105 Comments
  1. Nathaniel wrote:

    “I am fully aware that Marshall does not hold to the same two wills that Calvinists do.”

    Then why was he intentionally misusing Marshall’s words as if it supports his false two wills theory?

    Furthermore, the fact remains that Marshall does not believe that God has two wills.

    “I was just pointing out that there is no way to get around the fact that God has two wills.”

    God does not have two wills. He does not will that everybody be saved and at the same time will only that some which he preselected be saved.

    That is a ***contradiction***.

    And the two will theory leads to all sorts of contradictions just like this. Contradictions between what he says in the bible (according to the supposed prescriptive will) and what he really wants to happen (according to the supposed secret/decretive will).

    “Prescriptively he wills for men to be saved and decretively he wills for them to choose to be saved.”

    This is laughable as Nathaniel assumes his own distinction (between prescriptive and decretive), and even uses his own terminology (prescriptive will and decretive will) and then try to foist it upon the non-Calvinist’s thinking.

    “Different from Calvinism? Yes. Still two wills.”

    Again God does not have a total plan which predetermines everything (the decretive will) and then contradicts himself by saying things in the bible (the prescriptive will) that contradict the decretive will. According to Nathaniel’s view God SAYS in the bible that we should not murder, should not commit adultery, etc. etc. (that is merely the prescriptive will according to Nathaniel). But then in the decretive will, the will that predecides every event that happens in history, the will that God accomplishes, in THAT will God desires for every murder and adulterous action to occur exactly as it occurs and then ensures that they occur in time.

    “And let me add that if God actually willed that all men would be saved, he could save them.”

    He SAYS in the bible that he desires the salvation of all men. And since He set up the way of salvation involving a freely made response of faith, he could save them all if they all freely chose to trust Him. But not all do in fact choose to trust Him, so not all will be saved.

    Nathaniel’s problem is with God’s own plan of salvation: Nathaniel denies it, he repudiates what God has explicitly stated in His word because of a false theology. One of the ways Nathaniel repudiates it is by **reinterpreting** the biblical texts away from their intended meanings to meanings that **fit** his false theological system. Another way Nathaniel repudiates the explicit statements of the bible is with his two will theory (he says he desires the salvation of all, but that is not his decretive will according to Nathaniel, that’s just his prescriptive will, in his decretive will he only desires the salvation of some again according to Nathaniel in contradiction of explicit and clear scripture). Nathaniel’s whole theology amounts to denying explicit and clear scripture which the vast majority of Christians have always had no trouble interpreting correctly and believing.

    “I do not think that it’s because somehow freewill preserves our “humaness.””

    Actually a human person whose free will is completely eliminated would be less than human, less than God designed them to be. For a partial glance at what this would look like: take a look at someone who has had a lobotomy and tell me if they are less than what God intended for mankind.

    “If that were true, we could sin again in heaven.”

    That does not follow, we will continue to be both human and have free will in heaven and we won’t sin. The bible says that we will be perfected or glorified and that there will be no more sin or evil or suffering or sorrow in the eternal state. Similar, to Jesus who has free will and yet never sinned while on this earth. God has free will and He is in heaven and he never sins, so having free will does not mean that you will then have to sin.

    Robert

  2. Nathaniel wrote:

    “First, I’d appreciate it if you’d stop referring to Calvinism as theological determinism. They are not the same. Calvinists are Compatiblists. Whether or not you disagree with the position is not the point, it is a bit of an ad hominid to call us theological determinsts. Calling me, “Nathaniel the theological determinist,” is a bit belittling whether you meant it or not. Perhaps, if you want to clarify my position (instead of slipping in your own presuppositions about Calvinism) you could say, “Nathaniel the Calvinist” or more preferably “Nathaniel who espouses the Calvinistic position.””

    Wow Nathaniel does not even understand the terminology that he uses.

    A compatibilist is someone who believes all events are determined and at the same time that people have “free will” (I put it in quotation marks because the compatibilist redefines free will away from the ordinary meaning to mean that a person is acting freely if their action is not coerced and they are doing what they want to do). Some compatibilists such as Thomas Hobbes and David Hume were not believers. Most, but not all (I have a friend who holds to TULIP and at the same time believes that we sometimes have libertarian free will) Calvinists are compatibilists (i.e. they believe that all events are predetermined by God and simultaneously that people have “free will” defined in the same way as Hume and Hobbes). Hume and Hobbes and other nonbelievers are compatibilists, so in order to distinguish their version of compatibilism from the compatibilism of a Calvinist such as Nathaniel, I refer to Calvinists as “theological determinists”. I also refer to the Calvinistic system as theological determinism as that is precisely what it is. This is standard usage of the terms and so I will not refrain from using the same standard usage in discussions here. I believe that all versions of compatibilism and exhaustive determinism are wrong. Theological determinists such as Nathaniel are doubly wrong as they are wrong about: (1)determinism, and wrong (2)about the bible.

    “According to a human being, perhaps it would seem cruel and hateful, but Paul responds by saying that God has right to what he wants with his creation as potter has right over his clay. So I respond by saying God can do what he wants with his creation, and still remains morally perfect.”

    I completely disagree with Nathaniel’s comments here. I recently heard a message where a theological determinist acknowledged that if reprobation (as understood by theological determinists such as Calvin) is true, then it **is** the most hateful thing that God could do to a human person.

    Furthermore, the moral law in our hearts reflects the law of God. So, if rape is wrong for us, it is wrong for God as well. God’s law and His commands come straight out of his nature. God can and does anything that he wants which is in line with his character. The potter analogy of Romans 9 to which Nathaniel alludes to in his words here, makes the point that He can do as He pleases. And yet doing as He pleases does not occur in a vacuum, it also occurs in connection with his character, His plans and his promises. So Nathaniel’s claim that “God can do what he wants with his creation, and still remains morally perfect” is not true. Because he is a God of truth he cannot lie. Because he is loving he does not have children molested and women raped. And yet if the two will theory were true, then every child molestation and every rape though against the stated laws of God in scripture is in fact exactly what he wanted to occur, exactly what he desired to occur.

    “Problem avoided again. My point remains the same. God’s ordaining free will does not absolve God of responsibility.”

    Nathaniel has very warped views on responsibility then. His view is not biblical at all. The bible is very clear that persons are responsible for the actions they do. If I choose to sin, I not God, am responsible for the sin. God says that he is holy and separate from sin. If we take him at his word then this is true, he is not responsible for sin: WE ARE. If theological determinism is true, then God’s word is not true, He says he is holy and hates sin and is separate from sin, but in reality He predetermines and desires for every sin and evil to occur. If Calvinism is true, then God becomes a liar: he says one thing in his word but what he really wants and predetermines to occur is the opposite.

    “Even if God could say, “I didn’t know that my creation would commit that sin,” God is still in some [sense/way] responsible. According to your standards, it would seem that God is also morally culpable.”

    No, according to my standards, which are derived from the bible, each person is responsible for the actions that they do. The most clear and explicit biblical teaching on this occurs in ***Ezekiel 18*** where the bible explicitly and repeatedly teaches that each person is responsible for their own actions (the Father is responsible for his own sins, the Father is not responsible for the sins of his son; the Son is responsible for his own sins, the Son is not responsible for the sins of his Father). To claim that God is “still in some [way] responsible” for our sins is to directly contradict explicit scripture.

    “No, I am just showing the logical outworking of a simple foreknowledge view (plus Libertarian freewill) of God. In fact, I actually do not see how I’ve “slipped” my presupposition in. Here’s the argument:

    God knows everything
    God knows the free actions of man perfectly
    The free actions of some men will result in unbelief
    God creates men
    Therefore God is responsible for creating men whom he knew he could save despite his best efforts and would end up damning them to hell

    How am I inserting my presupposition that God ordains everything? Notice I did not say that God ordained the actions of those men. All I said is he knew the actions of those men and that creating them makes him in some way responsible. That’s it.”

    “creating them makes him in some way responsible” referring to what? That (1) God creates human persons or (2) that God is responsible for their every action including their sins since he created them and predetermines and necessitates their every action? (1) is true for the non-Calvinist, but (2) is not true of non-Calvinism. On the other hand, (2) is true of calvinism. And (2) **is** one of the problems. (2) Is what contradicts scripture. And as (2) is part of calvinism, calvinism contradicts scripture and so is false.

    God is responsible for creating human persons, that is true, but God is not responsible for their sinful choices (including those who for a lifetime reject his grace towards them and end up eternally separated from God).

    “I would even say that if God did NOT know the future perfectly, he would STILL be responsible in some way. The question for the Arminian is how is God’s responsibility different in Arminianism as opposed to Calvinism?”

    That is easy, for the non-Calvinist God is responsible for creating human persons and creating them with the capacity to make their own choices. But he is not responsible for their sins. In calvinism in contrast, he is responsible for their sins as he controls and causes them to do every sin which they commit in line with his total plan.

    “Question for the Arminian:

    – How much responsibility must God have in order to become morally culpable? –“

    My question is: why does Nathaniel feel so compelled to make God responsible for everything that occurs? I think that I know the answer: Nathaniel wants to defend his mistaken notion that God predetermines every event as part of a total plan made in eternity. In order to justify this notion he has to show that God is fully responsible for everything that takes place ( so he wants to claim that whether you are a theological determinist or a non-Calvinist God is fully responsible for everything that occurs in this world). In this way he thinks that he makes the problem of evil equally problematic in both views. But his attempts do not work because the existence and nature of sin is much worse in theological determinism than it is in non-Calvinism. It is much worse to say that God causes people to do evil then to say that God allows people to freely choose to do evil.

    “How much freewill will we have in heaven?”

    Actually there are not amounts of free will, such as today we have two pounds of the stuff and in heaven we will have tons of it. 🙂 I take free will in the ordinary sense and meaning: that we sometimes have and make choices, that our every action is not necessitated so that it was impossible for us to have done otherwise. Do we have choices here? I would say Yes. Will we have choices in heaven? Again I would say Yes. We also need to remember that God is the freest person in reality the one with free will and yet he is in heaven and he never sins.

    “The problem I have with this view is that God actually fails in his purpose to save. Christ’s atonement fails to atone for some of those it intends to atone, and God’s best efforts are thwarted by unbelief. I do not believe this is what Scripture teaches.”

    Again, Nathaniel refuses to take the non-Calvinist view of the atonement as we hold it. We believe that God has a plan of salvation which he devised, developed and is carrying out (just as He planned it). He planned to design human persons with free will as ordinarily understood and he created Adam that way. He also planned a plan of salvation that involved both what God would do as well as what man would need to do freely in response. As I said before and Nathaniel intentionally ignores it: God always does his part, always accomplishes his purposes. And He set it up so that salvation would involve a response of faith from us, and this response was to be made freely by us. As it can be made freely by us, it can also be freely rejected by us. I just do not understand why calvinists, theological determinists cannot acknowledge that IF GOD SET IT UP THIS WAY, IF GOD SET IT UP IN THE WAY NON-CALVINIST’S BELIEVE THAT HE SET IT UP, THEN THAT IS THE WAY IT IS, AND THE WAY IT IS, IS ITSELF BASED UPON GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY.

    “The picture of God that Scripture is a God who saves and justifies those he desires to save and justify,”

    He does save those he desires to save (which is those who freely choose to trust Him alone for their salvation, which is salvation through faith, which is his plan for both Jew and Gentile, see especially Romans 9-11).

