying would be difficult to comport with the idea that we are moral agents.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  15. Ben,

    I don’t think this really addresses the issue from a Calvinist perspective. The text certainly indicates that God never thought to command them to sacrifice their children. But it says more than this. It says that God never intended for them to do such a thing at all. That is where the language seems to plainly lead us. It is not a matter of God knowing what will happen, but God intending for something to happen. The Arminian accounting of foreknowledge does not have a problem with this. God can certainly foreknow the free actions of His creatures that He did not intend or desire for them to do.

    Please demonstrate that. The context is clearly of commandment in the context of moral law [high places, child sacrifice, etc.]. To talk about this in the context of an eternal decree is to read something into the text that is not there. If you disagree, please demonstrate this.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  16. Oops, typo. The last few lines of my next to last post should read:

    Murder trials will always be looking for things like motive, assuming that the murderer had some inclination to kill the victim. What you are saying would be difficult to comport with the idea that we are moral agents.

  17. To talk about this in the context of an eternal decree is to read something into the text that is not there.

    But according to Calvinists the eternal secret decree lies behind everything, and you are quite right in saying it “is not there.” My point exactly.

    …and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded, or spoke of, nor did it {ever} enter My mind

    Again, the language speaks of what God did not intend for the Israelites to do. Since He did not intend for them to do it, He did not command them to do it. It speaks of their ungodly actions and the fact that He did not command them, speak of it, nor did it enter His mind. In other words, God never had any intentions for them to do these wicked things that they were doing. This is reflected in the idea that he did not command them to do it, he did not speak of it, nor did it even enter His mind for them to do such things. Are you suggesting that God did intend for them to do this and rendered it impossible for them to avoid doing it by way of an eternal decree, and yet rebukes them for doing what He commanded them not to do? You say I should not read an eternal decree into this passage. I agree, but the Calvinist must since all that comes to pass is in accordance with God’s eternal decree. That is the problem. How will you resolve it?

  18. Adam,

    I “intend” to get to your other comments as well, but I don’t have time right now. I hope to continue this discussion as long as possible, but I can see it becoming quite cumbersome rather quickly.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. Arminianprespectives,

    But according to Calvinists the eternal secret decree lies behind everything, and you are quite right in saying it “is not there.” My point exactly.

    No, we say that God’s eternal decree is behind everything that *happens.* The context of this text is the *commandments* of God, and people saying that God had given them a commandment [like “thou shall not murder”] to build these high places to Baal, and to cause their children to pass through the fire. God is denying that he ever gave them this commandment.

    As Dr. White said, we make a distinction between different senses in which we talk about the “will” of God. One is his commandments, where he commands us to “not murder,” etc. The people in this text are saying that it is part of God’s commandments such that, just as he commanded “you shall not murder,” he also commanded “you shall offer your children, and build high places to Baal.” That has nothing to do with God’s eternal decree where he decrees whatever comes to pass.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  20. Ben,

    Adam,

    I “intend” to get to your other comments as well, but I don’t have time right now. I hope to continue this discussion as long as possible, but I can see it becoming quite cumbersome rather quickly.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    That’s fine. I probably have already spent way too much time on here this week. I need to find better balance between various areas of life.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  21. Adam,

    You don’t seem to be dealing with what Ben is saying at all. He specifically says that we have motives, inclinations, and reasons for our actions. It seems strange for you to respond on the assumption that he is saying the opposite of what he is saying. But it probably shows your presuppositions are keeping you from grasping what he is saying and leading you to misharacterize it. You are assuming that motives, inclinations, and reasons are irreistible and irresistibly cause us to act. But, as Ben pointed out time and again, that is to blatantly beg the question. We often have many inclinations and desires, but we have to choose which one to follow when we actually act. As Ben said, it is we who weight the various desires in our hearts and decide which one to follow rather than the various desires having some sort of inherent weight in and of themselves that forces us to act on the one that is somehow inherently the strongest. Here is a concise treatment of the issue that compellingly dismantles the position you are advocating and supports the Arminian view: http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/328 .

    I should leave you and ben to hash this out further, but thought it worth commenting on how you seem to be missing what he is saying.

    God bless!

  22. Arminian,

    You are assuming that motives, inclinations, and reasons are irreistible and irresistibly cause us to act.

    Then what does cause us to act?

    My point is that the only other alternative is that our actions are random, if they are not caused by our inclinations and our desires. If they are randomly caused, then we are insane.

    No, I understand what Ben is saying. I just don’t think you can hold all of this together. You want to hold that we have inclinations, but that they don’t determine what we do. I simply ask, “What does then?” If you answer, “nothing,” then you are saying that our actions are totally random, and thus, we are insane.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  23. Adam said: “Then what does cause us to act?”