    “a God who accomplishes his purposes exactly how he plans,”

    He did accomplish his purposes exactly how he planned. He set things up exactly the way he wanted them to be, so that a provision of atonement would be made for the world and at the same time only those who freely chose to trust him for salvation would be saved out of that world.

    “and a God who reveals his everlasting love and mercy to an undeserving chosen and delays punishment on a deserving chosen (this is what I would call a glorious understatement).”

    Now this is where Nathaniel’s ugly theological determinism rears its ugly head again. He says that God reveals his love and mercy to the “undeserving chosen” (which I take him to mean the elect, those God preselected for salvation). He also says that he “delays punishment on a deserving chosen” (which I take him to mean the reprobates, those God preselected for damnation). Now note he says that the reprobates **deserve** their eternal fate. This is nasty for two reasons. First, if theological determinism is true and God exhaustively predetermines everything, then these reprobates were selected for damnation and God set up their whole life to be one of unbelief and sin and set them up so that it was impossible for them to be saved, and then sent them to hell for doing exactly what he wanted them to do! That is sick and makes God into a moral monster. Second, if we are going to talk about deserving hell, according to scripture even one sin merits hell. So all of us are deserving of hell and yet according to the theological determinist, God saves the elect and damns the reprobates. But if all deserve hell, and if God could save all (note in theological determinism since it is monergistic God can save anyone that he wants regardless of their wills) then why not save them all?

    “Ultimately, you misrepresent Calvinism – as if Calvinism is only about sending sinners to hell.”

    I have never said that all calvinism is, is “only about sending sinners to hell.”

    Actually, Calvinism has a whole set of problems and hell and reprobation is one of them. Other problems include the two will theory where God is constantly contradicting himself (he says he desires one thing in the bible, but in reality in what actually occurs he predetermines things completely opposite what he desires, which means the revealed will is really a sham, a façade, a front that is not real, with the real desires of God that he actually desires to see occur being his secret/decretive will). A major problem for many, many non-Calvinists is that calvinism directly contradicts clear and explicit scriptures (e.g. see how they handle John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 1 Jn. 2:2 etc. etc.). The system leads them to reinterpret away some important and clear bible texts. Another problem is the divisiveness caused by theological determinism (just look at how it divides churches and denominations and individuals). Then there is the fruit it bears with so many theological determinists being extremely arrogant and argumentative folks. Then there is the fact that previous to Augustine no one espoused the ideas of theological determinists for the first four centuries of church history. I could continue but the point is that calvinism is full of problems. Which is precisely what you would expect from a man-made system that contradicts scripture.

    Robert

  3. Nathaniel spurred on by his desire to defend his false system of theology, theological determinism, calvinism, had just now decided to respond to my points against the two will theory. What I note is that he does not deal with my points very well at all.

    He writes:

    “What is meant by extra-biblical? Does this mean that the phrase “two wills of God” is nowhere to be found or does he mean actually mean “non-Biblical” meaning the two-will view is not supported by Scripture?”
    I mean extra biblical that is not stated in scripture but is a theological fiction or novelty invented by theological determinists and then read into the text in order to evade “problem texts”.

    “If he means the former, the Trinity as well as several other doctrines must be rejected as well. However, if he means the latter, then we would need proof exegetically and systematically this cannot be. I have never heard anyone supply a good objection to the two-will theory.”

    The Trinity is not extra biblical because the two lines of evidence that result in the Trinity (i.e. that there is only one God, that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all distinct persons and are all God) are present in the bible and come out of proper exegesis of the biblical texts. All orthodox Christians find the trinity in the biblical texts: only the minority, the theological determinists read in their concept into scripture.

    In my second point against the two will theory I carefully and logically showed how it leads to contradictions between the supposed prescriptive will and the secret/decretive will. Nathaniel did not deal with what I said at all, but instead tried to claim that the Arminian has two contradictory wills of God as well:

    “Yet, according to the Arminian, God’s utmost desire is for everyone to be saved except for the fact that he wants everyone to “freely” choose him. Which is it? Freewill or universal salvation? Is libertarian freewill necessary for Salvation? No, it is not. Can God act and ensure our choice? Yes, he can. Does he? No, not according to Arminianism.”

    I never said what God’s “utmost desire is”. In fact he never makes such a statement in scripture at all. So it is speculation as to what his “utmost desire is”. Nathaniel then asks intending to set up some sort of false dilemma that it is either (1) “God’s utmost desire is for everyone to be saved” or (2) “except for the fact that he wants everyone to “freely” choose him.” And then asks: “Which is it? Freewill or universal salvation?” Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t God desire the salvation of all people (as he explicitly states in scripture)and simultaneously want that salvation to occur as people freely choose to trust Him alone for their salvation? Why isn’t that possible? Why does Nathaniel just categorically deny it. There is a name for that fallacy it is called cavalier dismissal.

    Nathaniel goes on to say:

    “Is libertarian freewill necessary for Salvation? No, it is not.”

    Why not? If God Himself sets up the plan of salvation if God designs humans to be capable of having and making their own choices, and if God wants salvation to involved freely made choices to trust Him, THEN WHY CAN’T THAT BE PRECISELY THE WAY IT IS?? It is his prerogative to set salvation up anyway that he wants. So if he desires to set it up in such a way that free will is involved, who is going to stop him from doing so? John Calvin and other theological calvinists who object to God’s plan of salvation??

    “God does not want someone to murder someone else, he has the power to stop the murder, yet he does not. Why?”

    Why is Nathaniel reasoning just like an atheist here? I have heard numerous atheists make exactly this claim as an attack against the goodness of the God of the bible. So Nathaniel appeals to a nonbeliever’s reasoning to defend his theological determinism?

    “Because he does not want to disturb the free will of creatures. This seems “duplicitous.” God wants everyone to be saved, yet more precious to him is not the man’s salvation but their free choice.”

    Again where in the bible does it say that “he does not want to disturb the free will of creatures”? Occasionally God does in fact move in such a way to intervene on the human will (ask Nebuchadnezzar when he was eating grass like an animal!). And Nathaniel’s words that “God wants everyone to be saved, yet more precious to him is not the man’s salvation but their free choice.” attempts to make God’s desires to save all and his desire to create human capable of free will to contradict each other. But again why should that be the case? Why can’t God BOTH create humans with the capacity to have and make choices (i.e. have free will as it is normally understood) AND ALSO DESIRE THE SALVATION OF ALL PEOPLE??
    “I’ve seen many Arminians do the same thing for sovereignty passages such as Romans 9 and John 6. There are problem texts, and we are always trying to harmonize the clearer passages with the less clear passages.”

    I have no problems with both Romans 9 and John 6, provided they are properly interpreted, and interpreted without reading in the concepts of theological determinists.

    “It’s a principle in Protestant hermeneutics. I do not believe that it is minimizing the meaning by taking an apparent contradiction and explaining the two texts.”

    But the “apparent contradiction” is not between biblical texts for the theological determinist: rather, it is between what the bible says versus what the system says (e.g. the bible says God desires the salvation of all; the determinist system says God only desires to save the preselected elect, so it is not biblical texts apparently contradicting each other, it is biblical texts contradicting the false calvinist system).

    “As if we do not all carry presuppositions to the text. I would like to see anyone try to eliminate from their mind any presuppositions so that they may enter some hermeneutical nirvana in which they could fully begin to interpret the Scriptures with full accuracy (sorry for the directness, I’m just trying to beat this point home). Of course, we come to the text with assumptions, the question is does the text support these assumptions? We are constantly being evaluated by the text which changes our presuppositions as we go.”

    My point was not about whether or not people have assumptions: No, my point is that theological determinists “interpret” the bible in a way remarkably similar to non-Christian cultists in that they start with non or un-biblical notions they want to believe and then read in these concepts into scripture. Nathaniel just disregarded my point entirely.

    “Many positions of the early church were wrong. Shall we return to the false doctrines of early church as well? We are trying clarify truth and error as we go along. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us on this issue. Does this objection imply that the early church was correct in all its doctrine? Shall we reject a formalized position of the Trinity or accept the allegorization of Scripture? How about baptismal regeneration?”

    Nathaniel is again intentionally evading dealing with my point. My point is that calvinism, theological determinism and its two will theory are **completely absent** from the early centuries of church history before Augustine. If it were true, and if the early church had the Spirit as we do, then why did they all miss calvinism? Why is it that NONE OF THEM TAUGHT CALVINISM OR THEOLOGICAL DETERMINISM??

    Nathaniel asks whether or not all early church beliefs and practices were biblical? The answer is No. But even then you can see differing positions on issues, but not orthodox truths of the faith BEING COMPLETELY ABSENT.

    Here was my original point:

    “Sixth, if God really says one thing in his Word and does another in his secret will, this may lead to real lack of trust in what the bible says. This is because the bible really does not represent the “bottom line,” concerning reality, rather the secret will is the “bottom line”. God’s truest desires, what He really wants to happen, are seen in and expressed in the secret will, not the bible.”

    Note Nathaniel’s response to this point:

    ““The secret things belong to the LORD.” If we are given principles to live by, we ought to live by them. “Who has known the mind of the LORD?” Can believers know the SECRET plans God? We must live by faith that God knows what he is doing, we must according to the commands he has given us, and we must trust that he will keep us through the troubles that we experience. This objection refuses to recognize the Biblical evidence.”

    Again he completely evades my point. I was not claiming that we know everything about God and spiritual things (in fact God has not chosen to reveal everything, which is what the Deuteronomy passage is referring to). But the Deuteronomy passage is definitely not talking about the two will theory or stating that the decretive will is secret and known to God alone and not revealed to man. My point was that if the revealed will says one thing, that God desires X, Y, and Z. And the decretive will shows that instead God desires opposite of X, opposite of Y, and opposite of Z: then we cannot trust the revealed will of God on anything. Again it is like a dishonest politician who says one thing publically for all to hear (in this case the bible declaring what God desires) and yet in secret, behind the scenes is planning and desiring the opposite of what he says publicly (that would be the decretive will). And since the decretive will really decides what will occur, the revealed will is wiped out by the secret will.
    My seventh point is that the secret or decretive will really is not completely secret (since the decretive will is the total plan for all of history, any event that has already happened or is happening now is God’s will, is the decretive will; so if you want to know it, just look at what has happened and is happening and realize that it is exactly what God desires to be happening, with no exceptions).
    Here is how I originally stated it:

    “Seventh, some determinists will claim that the secret will is known to God alone or beyond our understanding, etc. etc. This is not accurate. If everything that occurs in reality is part of the secret will, then we need only look at reality, look at what actually occurs to see the sovereign will being carried out. Look at any past event, that is exactly what God desired to occur. Look at any present reality, that is exactly what God desires to occur. We may not know the future but we can know the secret will in terms of all realities that involve the past or the present. Now this is troublesome when we consider some of the things that God therefore desired to occur. Every evil or sin that has occurred or is occurring in its every detail is exactly what God wants to occur as it is all part of his sovereign will/secret will/total plan.”

    And look at how Nathaniel responded to it:

    “Ah, so if I could see reality as it is, I can know God’s plan? Can you tell me why the tsunami in Indonesia happened? Can you tell me why the earthquake in Haiti happened or 9/11? Obviously, we do not know why God allows certain events to occur. Again, we cannot know the secret plans of God – this is Scriptural is it not?”

    Nathaniel again completely evades my point. I was not claiming that by looking at events that have occurred and are occurring we would know all of God’s purposes which is what Nathaniel claims was my point. No, I am making a more simple point: if the decretive will exists and all events are predetermined, then whatever actually happens is what God desires to happen. And that becomes a real problem with various evils in the world. It is not enough to simply say it is for his glory. Why are children being molested and why does God desire for that to occur? Why the adultery, the murder, the lies, the false teaching, the divisions between believers, the divisions between believers in the same groups, and on and on and on. The theological determinist assumes that God is working everything out for good. But that is not what Romans 8:28 says. It says this is true only in the experience of believers. This means the converse is also true, the claim that God is working everything out for good does not apply to nonbelievers. So you cannot claim that the evils and sufferings of unbelievers are all working together for good. They are not according to Romans 8:28.

    Nathaniel also missed and evaded my final point against the two will theory:

    “Eighth and particularly troubling for non-Calvinists is what the two will theory says or implies about God’s character. A person who says one thing and does another is considered a hypocrite. A person who says he desires one thing but really desires another cannot be trusted and may even hide malicious plans and actions behind expressed words (cf. like a dishonest politician who says one thing publicly but in private holds a very different view). A person who claims to be good, righteous, merciful, to have good character (again when speaking publicly) and yet privately is the opposite and desires the opposite has an evil and untrustworthy character.”

    My point is that if the two will theory is true, then God’s character is different from what he reveals in scripture. Because he says one thing in scripture and then in reality he does and plans and desires for the opposite to occur. A trustworthy person is one that when they say something you know they mean what they say and their character lines up with what they say. If a person says not to lie, but then is constantly lying, we do not see this person has having high moral character. Similarly God says in the bible he is a God of truth and that he wants people to seek and live out truth, and yet in the decretive will he decrees every lie and falsehood and deceit that ever occurs.
    A problem that non-Calvinists have had and will always have with the theological determinism of someone like Nathaniel the theological determinist who posted here is simple: the bible says some things about God and his character that we believe to be true. If a theological system comes along claiming that God does certain things that would make him have a character different than what he reveals about himself in the bible, then the non-Calvinist sees this as impugning and attacking God’s character.

    Now that is what I was getting at, consider Nathaniel’s reply:

    “No, this is a misunderstanding of the two-wills theory.”

    If only I had a dollar for every time a theological determinist claimed that we do not understand their positions! 🙂

    “God will grant (and has granted) forgiveness to all who repent.”

    That is a careful statement and we would all agree that God grants forgiveness to all who repent and believe the gospel. But again the issue is that God says he wants all to be saved which means that he wants for all to repent and believe (but the Calvinistic system says No, God only wants some to repent and believe).

    “God will restore (and has restored) all who turn from evil. There’s no duplicity there, no scheming politician, no “untrustworthy” God. The fact that we have repented shows us that God has sovereignly acted to bring us to the point repentance and has forgiven us of our sin. We can trust that God is faithful in all that he has promised even if we do not know his secret plans.”

    Again some careful statements that any Christian would agree with (“God will restore . . . all who turn from evil,” . . . “We can trust that God is faithful in all that he has promised”). But the theological determinist’s system says that while the bible says one thing, the decretive will is quite another thing, something that actually contradicts the bible what God has actually revealed. If more theological determinists were completely honest and forthright, outright denying that God desires the salvation of all, outright denying that Jesus died for the world, outright denying that we ever have choices, etc. I believe it would be even more easily rejected by most believers (actually today and throughout church history theological determinism is always rejected by the **vast majority** of bible believing Christians whether they be Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Protestants or Independents, and this will always continue to be true). Instead the theological determinists indoctrinate their people against the teachings of the bible so that they accept the system first and the bible is made to fit the system. Non-Calvinists see this kind of thing as a direct attack on the scripture, on God’s plan of salvation and against God’s revealed character.

    Robert

  4. Robert,

    I am getting the feeling that you are behaving in the way that Dr. Brown rightly says Calvinists are wrong for behaving. Robert, you know that Calvinists believe that the strength of their position is the exegesis of the text of scripture, and yet, I have not seen from you an exegesis of the key texts that we would use such as Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10, Acts 4:27-28, and Romans 9. Sure, you mention Romans 9, and assert that we are removing it from context, but I have yet to see you demonstrate that. Mocking an interpretation is not the same thing as responding to it. Provide us with an exegesis, rather than a mockery of the other side’s exegesis.

    If you would like to deal with the issues, we are listening. However, please do not engage in this arrogant mockery that I have seen in your posts. Deal with the issue.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  5. Adam,

    BTW, did you ever notice in Gen 50:20 that first hashab `al is used (with regard to the brothers’ hostile intent), then hashab l- (the Lord’s good intent), pointing to different nuances of the verb (aside from the other issues we previously discussed). Since you brought up that text again (one which I believe, as you know, cannot be used as a Calvinistic proof of any kind), I thought I’d mention the grammatical-lexicographic issue, just as a point of interest. (HALOT, e.g., points to the difference here.)

  6. Dr. Brown,

    The only thing I can think that you are trying to argue is that it is the preposition that changes the meaning of the verb, and I don’t see where HALOT says that anywhere. In fact, it lists examples where you have a lamed of disadvantage used with chashab [Psalm 41:8, for example]. While one could argue that HALOT is setting up a different meaning for the two verbs, I don’t see where they are doing it on the basis of the preposition, and, as I said before, to argue for a different meaning for the two usages of the same verb is exegetically fallacious since they are parallel.

    As far as the differences between the prepositions, I noted that in our discussion. Yes, there is a difference between the ‘al of disadvantage, and the lamed of advantage, because the purposes of the planning of the evil were, on the one hand to harm Joseph, and on the other hand for good. So, yes, I acknowledge there is a difference between the purpose of the planning of evil, as do most Calvinists.

    As Dr. Greg Bahnsen used to say, one can only know things that are true, so, no, since I believe the statement is untrue, I do not know that this cannot be used as a Calvinistic proof text. If you are trying to break apart the meaning of a verb in a parallel clauses like this, and have already tried to argue that the referent for the suffix on chashab in the second clause is not ra’a, in spite of the fact that the suffix is the exact same gender and number as ra’a, ra’a occurs only two words earlier, and ra’a is the object of the exact same verb to which the suffix is attached, then there is nothing more I can say to you. Just that we disagree strongly over this passage, and I think that trying to explain these things the way you are is methodologically fallacious.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  7. Adam,

    Methodologically fallacious? Seriously? Using the entire context of Scripture in which God distances Himself from the evil acts of people is methodologically fallacious? Saying that God used something that people intended for evil for His good purposes is methodologically fallacious?

    As for HALOT, the specific citation of Gen 50:20a with `al points to the brothers planning “against” Joseph, the opposite of God’s intentions. This is methodologically fallacious?

    Moreover, even if we say that ra`ah is the referent for hashabah, the meaning is quite simple: The brothers, out of their evil hearts, planned to do Joseph harm, but God, in His foreknowledge of this event and in His infinite wisdom, planned to use it for good.

    Honestly (yet with appreciation for your love of the Word), to use this text to prove Calvinism strikes me as a very poor strategy. In a public debate setting, I would be delighted if my debating opponent marshaled this text in defense of God orchestrating “evil.” (Of course, I haven’t even mentioned that ra`ah doesn’t even have to mean evil; its dual meaning, based on a root sense of “something bad,” can refer either to something disastrous or something evil. This is seen frequently when comparing translations of Jeremiah, where the noun occurs with most frequency.) Enough said.

    May the Lord’s blessing be yours.

  8. Dr. Brown,

    Perhaps we misunderstood one another. I thought you were saying that HALOT was saying that there was some inherent different meaning to the term when it is used with different prepositions. I don’t think that is what HALOT is saying.

    I do think, as I said in my post to you, that one can say that HALOT is trying to differentiate meanings, and it may be trying to differentiate meanings on the basis of the different *syntactical functions* of the prepositions, but not on the basis of some inherent lexicographical differences when the verb is used with different prepositions. Of course, as I said, I don’t agree with that reasoning [just as the commentators I listed last time do not as well] given the parallels between the clauses, but I do accept that HALOT is trying to do that.

    Methodologically fallacious? Seriously? Using the entire context of Scripture in which God distances Himself from the evil acts of people is methodologically fallacious?

    Again, I would argue that you have a theological precommitment that is forbidding you from reading this text in the way I have argued.

    Also, I do think Brueggman’s [sp?] interpretation has methodological problems, as do many commentators such has Hamilton. Not only do you have the problem of structure, but I think one thing that can be thrown into the midst is, as far as I can tell, when you have the interpretation that you are trying to use here from the wisdom texts, in the wisdom texts, it is usually in the context of judgment against the wicked, while this text in Genesis 50:20 is clearly in the context of forgiveness.

    Honestly (yet with appreciation for your love of the Word), to use this text to prove Calvinism strikes me as a very poor strategy. In a public debate setting, I would be delighted if my debating opponent marshaled this text in defense of God orchestrating “evil.” (Of course, I haven’t even mentioned that ra`ah doesn’t even have to mean evil; its dual meaning, based on a root sense of “something bad,” can refer either to something disastrous or something evil. This is seen frequently when comparing translations of Jeremiah, where the noun occurs with most frequency.) Enough said.

    Well, I guess we just have very different approaches here. Again, as I told you before, lexicography is only one factor in semantics. One has to consider structure [as is the case in this text] as well as pragmatics [which, in my mind anyway, totally forbids the interpretation of ra’a here as “bad, calamity,” given that Joseph’s brothers clearly sinned in doing what they did to Joseph]. You might be able to come up with several different possibilities, and even some that, given all contexts are statistically more probable, but the problem of the structure, the pragmatics, the syntax, and other aspects of language are going to, in my mind, have to be the way in which certain possibilities are made either highly unlikely or impossible, and that is why I don’t believe that you are correct.

    Again, I appriciate the work that you do in so many areas, but I do think that there are methodological problems here, and the differences in our approaches I think is coming out clearly. That is why I say that I think we have laid all the issues out, and we will just have to agree to disagree.

    God Bless,
    Adam

  9. Adam,

    I have already decided to agree to disagree, so that is not the issue here. But what is very troubling to me is statements like, “Again, I would argue that you have a theological precommitment that is forbidding you from reading this text in the way I have argued.”

    Adam, I was not saved in a Calvinistic church yet became a Calvinist, as you know, six years later. But intensive study of the Scriptures — the testimony of the whole of the Bible, to me — convinced me that Calvinism was a system based on selective verses, a particular theological grid, and an attempt to put things together in a neat and tidy package, one that had to ignore the explicit meaning of numerous verses — caused me to drop Calvinism.

    Now, after almost forty years of study of the Word, with intense focus through those years, I am as convinced as ever that Calvinism is not in accordance with the overall testimony of the Word. You can talk about statistical probabilities and the like in terms of meaning of words and quite specific grammatical terms (all of which I live with as well), or you can just read the text and let it speak for itself, as translation after translation does. And all those I have consulted thus far have not made God responsible for planning evil. (If I missed a specific rendering somewhere, fine, but the overwhelming majority do not go in that direction.)

    In any case, to repeat: What troubles me here is your statement, quoted above, based on which you fail to see that I am reading the text in a way that makes perfect sense, is in harmony with many other scriptures, and flows fine without the least grammatical or syntactic or lexicographic problem. Should you have said, “I see clearly how you can read the text like this, but I read it differently for other reasons,” I would have no objection to that. But your statement to me that, “you have a theological precommitment that is forbidding you from reading this text in the way I have argued,” points to a precommitment on your side, not mine.