    **** We do of course! And actually, our motives, inclinations, and reasons do too. They just do not do so irresistibly. You completely assume that there must be an irresistible cause. And that is begging the question quite blatantly. For any actiuon a person does, there may be any number of resistible reasons why the person acts. But it is mere assumption that drives the claim that any or all of those reasons necessitated the person to act as he does. The person could have weighted his desires differently. This coheres much more with relaity and the way people experience choices no to mention the Bible’s affirmation of free will and human responsibility.

    Adam said: “My point is that the only other alternative is that our actions are random, if they are not caused by our inclinations and our desires. ”

    **** Here you beg the question again and do not deal with what I actually said. I said we have reasons/causes for our actions. But they are resistible reasons/causes. You wholly assume that causes are irresistible. But we deal with resistible causes/reasons all the time. Keep in mind that one basic definition of “cause” is “reason”, and that is really what we are dealing with when talking about motives for action. There are a variety of reasons for why I am making this post. For example, your post is one reason/cause. If someone asks me what caused me to make this post, I might very well say, because Adam posted such and such. That does not mean that because you posted what you did I had to post, could not do otherwise. It does not mean your post irreistibly caused my post. It resistibly caused it. The same goes with all the other reasons I have for posting this. Arminians believe we act for reasons, but that we act for the reasons we think best and choose to follow. So the charge of randomness is totally empty.

  24. As one person put it, Arminians don’t believe that choices are RANDOM, but rather that they are sufficiently SELF-DETERMINED (the result of rational personal DELIBERATION). A person chooses to do one thing or another because of whatever reason(s) the person decided was the best to follow.

  25. Arminian,

    We do of course!

    And, of course, why do you do one thing, and not another? Better yet, why is it when two people hear the gospel at the same time, that one believes, and the other does not?

    Here you beg the question again and do not deal with what I actually said. I said we have reasons/causes for our actions. But they are resistible reasons/causes.

    That is, again, inconsistent. Can a ball resist changing direction when it is hit by a bat? To speak of an resistible cause is to contradict yourself. X causes y is, by very definition, that y always comes about when x comes about. You are confusing “cause” with “influence.” The two are not the same.

    I certainly agree that other things can influence our decisions, but, ultimately, our decisions are caused by our nature. Again, if you deny that, you are left with insanity.

    Also, I would accept the coherence of the idea that ideas are “self-determined,” if you mean by that that our actions are determined by our desires, inclinations, etc. If you say that these are self-caused, but there is no consistent reason as to why we chose one over the other, then we are left with randomness and insanity.

    Again, I understand what you are saying, I just don’t think it is coherent.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  26. “These men were certainly consistent Calvinists. And without a doubt, Calvinists do NOT preach another Jesus.”

    Dr. Brown,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Your opinion’s very valuable to me. I am having personal difficulties though with understanding the degree for which a person can be in error and yet still both possess and communicate the biblical Jesus.

    For instance, if every point in T.U.L.I.P is inaccurate, and this is the soteriology you have believed your entire life, could there be issues with the legitimacy of your salvation?

    Having said this, I also believe that many people (myself probably included) have errors in their doctrine to some degree. I have personally communicated false doctrines/prophesy so I have an understanding of the depth of love and mercy that God has for those that have trusted in His Son for salvation. I just want to do that which is right in the eyes of God.

    For instance, I have friends that have recently embraced this doctrine. Do I just bless them and pray that God will use them to spread the Gospel knowing that I strongly disagree with both their soteriology and eschatology, or should I say with all seriousness, “I pray that you’ll reconsider your decision.(?)”

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond to my inquiry Dr. Brown. Though I still have my concerns, your comments have certainly given me a greater measure of peace with respect to this issue.

    Truly,
    Greg

  27. Adam said: “And, of course, why do you do one thing, and not another? Better yet, why is it when two people hear the gospel at the same time, that one believes, and the other does not?”

    **** I already answered that first question when you asked it before. A person chooses to do one thing or another because of whatever reason(s) the person decided was the best to follow. As for your second question, “why is it when two people hear the gospel at the same time, that one believes, and the other does not?”, the answer is relatively simple. One person chooses to believe when another does not because of whatever reason(s) each decided was the best to follow.

    Adam said: “That is, again, inconsistent. Can a ball resist changing direction when it is hit by a bat? To speak of an resistible cause is to contradict yourself. X causes y is, by very definition, that y always comes about when x comes about. You are confusing “cause” with “influence.” The two are not the same.”