    Interestingly, I shared our interaction a few weeks back with a brilliant, ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has been studying the Hebrew text since he was a little boy and has much of the Tanakh memorized. He was quite surprised to hear how you read Gen 50:20, simply based on a natural reading of the Hebrew.

    So, I say that to say that before you can really interact effectively with the serious objection of a serious student of the Word, you’ll have to get the past the “theological precommitment” concept first. Otherwise, your arguments will not ring true. (I could say the same thing about your “methodological problems” linen as well, but time does not permit; suffice it to say that the wiser statement would have been, “We seem to have methodological differences in our approach.”)

    WeHaMevin Yaskil.

    Just some constructive input for you!

  10. I know I said I wouldn’t respond anymore, but I do want to note one thing and then, Robert, you can have the last word.

    This is more of a comment on methodology than content (although I feel like nothing has changed since the last few posts).

    I am trying to offer this as positively as I can, and let me say that it takes a lot to offend me. Also, I’m not offended by what you have said about me.

    Robert, if you spent as much time critiquing a view as you do mocking your opponent, you may actually sound more convincing. You think you read my intentions perfectly:

    “Nathaniel spurred on by his desire to defend his false system of theology, theological determinism, calvinism, had just now decided to respond to my points against the two will theory. What I note is that he does not deal with my points very well at all.”

    I wrote this after I read your comments on this a few weeks ago. I like to be challenged by other people’s views, so when I saw your critique I decided to respond to it, but I did not see the right time to post it until last night.

    Beyond this, you belittle your opponent with little comments and characterizations. You say that one of my objections sounds like an objection from an atheist (then do not comment on the content), yet the way you demean your opponent makes you sound like one of the New Atheists at times.

    Also, as I mentioned before, you claim clairvoyance into another person’s thoughts. Yet all you do is make an effigy of them and then bash it to pieces. Stick to the arguments. If you were to clear the little comments you made about me and Calvinists, you would find very little content in your argument. In fact, you make tons of claims – Calvinism is “false,” it is a “man-made” system, etc. – that are OK if you’d back it up. But you claim intellectual superiority and you resort to name calling then add a some substance to your arguments. Sometimes, It’s difficult to sift through it to find content worth addressing.

    I said:

    “No, this is a misunderstanding of the two-wills theory.”

    You said:

    “If only I had a dollar for every time a theological determinist claimed that we do not understand their positions! ”

    Maybe you hear it so often because you don’t understand. You don’t listen. You have mischaracterized my arguments almost as much as you’ve mischaracterized me. You would do well to listen and try to understand the arguments.

    I’ve heard it said that Calvinists are extremely prideful (I myself struggle with pride), and that’s probably true in some cases, but Robert, from my conversation with you, it seems that Arminians can be just as prideful. Winning debates is not about belittling the opponent. It is about taking time to understand the opponent’s position and his objections to your system and responding to them reasonably and (especially as a Christian) respectfully. I think you’ve done more of the former and less of the latter.

    Show a little Christian charity. Instead of dictating to your opponents or ascribing to them positions they do not hold, address them personally and respectfully and listen to their ideas. I speak as one who tries to maintain this principle, but I know that I can do a better job than I do.

    Again, I know I’m being direct (to put it lightly), but this is just an honest critique (and some frustration which I’m deeply sorry for) from what I’ve seen in your arguments.

    God bless, brother.

  11. Adam,

    One more point about ra’ah. Rendering it with “harm” as some versions well also conveys the point. I meant to state this but failed to in the last post.

    Note also that NET finds it best to render hashab differently in each part of the verse. And, for the fun of citing the Living Bible in the midst of this serious discussion, it does get the overall sense quite right: “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil . . . .”

  12. Dr. Brown,

    I was disappointed after listening to this show today. It seems to me that in your criticism of Calvinism you are attacking a straw man. The reason I say this is that you keep arguing that God expects man to make choices, and that God isn’t forcing men to make choices. Calvinists agree with both of these points, so I’m not quite sure what position you’re attacking but I know it isn’t Calvinism.

    Sincerely,
    Ray

  13. Shalom, Dr. Brown. First and foremost, I praise the Lord for your work among Gentiles and Jews, following the Biblical model of unity the Gospel brings (Eph.2; 3). Thank you, Dr.
    What does Matthew 9:2; 22 mean regarding what came first, repentance or faith? Some Calvinists typically argue repentance is first, then faith secondary. However, Rom. 3:22 and all of chapter 4, 5 and so on refers to justification by faith. What are your thoughts?

  14. Adam seems a bit upset by my challenges to his theological determinism. I also followed the thread where the Gen. 50 passage was discussed thoroughly. In that thread I believe that Dr. Brown and others showed that the text does not support Calvinism/Adam’s view. So Dr. Brown’s comment about the verse that: “one which I believe, as you know, cannot be used as a Calvinistic proof of any kind” is correct. And yet Adam keeps pushing it and now claiming that Dr. Brown just doesn’t get it. Now that is a bit arrogant on Adam’s part.

    Another theological determinist, Nathaniel, brought up various issues including the false two wills theory attempting to argue for Calvinism and against the non-Calvinist view (e.g. attacking libertarian free will). So I have spent some time dealing with **those issues**.

    Adam now wants me to get into an exegetical debate with him, he writes:

    “Robert, you know that Calvinists believe that the strength of their position is the exegesis of the text of scripture, and yet, I have not seen from you an exegesis of the key texts that we would use such as Genesis 50:20, Isaiah 10, Acts 4:27-28, and Romans 9. Sure, you mention Romans 9, and assert that we are removing it from context, but I have yet to see you demonstrate that.”

    Yes I know that theological determinists believe their position is based upon the exegesis of texts: but so does every group that holds a false theology. They all claim that their view is based on the biblical text and the exegesis of the biblical text alone. In reality their interpretations of biblical texts are driven by and controlled by and dictated by a false system that they adhere to.

    Due to personal experience I am quite familiar with how people mistakenly interpret biblical texts based on their false systems of theology. Years ago I knew an effective apologist named Walter Martin. I observed how he dealt with non-Christian cults and some patterns kept repeating themselves. The aberrant groups always claimed that their view was based solely on proper exegesis of biblical texts. They **always** had very predictable proof texts (texts they had selected in order to “prove” their false beliefs. If you knew the group, you knew and could predict with almost certainty, what their proof texts would be. From that early experience of seeing it first hand, I saw clearly how false systems are based on false presuppositions and constant proof texting and eisegesis NOT PROPER EXEGESIS OF THE BIBLICAL TEXTS (despite their perpetual claim that they were merely interpreting the biblical texts). I learned and observed that prior to attending seminary.

    I later went to a very good seminary strongly committed to Dispensationalism. And while there were many good and godly people there, I observed the same pattern that I observed in the non-Christian cults. In this case it occurred in two specific areas where they had a system of theology in which their interpretations of biblical texts are driven by and controlled by and dictated by a false system that they adhere to. In their case, it was a false system of eschatology, where everything was made to fit the system of Dispensationalism. The other area where their interpretation was driven by extra biblical commitments and assumptions was in the area of the cessation of spiritual gifts. And guess what, the parallels between non-Christian cults misinterpreting biblical texts on things like the Trinity, the deity of Christ and salvation through faith, and the Christian Dispensationalists misinterpreting eschatological passages and spiritual gifts passages are remarkably similar. I also studied other theologies including covenant theology while in seminary (I was a systematic theology major while in school) and you find the exact same thing: presuppositions drive the interpretation of the texts leading to clear errors. Now on top of all of these examples: in studying Calvinism I have seen the same thing.

    And if we ask any of them about their interpretations all of them will say just as Adam says: “you know that (X) [in your case you claim it to be Calvinists, but the JW’s the Mormons, the Dispensationalists, the Cessationists, the Covenant Theologians make the same claim] believe that the strength of their position is the exegesis of the text of scripture.”

    It’s a broken record and sounds the same no matter which of these groups makes the claim. And with all of them they have a system of theology that dictates what the bible will be allowed to say. And sadly some very clear bible passages (in the case of Calvinism John 3:16 is a perfect example) get completely mangled beyond recognition. So I have a lot of direct personal experience seeing false systems of theology that end up making real mistakes in their supposed “exegesis” of the biblical texts because of their theological system.

    I also believe this blog is not the proper place to present in depth exegetical analysis of biblical passages. This is true because it is not the proper format of this blog. But more importantly I have already seen how Adam has gone around and around with people including Dr. Brown. And I will pass on going around and around on passages as others did with Adam. 🙂 People just make point and counterpoint and it just keeps going in circles. I have been through enough of these unprofitable circles in the past with cultists, and Dispensationalists and Cessationists, so I don’t have much interest in engaging in some more of it here with Adam.

    Adam went on to say:

    “Mocking an interpretation is not the same thing as responding to it.”

    I haven’t been engaging in mocking anyone’s exegesis here, though I have made strong points challenging the false theological determinist system called Calvinism on certain issues here.

    “Provide us with an exegesis, rather than a mockery of the other side’s exegesis.”

    Again, if I chose to do so, I know what would happen I would end up in the same useless circles like those that others engaged in with Adam on Gen. 50. Adam’s mind is made up and it really does not matter what the text says, all that matters is that Adam maintains what he believes to be “exegetical” support for his theological system.

    “If you would like to deal with the issues, we are listening.”

    I ***have dealt with*** issues here.

    I have shown all sorts of problems with theological determinism and also dealt with attacks against the non-Calvinist view. Adam is welcome to engage in any of these issues of his choosing. Why doesn’t Adam engage in some of the issues already discussed rather than calling for me to engage in more eisegetical circles with him? It’s not like I haven’t made any comments for Adam to engage! 🙂

    “However, please do not engage in this arrogant mockery that I have seen in your posts.”

    Again, I have not arrogantly mocked Adam’s views though I have strongly challenged them. And regarding arrogance I do not sense or observe humility in Adam in his discussions of biblical texts with those with whom he disagrees (including his comments to Dr. Brown).

    “Deal with the issue.”

    I have dealt with multiple issues here; just because Adam sees his system being attacked does not mean that I am arrogant. I have brought up legitimate and common criticisms, concerns, and problems that non-Calvinists have with Adam’s theological determinism (e.g. Calvinism is an attack on God’s character, because if Calvinism is correct then God is not loving but actually quite hateful of most of the human race, God is not the person he says that he is in scripture if he is the grace **restrictor** that Calvinists want him to be; again as another Calvinist admitted about the Calvinist view of reprobation: if that is true then there really is nothing more hateful that could be done to a human being).

    If Adam wants to engage in some of the issues I have already been discussing here. Adam is free to do so. But if Adam expects me to go around and around with him as others have, on his pet Calvinistic proof texts (such as Gen. 50), that is not going to happen.

    Robert

  15. Hello Ray,

    Ray wrote:

    “I was disappointed after listening to this show today. It seems to me that in your criticism of Calvinism you are attacking a straw man.”

    Do we agree that a “straw man” is a caricature or misrepresentation of someone’s position?

    “The reason I say this is that you keep arguing that God expects man to make choices, and that God isn’t forcing men to make choices. Calvinists agree with both of these points, so I’m not quite sure what position you’re attacking but I know it isn’t Calvinism.”

    Ray I do not believe that you properly understand Dr. Brown’s point. I get his point and it is both simple and true. In my experience some Calvinists believe that TULIP is true and at the same time they believe that we sometimes have and make choices (what in technical philosophical and theological discussions is designated as “libertarian free will”). And I would explain free will as the reality that we sometimes have and make choices. Dr. Brown is arguing that the bible is full of passages where people both have and then make a choice. A Calvinist such as my friend Greg can hold this view.