    **** Ok, here we find a basic difference, and which I think the facts are clearly on the Arminian side. You are using cause with respect to inanimate physical objects. That is often one of the problems with Calvinist thinking on this topic; they seem to think of mechanistic cause and effect. But we are not delaing with inanimate objects. People are not balls or bats. We are talking about human beings made in the image of God with consciousness and wills. We are dealing with spiritual, pshychological, mental, and emotional reality. We are dealing with interpersonal interaction. You give an inappropriate definition of cause in this context. As I said, one basic definition of “cause” is “reason”, and that is really what we are dealing with when talking about motives for action. Indeed, motive is another synonymous term. But people have all sorts of reasons and motives for action that they do not follow. I assume you would have to admit that, for you seem to admit that people have various desires and motives that conflict with one another. But this iteslf shows that a motive or reason is not by definition irresistible. And if it is not, then it is resistible. There’s no way to get around this. It then begs the question to assume that the motive that gets followed is irresistible.

  28. Arminian,

    I already answered that first question when you asked it before. A person chooses to do one thing or another because of whatever reason(s) the person decided was the best to follow.

    And on what basis does one decide which way is the best to follow?

    the answer is relatively simple. One person chooses to believe when another does not because of whatever reason(s) each decided was the best to follow.

    So, the question then becomes, what is the reason why one deemed Christianity as the best way to follow, and what is the reason why the other person did not?

    Also, I understand that we are not dealing with inanimate objects. I believe that human actions are caused, but that they are caused by our nature, who we are, and who we were created to be. Thus, it is not impersonal; it is highly personal. However, our actions are still caused by our personhood, i.e., our nature. My point was that it is inconsistent to speak of a “resistible cause,” as causes, by their very nature, are not resistible.

    What you are trying to say is that even our nature, our inclinations, etc. do not cause our actions in the sense of the ball and the bat. I am just simply saying, “What is the alternative?” If even who we are in our nature does not determine our actions, then how do you avoid the idea randomness and insanity?

    God Bless,
    Adam

  29. The problem with the illustration is that it does not take into account the inclination of the person. A person in a wheelchair will still have the inclination to take the gift. What the Calvinist says is that the non-elect do not ever have the inclination to take the gift at all.

    It was not intended to illustrate inclination but inability. It is an example of why an offer is not legitimate in the face of inability, whether it is the inability caused by the impossibility of a contrary “inclination” or the inability of a cripple to walk. You even make the same basic comparison below with your appeal to Lazarus. And you still did not address the problem of being offered something that is not really there in the first place (e.g. a fake un-backed check or a provision of atonement).

    Actually, Jesus compares the resurrection of Lazarus to spiritual life when he says that he is the “resurrection and the life” and those that believe in him, though they were dead, yet they shall live. Could Lazarus have resisted Jesus’ call for him to arise? Also, the problem with what you said is that faith and repentance are gifts [Ephesians 2:8-9, Philippians 1:29, Acts 5:31, 2 Timothy 2:25], so, I would say that the whole premise is flawed.

    Jesus uses this as an illustration of His divine ability and authority to give life to that which was dead, but it does not speak to inability. Jesus never draws that parallel, so neither should we. We need to be careful not to stretch the illustration too far. For example, would you say that Lazarus responded to Jesus’ call? But how could he hear Jesus call if he was dead? The dead can’t hear according to Calvinism, right? So did Jesus give Lazarus life so he could hear the command to come to life and then come to life? But contrary to the Calvinist insistence Jesus does indeed say that the dead will “hear” unto life (John 5:25).

    Furthermore, Jesus actual words prior to raising Lazarus are:

    “I am the resurrection and the life; He that believes in me shall live even if he dies.” This has reference to the final resurrection, which the raising of Lazarus illustrates (though not perfectly). He then says:

    “…and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” This has reference to the fact that believers come to share in Christ’s life through faith, and as a result will never truly die (in that they will be raised to everlasting life). It was an illustration of Christ’s power and authority over death as the ultimate source of life. It was not an object lesson in inability. Nothing in the text would even suggest that. Furthermore, there are grammatical problems with your Eph. reference as pertaining to faith being the “gift” mentioned in that passage; but regardless, there is no real difficulty with understanding faith as a gift without needing to see it as an irresistible gift caused by regeneration.

    And it is also very real in the Calvinist system. If that person ever had the inclination to repent and believe, he would be saved. The issue is whether he *would* ever do that!

    It is more than “would” since would does not threaten the freedom of the agent at all. Rather, it is a matter of “can” which Calvinists are happy to affirm that the reprobate “cannot” ever respond to the message. Worse yet, the content of the message is not even true for them since there was never any provision of salvation made for them. To say that someone will not do or choose something is quite a different thing than saying he cannot do or choose something (or to say that there really isn’t even anything to “choose” from since the “choice” was never even real since the provision necessary to make that choice real was never made). Also, in order for the illustration to really work, we would have to have the father irresistibly controlling the son’s inclinations and add in the fact that there never really were any tickets, nor was there an Opera at all (since in Calvinism there never really was any provision of atonement).

    Yes, but that is because I am not omniscient. God is, and he has revealed the will of man before salvation as “only evil all the time” [Genesis 6:5], “evil from his youth” [Genesis 8:21], “unable to change” [Jeremiah 13:23], unable to please God [Romans 8:7-8], “not able to submit to the things of the spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:14″ etc.

    True, but all of these things speak to the need for God’s gracious intervention which Arminians are happy to affirm. As I said before, God enables the faith response which would be impossible outside of that divine enabling. But remember, according to the Calvinist accounting of sovereignty, not only does God know man’s hearts, inclinations, etc.; He is the one who decreed and irresistibly enacted all of those things as well (Please, lets keep Calvinism in all its glory in plain view while discussing these things).

    That is why I say that, because I am not omniscient I cannot know what any person’s inclinations are at any point in time, but I do know that a person cannot choose against their own inclinations. That would be a self-contradiction. You choose what you don’t choose.

    Then all you have done is conflate inclination with choice, which again begs the question and really says nothing at all. You can’t say that we choose according to our inclination and then say that our inclination is the same as our choice. If that is the case then all you are saying is that we choose according to our choice, or we choose because we choose. And remember, in Calvinism God controls even our inclinations.

    Okay, then name me one thing that you ever in your life did that you did not want to do, all things considered. You say that God gives you these desires, but you can choose not to act on them.

    Why not? The only way this would not be the case is if you conflate “desire” with “choice” or view desires as irresistible. I do neither, so there is no problem from my perspective. Again, this seems like question begging on your part.

    That would require that you do something you do not desire.

    Yes and no. It would be yielding to one desire rather than another. As I mentioned before, the agent weighs his options and gives weight to one influence, desire, motive over another in accordance with his God given capacity as a free moral agent created in God’s image. But if you conflate desire with choice, then of course it is non-sensical to say we can choose something we do not desire. However, I do not conflate the two, so your objection does not follow.

    Even if someone sticks a gun to your head, and tells you to give them your money, you still have a choice: to give them your money, or to get shot. Given all of the options, you prefer to give him your money, rather than get shot, and so, you still are doing what you want to do.

    But again, all you are doing is saying we choose according to our strongest desire. I agree, but what makes it the strongest desire? That is where we are at odds. You seem to think that certain desires or motives have an irresistible weight all their own and hold irresistible sway over a person, but I am saying that the agent determines which motive or desire he will choose in accordance with and only then does it become the “greatest desire” if greatest desire is to be understood simply as the choice made.

    I cannot come up with any instance of someone doing something that, all things considered, they don’t want to do.

    See above.

    However, what is the logical conclusion of what you have just said? Sin is only deserving of death if there is a way of holiness. In other words, there is nothing in sin, in and of itself, that is worthy of death.

    Indeed there is, because through faith in Christ we can find forgiveness. If we reject Christ we have only ourselves to blame for all of our sins and will certainly pay the price (both in terms of punishment and natural consequence). That is why the watershed issue in Scripture is faith and unbelief.

    Also, can we please watch our language with terms like “absurdity,” especially when you say something with a logical conclusion like that, which is clearly outside of the bounds of orthodoxy?

    So I can’t say that something is “absurd” but you can say that my conclusions are “clearly outside the bounds of orthodoxy?” Interesting.

    The question is why he chose to eat one bail of hay first. It may be a rather arbitrary reason [i.e., it is the first bail of hay that he saw, one has more hay than the other, etc.], but there is still a reason why he started there, and nowhere else.

    Again, no one is denying that we generally choose in accordance with reasons. To say that we choose for reasons in no way means that we choose of necessity and could not have chosen alternatively.

    Are the two bails of hay the exact same bail of hay? No, they are not. He has to make a choice as to which one he is going to choose to start eating first. So, how does he do that with no inclinations?

    I never denied the existence of inclinations. But notice again how this doesn’t even make sense since you previously conflated choice with inclinations. So what you are basically saying is “how does he choose without choosing?” Of course, I am not suggesting that we can choose without choosing.

    In other words, it is a contradiction to say that two things are exactly the same. If two things are exactly the same, then they are the same thing!

    Granted. What I meant was that there is nothing in the objects themselves that would possibly contribute to one being more desirable than the other (i.e. there is nothing in their characteristics to set them apart since both are bails of hay, though obviously not the same bail of hay). In which case, we can still make a choice, though it would probably be as you say, “arbitrary”.

    I am simply wondering where you are getting the inconsistency here. We believe that God decrees an evil action.

    Not only evil actions but evil thoughts and desires that lead to those actions and then causally and irresistibly brings those about in time.

    You seem to suggest, for some reason or another, that man cannot choose, because of his own evil inclinations, to do the same action. What is being affirmed and denied in that?

    But they are not “his own evil inclinations” since he has absolutely no control over them at any point. He did not come up with them, nor did he have any power to resist them. It what sense then are they “his own”?

    Again, I still think that what you are presenting ends up with the donkey dying between the two bails of hay. If there are no inclinations, then on what basis does someone choose anything?