    There is another kind of Calvinist however, who believes that God has exhaustively predetermined every event. If this is so, then WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. If everything is exhaustively predetermined we may MAKE A CHOICE, but we never HAVE A CHOICE. Let’s refer to this type of Calvinist as a theological determinist (since they believe everything is predetermined, predecided ahead of time as part of a total plan that God has for all of history).

    Now Dr. Brown is saying the bible properly interpreted presents example after example of situations where people had a real choice (they had libertarian free will). But if this is true then the theological determinist is in error (because exhaustive predeterminism precludes or excludes the possibility of us ever HAVING A CHOICE).

    Take an ordinary example to see the difference. Say my friend Greg and I go to a restaurant and we intend to discuss Calvinism there. When the server comes and presents us with menus, if we HAVE A CHOICE (if our choices are not predetermined, predecided by God), then we can select from among various alternative possibilities (we could pick the steak or pick the salmon or pick the pasta, any of these choices is available to us).

    But let’s assume that theological determinism is true and that God has predetermined every event, predecided how everything would go. In that case, while Greg and I may **believe** that we can select from among various alternative possibilities. In reality our belief is mistaken. The reality would be that we could only MAKE THE CHOICE, pick the selection, that God had already decided we would choose (so say that God had pre-decided that Greg would have the filet mignon steak, if that were the case, then that is what Greg would choose, that is the choice that he would make, that is the only thing he could do and any other choice would be impossible for him to choose). In this situation while he would MAKE A CHOICE (he would go through the process of selecting or choosing an option), he would not HAVE A CHOICE, as any other option than the filet mignon would be IMPOSSIBLE FOR HIM TO DO.

    Now if you follow what has been said here you can better understand what Dr. Brown is getting at. He is saying that when we look at scripture we find many instances where the text seems to be saying (when properly interpreted) that people were not merely MAKING A CHOICE, but they HAD A CHOICE. They had libertarian free will, their action was not predetermined, and they really could choose either option that they were facing.

    Now for a Calvinist like my friend Greg, since he believes that we sometimes have libertarian free will, he can admit that we sometimes have and make choices and that the bible has many instances of this. On the other hand, a theological determinist who denies libertarian free will, who claims that every event (including our every choice) is predetermined, decided beforehand by God. Can only say that we make choices, not that we HAVE CHOICES. If we really have a choice, where we could choose either option, then everything is not predetermined. Dr. Brown’s comments have been aimed at those who espouse theological determinism, who claim that everything is predetermined by God. The bible repeatedly contradicts theological determinism because the bible repeatedly presents situations where people were not merely MAKING A CHOICE, but they HAD A CHOICE.

    Does that help Ray?

    Robert

  16. Robert,

    Thank you for trying to help. If I understand you right, you are saying the choices we make are not genuine unless we could have done otherwise. I don’t see how this is true, and I don’t see it being taught in Holy Scripture. Are you sure this is the position that Dr. Brown holds? Which texts is it that you (or Dr. Brown) say teach this concept?

  17. Ray wrote:

    “If I understand you right, you are saying the choices we make are not genuine unless we could have done otherwise.”

    No, I am making a distinction between (1) having a choice and (2)making a choice. A choice may be “genuine” even if you could not have done otherwise. Because you are the one making that choice, doing that action of selecting. Back to my earlier example for clarification purposes: if God predetermines everything and God predecided that my friend Greg would make the choice of filet mignon when ordering at the restaurant: Greg’s choice **is** genuine. That is not the problem. Most people when speaking of “free will” do not mean **merely** that they are making choices in which it was impossible for them to do otherwise. They mean they could have selected either option when at least two different options were present and accessible. Say a Father was in his child’s class sitting next to their child and the teacher asked if anyone had any questions? Say the child was deliberating between raising their hand and asking a question and not raising their hand. That was the choice the child was considering. But then the Father grabbed the child’s arm and lifted it up to signify a question. Technically speaking the child’s body performed the action of making a choice but due to the superior power of the Father the child **made a choice** but did not **have a choice**. As adults we also know what this means when we say things like “I had no choice” (meaning we had to do something and really could not do otherwise).

    “I don’t see how this is true,”

    You don’t see how it can be true OR you don’t want it to be true??? 🙂

    “and I don’t see it being taught in Holy Scripture.”

    It is present in situations which scripture describes in which the person had a choice where they could select from two (or more) different options. The bible is full of examples of this. Here is a clear one:

    “ 11When David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to (Q)the prophet Gad, David’s (R)seer, saying,
    12″Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the LORD says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I will do to you.”‘”
    13So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall (S)seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” (2 Samuel 24:11-13)

    “Are you sure this is the position that Dr. Brown holds?”

    It seems to me that that is what he is talking about when he says the bible is full of places where people had choices.

    “Which texts is it that you (or Dr. Brown) say teach this concept?”

    I just provided one. They are easy to spot, they occur anywhere in scripture where a person had different options from which to choose (he had different alternative possibilities and the text suggests that each of them could be selected, none of the different alternatives were impossible).

    Another famous example in the OT is when the people are told to make their choice between the living God and idols (with one option being choosing God and the other option being choosing idols):

    “ 14″Now, therefore, (A)fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.
    15″If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or (B)the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
    16The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods;
    17for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.
    18″The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.” (Joshua 24:14-18)

    The bible is full of examples like these. Anyone who preaches or teaches will constantly be making exhortations to do this rather than that to people (assuming all the while that their audience could make either choice, that neither option was impossible). The only way you can avoid them is if you come to the text already assuming exhaustive determinism and then read it into the text and then reinterpret the texts to eliminate the fact the person(s) involved had choices.

    Robert

  18. Robert said:

    “You don’t see how it can be true OR you don’t want it to be true???”

    I meant that I didn’t see how if I make a choice and could not have chosen otherwise that makes the choice bogus. You have agreed that is not the case and affirmed that my choice is genuine.

    With regards to the distinction you’ve made between “making” and “having” a choice, it appears you are just assuming what you are trying to prove. I hear you saying in order to “have” a choice you must be able to choose otherwise. Once again, where is this in Holy Scripture? You say it is in every passage where people are given multiple options and asked to choose. Again, aren’t you simply assuming that which you are trying to prove? The texts you have provided don’t supply that information. You say that the text “suggests” that is the case and that when people make exhortations this is what they are “assuming”, but again you’re just begging the question.

    It seems to me that the most you can say is that from our perspective when we are presented with multiple options we believe that we are able to choose either one. However, just because we believe it doesn’t make it the case.

    Ray

  19. “It seems to me that the most you can say is that from our perspective when we are presented with multiple options we believe that we are able to choose either one. However, just because we believe it doesn’t make it the case.”

    Ray,

    I’m choosing to share with you that I disagree with this position. Has God, before the creation of the world, caused me to choose to convey this information? Is He receiving some special glory for my choosing to disagree with you? If I could have some how chosen otherwise would this have ruined God’s plan of salvation?

    The idea that every single event has been predetermined is silly.

    A few weeks ago I waffled briefly on purchasing toilette paper; do I buy cheap or do I buy soft and pleasing? Was this a choice that had to be decided before creation? Really??? If so I’m glad I went cheap – I would hate to have the burden of humanity’s eternal damnation for the fleeting pleasure of soft tissue.

  20. Furthermore, it states in both the Psalms and Jeremiah that God “tests the righteous.” Does He put us through tests for which He has already predetermined the outcome. If so, then they were never really tests to begin with were they?

    If I solve all of the problems in your place, whether correctly or incorrectly, then you were never really a test-taker.

  21. Greg,
    First, just because you cannot see how God can be working everything for His own glory doesn’t mean He isn’t. There are so many ramifications for everything that we do that we just cannot know. God is God, and we are not. Second, when God is testing us it is certainly for our benefit and not His. God is not learning anything about us that He doesn’t already know. He is God after all.

  22. What about just plain old determinism? You are who you are because of nature and nurture, both of which you have no control over, in a country you had no choice of, in a time period that you didn’t choose.

    By the time you filter all that down I would have to say self-determination is out the window.

  23. Ray said:

    “I meant that I didn’t see how if I make a choice and could not have chosen otherwise that makes the choice bogus. You have agreed that is not the case and affirmed that my choice is genuine.”

    I am not disagreeing that in a fully predetermined world that we would MAKE CHOICES (we **would** MAKE choices), we just would never HAVE A CHOICE (where we could choose either alternative possibility). And most people when they are speaking of free will or being able to choose they mean not merely that they will end up making a choice, but that they HAD A CHOICE.
    It is HAVING A CHOICE that is completely eliminated if everything is predetermined. Most theological determinists are not forthright about this fact.

    And I want that truth out in the open for everyone to see. I am convinced that if people see that, they will have some major problems with any view that espouses theological determinism (i.e. that everything is predetermined, that God makes all the choices beforehand and we then merely carry out these already made decisions).

    “With regards to the distinction you’ve made between “making” and “having” a choice, it appears you are just assuming what you are trying to prove.”

    How so?

    I believe that I have made myself very clear by means of the having versus making a choice distinction that in a fully predetermined world we would make choices but never ever have a choice. On the other hand if we are in a world that is not fully predetermined then at times we may really have choices.
    And regarding the having/making a choice distinction, you cannot claim that I am begging the question with it because the distinction comes from one of the most prominent philosophers working in the area of free will, and he **is** a compatibilist (so he holds to determinism and so you cannot claim that he is assuming the libertarian view of free will: he is just honest about the implications of determinism, i.e. that if everything is predetermined then we may engage in making choices, we may mistakenly believe that we have a choice, but in reality we never ever have a choice).

    “I hear you saying in order to “have” a choice you must be able to choose otherwise.”

    Yes, that follows logically if you understand what we mean by “having a choice”, which means that we can choose to have steak or choose to have salmon or even choose not to eat at all! 🙂 Being “able to do otherwise” is synonymous with “having a choice”.

    Before addressing Ray’s other statements I want to point out a common rhetorical argument used by non-Christian cultists who are skeptics of the trinity as it is relevant here. They will say things like: “where in the bible does it ever say the word Trinity?” The answer is that the **word** is not present though the concept is present based upon what the bible says. This is a common rhetorical appeal to argue against something that the bible teaches. We could equally use this method against Theological determinists who believe in “unconditional election”, “total depravity”, “irresistible grace”, all phrases that you will not find in the bible. The question is does the bible properly interpreted suggest these concepts?

    Similarly Ray makes the same kind of appeal when he writes:

    “Once again, where is this in Holy Scripture?”

    If you mean free will as ordinarily understood, you may not find the phrase in a particular bible verse, though you will find the concept being presupposed and entailed by all sorts of biblical texts. I gave two very clear examples which Ray has not interacted with. In the first David was told he could choose this or this or this (three options, three alternative positions). Any person interpreting these verses with the ordinary understanding of language in mind would take the text to be saying that HE HAD A CHOICE from between three options and that he could choose any of the three. I say ordinary understanding because a theological determinist, in order to defend and maintain his view would have to reinterpret these verses away from the intended meaning to a meaning where David may have thought that he could select any of three but in reality God had already decided which choice he would make and so he would have to make that choice. And the other two options would be impossible for him.
    Now I submit that most of us given the same language as David was given would not conclude that God had already decided what option we would choose and that David really could not choose the other options, he only mistakenly believed that he could.
    This brings out an important point and problem. If everything is predetermined and we never ever have a choice, then our belief that we have a choice in every situation is false. It has to be false because exhaustive predeterminism excludes, eliminates our ever having a choice.