    Again, no one is denying the existence of inclinations. And again, your sentence doesn’t really make much sense considering the fact that you previously conflated inclination with choice, but here you clearly distinguish the two (in saying that inclination is the basis of choice).

    Are our choices totally random?

    No (though some of our choices may be). We choose in accordance with reasons, so they are not random.
    If our choices are totally random, then we are usually considered to be insane. Murder trials will always be looking for things like motive, assuming that the you are saying would be difficult to comport with the idea that we are moral agents.
    Not at all. You assume that if a choice is deliberate and for reasons then it is necessitated. This you have not even begun to prove; but this is exactly what you need to prove in order to claim that if our choices are not necessitated they must be random. And really, Calvinism has far bigger problems with moral accountability as far as I am concerned.

    God Bless,
    Ben

    BTW, I won’t be able to discuss this further until at least tomorrow.

  30. Adam,

    Real quick, and then I am done for today. You wrote:

    Thus, it is not impersonal; it is highly personal. However, our actions are still caused by our personhood, i.e., our nature. My point was that it is inconsistent to speak of a “resistible cause,” as causes, by their very nature, are not resistible.

    But the God given ability to weigh our options and choose accordingly (i.e. free will) is part of our nature and what it means to be a “person”. If you deny this then I would be interested to hear you explain how Adam, who was created “good” (i.e. he had only a “good” nature) was able to do evil?

  31. Meant to post on this forum.

    Couple of points:

    1. Evil is simply the absence of God. God did not create ‘evil’. Evil results from the choices we make contrary to God’s will. God still knew evil could come about by the choices we make, but He had intended everything to be done for good for His glory. With the system God had set up for us to be independent choice makers, He knew evil would still result, but He didn’t create it.

    2. God hardened Pharoah’s heart, meaning the actions of God caused Pharoah’s heart to become hardened, not that God went into Pharaoh’s heart and turned the lever to the ‘hardened’ position. If someone did something to make me angry and become bitter with them, you could say that they hardened my heart.

  32. Isaiah 30:15 (New King James Version)

    “For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: “ In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. …..

    But you would not,”

    _______________

    DeeperStill

  33. I am fascinated with the slight, yet gross differences in particular between Calvanism and Arminianism.
    Very interesting! I will say this though, I have noticed that the Bible is clear that many of the the promises, statements, and decrees, while they may be binding to everything under God, they DO NOT affect God Himself.
    I don’t know if this line helps at all for anyone:
    “Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28)

    This goes back to what i said earlier. I have noticed that the New Testament is more technically precise than the Old Testament. I believe God has made it this way so that it can be said that the Old Testament is REVEALED in the New Testament and that the New testament is CONCEALED in the Old Testament. We can infer things from the Old Testament, where the New Testament expressly tells us what is going on.

  34. Adam said: “And on what basis does one decide which way is the best to follow?”

    **** Don’t you mean what reason or motive to follow? Because that’s what I spoke about. And on what basis does one decide which reason to follow? Whichever one believes will make him happiest. And on what basis does one decide which will make him happiest? That is of the essence of free will–to give to any particular motive a certain influence. That is the expression of one’s own free will, and that is why one is accountable for it. It one’s own decision as one sees fit to choose. In any case, you can’t say that this is random, for random means “lacking a definite plan, purpose, or pattern” (Webster’s). But there is a purpose in choosing which motive will lead to the most happiness–to be happy. Still less could most actions be said to be random, since they are made for reasons no matter which way you slice it.

    Adam said: “So, the question then becomes, what is the reason why one deemed Christianity as the best way to follow, and what is the reason why the other person did not?”

    **** Again, for whatever reason one deemed best. Do you not see that you are assuming determinism from start to finish? You assume there has to be one reason for all that irresistibly causes the one choice and another one that irresistibly causes the other choice. That’s begging the question. Moreover, that’s just not true to life. Different individals have differing reasons for the choices they make. And why the diversity? Because people have free will.

    Adam said: “Also, I understand that we are not dealing with inanimate objects.”

    **** But you showed that you think of human actions in terms of mechanistic cause and effect. And that just doesn’t match the reality of human personhood, personal interaction, choice, and decision.

    Adam said: “I believe that human actions are caused, but that they are caused by our nature, who we are, and who we were created to be. Thus, it is not impersonal; it is highly personal. However, our actions are still caused by our personhood, i.e., our nature.”

    **** This also does not make much sense if one thinks it through. You claim total determinism. But surely you are not saying our nature irresitibly causes each choice specifically. Human beings share the same basic nature, but that does not account for all the many specific choices people make. Why one person prefers one color over another or has this or that sort of interest or prefers a certain type of clothing are not specifically caused by our nature. Your view does not account for the different expressions of human individuality, a fact that free will does explain quite readily.

    Adam said: “My point was that it is inconsistent to speak of a “resistible cause,” as causes, by their very nature, are not resistible. ”

    **** But I believe I showed you were quite wrong in this. Again, you are assuming determinism, and then trying to prove determinism from your assumption. That’s circular reasoning, or as has been pointed out a number of times, begging the question. As I said: You give an inappropriate definition of cause in this context. As I said, one basic definition of “cause” is “reason”, and that is really what we are dealing with when talking about motives for action. Indeed, motive is another synonymous term. But people have all sorts of reasons and motives for action that they do not follow. I assume you would have to admit that, for you seem to admit that people have various desires and motives that conflict with one another. But this iteslf shows that a motive or reason is not by definition irresistible. And if it is not, then it is resistible. There’s no way to get around this. It then begs the question to assume that the motive that gets followed is irresistible. So it is totally consistent to speak of resistible causes/motives/reasons.

  35. Oh, btw, I had meant to mention it, and happily Ben already did, that free will is part of our nature as human beings made in the image of God. (Of course, Arminians don’t believe in unlimited free will, so there’s no need to respond as though we do. For example, we affirm that because of total depravity, people are not free to believe in the gospel on their own, but that God graciously frees people to believe in the gospel when they hear it.)

  36. I wanted to say something about the concept of Calvinism being a humbling doctrine. I think this is true and untrue. It is clear that Calvinism humbles a person before God (as does true Arminianism), but I does not cause a person to be humble. I don’t think it makes them arrogant either, I just think that it is impotent to do either. If a person was arrogant before Calvinism, that arrogance won’t go away but merely be focused on other humans. I wrote a parable on this on my website, but I don’t know the rules about supplying links here. However, I think it is very relevant to point out that humility before God is not the same thing as a humble spirit.

  37. Hello Adam,

    Someone had said:
    “You are assuming that motives, inclinations, and reasons are irresistible and irresistibly cause us to act.”

    You responded with:

    “Then what does cause us to act?”

    As has been explained by others, **we** as personal agents cause our own actions, if we are acting freely **we** do our actions, we cause our intentional actions to take place. They are intentional in that we are doing them for reasons, for a purpose, they are intended by us.

    By definition if they are done intentionally and for reasons they are not random (if a guy intentionally hits another guy for the reason that the other guy is a member of another gang, we don’t call that a “random” event, nor should we).

    “My point is that the only other alternative is that our actions are random, if they are not caused by our inclinations and our desires. If they are randomly caused, then we are insane.”

    The ONLY other alternative????

    You have presented this false dilemma multiple times now. You claim the only options are: (1) our action is “random” (“if they are not caused by our inclinations and our desires”) or (2) CAUSED by our inclinations and our desires. If that is the only choice that we’ve got then who is going to refer to their INTENTIONAL ACTIONS as random? 

    I work with inmates and have heard all sorts of evasions of responsibility and they all fit the same form: “X made me do it, it wasn’t my fault” (and X could be “my buddies made me do it”, or X could be “my background made me do it”, or X could be “the system made me do it”, etc. etc.) now the fact is if they really and intentionally did some wrongful action, it wasn’t their buddies, or their background or the system that MADE THEM DO IT, it was their choice to do it. THEY did it. True they may have been influenced to do it by “buddies” or a bad background or whatever. But personal responsibility means they accept responsibility for their intentional actions. Adam it seems to me that your reasoning is very similar to the “X made me do it” excuse. In your case “my desires made me do it” or “my inclinations made me do it” (some Calvinists appeal to another abstraction: my NATURE made me do it). Well again your desires, inclinations or “nature” do not make you do some intentional action. At the final judgment God does not judge our “nature” or our “inclinations” or our “desires” as if they are personal agents, as if they are causative, as if they necessitate or cause your actions: he judges US.

    When we do an intentional action we do it for reasons and in light of what is important to us. If you are considering whether to choose the chocolate ice cream cone or the vanilla one (one thing that may be important to you is that chocolate is your favorite flavor, while at the same time another thing that is important to you is to save money so if one flavor is discounted that is something you will consider, or another thing may be you are trying to lose weight so while everyone else is choosing their ice cream cone flavor you want to avoid choosing any flavor altogether because losing weight is important to you; the point is that with each alternative possibility that you are considering you have different importances associated with each option).

    God created us to, he designed us to be capable of thinking with our own minds and choosing to do our own actions for reasons in light of what is important to us (in fact in order to be able to worship God as the true and only God you have to have the ability to distinguish options, weigh what is important and choose to ascribe supreme important to the God of the bible, that means that true worship involves choosing and valuing and choosing one possibility rather than others). You may disagree with another person’s choice, but if it **is** intentional it was done for reasons (it may even by reasons you don’t agree with) and in light of what is important to that person (and importances vary from person to person as well, to the terrorist bomber blowing up a road side bomb is important because in his system of values he wants to oppose the United States with physical force if necessary, most of us would not want to commit suicide and do not consider it important to do so, and yet a Japanese Kamikaze during World War II considered it honorable to ditch his plane into an air craft carrier). Look at Adam’s choice in the garden. He intentionally chose to take the fruit. But don’t you think he had a choice between the importance of submitting to God’s word and not taking the fruit versus the (assumed through deception) importance of becoming like God by taking the fruit? Adam acted for a reason and in light of what he considered was important to him at the time. And we all act that way when acting intentionally, there is nothing random about it.