    So if everything were predetermined, when a Father says to his child that she can name her doll any name that she wants to name it: that statement is false. Now if the Father believes that she has a choice and tells her that and he does not know that in reality everything is predetermined so that we never have a choice and so the child also does not have a choice, he may be mistaken. But if the Father knows that she really does not have a choice and yet expresses ordinary language that conveys to the child the meaning that she has a choice, then he is misleading her with the language he is using and this is also evidence of a deceitful character on his part.

    What this shows is that language can become meaningless (it seems to mean one thing but really does not) and a person who deliberately uses ordinary language in this way is misleading others and displaying a deceitful character. Now the bible is full of ordinary language which taken in its ordinary meaning states that a person has a choice of some kind and must then make a choice from among different options. If instead everything is predetermined and God is the one who did so. And yet God in the bible uses the same kinds of phrases and words that human beings do when telling others that they HAVE A CHOICE, when in reality they never have a choice because everything has been predetermined, then God is misleading us with what he says in the bible and he has a deceitful character.

    He would know that people never have choices and yet for him to present things as if they do, is utterly misleading and deceitful. God says he is a God of truth. But a God who intentionally misleads people with what he says when he knows the situation is completely different from how he presents things, is not a God of truth but a God of deceit.

    And consider how widespread this deceit would be. The vast majority of people believe they have free will in the ordinary sense of having and making choices. We all talk this way ourselves. It is universal and in every culture even our languages manifest this belief that we have choices. But if theological determinism is true, then it is all an illusion, the belief that we have a choice is ALWAYS FALSE. Do we really believe that God is pulling this universal con on us? Knowing that we never ever have a choice and yet saying things over and over in His Word that suggest that we do in fact have choices?

    “You say it is in every passage where people are given multiple options and asked to choose.”

    And most people reading a passage “where people are given multiple options and asked to choose” would interpret those very words as meaning that the person(s) involved really did have a choice. They really could choose this option, or the other option or the other option. That is the ordinary use of language in action. But the theological determinist comes along and has to say that it is not true: the texts do not really mean what they seem to mean. In fact they can’t mean what they seem to mean because since everything is predetermined God has already decided the choice that would be made and the person has to do that (they have no choice).

    Now not only would theological determinism mean that we never ever have a choice and that all talk of having choices is false, and our belief that we have a choice is an illusion and always false, and that God himself was helping to perpetuate the illusion that we have choices by Himself speaking in the bible as if we had choices, no theological determinist ever lives out his espoused theology/philosophy. Watch and listen to the theological determinist in their daily lives. They speak of people having choices (including their spouses and children) and they act as/and speak as if, people **have choices**, just like everybody else.
    It makes more sense to believe that sometimes we do have choices: that God made this world in such a way that we sometimes have choices, that when God says things about people having choices in the bible He really means what He says, that He is not misleading us when he says these things, that He is not deceiving us by saying one thing when he knows the reality is very different.

    “Again, aren’t you simply assuming that which you are trying to prove?”

    No, I am taking the ordinary language utterances as God intended them, as ordinary people understand them. I am denying that God is misleading us with the ordinary language utterances that he has expressed in the bible. I am denying that God is deceiving us about us having choices. I am affirming that you can take His Word as it is presented without constantly saying that while it may initially appear that He is saying and meaning this, he actually does not mean it at all.

    “The texts you have provided don’t supply that information.”

    They provide abundant and clear information that God intends us to interpret these ordinary language utterances as referring to people having choices. If we take them the other way, as theological determinism would imply, then God engages in a tremendous amount of misleading language regarding us having choices. He is really playing games with us in scripture then. He says things that clearly mean the person has a choice when in reality he knows that they do not have a choice, but he says these things anyway. That is both misleading and deceitful.

    “You say that the text “suggests” that is the case and that when people make exhortations this is what they are “assuming”, but again you’re just begging the question.”

    Not begging the question at all. I have heard Calvinists exhort people to do X instead of Y. And by the way that they say it they mean the person has a choice. I don’t hear Piper saying things like: “Well we need to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God, but let me be honest with you, while God says that to all Christians, with some Christians God has predetermined for you to do that, and so you will. But for others, he has predetermined for you not to do so, and so you won’t. I don’t know who is who, so we might as well all try and then we will see what God decided with each one of us.” I don’t hear theological determinists talking this way to their congregations, to their spouses, to their children, to their friends, to anyone. They just like everybody else who lives in this reality which God created talks as if we sometimes have choices.

    “It seems to me that the most you can say is that from our perspective when we are presented with multiple options we believe that we are able to choose either one. However, just because we believe it doesn’t make it the case.”

    Ray needs to think through the implications of his theological determinism. Ray is right, just because “we believe that we are able to choose either one” . . “doesn’t make it the case.” Just because we all believe that it is true does not mean that it is true. If theological determinism were true we would all be mistaken in this belief. But Ray apparently has not considered sufficiently what it would mean if his exhaustive predeterminism were true, if we NEVER EVER HAD A CHOICE. What it would mean is that our belief that we have a choice in such a fully predetermined world would be completely false every time. That God himself would be involved in the illusion, perpetuating the illusion with many statements in scripture. That God is intentionally misleading us throughout the bible. And that while God claims that he is the God of truth and does not lie, with regard to the issue of us having free will he is misleading us on this all the time.

    When you take theological determinism to its logical conclusions you see that it contradicts scripture, it maligns the character of God, it undermines the Word of God, and you can understand why **no one** in the early church espoused it. In the first four centuries of the church (prior to Augustine) Christians uniformly held to the reality of free will as ordinarily understood. And they regularly argued against the fatalism and theological determinism found in pagan philosophies and religions they dealt with.

    Robert

  24. Ray also wrote:

    “First, just because you cannot see how God can be working everything for His own glory doesn’t mean He isn’t. There are so many ramifications for everything that we do that we just cannot know.”

    No one denies that God works in everything according to his own plans or that we do not know everything that is happening: but it is merely begging the question to assume that Eph. 1:11 to which Ray alludes MEANS THAT EVERYTHING HAS BEEN PREDETERMINED. That is not what the Eph. 1:11 text says, though theological determinists may **read that** into the verse.

    “God is God, and we are not.”

    Yes, and thank God for that! 🙂

    “Second, when God is testing us it is certainly for our benefit and not His.”

    Again this is correct as it stands.

    “ God is not learning anything about us that He doesn’t already know. He is God after all.”

    Again this is correct God knows everything including the outcome of our “tests”. But again God knowing the outcome is not equivalent to God predetermining the outcome. I also believe that Ray missed Greg’s point.

    Greg is saying that for the test to be real, then the outcome needs to be a choice that we freely make. If we make a choice that was predetermined by God in which we never had a choice and it was impossible for us to do otherwise than what was predetermined. That is not saying much. Especially not saying much about our character. As the old adage goes: would you do that if no one was looking, that demonstrates your character.
    Would you freely choose to do the right thing or not? That is what Greg was getting at. To affirm that the test is not primarily for God’s benefit or to focus on God’s knowledge of the outcome, is not Greg’s point.

    Robert

  25. Robert,

    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?

  26. Robert,

    I just remembered something else I wanted to ask if you don’t mind. Why in your response to me are you writing as if you are addressing someone other than myself? It just seems strange to me when you say things like, “Ray needs to think through the implications of his theological determinism.” Are you speaking to me or someone else?

  27. Hello Greg,

    I have appreciated your comments in this thread.

    You wrote among other things:

    “I’m choosing to share with you that I disagree with this position. Has God, before the creation of the world, caused me to choose to convey this information? Is He receiving some special glory for my choosing to disagree with you?”

    Are you the same Greg with a website here:

    http://thoughtfultheologythinks.blogspot.com/

    Robert

  28. Ray wrote:

    “I just don’t have the time right now to respond to all of your objections”

    That’s fine, when you believe that you have more time, at your convenience, at the time of **your choosing** go ahead and explain some of the problems with theological determinism which have already been brought out.

    Take your time; I really want to see how Ray explains some things. Things such as: If free will as ordinarily understood is an illusion (we believe we have choices but our belief is **always** mistaken) then why is God Himself perpetuating this illusion by using ordinary language in scripture that most people (including all non-Calvinist Christians, which is the vast majority of Christians including those who are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, other Protestants and Independents) take to mean that we do sometimes have a choice? Why is God misleading us in this way?

    And as Ray believes that God predetermines everything and does so in order to glorify Himself. I’ve got some questions related to these claims as well. If everything is predetermined as you want to believe, and God is doing it all to glorify Himself, and people never have any choices, and they always have to do what they were predetermined to do. Then what words do we use when speaking to someone (especially in counseling situations) who was predetermined to have an abortion for the glory of God and had no choice and could not have done otherwise, how do we explain to them that what they did was wrong? I mean God wanted it to happen, predetermined for it to happen, planned for it to happen as part of His total plan, set up all the circumstances so that the person had to do it, had no choice, it was impossible for them to do otherwise. Similarly, with other apparent problems and evils, if people had to do them, it was impossible for them to have done otherwise, and it was all for the glory of God, what words do we use to tell them that what they did was wrong while at the same time exactly what God wanted to occur, what he was bringing about for His own glory?

    I am also wondering why, if Ray’s theological determinism is true, why did God predetermine for those of us who are Christians, who love the Lord and love His Word, why did he set us up so that we would believe that we have choices/free will, when we do not have have choices/free will? Why does he predetermine for his own to be mistaken, to believe false things such as this? Why is God deceiving the majority of Christians about this “truth”? I can understand how you might argue that he has blinded the eyes of the lost so that they cannot be saved and to ensure their reprobation as planned according to Calvinist theology. But why deceive most of his own people on this? We can only believe what he predetermined for us to believe according to Ray’s theological determinism: so why predetermine for believers to be suffering from this illusion and this error of believing that we have choices when we never do? And God apparently also does this kind of thing with theological determinists as well: why has he predetermined the acrimonious and nasty divisions between Calvinists on baptism (just check out the nasty in-fighting between Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians who claim the Reformed Baptists are not even Reformed?).

    I could go on but I think you’ve got my drift: you want us to believe that we are living in an illusion where we constantly and repeatedly and mistakenly believe that we have choices when we never do. So explain why God is playing this game with us, with those of us who are believers and who don’t believe that theological determinism is true? Why is God misleading us in the bible with all of these passages that according to the meanings of ordinary language mean that we have choices, when in fact we never do, and God knows it?

    Robert

  29. Hello Greg,

    Thanks for providing your email address, I will contact you through it.

    A word of caution though, in the future you may want to be careful about posting personal information including your full name, email address, etc. as this is public information and unfortunately there are some out there who will use even the smallest shred of personal information against you. I know this first hand as I literally work with cons, doing prison ministry, and I could tell you literal horror stories of how just a bit of personal information was used against someone by an ingenious inmate. For that reason you will also see me posting only as “Robert” when posting. I have people to protect so I take no chances.

    Robert

  30. “A word of caution though, in the future you may want to be careful about posting personal information…”

    Yes, plus I risk being spammed with Calvinist proof-texts 😀

  31. Robert said:

    “I am not disagreeing that in a fully predetermined world that we would MAKE CHOICES (we **would** MAKE choices), we just would never HAVE A CHOICE (where we could choose either alternative possibility).”

    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? Does He “have” that choice? I’d like you to answer this question because I think it really gets to the root of this issue.