    “No, I understand what Ben is saying. I just don’t think you can hold all of this together. You want to hold that we have inclinations, but that they don’t determine what we do. I simply ask, “What does then?” If you answer, “nothing,” then you are saying that our actions are totally random, and thus, we are insane.”

    You repeat your false dilemma again: in your mind it is either (1) our inclinations DETERMINE what we do, or (2) our inclinations don’t determine what we do so it is RANDOM. And it should be noted that you are taking “determine” as meaning NECESSITATE (whatever is the determining factor is the factor that necessitates the action). Just like the inmate who claims that X made him do the crime (X determined his action, not him; X determined his action so that he couldn’t help but do what he/she ended up doing).

    “Inclinations” and “desires” are not acting agents, nor do they necessitate our actions, so neither of your presented options in your false dilemma is true.

    Robert

    PS- As I was composing this post I couldn’t help but think of the Eagles song “Get over it”. THE EAGLES do a great job arguing against this very common tendency to abstract blame somewhere else in their song “Get over it”. Here it is on YouTube:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms_9ya8G-Xw

    The song directly goes against this tendency to attribute blame somewhere else from oneself, note particularly the words:
    “You drag it around like a ball and chain
    You wallow in the guilt; you wallow in the pain
    You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
    Got your mind in the gutter, bringin’ everybody down
    Complain about the present and blame it on the past
    I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass

    Get over it
    Get over it
    All this bitchin’ and moanin’ and pitchin’ a fit
    Get over it, get over it”

    For some it is their buddies, or their background, or their parents, or as the Eagles note it could be “your inner child”. 

    It is anything and everything except for YOU!!!

  38. can someone please explain why dr. brown asserts that “calvinists make faith into a work”? that is completely contrary to what they believe.

  39. Impressive! James White is correct that this debate has set a new standard as to what a “Christian” debate can be all about, which is to say that you can expertly articulate one’s views in a Christian spirit, while exalting, rather than demeaning, your opponent, and for that, you are both to be congratulated, in having represented Christianity very well. Michael Brown is a tremendous ambassador for Christ as well as a tremendous ambassador for Arminianism, and I can say the same for James White as well. Congrats to the both of you.

    Two things that I’d like to comment on are:

    1) the atonement, in terms of using the example of Leviticus to demonstrate the nature of the atonement. This was very well articulated. Calvary, in fact, is not a “failure” if it’s purpose was ever to unconditionally save. If it was, and people perished, then you could logically raise that argument. However, no Arminian would suggest that the purpose of the atonement was to unconditionally save. A fantastic analogy is Jesus’ own analogy at John 3:14 to Numbers 21:6-9, in which the purpose of the provision for healing was not to unconditionally save, but to provisionally provide salvation for those who meet the condition of looking upon it, and the same is reasonably applicable to Calvary, or else why would Jesus use that illustration at John 3:14.

    2) Does God give His 100% “best effort” in evangelism? This is debated amongst Arminians. Some believe that, yes, God does all that He can, whereas other Arminians say, no, that God instead gives a “sufficient” grace, rather than an “efficacious grace.” (The same is true of 1st Cor. 10:13, in that God gives “sufficiency” of means to resist temptation.) In other words, God provides sufficiency for salvation to occur, over and above man’s depraved nature (i.e. God’s prevenient enablement; nice illustration at Acts 26:14 in terms of kicking against the goads), but that through prayer and petitioning to God, He will send out more laborers for increased opportunity for salvation. Of course, when a person rejects a greater opportunity for salvation, he becomes all the more accountable for the rejection of such additional grace. This is why one nation will rise up against another nation at Judgment, as Jesus foretells. They will say, “if we have seen these miracles, we would have repented, ect.” Obviously I agree with the latter position that God gives a sufficiency of means for salvation, rather than giving 100%.

    Once again, congrats to the both of you for a true Christian debate, and I look forward to tuning into future debates.

  40. Brian,

    Very simply, I have been told by many Calvinists that if you contribute anything to your salvation — including believing — then you are doing something and are somehow earning it or, at the least, it is no longer entirely of grace. To the contrary, in Romans 4, Paul explicitly states that “the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace.”

    Now, you might argue that a “dead man” can’t believe, and therefore that person must first be regenerated (an argument that, of course, I reject — but that is not the point of this post), but the fact is that salvation by grace IS salvation by grace precisely because it is BY FAITH.

    The fact is, all of us here on this forum who have interacted with Calvinists (and I’m not including Dr. White here, since he did not explicitly state this in his debate with me) have had the same experience: We’re told that you have to do ANYTHING to be saved — including believe — then it is not salvation by grace but rather by works, so I think you need to take seriously that such sentiments are quite common among many Calvinists today. Perhaps some Arminian posters here might like to supply some quotes from some Calvinist authors to document this too?

  41. Brian,

    Dr. Brown is exactly right. Calvinists define “works” as “anything you do” and so see faith, if not caused exclusively by God as a work. This is a charge that Calvinists lodge against Arminians. Arminians affirm that we are saved by faith and not works. Calvinists retort that we cannot affirm this since faith would be a “work” in our system since it is something we do without God irresistibly causing it (though God must enable our faith response). This is very annoying to Arminians since the Bible nowhere defines faith as a work simply because we actively exercise faith (in fact, Calvinists deny that God believes for us, so Calvinists must also admit that faith is a human exercise and by their own argument should call even their own accounting of faith a work).

    The Biblical point is simply that faith receives an unearned gift rather than seeking to merit or earn something through works of the law, etc (Rom. 9:30-33; 10:3, 4). The sinner trusts in the work of Christ rather than his own work and because he is trusting in Christ to save, he cannot take credit for saving himself. Indeed, one must recognize that he or she cannot save his or herself in order to trust in Christ for salvation. God in His grace saves in response to faith, not because He has to or because faith earns something, but because He has sovereignly decided to bestow his grace in salvation on the condition of faith alone. Surely, you understand how something can be gained conditionally without needing to be based on merit. Salvation is conditioned on faith, but it is not earned or merited by faith. As has been mentioned before, faith is simply the means of receiving an unearned and undeserved gift from God (Rom. 4:4, 5).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  42. Dr. Brown,

    My point about John 10 was that these people could not believe, because they were not His sheep. How can you believe if Jesus says you can’t?

    26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.[b] 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

  43. Didn’t understand this show either 🙁 The other guy kept on talking this ethereal jazz i can’t get a hold of. I kept rewinding, listening, rewinding listening but no hope. who cares anyways.

  44. Mike,

    There are so many other ways to read the text. You take it to mean, “I have predestined some to be my sheep, and you are not among the predestined, therefore you can’t believe me and there’s nothing you can do to ever change that.”

    I take it to mean, “You are not my sheep because you have not humbled yourselves and truly listened to my words, therefore it’s impossible for you to believe, so humble yourselves, repent, and become one of my sheep. Then you will be among the true believers.”

    John 6:45, on the heels of 6:44, fits right in with this interpretation (this is how you come to the Father). Moreover, the reason Jesus speaks the way he does is not to make a statement about who is predestined to life and who is not but rather to rebuke those Jews who claim to be right with God, to tell them plainly that they are not, and to call them to repentance — a style of admonition that is found throughout the Word.

  45. Adam said: The reason I know this is because Dr. White also deals with open theism, and this text, Jeremiah 19:5, is one that open theists use. I have heard him address it on more than one occasion. The key is found in the text itself:

    and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded, or spoke of, nor did it {ever} enter My mind

    Apparently, according to this text, there were people who were saying that God had commanded for them to do these wicked things. God is simply denying this charge, and telling him that it never once crossed his mind to command them build high places to Baal.

    Nakdimon says:

    I’m sorry, Adam, but I just don’t see your interpretation doing any right to the text. Where do you get the idea that this is talking about people that were saying that God commanded them to burn their children. You emphasize the words “a thing which I never commanded” yet you seem to ignore the words that follow. God covers all the bases when he says “which I never commanded AND I have not spoken AND not came onto my heart” (my translation) So it is not just something that pertains to His commandments, but it was something that He never even spoke of or even thought of or desired to happen! In fact, Jeremiah addresses this again in chapter 32:

    “32 The people of Israel and Judah have provoked me by all the evil they have done—they, their kings and officials, their priests and prophets, the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem. 33 They turned their backs to me and not their faces; though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond to discipline. 34 They set up their abominable idols in the house that bears my Name and defiled it. 35 They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, THOUGH I NEVER COMMANDED, NOR DID IT ENTER MY MIND, THAT THEY SHOULD DO SUCH A DETESTABLE THING and so make Judah sin.”

    Now this is strange if you consider that the Reformed position is that God brings about every single little thing that comes to pass. God is clearly upset with the behavior of Israel and Judah and says clearly that He has nothing to do with their conduct. He totally distances Himself from it.

    Rgds,
    Nakdimon

  46. “He totally distances Himself from it….”

    …while irresistibly causing it in perfect accordance with His secret eternal decree of course. That’s what you meant right? 😉

    Sorry, just my twisted way of saying, “great point!”

    God Bless,
    Ben

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