    Robert said:

    “And most people when they are speaking of free will or being able to choose they mean not merely that they will end up making a choice, but that they HAD A CHOICE.”

    I’m not sure how you would know what most people are thinking, but even if you were right it tells us nothing. Truth is not determined by the number of people who believe something. Many people can be deceived. There is another understanding that people may have that you haven’t mentioned. Some people could have the understanding that having a free will or a real choice means that they they are not being forced or coerced into making choices. In other words, they are responsible for their own choices. Would you agree that some people may have this understanding as well?

    Robert said:

    “And regarding the having/making a choice distinction, you cannot claim that I am begging the question with it…”

    The distinction may not be yours, but you are using it to beg the question. You present it as if it supports your idea of what constitutes a legitimate choice (must be able to choose otherwise).

    Robert said:

    “If you mean free will as ordinarily understood”

    In other words, if you already assume what I’m trying to prove, if you read my idea of free will into the text and assume that those spoken of in the text and those writing the text have the same idea too, well, then there’s your proof. Hopefully you and anyone else reading this will be able to see why your entire argument that follows should be discounted.

  32. Robert said:

    “If free will as ordinarily understood is an illusion (we believe we have choices but our belief is **always** mistaken) then why is God Himself perpetuating this illusion by using ordinary language in scripture that most people (including all non-Calvinist Christians, which is the vast majority of Christians including those who are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, other Protestants and Independents) take to mean that we do sometimes have a choice? Why is God misleading us in this way?”

    Notice your entire question is conditioned on your faulty understanding of free will. You are misleading yourself by reading your own faulty understanding into the text.

    Robert said:

    “how do we explain to them that what they did was wrong?”

    The compatiblilst position is that the Holy Scriptures teach that both God is sovereign and man is responsible for his choices. See Genesis 50:20 for example.

    Robert said:

    “why did he set us up so that we would believe that we have choices/free will, when we do not have have choices/free will?”

    At least not according to your faulty understanding of what constitutes choice or free will.

  33. Ray,

    I think you need a far stronger argument against Robert’s position other than claiming he has a faulty understanding of free will. Is he not simply arguing for what “choice” means throughout the Word, not to mention in our common understanding? And don’t God’s responses to our choices — anger, grief, pleasure, punishment, reward, etc., — only confirm everything Robert is saying about choices or free will?

    I would say the onus of proof is squarely on your shoulders to demonstrate conclusively that the understanding of free will and choice espoused by Robert is NOT what the Bible teaches. Otherwise, the common use of language and words stands completely against you.

  34. Dr. Brown,

    Robert has claimed that God’s Word supports his idea of what constitutes a legitimate choice (one must have the ability to choose otherwise). Therefore, the burden of proof is on him to show that. He has yet to do so. Simply assuming what you are trying to prove does not pass muster as an argument.

    You ask, “Is he not simply arguing for what “choice” means throughout the Word, not to mention in our common understanding?”

    No. He’s simply assuming his understanding of choice is the same as that found in God’s Word. However, he has not shown that.

    You ask, “And don’t God’s responses to our choices — anger, grief, pleasure, punishment, reward, etc., — only confirm everything Robert is saying about choices or free will?”

    No. How do such responses establish that a choice is only legitimate if we have the ability to choose otherwise?

  35. Dr. Brown,

    I also invite you to answer the question I asked of Robert. If the understanding that choices are only legitimate if we have the ability to choose otherwise is correct, can we say that God has real choices? Can God choose to do evil instead of good?

  36. Deuteronomy 30:19
    “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore CHOOSE life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”

    Is this passage merely an illusion? Was God being disingenuous here? If God tells me to choose, and this “choice” is never truly an option, then God has a credibility problem.

    Here are some synonyms for “disingenuous:”

    Artful, crooked, cunning, deceitful, designing, dishonest, duplicitous, false, feigned, foxy, guileful, indirect, insidious, insincere, mendacious, oblique, shifty, sly, tricky, two-faced, uncandid, underhanded, unfair, unfrank, wily.

    These adjectives do not convey the character of Jesus. However, they do remind me of someone else.

  37. Greg,

    Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20

    According to this passage, what is the purpose of God’s law?

  38. Ray,

    You quote me and then respond:

    You ask, “And don’t God’s responses to our choices — anger, grief, pleasure, punishment, reward, etc., — only confirm everything Robert is saying about choices or free will?”

    No. How do such responses establish that a choice is only legitimate if we have the ability to choose otherwise?

    Candidly, Ray, this is an argument I don’t care to pursue, since, quite simply, if you hold to this view, human vocabulary ceases to have meanings — if choices are not choices.

    I’ll gladly let the Word speak for itself here, and if you differ with what the Scripture repeatedly conveys, I’ll leave you and others to hash that out. (But perhaps my words here don’t mean what they appear to mean and yours don’t either!)

    As for God having freedom to choose, of course He does.

  39. Dr. Brown said:

    “As for God having freedom to choose, of course He does.”

    Wow! I’m am really shocked to learn that you think God has the ability to choose something which is contrary to His nature. At least you’re consistent, but WOW!

  40. Ray said:

    “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?”

    Before I answer this question, I am wondering a couple of things about Ray’s question (which he has now stated repeatedly and also asked Dr. Brown to answer).

    First, why is Ray asking the identical same question that a atheists ask Christians about free will? Ray first asked this question on Thursday Feb. 18th. On another blog that I sometimes check out, a atheist troll who likes to frequent Christian blogs, a guy named Edward T. Babinski, on a thread discussing the “problem of evil” challenged Christians with:

    “Does God have free will? Is so, then can God choose to do evil? If not, why not?”

    Edward asked this on Thursday Feb. 18th. Now why is a theological determinist and a well known atheist troll asking the identical question? This concerns me that the atheist is asking the same question as Ray on the same day, as part of a challenge against the Christian faith.

    Second, when Ray asks: “Is He able to choose to do evil instead of good?”

    How does Ray define EVIL?

    When Ray defines what he means by evil, then we can better answer his question.

    Robert

  41. I don’t really want to repeat myself and yet if Ray is going to misrepresent my view I will do so for the sake of clarification. I had said:

    “I am not disagreeing that in a fully predetermined world that we would MAKE CHOICES (we **would** MAKE choices), we just would never HAVE A CHOICE (where we could choose either alternative possibility).”

    Note I was saying that in a world where everything was predetermined, people would ***still*** MAKE CHOICES, they just would never HAVE CHOICES. Note I was talking about the view of the theological determinist and what it entails when it comes to having choices and making choices.

    Ray responded with:

    “If I understand you correctly, you’re saying someone must be able to choose every alternative in order to “have” a real choice.”

    In my words which he quoted and I now repeated did I say ANYTHING here about believing that “someone must be able to choose every alternative in order to ‘have’ a real choice.”

    That is a total misrepresentation of my view. I have never defined free will as being able to choose every alternative. Nor have I said that you had to be able to choose EVERY alternative to have a choice. This is a caricature of the ordinary understanding of free will by equating it with omnipotence and an extreme form of ability to choose (i.e. you have free will if you can do whatever you want, if you can choose to do anything that you want). But there may be lots and lots of things a person cannot do due to various circumstances, and yet this is not the same as saying he never ever has a choice. A person’s range of choices may include some things and not others. But having limitations and having a range of choices rather than being able to choose to do anything need to be distinguished. Theological determinists in order to attack the ordinary understanding of free will regularly bring up this caricature (e.g. I have had theological determinists argue: “Can you fly? No, Oh then you must not have free will: because you cannot do anything that you want to do” [as if having a choice or having free will means that you can choose to do anything that you want]).

    “According to this position does God “have” a real choice? Can God choose to do evil instead of good? Does He “have” that choice? I’d like you to answer this question because I think it really gets to the root of this issue.”

    Why should I answer this question if Ray is going to intentionally misrepresent my view?

    Ray then brings up a tangent:

    “I’m not sure how you would know what most people are thinking, but even if you were right it tells us nothing. Truth is not determined by the number of people who believe something. Many people can be deceived.”

    I believe those of us who are Christians here do not believe that truth is merely established by numbers (so if more people vote that the Amillennial view is true over those who vote that the Premillenial view is true, then the Amillennial view must be true). No I think all of us believe something is true if it corresponds with reality. So bringing up this point about the nature of truth is a canard, just evading things.

    I had said that most people hold to the ordinary understanding of free will. Note that clam is either true or it is false. From my reading and observations and discussions with people, it seems that many more people hold the ordinary understanding of free will than the understanding of that proposed by theological determinists (e.g. compatibilism). Now if Ray believes that most people hold to theological determinism or some form of compatibilism, then he can make that claim. But to go off on the point that numbers does not decide truth is just a tangent.

    Ray then presents his understanding of free will, what is technically called compatibilism:

    “There is another understanding that people may have that you haven’t mentioned.”

    Yes, compatibilism and some very well know persons such as Thomas Hobbes and David Hume have held to it.

    “Some people could have the understanding that having a free will or a real choice means that they they are not being forced or coerced into making choices. In other words, they are responsible for their own choices. Would you agree that some people may have this understanding as well?”

    Yes I agree that some people define free will in the compatibilist manner (i.e. we are acting freely when our action is not coerced and it is the action that we want to do). Regarding responsibility that is also not an issue here: both those who hold the ordinary understanding of free will and compatibilists, who are believers believe there will be a final judgment where all will he held responsible for their actions. No disagreement that we are all responsible for our own actions.

    I have two major problems with the compatibilist definition of free will however. First, it leaves out the reality of our having choices, which I believe is essential to the nature of free will. Compatibilism was invented to argue that a person may not be able to do otherwise and yet still be acting freely as long as free will was limited to acting uncoerced and doing what you want to do (even though some deterministic factor necessitated your action so that you could not do otherwise, so that you did not have a choice).

    My second problem is that compatibilism fails when it comes to the issue of a person being forced to do something. It seems to me that you can be forced to do something in two very different ways. First you can be forced to do something against your will (that is usually called coercion, and the compatibilist grants that if your action is coerced then you were not acting freely). But there is a second way that you can be forced to do something. This involves if another person directly controlled your will and mind and so they controlled and directed your actions. A friend of mine calls this concept “Covert Nonconstrained control” because a person experiencing this kind of control does not now that it is happening (i.e. “Covert”), and the person is choosing to do what they want to do, their action is not coerced (i.e. “Nonconstrained”). What needs to be seen is that if someone is experiencing this kind of control over their actions then they have to do what they do, they are being forced to do so.

    An illustration will make this kind of control clearly understood: I call it Joe’s bad chess move.

    Imagine a neurosurgeon named Frazier who has the ability to place a device in another person which then gives Frazier complete control of the person’s thoughts, desires, bodily movements, everything. With the device in place Frazier has direct, continuous and complete control over another person. And yet all of this is outside the awareness of the second person. So Frazier implants his device into a guy named “Joe” and they play a game of chess. From Joe’s perspective when he is making all of the moves in the chess game, he believes that he is doing so freely, doing exactly what he wants every time that he moves, and this is important to note: he is not being coerced against his will as far as he can tell when he makes a move. In reality however, his every move is determined by Frazier. In each and every case, whenever he makes a move, he cannot do otherwise than what Frazier wants him to do. At a certain point in the chess “game” (actually I would say at a particular point in this **sham** of a game! :-)). Joe is deciding about whether he should move his Queen or a rook. Joe believes that he can make either move, that whichever move he makes is exactly the move that he wanted to make and nobody forced him against his will to make the move that he ends up making. Frazier has Joe do a really bad move that leads to him quickly losing his Queen and then quickly being checkmated so that Joe loses the chess game.

    Who is responsible for Joe’s bad move?

    Was Joe acting freely?

    Did Joe have free will when he moved the Queen instead of the rook?

    When Joe made the move was Joe doing what he wanted to do?

    When Joe made the move was Joe coerced to make the move, was he coerced into making the move?

    When Joe made the move was he forced to do the move so that he could not have done otherwise?

    Consider that he made the move by his own will, he was not coerced into making the move, as far as he could tell he was acting freely and it was his hand that moved the chess piece when the bad move occurred. A person who holds the ordinary understanding of free will would say he was Not ACTING freely, he did not have free will, he did not HAVE A CHOICE, when making the move though he certainly MADE A CHOICE when he made the bad chess move. Now if Frazier’s activity or the dynamics of the device in Joe were unknown to Joe he would not know that he was under this kind of control (hence “Covert Nonconstrained control” is a very apt phrase for this kind of control).

    Now I share this illustration because it nicely shows the differences in the ordinary understanding of free will versus the compatibilist understanding of free will. Joe’s bad chess move occurs as he experiences free will as understood by the compatibilist (Joe is not coerced when making the bad chess move, Joe is doing what he wants to do, Joe is MAKING A CHOICE but with regard to the chess move Joe does not HAVE A CHOICE). Now most people would not view Joe’s bad chess move as involving free will: and yet a consistent compatibilist by their own understanding of free will would have to aknowledge that Joe was acting freely, did have free will, in line with the compatibilist understanding of free will.

    I had said:

    “And regarding the having/making a choice distinction, you cannot claim that I am begging the question with it…”

    Ray responded and said:

    “The distinction may not be yours, but you are using it to beg the question. You present it as if it supports your idea of what constitutes a legitimate choice (must be able to choose otherwise).”

    Again the having a choice versus making a choice comes from a prominent compatibilist. He said it in a discussion that I was having with him and he said it in order to differentiate compatibilism from the libertarian conception of free will. According to him and anyone who is honest about the logic involved: a determinist can believe that we make choices, they just cannot believe that we have choices. I have not begged the question rather I have explained how the ordinary understanding of free will and the compatibilist understanding of free will differ. And I believe it is rather easy to see: the compatibilist understanding can include the making of choices, but not the having of choices. On the other hand, the ordinary understanding of free will, does include both the making of choices AND the having of choices. And again I can respect the theological determinist who is honest enough and self aware enough about his view to admit that: “yes in our view people make choices they just never have choices.” But to deny this fact about the theological determinist view is just not honest.

    Ray said:

    “In other words, if you already assume what I’m trying to prove, if you read my idea of free will into the text and assume that those spoken of in the text and those writing the text have the same idea too, well, then there’s your proof. Hopefully you and anyone else reading this will be able to see why your entire argument that follows should be discounted.”

    Sorry Ray, that is not what I have been doing at all. I don’t just assume my view and read it into the text (as in fact you do with your theological determinism). Rather, I carefully differentiate the two views and define them carefully in light of the having a choice versus making a choice distinction. So there are two basic views: (1) the view that says we MAKE CHOICES but NEVER HAVE CHOICES when we do intentional actions (this is the definition of free will according to the compatibilist/the theological determinist); and (2) the view that says we BOTH MAKE CHOICES AND HAVE CHOICES when we do intentional actions. If you want you can call them two hypotheses. We then go to scripture (which is the data we ought to be analyzing when arriving at the proper conception of free will) and see WHICH OF THESE TWO HYPOTHESES BETTER FITS THE AVAILABLE DATA (the data including both scripture and our own daily experience). And if we do so, we see all sorts of evidence for (2) because we see numerous bible passages where people not only MAKE A CHOICE, they HAVE A CHOICE. This available evidence strongly confirms hypothesis (2) and simultaneously disconfirms hypothesis (1). It should be noted that the ordinary understanding of free will and the compatibilist understanding of free will are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE (if one is right then the other has to be wrong, and vice versa). If we look at the bible and see how the authors of the various books, the persons involved in the situations described, spoke about choices (we see that they spoke not only about MAKING CHOICES but about HAVING CHOICES as well). Now the only way to evade this evidence is if you claim that the biblical writers and persons involved were using ordinary language differently and with different meanings than we use the terms. But if you go that route in order to defend theological determinism, not only is it a clear and desperate case of special pleading, it wreaks havoc on the interpretation of scripture. It would mean that we cannot interpret scripture at all. On the other hand if we interpret the words according to their ordinary and intended meanings then the case for the ordinary understanding of free will and against the compatibilist understanding of free will is staggering and overwhelming.

    Robert

  42. I had said:

    “If free will as ordinarily understood is an illusion (we believe we have choices but our belief is **always** mistaken) then why is God Himself perpetuating this illusion by using ordinary language in scripture that most people (including all non-Calvinist Christians, which is the vast majority of Christians including those who are Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, other Protestants and Independents) take to mean that we do sometimes have a choice? Why is God misleading us in this way?”

    Ray responded with:

    “Notice your entire question is conditioned on your faulty understanding of free will. You are misleading yourself by reading your own faulty understanding into the text. “

    No I said that either the ordinary understanding of free will or the theological determinist’s understanding of free will is present in the biblical texts. If the ordinary understanding is false and not present in the texts, then the theological determinist understanding is true. But if that is the case then why is God who would then know the ordinary understanding is false, using the ordinary understanding of free will throughout the bible and why are the authors of the books and the persons involved also using the ordinary understanding of free will throughout the bible??? If God knows it is false and yet engages in it anyway, then he is misleading us, he is deceiving us. That is the direct implication if the compatibilist understanding is the case and yet the bible throughout uses the ordinary understanding of free will.

    And speaking of supposedly reading my faulty understanding into the text: when has Ray shown my understanding to be faulty? He merely asserts it is faulty, but when and where has he shown it to be false? Or to put the burden of proof out in the open for Ray: since Ray believes that every event is predetermined by God and hence the ordinary understanding of free will is false, since the ordinary understanding of free will involves us sometimes having a choice: can Ray prove that we never ever have a choice? Has he even presented any evidence for this claim that is logically entailed by his claims? No, he just makes assertions that my understanding is faulty. I have taken the time to show how his understanding is faulty and all that he does is evade my points.

    Ray said:

    “The compatiblilst position is that the Holy Scriptures teach that both God is sovereign and man is responsible for his choices. See Genesis 50:20 for example.”

    This is not saying much as every bible believing Christian believes that God is sovereign (biblically defined as He does as He pleases in all situations) and that we are all responsible for our choices (we all believe in a final judgment don’t we?).

    I had said:

    “why did he set us up so that we would believe that we have choices/free will, when we do not have have choices/free will?”

    Ray responded with:

    “At least not according to your faulty understanding of what constitutes choice or free will.”

    Again Ray is intentionally ignoring one of the problems with his compatibilist view. Namely, if God has predetermined everything and so the compatibilist understanding is true and so we never ever have a choice, and God knows all of this: then why in the bible does he speak with the ordinary understanding of free will (us not **only making choices** but also having choices) so many times if it is in fact false? That is misleading, deceitful and it means that we cannot interpret the bible because God is intentionally using ordinary language in ways completely different from how they are ordinarily understood.

    Robert

  43. Greg brought up Deut. 30:19, cited it, and then asked:

    “Is this passage merely an illusion? Was God being disingenuous here? If God tells me to choose, and this “choice” is never truly an option, then God has a credibility problem.”

    Well it is nice to see that Greg understand my point against compatibilism/theological determinism very well: if it is true and yet God still engages in ordinary language that involves the ordinary understanding of free will, then God is misleading us, deceiving us, manifesting an untrustworthy and less than morally good character. And as Greg correctly observes: “then God has a credibility problem.”

    Greg went on to say:

    “Here are some synonyms for “disingenuous:”
    Artful, crooked, cunning, deceitful, designing, dishonest, duplicitous, false, feigned, foxy, guileful, indirect, insidious, insincere, mendacious, oblique, shifty, sly, tricky, two-faced, uncandid, underhanded, unfair, unfrank, wily.
    These adjectives do not convey the character of Jesus. However, they do remind me of someone else.”

    Again, Greg is correct, those are terms that do not represent the character of the God of the bible. If someone is like that, He is not the God of the bible. Greg is also correct, that these words do not convey the character of Jesus. Greg then says that someone whose character would fit these words is the devil. Now we can understand why some non-Calvinists have said things such as that if a view leads to God having the character of the devil, then there has got to be something very wrong with that view.

    Robert

  44. Ray,

    First, why do you insist on using language that already prejudices the argument (namely, “libertarian free will”)? This already exposes an inability to rightly understand the position you are rejecting, a serious flaw if one intends to have constructive interaction.

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

    I wrote: Dr. Brown said: “As for God having freedom to choose, of course He does.”

    You responded: “Wow! I’m am really shocked to learn that you think God has the ability to choose something which is contrary to His nature. At least you’re consistent, but WOW!”

    Ray, I am the one shocked and I owe you a double WOW! I made a simple statement which, based on everything we know about God is undeniably true: He alone has absolute freedom of choice! How could any rational theist reject that proposition? Does He choose something contrary to His nature? Of course not. In fact, the very question is similar to the logical impossibility of asking whether God could make a rock to heavy to lift. (Human beings, of course, by fallen nature, choose evil, but with God’s help, they can choose good and are, in fact, required to in the Scriptures.)

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

    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.

    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.

  45. Hello Dr. Brown,

    You wrote:

    “I think you need a far stronger argument against Robert’s position other than claiming he has a faulty understanding of free will. Is he not simply arguing for what “choice” means throughout the Word, not to mention in our common understanding? And don’t God’s responses to our choices — anger, grief, pleasure, punishment, reward, etc., — only confirm everything Robert is saying about choices or free will?”

    You make reference to God’s responses to our choices including anger, etc. A friend and I were talking about this recently and we both observed the same problem: if God has a total plan which encompasses every event that takes place in history, if He has predetermined everything that occurs and so every event that occurs was preplanned to occur **exactly** as it occurs, if everything is exactly what God willed to occur, then why would God ever get angry or frustrated? That does not make sense.

    If everything were going exactly according to plan then would be no surprises and no reason to be angry or frustrated. And yet scripture has clear instances of God getting angry and frustrated. Again if we take these ordinary language utterances seriously, then God’s will is not always done. And God sometimes gets angry and frustrated when people choose to go against His will and do what he does not want to see occur.

    “I would say the onus of proof is squarely on your shoulders to demonstrate conclusively that the understanding of free will and choice espoused by Robert is NOT what the Bible teaches. Otherwise, the common use of language and words stands completely against you.”

    This is one of my main points against Ray’s theological determinism: “the common use of language and words stands completely against you”. 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.

    Regarding “onus of proof”, the legal maxim applies: he who asserts must prove. Ray asserts compatibilism, (asserts a definition of free will that does not include having choices/being able to choose otherwise) and since he believes that everything is predetermined (which eliminates us from ever HAVING A CHOICE) to prove his view he has to prove that WE NEVER EVER HAVE A CHOICE. It is not sufficient to show that we sometimes do not have a choice regarding something, NO, he has to prove the universal negative that we never ever have a choice. No Calvinist/theological determinist/compatibilist has ever gotten close to proving this. Instead they merely assume it and cite some proof texts they believe support it.

    Robert

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